Fairmont Butte California Poppies

Fairmont Butte California Poppies

full print size of 29.6x37.6 inches @304.8ppi, above displayed at 1/178
Copyright © David Senesac 2005   view detailed crop

geranium Antelope Valley State Poppy Reserve, Los Angeles County
late Sunday morning April 10, 2005, slide 05-H-35
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 top right          

During the wet spring of 2005 expectations were high that it would be a banner year for poppies at the famous Antelope Valley State Poppy Reserve. Rainful was about three times normal yearly totals and annuals at other areas of the desert had already been providing terrific displays for photographers. But during March when masses of poppies should have been rising out of the ground, instead only sparse patches showed. Two other common wildflowers in that area were however putting on an excellent show including goldfields and owls clover. On the way back from work in Death Valley, I had driven by the area twice in March, so had a first hand look of conditions. By April, it was obvious the poppies would not be putting on much of show but there were other nearby areas I wanted to visit so also planned to spend some time in Antelope Valley.

What I found after arriving, was that a large second growth of goldfields had come up apparently due to continuing rains. And here and there were some nice patches of poppies and other wildflowers. Up on Fairmont Butte which is the hill north of the main fenced poppy area of the reserve, was a single large group of brilliant poppies which appeared to be peaking. A windy storm had come through Friday and Saturday. I called a friend back up in the SF Bay Area recommending he too make the long drive south because it looked pretty good. Sunday morning brought partly cloudy skies and it was still pretty breezy. Both poppies and goldfields are best photographed near midday when overhead sunlight through the orange petals makes them glow. We waited till late morning to visit this area whereupon clouds began to clear.

When some nice clouds showed, I went right to this particular spot, set up with lens pointed westward, and nailed the shot during brief moments of complete calm.

The California poppy, eschscholtzia californica, is the Golden State's state flower. The state reserve and nearby areas of Antelope Valley have not only some of the most expansive areas of usual poppy growth, but wildflowers here are among the largest and most brilliantly orange in the state. Year to year displays vary considerable due to factors as rainful and temperature, but as this year showed, can still confuse resident experts. Note how the long green inferior ovary is all that remains on some of the poppy stems that have lost petals after pollination. Goldfields, lasthenia californica, show in the image as small ground hugging yellow hued sunflower shaped flowers between the poppies and densely on the background hills. Note the center disk flowers are a bit darker than outside ray petals. The effect of vibrant goldfields together with poppies can be absolutely electric at midday which was the case here. Adding to the experience is a strong pleasing fragrance from the goldfields. A bit left of center at frame bottom, a couple dark bees can be seen on both poppies and goldfields. This particularly dense poppy patch was the star attraction in the area for pollinators. Between the goldfields, one can also see a few small blue hued lupine, lupinus bicolor, some pink hued red stem filaree, erodium cicutarium, and light purple with white center hued tricolor gilia, gilia latiflora.

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   David Senesac
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