Lori Carey Photography

Monday, March 17, 2008

Menafee Valley Wildflowers

Yikes, I read a post by Jasmine Star on ProPhotoResource where she wrote about how much she hated new blogs that have weeks between posts. I just "know" that she was talking about me (as if), so a new commitment to stay more up to date.

I thought the 2008 wildflower season was just about over - it started early in a few places after some December and January rain (Amboy Crater was in full bloom mid-January), but the lack of recent rain seemed to have had a detrimental effect on what had initially promised to be a good season. Most of the reports from many of the favored locations seemed to confirm what I had being seeing myself; what had been blooming is already dying off, and the higher elevations aren't blooming yet.

Another photographer told me Friday that "the other side of the Ortega" had been magnificent a few weeks ago, and that there were good blooms in the burn areas of Santiago Canyon. I'm not usually one to run out during wildflower season to hunt out the best blooms, I tend to be more of an opportunist and will photograph them if I happen to come across them. I skipped the Easter Jeep Safari trip that most of my jeep friends left for Friday/Saturday, so I had a weekend to kill and I was dying to burn some megapixels, flowers or not. Saturday we took a ride out through Santiago Canyon but had no luck finding blooms and nothing caught my eye.

I was skeptical about finding any wildflowers in good shape on the other side of the Ortega, but it's always a fun ride and Bill remembered an abandoned building I had mentioned wanting to photograph so we decided to head out that way Sunday afternoon. A funky, patchy storm was raging; we got caught in it at the top of Ortega and when we hit the overlook at Lake Elsinore I took a 12-frame panorama of snow piling down on the mountains, rainstorms in the valleys, and a spot of sunny blue sky in the middle. Even printed at 17" wide it doesn't do it justice to show all of the detail.

We drove out to Wildomar so I could photograph the building I had remembered and actually found another one as well. I haven't processed them yet because I've been busy processing panoramas, which take a lot of time. The weather was cold and the storm was all around us, but we seemed to be staying in a little bubble that kept us dry. Most of the time the sky and clouds were gorgeous, but the light wasn't exactly what I was hoping for. We were heading back toward home, not looking forward to traversing Ortega Highway in the rain again, when Bill decided to turn onto Railroad Canyon Road in Canyon Lake. We didn't have to go far before we saw hillsides right along the road covered with wildflowers. They were also covered with people picking the flowers! We kept going as Railroad Canyon turned into Goetz Road and could see colorful hillsides in the distance. We found a field filled with Baby Blue-eyes, Blue Dicks, goldfields and a variety of Monkey Flower, but the sun had dipped behind the clouds again and although I took several photos the light didn't excite me.

A little further on in Menafee Valley we found a jeep trail through the hills, and that's where we struck gold. The hills were covered with poppies, goldfields, Popcorn flowers and more that I haven't yet identified. The sky was mostly overcast as you can see in the first photo I posted, but there was one little section of beautiful blue sky with puffy white clouds. This is another large pano, I'm not sure if it even makes sense to post it at this size. Bill says he hates that it just looks like colored hills unless you look at the super large original size. But you can see the jeep trail winding around the hills.

I'm still working on processing the individual frames that should show the flowers themselves a bit better. I think I might like this location better in the morning and might shoot back out that way again to see if I have better luck with the light. If you'd like to go check this location out yourself, the coordinates for the trail are N33 43.273 W117 13.860. It was disappointing to see that people use this area as a garbage dump - depending on where exactly you are you may need to watch your composition or do a little cloning. Or even better, bring a garbage bag and help with a little cleanup.

I have realized that I really need a macro lens - I'm tired of being frustrated because nothing in my bag will allow me to focus closely enough - so I've ordered the Canon 100mm 2.8 USM macro lens. All the reviews I've read say this lens is as sharp as L glass, and it seems that it will be perfect for a lot of things I've been wanting to photograph lately since I don't really want an extreme macro lens and everything that entails - focusing rail, twin-flash, etc. --- Yet--- :)

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