March 3, 2011
With all the recent snow posts, it’s kind of hard to believe that spring has arrived in California. We’re still getting rain here in the Central Valley (and snow in the Sierra), but Northern California skies are more blue than gray, and colorful blossoms are popping up everywhere. While the soon-to-be-ubiquitous foothill poppies haven’t quite kicked in, I know by the end of the month my camera and I will be enjoying leisurely drives through the Gold Country to photograph my favorite wildflower. My foothill drives have become quite a treat for me, not just for the photography, but for the opportunity to meander quiet country roads with the window down and baseball on the radio.
On these drives I often find entire hillsides blanketed with poppies beneath billowing cumulus pillows. Sometimes a spring shower sprinkles the blossoms, closed tight against the weather, with glistening water jewels. When I’m fortunate enough to find the sun diffused by a veneer of translucent clouds, I like to sprawl in the dirt for a bugs-eye view of the tissue-thin, backlit petals that light up as if they have their own internal light source like colorful little lanterns.
I found the poppy in this image at one of my favorite spots near the Merced River west of Yosemite. An extension tube on my 100mm macro lens enabled me to get close enough to smooth the background lupine into a blur of purple. I chose this tight composition of just the base of the closest backlit poppy for the way it emphasized the glowing lantern effect I love so much. Believe it or not, the color was so vivid that I actually had to desaturate it a bit in Photoshop.