Is it spring yet?

Poppy Lanterns, Merced River Canyon
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II
1/50 second
F/4
ISO 200
100 mm

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.

8 Comments on “Is it spring yet?

  1. Steve agrees with the drive though the back country roads, loving the view and listening to the Giants. It is about as good as it gets.

  2. I love this image Gary. And such an uncommon composition. I think that is one of the things that I love most about your images and makes you stand out; your eye for the unique non-traditional composition of many of your photos. I especially enjoy the ones on your blog banner. The close up of the flower with dew or rain drops on it and the waterfall just out of focus in the background. Brilliant! That cloud reflection is equally awesome. Thanks for sharing your work Gary. I am definitely a fan.

  3. I love the colors, and the fact that you had to desaturate is amazing. I wish I were closer to California so that I could meander through back country roads and see these flowers. Great shot!

  4. Thanks again for sharing. My family and I are moving to Northern California this summer (Redding area), and I can’t wait to get into that scenic place. Any advice on areas near there that are great to photograph?

    • Thanks, Duane. Lots to shoot up there–Shasta, Lassen, Burney Falls, the Trinity Alps. And you’re just a couple hours from the Mendocino Coast, with redwoods, rhododendrons, and some of the most beautiful coastline in the world.

      • Thanks so much! I had looked into a lot of those you mentioned, but the Mendocino Coast was a new one. I appreciate the help, and I hope you have many, many great drives coming this spring!!

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