Poppy Reserve

It was all over the news–California was in the midst of a Super Bloom. The newscaster hadn’t even finished the segment and I was already packed and headed down the highway toward the modern-day flower gold rush. To me, there wasn’t a better place to head toward than the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve . It has low, rolling hills, with each hill covered in beautiful orange poppies. The Super Bloom and I were about to become best of friends.

The drive, at least to me, wasn’t all that long, and it is an easy drive in any event. I had one thing, and only one thing on my mind: make a beeline for the poppy reserve and everything else could wait. If I didn’t have to stop for gas I would have made better time, but, well, that’s just the way it works. Before too long I rolled up at the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, and, as advertised, the hills indeed were full of orange poppies, resplendent in the morning sun.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the size of the reserve. Now, to be fair, I don’t know what I was expected, but I suppose it was something like endless hill after endless hill. Instead, although there were hills, and they were low and rolling, and they were full of poppies. there weren’t many of them. In fact, I could easily see from one end to the other. Luckily, what was in-between was gorgeous.

Poppy Hill
Hill after hill of poppies. More poppies than you can imagine.

Endless Hills

Before you could blink your eye I was in the middle of the poppies and was as happy as I could be. Once you are on the hills, now they seem to stretch on forever and ever, as far as the could see. This was especially true if you were in between hills, because in reality you couldn’t see far. But the illusion was complete. It was exactly as advertised.

Poppies mixing with other flowers

I explored the poppy reserve from end to end, enjoying every moment of it. I wandered up and down each hill, looking in every direction. And every direction was filled with more poppies. Interestingly, though, what caught my eye wasn’t the poppies, per se, but rather the blooms when they are grouped with other flowers. Each hill was nothing but poppies. But, toward the edges, other flowers began to creep in, providing a pleasant contrast of yellow, orange and purples. These groupings help tell the intimate story of the poppy fields.

The further away from the main fields you go, the more the other flowers mix in. From far away you can’t see blending, but up close you can, and when you focus on a small area, as this photograph does, the results are very pleasing indeed.

Another Perspective

Yellow Reserve
Yellow Reserve: Another view of the poppy fields

Along one edge is a large field of yellow flowers, with the main poppy hills behind it. This panorama tells another side of the story of another aspect of the poppy reserve and gives another contrast. Yellow Reserve is one of my favorite photographs from the poppy reserve, even though the poppies are not the main focus.

Oh, the People

This was once private land, but it was donated to the State of California for perpetual preservation. This is awesome, because it protects and preserves the poppies. It also has some side-effects for me, namely, people. The poppy reserve is only open during specific hours. And it is highly publicized. And it is in California, which as we all know, doesn’t have many people. Finally, it is near the ghost town of Los Angeles, which also doesn’t have many people. Oh wait… yeah, you see where I am going. Basically, everyone in Los Angeles, if not the entire state, is here when the poppy reserve opens. All of them crowd into the park at once. All of them wander the trails that wind among the hills. And each and every one of them are in my photographs.

I did not truly anticipate the sheer amount of people. Usually, I am out in the wilderness by myself. Civilization is a distant memory. Not this time. Being just a short drive away from Los Angeles, and heavily publicized on the news, draws a tremendous crowd. It is not impossible to work around the crowds, but it is far more challenging to do so.

Poppy Reserve
The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve

This panorama shows the poppy reserve from end to end. If you step back across the room it looks pristine and perfect. When you peer closely, though, you’ll see all sorts of vehicles, and every hill is topped with a crowd. That’s OK, though, for it is best to enjoy the poppies with people in a protected place than unprotected. The latter ensures that the poppies won’t last because they will be trampled and picked. You can see this outside of the reserve–there, people do exactly what the reserve is there to prevent.

Looking Back

Despite the challenges of the crowds, I’ll be back here for the next Super Bloom. The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is an incredible place, and one of the best to see poppies. It is kept wild and beautiful for all the generations to come. Should you find yourself anywhere near it while the poppies are in bloom, you must make a stop here to enjoy them.

Olympic Trio

My journeys to the Pacific Northwest continue, and the next stop for was Olympic National Park in Washington State. It was a difficult task to select all my favorites, but this Olympic Trio certainly makes the cut and showcase the variety of photographs to be made here.

Olympic National Park has several completely different ecosystem, from soaring mountains, rugged coastline, and temperate rainforests. It is the rainforests that caught my attention, and being in a rainforest when it is raining is a surreal experience. Nothing can quite compare to the sight and sounds of the forest when it is raining, and although water is falling from the sky, by the time it reaches you through the trees, it is more of a mist than anything else. You quickly become soggy, and once you are over that, it becomes a gratifying experience.

The sounds of the rainforest, too, are something to experience. The constant drip-drop of rain is all around you, even when it is not raining, providing a constant background noise. Bird calls dance and echo through the forest, followed by, well, I have no idea. An animal, probably, but of what kind I cannot say. Still, it was fantastic to be in the rainforest, and I think you can tell that from the photographs.

Rainforest Elms is a section of the Hot Rainforest known for moss-covered elms. The trees rise as quickly as they can to catch what sunlight they can, as fast-growing moss enshrouds their lower branches. The results are, well, stunning, and otherworldly.

 

The rainforest is not all that Olympic National Park has going for it, either. Fog is a constant companion to the park, and is, literally, as thick a pea soup. Now and then a scene such as Olympic Fog emerges from the mists, and it is hard to remember to breathe, little alone make the photograph.

And let’s not forget the beaches. The park encompasses over 73 miles of coastline, providing endless opportunity. Of all the miles, however, Second Beach called to me. Reached only by a half mile or so hike through a forest, it is truly a hidden gem and is framed by sea stacks. With smooth sand, this small cove is truly a photographer’s paradise, and it was hard to leave it when the time came.

