Anza-Borrego Dune Wildflowers

Anza-Borrego Dune Wildflowers

full print size of 29.6x36.6 inches @304.8ppi, above displayed at 1/178
Copyright © David Senesac 2005   view detailed crop

geranium Anza-Borrego State Park, San Diego County
early Thursday morning February 16, 2005, slide 05-B-23
Wisner 4x5 Expedition, 90mm Caltar, 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 right          

Early in February of 2005 reports were coming in of spectacular wildflowers suddenly sprouting up at Anza-Borrego State Park. Considerable early winter rains had broken a long six-year drought over much of the southwest and plants were responding. The park is the largest in the California state park system. It lies within the Sonora Desert due east of the mountain ranges east of San Diego and west of the valley areas about the Salton Sea. I had been trying to make a week long road trip down there from the SF Bay Area but storms had been keeping the weather too active. A very large storm was forecast to slowly move into Southern California. At first I balked at starting the trip but long-term forecasts were for continued unsettled conditions. Waiting any longer chanced missing the peak conditions. Thus I gambled with a plan to drive down just before the storm hit and hopefully catch enough sun and blue skies to get in some photography. It was my first photography road trip of 2005 and the first time to this most southern park ever.

The big storm arrived late Friday afternoon, and then lingered through Saturday. On a partly cloudy Sunday I was able to photography several nice images about 40 miles to the south before clouds moved back in. I drove to the northern Borrego Valley area for the night. On Monday clouds covered the skies so I spent the day exploring various areas for potential images. On a hike of a few miles, I discovered some hidden pristine sand dunes covered by peaking sand verbena. The forecasts were gloomy and I considered giving up and driving back north. However experience told me that stormy weather especially in deserts is likely to surprise one with periods of blue sucker holes. Thus I gambled staying a few more days hoping to get an unexpected break in the constant clouds and showers. And that break occurred three days later on Thursday morning.

At daybreak I quickly gathered gear and hiked out to these sand dunes. Saw only one set of footprints about the area, which was surprising for such a special area in a park, which was crawling with cameras.

Just goes to show how few photographers bother to explore much beyond roads. Surveying the dunes very carefully for half an hour, I selected this area to compose the most important image when morning light would be best. During the survey, I was quite careful to walk on the soft sand only in places, which would obviously not be in any frames. And also as a courtesy to anyone else that might come by after me. I moved my tripod back and forth, left and right, up and down, several times before being satisfied on this frame. Instead of putting any of the showy wildflowers up front in the foreground, I decided to let this patch of rain drop dappled, wind wavy sand, star in my foreground. I moved back enough and high enough, given my tall Gitzo, to allow the sand to be surrounded by an aesthetic complement of flowers. Then waited for the sun to clear a band of clouds to the east. Commercial jets were leaving several jet streaks in the sky right in my frame. When the sun poked through the clouds between streaks, I exposed an insurance sheet, but the light was still weak. Soon the jet streaks began to vaporize, sun cleared the blocking clouds, and a fine set of cirrus marched across now deep blue skies in my frame. When the best cloud pattern was optimal I triggered the shutter, taking a single perfect exposure before moving on to take a few other shots.

Magenta hued flowers are sand verbena, abronia villosa, a very common fragrant annual in southwest sandy desert areas during spring. Dune sunflower, helianthus niveus ssp. canescens, are the large yellow hued flowers with brown centers. The large fragrant white hued blooms of dune evening primrose, oenthera deltoides, complete the complement of sand loving species. But the annual most dominant in the park at the time also makes a showing here too. One isolated brown-eyed evening primrose, camissonia claviformis, casts a shadow across the sand just right of mid frame.

Crop at 100% print size:


   David Senesac

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