Bigelow's Coreopsis, Old Potato Lake & Temblor Range

Bigelow's Coreopsis, Old Potato Lake & Temblor Range

full print size of 27.6x33.6 inches @304.8ppi, above displayed at 1/178
Copyright © David Senesac 2006   view detailed crop

geranium Carrizo Plain National Monument, San Luis Obispo County
mid morning Tuesday April 18, 2006, slide 06-P-16
Wisner 4x5 Expedition, 150mm Nikkor, Gitzo G1325 Mk2
Tango Drum scanned Fuji Provia 100F 4x5 film to 300mb RGB file
Adobe Photoshop 6.0 processed for accurate image fidelity
Lightjet5000 printed on Fuji Crystal Archive paper
signature bottom mid right

In March the bulk of several cold though modest storms tracked east into central California while just brushing areas in the southland. Rainfall in the southern state had been meager early in winter then picked up modestly in the late winter. Finally on April 3 the largest storm of the series stayed further west over the Pacific and dropped good rains over the northern parts of Southern California including 2.6 inches of rain at Carrizo Plain. After the big storm, I had to wait two weeks before the stormy jet stream pattern provided enough of a sunny break for me to bother making a trip south. The two weeks also proved to be about the necessary interval for wildflowers to thrust out into the sunlight. Days before Easter Sunday April 16, the National Weather Service began firming up a forecast for a few mostly sunny days.

Sunrise Monday April 17 as the last storm showers were ending over the southern Coast Ranges, I drove south with a plan to investigate conditions at several familiar Southern California wildflower areas as long as sunny skies prevailed. Given the big rain event, I expected Carrizo Plain to offer the best conditions. However terse internet reports from the previous week had provided only minor clues. After spending midday photographing areas at Shell Creek, I continued east arriving at Carrizo Plain later in the afternoon. At the end of the day I did a tour of the local roads I'd visited during past wet spring trips to the plain. I found wildflowers east of Soda Lake along Simmler Road within the new huge Carrizo Plain National Monument to be spectacular. A vast yellow sea of flowers species densely covered the landscape into the far distance.

After a night camping along a remote dirt road, I was up early Tuesday morning April 18 and soon back at the wildflower expanse along Simmler Road. After exposing nine 4x5 sheets near the road over a period of just a couple hours, I wandered off towards what I call Old Potato Lake.

I hoped to get an image of wildflowers near the still lake waters. It is not a real name on the USGS topographic map but rather just a name I've made up because on the 7.5 minute USGS topo, it looks like an oblong old potato one has left too long in a bag that starts growing white roots. The roots on the map are the sloughs that drain into and out of the lake at the south. They are part of the Soda Lake slough system that includes several other large and small shallow alkali ponds at elevation 1915, the lowest of the vast Carrizo Plain valley. Old Potato Lake is about one and three-quarters miles long and a bit over a mile wide. It is much smaller than large named Soda Lake a sixth of a mile to the west. Except after big storms, the lake is usually in various degrees of drying up with a wide expanse of flat white alkali rings around its shore.

After considerable walking back and forth, I homed in on a particularly nice patch of beautiful yellow hued Bigelow's coreopsis, coreopsis bigelovii. Just below was an alkali flat with smooth bare areas of whitish soil interspersed with ground hugging yellow hued goldfields, lasthenia chrysotoma, yellow with white tip petalled tidy tips, layia platyglossa, and purple owls clover, orthocarpus purpurascens. Separating wildflowers were thick patches of light greenish blue leaves of saltbush. Beyond in the background the still alkali waters of shallow Old Potato Lake reflected its far lake shore and the Temblor Range about 7 miles away in the distance. Below the 4000 foot crest of the Temblor Range at the eastern boundary of the national monument, one can see patches of yellow color from dense areas of hillside daisies, monolopia lanceolata. At the right frame edge one can see part of a good sized island in the lake with patches of yellow hillside daisies. A swath of diffuse clouds had moved in to obscure the southeast that variably blocked the sun moment by moment. I set up a shot and captured superb light while the waters delivered a nice calm reflection.

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   David Senesac

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