Enjoy this Olympic Trio, and we will chat about Olympic National Park again soon.

Oregon Jewels

Oregon may only be a single state, but it has almost every type of landscape you could imagine. From the rocky coastlines to wooded forests, to mountain tops and the Columbia River Gorge, and everywhere in between Oregon is chock full of photographic treasures. It makes it hard to choose just a few of my photographs, but in the spirit of adventure, here are a few Oregon jewels.

We’ll begin this quick journey with the coastline. With 363 miles of coastline, there are quite a few opportunities. However, I’ll choose Heceta Head Lighthouse which is more or less in the middle. Built in 1894 this lighthouse has guided countless mariners around the treacherous shoals as well as providing a critical navigation point. I made Heceta’s Dawn just before the sun rose into the sky; I adored the purple tones that colored the morning, punctuated by the lighthouse holding its own against the raging sea. For me, this distinguished seascape represents our struggle to tame the sea and reminds me of seafaring stories and adventures from days long gone.

We’ll venture away from the coastline but still hold to the theme of yesterday to visit Wildcat Covered Bridge. Oregon has more than a few covered bridges, ranging from simple affairs to very elaborate ones. This one, though, reminds me of the classic covered bridge. Indeed, it once was on the main route from inland to the sea, but as newer, straighter and faster highways became common, the previous main roads became near-forgotten byways. If you stand very still, you can still hear the gentle rumble of the old cars, and perhaps an occasional horse and buggy, clickity-clacking across its wooden planks and back into history.

Finally, let’s end at another old place, Multnomah Falls. Located not far from Portland, Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in Portland, dropping in two beautiful steps. The Falls are nestled amongst the trees and are an incredible site by themselves. A beautifully constructed walking bridge, the Benson Footbridge, transforms the scene into a stunningly beautiful one. Thanks to the generosity of Simon Benson, who donated the surrounding area to Portland, the falls remain for all of us to enjoy.

Your Own Oregon Jewels

You can bring home Wildcat Crossing today and enjoy the peacefulness of another time in your own home.

Yosemite’s Treasures

Spring is an incredible, magical time of the year. The trees are waking up from their long winter’s nap and spreading new leaves with vim and vigor. Birds are displaying their best plumage in hopes of attracting the perfect mate. Flowers begin to spring up and bloom, eager to participate in the bright sunny days ahead. And in Yosemite National Park, California, the waterfalls are roaring, full of newfound run-off, echoing and booming throughout the storied valley. Yosemite’s Treasures is a collection of four of my favorite Yosemite photographs to celebrate this famed park.

 

A little further along the valley, just across from El Capitan, one can find the Cathedral Rocks, an impressive grouping of rocks and spires. In spring, small seasonal ponds sometimes form, such as this one, which gives us the equally impressive Cathedral View. As spring turns to summer and the summer wears long, this small pond will quickly dry up, along with some of the waterfalls themselves, and scenes such Cathedral View quietly disappear.

Still further along the valley, well past the towering granite cliffs, we find the setting for Lupine’s Day. The lupine grows throughout the region, and this grouping, coupled with the absolute perfect clouds, combine to make this stunning photograph.

 

Finally, as promised, we return again to the Merced River. Beautiful, sunny days in Yosemite make for fantastic photography, but so do the storms that notoriously roll through the valley. Stormy Valley is one of those moments. I like the contrast of the lush green grass, the flowing river, and Bridalveil Falls against the stormy skies above. There’s something powerful and dramatic about the contrast, and it draws me in time and time again.

Yosemite National Park is full of wonders, small and large, and it was hard for me to settle on just a few images. Rest assured, for more stories await us there!

Bluebonnet Country

Most people call it Texas Hill Country, and to be fair, that is a perfect name for it. Low, rolling hills pucntuate the landscape in the southwestern part of Texas, and the landscape transitions from pasture to pristine in a heartbeat. Hill Country is known for quite a few things, but during the spring, the bluebonnets arrive in force, so it might as well be Bluebonnet Country.

I’ve long had a passion for bluebonnets, and an equally long, if not longer, interest with railroads. Combining these two is certainly going to capture my attention, and this small location just at the edge of Hill Country is one of my favorites. There we find an abandoned rail line which the bluebonnets have also found. I should, perhaps, refer to it as disused, since technically it not abandoned. In fact, the rail line here is on the National Register of historic places. It’s just that no one actually uses the rails anymore.

Except the bluebonnets, of course. They use it a lot.

The rail line eventually leads to Austin, Texas. If we were to stand in the middle of it, and look south, we would see something like Austin Bound. The rails, leading off to a bend just ahead, are covered in bluebonnets, making for a striking scene. Photographed in the early morning, it was quiet, tranquil and serene, shared only by a few passing rabbits, a stray deer, and of course myself.

Flower Rails, on the other hand, is anything but tranquil and quiet. The sunset roared to life this particular morning, and it swept into the day with a vengeance. The sun tore through the low-lying clouds at just the right moment, lighting up the trees and a distant trestle. The lines of color leading into the bridge really caught my eye.

Actually, that trestle held my attention for days. As much as I adore Flower Rails, I also like the last photograph, Bluebonnet Trestle.

Where Flower Rails truly makes a statement, Bluebonnet Trestle is a different counterpoint and mood, bringing us back to a tranquil and warming image.

It’s hard to say which of these three I like best. They all well represent Bluebonnet Country, and they all have a different mood and feel. I’ll end up taking the easy way out and simply saying that I like them all.

Purchase Bluebonnet Country for yourself

You will always delight in bluebonnets by purchasing Flower Rails.