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Spring 2010 Wildflower Trip Chronicles
by David Senesac    page 6 of 7

Spring 2010 Wildflower Trip Chronicles contents
Spring 2010 Wildflower Road 5
Spring 2010 Wildflower Road 7

pulling the trigger


The following weekend was problematic to this serious Christian person because April 4 was Easter Sunday, a day I am not to be found working in the field. I had a strong desire to return to Temblor Range areas but was not enthusiastic about all the driving required for what would be a single day, Saturday. Complicating the week was an active weather situation that appeared to be windy. The tail end of a minor storm was forecast on Friday night that would likely just bring clouds and breeziness further south in the San Luis Obispo County area. Flowers were peaking this week, conditions that only occur briefly every few years, and I had some doubts what flowers might be like by the following April 10/11 weekend. So on Thursday night my gear was packed, in my Subu Friday morning before my work day, but during the afternoon the weather situation was still looking too breezy so I left work and drove home, ate dinner, and went back on line to run the satellite loops and read the terse technical forecast discussions. It appeared the storm was further north than expected and that caused a relaxed forecast in Saturday winds. It was then 9pm. In quick order I was out on the road. Without traffic on US101 I was able to do the 210 miles to a spot I pulled out on along SR58 by 1am. Fortunately I managed to get a solid 4.5 hours of sleep.

return to a Temblor Range canyon


I woke up on Saturday April 3 with my car engulfed in heavy foggy marine overcast that the now passed storm had pushed up the long Salinas Valley and into the Coast Range. Continuing the end of my drive, by 6:30am I reached the base of the Temblor Range, quickly gathered my gear, and set out about sunrise towards the same canyon I'd worked the previous Sunday. Early on the route I was on one of the foothill ridges above right showing a foreground of dense hillside daisies with a few blue dicks, Parry's mallow on the opposite canyon slopes, and thick overcast in the sky at left. Without lingering on the way in perfect cool hiking conditions, I reached my target area about 8:15am.


Clouds were too thick to bother with any images immediately but I could see the rising sun was slowly burning away the cloud deck as it normally does in such conditions. Although I hoped to expose a couple sheets in this area, with the heavy clouds I decided to just take one modest image and then set out to my main interest of the day. Thus set up my view camera for the one image and waited until the sun rose higher then found a thinner hole in the cloud deck to better illuminate the scene. That took most of two hours and in the mean time worked on the above close-up situation I'd found of a desert candle beside pretty hillside daisies.

up on a ridgeline


Late morning I set out wading through dense thigh high flowers on a slow 800 foot climb up steep slopes paying careful attention to route up lines of least gradient on my topographic map. By then unlike the partly cloudy forecast, it appeared the day would be mostly cloudy with marine overcast so the lighting situation would be much different than if sunny and shooting at midday would not be an issue. Rather the issue would be to have to patiently wait till whatever was in my frame did not have contrasting bright areas where the sun came through thin clouds or blue holes. Fortunately only a modest breeze had developed that boded well. At the top under dark dim skies looking back where I climbed up shown above right, I crossed a broad saddle and entered the next canyon that was at once obviously more interesting than the one I'd just left.


Its upper canyon had nice orange hued areas of San Joaquin blazing star and a gentle bench below the ridge had dense areas of pink hued filaree, cream cups, platystemon californicus, and large white-hued California aster, lessingia filaginifolia, amid still healthy fiddleneck. And on more north facing steeper slopes were patches of tansy phacelia plus bushy perrenials silver bush lupine, lupinus albifrons, and narrowleaf goldenbush, ericameria linearifolia. I was amused at the large numbers of obviously recently hatched grasshoppers that hopped about as I frightened them with each step. Apparently they tend to lay eggs in the many small earth cracks about sunny warmer drier south facing ridgelines, then hatch about the time the wildflowers mature, and gradually work their ways downhill into the cooler canyons as spring continues. I spent a couple leisurely hours working this area that mainly amounted to waiting for even lighting. One G10 subject I spent considerable time on was this silver bush lupine contrasting uniquely against bright yellow hillside daisies and bronze hued fiddleneck on the opposite canyon slope.

Near the crest of the Temblor Range, one can travel short distances along the spine to reach the many west trending spur ridges. Later in the afternoon, I moved west on one ridge to an even more fantastic zone I call "The Painted Elephant" and thus call this Painted Elephant Canyon. However the muted cloud lighting did not bring out the kind of color saturation I knew was possible. Sure one could post process such flat image color to make it look impressive but that is not acceptable with my natural realistic style. At that time I reflected on how there was no doubt, I would have to return to this area yet a third time if the following weekend offered sunny blue sky conditions. Regardless of muted color, I exposed a couple more sheets because there was a good chance this would be the only time I would be standing at this remarkable scene. On went my 90mm Nikor lens for a dark moody Painted Elephant:    10-I-6.jpg   . In this image the tail and legs are lowest in the canyon. The trunk goes left along the ridgeline.


I returned to an area I'd visited in 2006 that looked far better. In fact it is near the top of the most incredible flower landscapes I've ever witnessed. However how to frame its elements were not obvious due to its irregular hilly character that hid value until one actually ventured to its various spots. When I came upon the scene captured at page top with my 150mm Nikor, 10-I-10, I immediately knew I had found an exceptional subject. California poppies, eschscholtzia californica, are not common west of the crest on the Temblor Range except in isolated small patches despite all the orange swaths of blazing star. Here I'd found one such patch though whose flowers had already mostly curled back up though still presented a fine foreground. Sprinkled in my foreground were some hillside daisies and white hued desert pincushion, chaenactis steviodes. At center frame was a distinctive family of six desert candles then at mid ground a large dense swatch of tansy phacelia in front of some saltbush. In the distance beyond were more of the same colorful species noted earlier.

Finally I captured some G10 images of the greatest stand of desert candles I've yet seen. Best they were mixed in with blazing star and phacelia. Some of the hollow inflated tubes were two inches wide and over 30 inches tall. I exposed one sheet on that slope though knew it would look much better with sunshine. Dropping down from the ridge was no picnic and in steep places had to climb down monkey style grabbing hold of vegetation. Once again back at my car after a 12 hour venture carrying 45 pounds including two big tripods, I didn't waste time getting on the road for the long evening drive back home.

Spring 2010 Wildflower Road 7
Spring 2010 Wildflower Road 5
Spring 2010 Wildflower Trip Chronicles contents

   David Senesac

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