Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘California

Desert views

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Four years ago today we drove across the southern California desert on our way to Tucson. In the picture above of the Salton Sea, mist made the mountains beyond the western shore unclear, and it’s also unclear to me what range it is (perhaps the Borrego Mountains). The second picture comes to you from along Interstate 8. A lot of the dunes there allow recreational vehicles, and as a result I couldn’t take pictures in many of the places I wanted to because vehicle tracks marred the scene. While the dunes below do show a slight amount of disturbance, I hope you’ll still find this panorama pleasant.

But if you insist on arenaceous purity and no tracks, I’ll backtrack two weeks to October 23rd of 2016, when we stopped at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in Utah. Though it also allows recreational vehicles, we stayed long enough for me to wander around and find undisturbed parts of the dunes to photograph.

And here’s a relevant quotation for today: “J’ai toujours aimé le désert. On s’assoit sur une dune de sable. On ne voit rien. On n’entend rien. Et cependant quelque chose rayonne en silence….” “I’ve always loved the desert. You sit down on a sand dune. You see nothing. You hear nothing. And yet something glows in silence….” — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le petit prince, The Little Prince.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 6, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Joshua Tree National Park

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Where else to find Joshua trees than Joshua Tree National Park in southeastern California?

The park and the Mojave Desert welcomed us four years ago today, though actually we’d seen our first Joshua trees two weeks earlier in Nevada, and then in Barstow.

These “trees” aren’t truly trees at all, but members of the yucca family, Yucca brevifolia. Yuccas are members of Agavoideae, which isn’t so surprising, but that group is a part of the asparagus family, a fact that does surprise most people. Not all is as it seems, is it?

And how about finding a nest in one of the Joshua trees? Thanks to the staff at Joshua Tree National Park for telling me that the maker of the nest is most likely a ladder-backed woodpecker, Picoides scalaris.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 5, 2020 at 4:38 AM

Sunrise at Morro Bay, California

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Four years ago this morning I went out early to see if I could catch the sunrise at Morro Bay, California. I did. The vertical view above, with its dark strip of land across the middle and a border around it gives me the illusion now of looking through a two-pane window. I also made a tight one-pane portrait of a seemingly unshy gull, which I take to be Larus occidentalis. The red patch on the lower bill apparently characterizes a breeding adult; imagine if breeding people had a red patch on their chin.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 4, 2020 at 4:41 AM

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery

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Four years ago today we were heading down California’s Highway 1 in waning daylight when I saw a sign for the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery near San Simeon and drove in to check it out.

In chronological order, you’re seeing three of the pictures I took there. You may be surprised, as I am when I look back at these photographs now, that the first one came about 17 minutes before the second one, and the third followed the second by about 16 minutes. In other words, we got two differently colored sunsets a little over half an hour apart. Hail, metadata, as good an elucidator as a sunset! (Let that last line live on as an idiosyncratic quotation for you today.)

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 3, 2020 at 4:35 AM

Red and yellow against blue

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Four years ago today we visited the John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, California. In addition to touring John Muir‘s house, we checked out what was growing in the native plant garden out front. The first picture shows a couple of oso berries, Oemleria cerasiformis. The genus Oemleria is monotypic, meaning that it includes this one species and no other. Regarding the common name, oso is the Spanish word for a bear, and that’s appropriate, given that there’s a bear on the state flag of California. The second picture depicts California sunflowers, Helianthus californicus, which I’d never heard of till then.

Rather than a quotation today, you’re welcome to read some theories about the origin of the name California.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 2, 2020 at 4:38 AM

What do these two have in common?

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What the great blue heron (Ardea herodias) has in common with the variegated stone and its shadow is that I photographed them both at Muir Beach in California four years ago today. You might also find that the forms and colors of the heron’s feathers resemble those on the stone.

And here’s a relevant poem for today:

“The Peace of Wild Things”
by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 1, 2020 at 4:39 AM

Muir Woods National Monument

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Four years ago today we drove along Muir Woods Rd. north of San Francisco, where I stopped in the cloud forest to take pictures of the lichen- and moss-covered trees.

Then we pushed on to the Muir Woods National Monument, which the other pictures in this post show.

I’d rather not have visited such a popular place on a weekend. That said, when you’re traveling you can’t afford to sit out two days, so thither we went on a Saturday morning.

With judicious aiming and timing I managed to keep my pictures free from all traces of the crowds.

I was sorry to hear that on Christmas Eve in 2019 a man walking in this park was killed when a redwood tree fell on him.

Related quotation for today: “When we try to pick out anything by itself we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe.” — John Muir in his journal in 1869. In 1911 he offered a shorter version in My First Summer in the Sierra: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” In addition to those two authentic quotations, various incorrect versions circulate on the Internet.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 29, 2020 at 4:39 AM

November 6, 2016, in the desert of southern California

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Dunes along Interstate 8: one take at abstraction

Dunes along Interstate 8: a more minimalist take at abstraction

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 6, 2018 at 4:37 AM

Joshua Tree National Park

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We spent a good part of November 5th two years ago at Joshua Tree National Park in the desert of southern California. The first picture shows you a picturesque wall of boulders there. The reddish-brown growths occupying the bare branches in the foreground are desert mistletoe, Phoradendron californicum.

Here’s a closer look at some boulders:

Smaller details also caught my attention:

Oh yeah, we did see some Joshua trees in Joshua Tree National Park:

By the time we drove out the southern entrance of the park, the sun had already set.
Even so, I stopped to photograph a creosote bush, Larrea tridentata:

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 5, 2018 at 4:38 AM

Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve

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Two years ago today we stopped along the Pacific Ocean in California at the Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve. The first photograph shows you waves breaking toward the shore, moving white mimics of the dark hills fixed beyond them. The second picture show how an occasional wave made it over a rise on the beach and into a shallow depression, there to creep along with a frothy yellow fringe.

Walking away from the surf, I sought out patterns in the dunes and clouds:

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 4, 2018 at 4:27 AM

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