Spring Grassland of Goldfields & Blue Oaks

Spring Grassland of Goldfields & Blue Oaks

full print size of 29.6x37.6 inches @304.8ppi, above displayed at 1/178
Copyright © David Senesac 2006   view detailed crop

geranium Pacheco State Park, Merced County
mid afternoon Thursday April 13, 2006, slide 06-O-6
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 mid right

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 a bit below 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 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. In particular, bright yellow hued dense carpets of goldfields, lasthenia chrysotoma, carpeted several areas. Unfortunately the same weather that was bringing all the storms kept skies mostly cloudy and landscapes monochromatic. Finally Thursday April 13 was mostly sunny and I made the most of it. In the morning, I photographed several locations I'd been attempting to shoot on past visits. Then in the afternoon I explored some areas I'd not yet seen including this hillside slope where a nice group of lichen covered rocks surrounded by dense goldfields added a unique foreground to an aesthetic background of blue oaks.

Blue oaks, quercus douglasii, are the most widespread of 19 species of oaks in California.

They are named for their smallish drought resistant bluish-green leaves. Blue oaks dominate dry interior California hillsides where midday summer conditions often reach over 100 degrees for weeks at a time. In the past, most of these landscapes became cattle ranching range lands. Today at the outskirts of many urban areas, they are prized for upper class home developments. In the past because the wood had little commercial value, rangeland landowners cut down vast areas of these woodlands simply to be sold as firewood. Today ecologically minded people recognize the great value of these lands as a key part of a multifaceted California environment thus conservation of these areas is gaining increasing public support. Most of the year, the grasslands are uninterestingly dry and brown. However for a few months in spring they can be wonderfully green often sprinkled with many colorful wildflowers, trickling with small streams, and full of small animal and bird life. And those found on ridgelines including quite a few in this park offer some of the most outstanding wind swept tree forms landscape photographers might find.

Among the goldfields dominating this foreground, one will also see tiny pink hued red-stemmed filaree, erodium cicutarium, shiny multi-petaled yellow hued California buttercup, ranunculus californicus, white and red hued tomcat clover, trifolium tridentatum. Green grassy areas beyond the goldfields show many purple hued spots of blue-eyed grass, sisrinchium bellum. Below the oak one can aslo see several orange hued fiddleneck, amsinckia intermerdia, and tiny white blossoms of miner's lettuce, montia perfoliata. And there is another tree species in this view. Behind the oak trunk at the left frame edge are the dark eliptical leaves of a California buckeye, aesculis californica. Above the buckeye and between oak branches, more like green hillsides recede into the distance.

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