Coast Live Oak & Spring Wildflower Grassland

Coast Live Oak & Spring Wildflower Grassland

full print size of 23.6x29.6 inches @304.8ppi, above displayed at 1/178
Copyright © David Senesac 2006   view detailed crop

geranium Pacheco State Park, Merced County
late morning Thursday April 6, 2006, slide 06-L-3
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 left

Pacheco State Park has some of the finest publicly accessible blue oak savanna grasslands and woodlands in California. And in the spring of wet years, wildflower blooms are among the more impressive one will find in our central Coast Range. Despite that, very few people outside horse riding enthusiasts have yet discovered this new state park. Blooms at Pacheco State Park in the unusual weather in the spring of 2006 were quite an anomaly versus other better known wildflower areas in Central California. During the period between mid February and mid April, a train of modest sized often unseasonably cold storms rode a stubbornly static jet stream across the Eastern Pacific into Northern California. During several storms, modest snow fell on higher peaks of the Coast Range including this location about 2000 feet near Pacheco Pass. I began visiting this area to photograph wildflower landscapes in late March. At that time shooting star and California violet were putting on a fine show on sunny eastern areas of the park. That contrasted with other Central California areas that seemed to still be in a deep freeze while Pacheco's bloom kept rolling out.

By late March a blooms of many of the park's wildflowers had waned in the east while those of the higher central areas were just coming to a peak. Unfortunately the same weather that was bringing all the storms kept skies mostly cloudy and landscapes monochromatic. Late in the morning on this day, some blues skies spread between clouds as I was in the area of this coast live oak. My interest had been on shooting the oak from the opposite direction where there was a dense patch of poppies. However the only blue sky was in this backlit orientation of the image. When I checked out possible frames I was surprised it looked as pleasant as it did despite more sparse wildflowers. The nice green glow of the grass was exactly the kind of wonderful color I look for.

After setting up the frame and inserting a film holder, I was lucky to coincidently have this nice cloud pattern moving into position so did not have to wait long.

Coast live oaks, quercus agrifolia, are the most common oak species along the California coast and coastal range. It prefers well watered ravines but can be found all over slopes closer to the coast. It is a live oak with shiny evergreen leaves that are dark green above and yelllow green below. Some springs these evergreens will blossom out with catkins and then undergo a change of leaves. This oak had blossomed and by the time of this image had grown these smaller yellow slightly green leaves that had not yet darkened. In shadows at the base of the oak, one can just make out a sizeable hole. A common feature on oaks, especially on windy ridgelines like this, where major branches have broken off. Of course the abundant squirrels of the area make good use of such openings in protective trunks and of course feed on each fall's crop of acorns. For character, the older main trunks are often covered with green moss and lichens. Here below the oak in the grasslands are several species of wildflowers including everyone's favorite, California poppies, escholscholzia californica, yellow hued with dark centers California violet aka johnny-jump-ups, ranunculus californicus, small blue hued bicolor lupine, lupinus bicolor, yellow hued bladder parsnip, lomatium utriculatum, small pink hued red-stemmed filaree, erodium cicutarium, in the shade beneath the oak, light green edible miner's lettuce, montia perfoliata, higher up a few white hued popcorn flowers, plagiobothrys nothofulvus, and small orange hued fiddleneck, amsinckia intermedia, that are more prominent sticking up on the right skyline.

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   David Senesac

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