Boiling Clouds over Desert Candle Ravine

Boiling Clouds over Desert Candle Ravine

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

geranium Carrizo Plain National Monument, San Luis Obispo County
mid morning Saturday April 29, 2006, slide 06-Q-11
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 left

In March the bulk of several cold though modest storms tracked east into central California while just brushing areas in the southland. Rainfall in the southern state had been meager early in winter then picked up modestly in the late winter. Finally on April 3 the largest storm of the series stayed further west over the Pacific and dropped good rains over the northern parts of Southern California including 2.6 inches of rain at Carrizo Plain. That big storm over the following few weeks provided a huge kick to plants that were already set to make an appearance. On a very successful photography road trip to Carrizo Plain April 18, 19 and 21, I had experienced a superb bloom down on the valley floor near Soda Lake and explored some areas up in the Temblor Range where quite a number of plants were still green with buds. Thus I decided to return later in order to catch the peak of the mountain wildflowers.

Midday Friday April 28 a friend and I explored a canyon area at Carrizo Plain National Monument with topographic orientations I suspected might well have the best Temblor Range wildflowers. My analysis was based on the nature of where wildflowers tended to grow during a couple exploration hikes to other canyons in the area I did April 18 and 19 during my earlier trip. The route up the canyon Friday was rather unpleasant. At one point we rousted a large mottle colored wild pig from a sulphurous smelling spring seeping from the San Andreas Fault. Dozens of ticks attached themselves to our clothing as we walked through the considerable saltbush. Some of the route in these badlands canyons was on steep crumbling terrain above otherwise hard to travel narrow brush filled washes at the bottom. We persevered and arrived at a stupendous area of wildflowers where we set up shop and proceeded to take several images. However the orientation of the canyon favored earlier morning work so we decided to give the area a shot the next morning too.

On Saturday morning April 29, we woke at dawn from our campsite on an obscure dirt road in the Panorama Hills area of Carrizo Plain.

Without much delay we went back for another foray into our secret realm. This time having already made the trip once, we knew where the difficult areas were thus modified our previous route. We arrived back up at slopes covered with wildflowers about 8:30am and quickly went to work taking images with our view cameras. The most magnificent side ravine had a large dense patch of beautiful desert candles lower down the slope thus we named this ravine. The orange hued wildflowers dominating this image are blazing star, menzelia pectinata, although a bit of the orange is also from a few California poppies scattered about. Similar yellow hued species of blazing star are found in other California regions. At frame left, hilltop daisies, monolopia lanceolata, are the most prominent Temblor Range yellow hued sunflower species. Scattered across the foreground areas and with a denser swath frame upper left are purple hued tansy-leaf phacelia, phacelia tanacetifolia. Smaller pink flowers at the lower right frame are red-stemmed filaree, erodium cicutarium. Against the skyline frame right are smaller orange hued fiddleneck, amsinckia tessellata. Scattered higher up on the slopes are small bluish green hued sagebrush.

This was my fifth exposed sheet of the morning. I had made the awkward climb up to this highest headwall of the ravine through dense slopes of steep wildflowers. After attempting to compose an image higher up on the slope at left, I came down to the ravine bottom where I decided to try and emphasize the orange blazing star. Though clouds had been forming at the ridge line I just concentrated on composing and focusing the scene. A modest breeze had developed so we were waiting several minutes for momentary calm before each exposure. After shoving in my film holder and removing the dark slide, I recall some frustration waiting for the breeze to stop while the clouds looked good. Finally a usable calm occurred but I resisted the temptation to depress the shutter in the fleeting calm until the clouds moved into this optimal position.

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   David Senesac

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