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UF00327-00380-3x1v  9900x6200 pixels  3 frame 3 column 1 row 18 shot focus stack stitch blend  a6700 30mm
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2024 Trip Chronicles:    Contents

San Luis Reservoir Wildlife Refuge Area 3/21
Pacheco State Park 3/28

2024 Trip Chronicles:  Page 1

Winter and early Spring 2024 Pacheco Pass Conditions

The below weather site is at 300 foot elevation near the San Luis Reservoir dam. It shows the early 2023/2024 winter in the Pacheco Pass region had few storms but after mid January through late February was very wet that ended with a storm series in late March that provided a burst of wildflowers for what is usually the peak bloom. Note rainfall at the pass may be twice that of this lower station.

LBN-rain-2024

The below links to my website describe with images previous recent decade road trips to the Pacheco Pass area.

Late winter 2015 after a large storm with exceptional wildflowers, I drove down to Pacheco Pass region 7 times.
San Luis Reservoir Wildlife Refuge 2/2015

Mid March 2016 returned for a single day:   San Luis Reservoir Wildlife Refuge 3/2016

In mid April 2017, visited the adjacent San Luis Wildlife Reserve Area:   San Luis Reservoir Wildlife Refuge 4/2017

In late January 2018 visited checking conditions again:   Pacheco State Park 1/2018

Last year, 2023, another superb wildflower year, visited during the usual late March peak San Luis Wildlife Reserve Area 4 times:
San Luis Wildlife Reserve 3/2023

Then Pacheco State Park twice in early April:   Pacheco State Park 4/2023

A caltopo dot com map of this area with trails:   Pacheco Pass map

San Luis Reservoir Wildlife Refuge 3/21


On Thursday March 21, 2024, I visited San Luis Wildlife Refuge Area after allowing a week plus of plant growth after large storms that made the region very green. After arriving about 9:45am, I worked the below image at 10:37am, that is at the 1000 foot elevation just north of the paved Dinosaur Point Road off of SR152. Most of the images on my website were not shot from trails but rather roaming landscapes freely. In very few places are visitors policy restricted to only trails though since the Internet rose, many park people publicly advise staying on trails. An example of a park with many trail restrictions is Point Lobos State Reserve that I do follow policy on.

Note many wildflowers on these severely downsized for web viewing images are too small to be recognizable. However, under each image by selecting the enlarged vertical slice view, at 50% full pixels, such may be visible. Thus I encourage doing so.

This was my first photography work of 2024 and was using my Sony a6700 camera for the first time in the field since buying it in August 2023. Significantly, the a6700 has a focus bracketing function that has became a boon to my work this year. I use either of two tripods, one with a panoramic head, and an RF shutter release.

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UF00066-00088-2x1v  6700x6100 pixels  2 frame 2 column 1 row 14 shot focus stack stitch blend  a6700 30mm
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The San Luis Reservoir Wildlife Area, SLRWA. usually has some of the earliest wildflower blooms in the San Francisco Bay region. Dense annual wildflowers occur in locations with dense seed beds plus above average winter rains. Thus if one observes a patch of dense wildflowers, that same location can have dense wildflowers in the future. Regardless of how much rain occurs, if there are few wildflower species seeds in the ground, an area will not bloom so and are more likely to just have grasses.

Most flowers above are California goldfields, lasthenia californica, that like clockwork rise early spring about a week after large rains. Also butter-and-eggs, triphysaria eriantha, California violets, aka johnny-jump-ups, viola pedunculata, Padre's shooting star, primula clevelandii, aka Mt Diablo shooting stars, blue dicks, dichelostemma capitatum, tomcat clover, trifolium willdenovii, white seablush, plectritis macrocera, and filaree. The large tree at center frame is a blue oak, quercus douglasii, and the tree at frame right is a coast live oak, quercus agrifolia, with catkins. Note the orange lichen on the short tree frame right. Note, on these website pages, I only provide species latin names at their first mention on a page.

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UF00182-08  6700x6100 pixels  1 frame 18 shot focus stack blend  a6700 30mm
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Above is a lens angled downward intimate shot of the same subject as the above, UF00182-08. I used my Sigma 30mm DC DN prime lens at F4.5 that the focus bracket function rapidly cranked through 27 shots for this capture. This is an example of a limited local location with a dense seed bed where one will always find dense goldfields during early springs a week after heavy rain storms.

