Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hwy 166 Wildflowers

Wildflower season in California is ruled by the weather. Plans for this weekend included a trip to Sutter Creek to see the daffodils. It did not include the winter storm with the rains, wind and low snow level, oh well.

Since I was still hoping for wildflowers this weekend, I thought I could beat the storms arrival if I stayed closer to home. I set the alarm for early, just to be wake up earlier with the sound of rain. I sat in bed watching the weather channel hoping for some guidance on where the storm was, just to see we had no rain...hmmmm I decided that since it was calm outside and I had the camera gear packed I may as well go.

It drizzled and rained for the drive to Santa Maria and the start of Hwy 166. I thought well at least I beat the wind. I went later in the season last year and the hills showed more color so I was not expecting much when I got to Cottonwood Canyon, my first stop. The hills were still green rather than the almost neon yellow from last year, the river ford was dry and the showy river bed was mostly yellow. And it was cold, gray and the wind was picking up.

The Tidy Tips against the Goldfields would just have to do. There were some tiny Lupines and Blue Dicks waving in the wind with the Fiddle Necks.

I did find some flowers to shoot, but spent most of the time chatting with Lynne Glazer who was there to shoot a horse event crossing through the flower trail.

The wind blew away the clouds, but since I was done shooting Tidy Tips, I headed on down the road to my next stop.

Wind Wolves Preserve

I have never been there, but had read that it was very nice on my favorite wildflower location tip website, Carol Leigh, I was unable to do a lot of hiking, but guessing there was much more to be seen up the river trail. The hillsides already looked past their peak, but the snow on the mountains behind make me think plants by the creek will still be blooming.

One of the reasons I like exploring Hwy 166 is that it is the back side of my local mountains. Last weekend I looked at that same snowy peak from Mt Figueroa and in Cottonwood is likely from the Mt Figueroa water shed.

I would like to go back and spend more time, with less wind, at Wind Wolves.

I headed back toward home on Hwy 166, but pulled off just past Maricopa on the Elkhorn Grade Road. I had read reports on this route but never taken it. Since shooting macros was out due to the wind, but the clouds were nice I figured I would still be interesting.

The road is about one dozer/grader blade wide and a lot closer to off roading than I had hoped for, but I also knew it went back to Soda Lake Road right down the middle of Carrizo Plains Reserve so I did it anyway. There were plenty of nice views, but next time I will do it with a second car along for that "Just in Case". From most of the peaks I did have cell service, but did not think AAA would like to help me change a tire.....

I headed back to Soda Lake Road and down the middle of the Plains. It was pretty, but mostly yellows and dry. The wind was howling and the sun was getting low, so I did not stop a lot.

I came out on Hwy 58 and headed back to San Louis Obispo and Hwy 101.

Hwy 58 was full of Baby Blue Eyes last year, but so far I only found one little patch on the side of the road and just a few Shooting Stars.

As I got closer to the coast, the drizzle started back up and the wind calmed down.

It was a fun day, but next time I will try to get to Wind Wolves before the wind!

For more photos click Here

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mount Figueroa March 15th

Sunday was my first trip to one of my favorite wildflower locations; Mount Figueroa. From hwy 101, it is the 154 exit toward Los Olivos. Once you see Los Olivos on your right, where you may need to stop to pick up an Adventure Pass, the road to Mt Figueroa is on the left. The road starts out pretty nice, but after a few miles it becomes a 1.5 lane paved mountain road. Even with all the hair pin turns and climb, it is popular for bicyclists-so watch out.

I got a late start....that mom's taxi I arrived about the same time as the wind, again. The wildflowers are late this year compared to last year, but I was still able to find a nice variety. I think the weeks to come will bring even more variety.

I saw: Johnny Jump Ups, Fiesta Flowers, Miners Lettuce, Fiddle Necks, Shooting Stars, Popcorn Flowers, Buttercups, Star Lilies, Chocolate Lilies, Henbit, Pitcher Sage, Gold Fields, Blue Dicks, Cream Cups, Poppies, Lupines and several others.

Click the Photo for a link to my gallery

Friday, March 13, 2009

Point Lobos and McWay Falls

Sunday morning brought the rain that had been promised for days. Just enough to make you cover your camera and not enough to clean the road sand use on the snowy Yosemite roads off the cars.

Point Lobos State Reserve is a special place on the Monterey coast and it had been years since I had stopped for a visit. The wind was howling and the sky a deep gray, the storm was on its way, we could only hope that it would wait long enough to get some nice shots. It is kind of like visiting an old friend, you remember the rocks you really want to see wet from the rain and the walk to the point in the cypress trees.