F4.0, F4.5 F5.0 and F5.6 are the sharpest apertures on my 30mm, 56mm, and 85mm prime lenses that I tend to use if focus stacking. Such focus bracketing requires calm conditions so I only bother working out in the field with vegetation subjects during relatively calm forecast periods. In this Internet era, one can use among others, windy dot com with its wind elevation function at any locations.

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UF00209-00251-2x1v  6800x6100 pixels  2 frame 2 column 1 row 23 shot focus stack stitch blend  a6700 30mm
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The free to park at dirt main lot for the San Luis Wildlife Refuge Area is at 1400 feet just across from the Pacheco State park entrance. The above modest image was worked just uphill to the right of the counterclockwise loop trail. Photographers ought not be environmentally afraid to wander off the trail in this lightly used region. A dense patch of backlit California violet, and white seablush, with California poppy, eschscholzia californica, Padre's shooting star, blue dicks, with two coast live oaks. Blue oaks dominate this windy pass region with its energy wind mill farm, however wind bent coast live oaks tend to colonize ridge lines with wind protecting canopies that reach to ground level.

The image at page top is near the end of the counterclockwise loop trail. Paula M. Fatjo was the great-great granddaughter of original rancher Don Francisco Perez Pacheco for whom both the park and the nearby Pacheco Pass are named. From her love for these land, she bequeathed them to the state, and I suspect also spread this variety of vibrant orange poppy seeds into some of these spotty bloom areas. The image required 54 shots for this 3 frame focus stack and stitch blended image, that well captures how briefly green these oak savanna landscapes were after the storms.

Pacheco State Park 3/28


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A week later on a mostly cloudy Thursday March 28, 2024, I returned during another calm weather window. By then, the blooms had risen in elevation, so the exploding peak wildflowers were a bit higher. Blooms on most of these species don't open till late morning and in any case, near vegetation usually photographs far better at mid day given plant translucence. The above subject was worked at 12:30pm PDT in the state park on the ridge just southeast of the main parking lot (a $10 parking fee). Much of the park has sections of barbed wire fencing from the Perez ranching era. Today, there is limited cattle grazing in parts of the park that the enclosed fencing controls. Where trails route, are gates. Unless signed, it is quietly legal to cross fencing though such may require effort. This small person is most likely to locate spots to worm under. Southwest view with California violets, Padre's shooting star, blue dicks, tomcat clover, California goldfields, and coast live oak.

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Above was another nearby vibrant dense patch of flowers with California violets, Padre's shooting star, blue dicks, tomcat clover, California goldfields, and coast live oak. The mid ground cloud shadowed ridge adds excellent ridge line separation.

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I've been visiting this spectacular ridge line wind swept coast live oak for a couple decades. California poppy, a few California violets, and blue dicks, add color within the tall alien species grasses. At 1:05pm PDT, wind was increasingly requiring long waits between shots that I patiently had success waiting for.

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Lower down the ridge was a bit less breezy so was able to more readily capture this subject at 1:26pm. California goldfields, California violets, California poppy, butter-and-eggs, Padre's shooting star, blue dicks, tomcat clover, a few checker mallow, sidalcea malviflora, filaree, and coast live oak. The park rock outcrop geology is Franciscan formation sandstone. On the distant green hills mid frame right one will see a yellow patch that is an example of how spotty the densest wildflower seed bed areas are.

The a6700 is a boon to capturing sets of focus bracket shots that used to be rather hopeless when performing such manually because sets of shots more readily fit within brief breeze lulls. Bracketing is impossible due to misregistration if near subject elements move.

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A dense patch of butter-and-eggs, with California goldfields, checker mallow, California violets, California poppy, blue dicks, tomcat clover, filaree, and popcorn flower, plagiobothrys nothofulvus.

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This final subject at 4:07pm of lichen on sandstone was down at the San Luis Reservoir Wildlife Refuge Area. Ground squirrels often look out from such rocks with their scat providing phosphorous nutrients the lichen thrive on.

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2024 Trip Chronicles:    Contents

   David Senesac
   email: info@davidsenesac.com
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