With the window howling, tripods stayed in the car, more likely to blow over since staying low and behind rocks seemed the only break from the wind. But a good storm just seems fitting for the park and I could always hope for a break in the sky. The wind blows white caps on the ocean and makes the water even rougher looking. The storm drove the waves up the rocks, the images lack scale, but there was not putting a person in danger just for scale!

While walking through the Cypress grove the rain band passed, the deer came to pick their favorite blades of grass and a few Star Lilies called me to come and shoot them, of course as they blew back and forth in the wind.

With out knowing how much longer the rain would last, we headed down the coast and toward the end of a nice calm before the work storm that was waiting for me at home.

There was time to stop at Julia Pfeiffer Burns / McWay Falls it was still raining a bit and the wind blowing, but I was determined this time I would get a couple of better shots than the last time. It was raining less and the wind was not blowing me off the overlook like last time, but there was still too much rain in the air to make for a good shooting day.

Next time......

To view a gallery with more photos, click the top Point Lobos photo.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

2009 02 21 Lighthouses

Since Yosemite was booked up for the weekend with Firefalls photography workshops and camera clubs, Friday meant deciding do we all go home, go to the desert or hit the coast.

The coast won.
Santa Cruz
Saturday morning was a good time to go to the Santa Cruz Lighthouse and Natural Bridges Parks. The surf was up and being enjoyed by the surfers, human and otter. Photos of the surfers are here They surf close to the bluff, these are all full frame (for a Canon 40d) 300mm photos. It was windy and the water was cold, but that did not seem to stop the surfers from catching some nice waves.
Pigeon Point Lighthouse was calling from up the coast, so the GPS was set and off we went.

The lighthouse has a hostel that operates in the keepers quarts, a few open museum buildings, but the actual lighthouse itself is fenced off because the salty sea air has caused some damage to the metal band that holds the lighthouse together. A chunk fell off, there is a group raising funds to repair the lighthouse, but for now images include a chain link fence.
The view from across the bay included some tide pools that would have been fun to explore, but the tide was in and the wind was howling. A storm was expected for later in the day.
While looking at the gift shop, there was a post card from the Montara Lighthouse just up the coast a bit further. The trip was now a lighthouse tour, so off to the next light.
Half Moon Bay
Montara Lighthouse also has a hostel operating in the keepers building and was not as impressive as the postcard. But it was still interesting and had a pretty garden to add to the foreground.
It was more of a challenge to loose the No Parking signs and plastic lawn chairs.
Since driving further north would bring us to San Francisco, it was time to head south and see where we would end up for the night.
The rain was finally starting to catch up with us, the sky was closed and the hoped for sunset did not happen, but there still was the Point Pinos Lighthouse and a dinner and the much talked about Fishwife Restaurant.
I could not figure out what I was doing wrong while trying to get a clear shot with my 300mm f4IS lens. I had the tripod out, the remote cord in use, even the mirror was locked up.....after a frustrating few minutes I realized, I also had the IS on and not turned off.....ooops. And yes it does make a difference if you forget and leave it on!
Click on the photos for links to photo galleries.

Yosemite's Hwy 140 Wildflowers

Spring Wildflowers!

Odd that my first spring flower trip would also be on my first Yosemite snow trip for this year, but this is California.

Highway 140 is known as the "All Year" highway because it is lower and follows the river. In the past, we have driven this way and not seen the first snow on the side of the road until just as we drove in the National Park entrance, even though the park got two+ feet of snow the night before.

The California Poppies were starting to bloom. There seemed to be Baby Blue Eye's as well, but we were on the wrong side of the river to get very close.

I thought about my friends Bob and Betty, too bad the hill was not covered for the fall, I am sure they would have loved the short drive from their hotel to see the poppies.

To see more photos of Hwy 140, click the photo.

2009 02 19 Yosemite Winter

While Firefalls in Yosemite was a learning experience for our group, we had plenty of different photo opportunities. In the mornings the valley would fill with a low cold fog that would set off the frosty trees. The falls were all flowing strong. And the river was full of snow covered rocks that looked like pillows.

The sky was clear, except for the jet trails that seemed to appear just as we set up our tripods, some drama in the sky would have been nice.

Since I usually visit Yosemite in the fall, the falls were very nice to see running and rather full of water. The walk to Yosemite Falls is usually skipped, but this trip it was a nice walk, and just a little bit of ice to walk past.

More photos from Yosemite can be seen by clicking on the photo.