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Carrizo Plain Flower Status

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Information below is partial, see the full update as of 23 March.

I’m at the Carrizo Plain National Monument shooting for a day or two after riding the Solvang Spring Double Century yesterday.

Here at mid-day (I had to sleep till 10:20 AM to recover from that 200 mile ride and 150 mile drive), the lighting is unappealing, but later today things should become attractive. It’s a big place, and if you go, a 4WD vehicle is very worthwhile, as the area is crisscrossed with dirt roads. If it rains however, beware the slick-as-oil bentonite clay roads (when wet). Also, in a few places, non-4WD drives could easily bury wheels into softer sand.

The Fujifilm X-Pro2 is a fun shooting camera, but it’s focus-reset bug behavior drives me crazy, incurring errors repeatedly (I often want to shoot/play/check exposure or composition). I’m adapting to it by avoiding Play, but it’s a serious impediment to my usual style of shooting to not be able to view an image after shooting it.

Update: I took the rest of the day to explore: dirt roads are the best bet into side areas to the east as is the south end of the monument (Hwy 166 end). Central and norther areas have very few flowers and nothing spectacular. However, from a high lookout point, I did observe a very large blue and very large yellow bloom in the next valley, which (not sure) I think is in the Elkhorn Plain area.

Update 2: middle area is largely bereft of flowers along Soda Springs Rd. The key thing is to head off on the side roads at the south end (enter from Hwy 166). BUT see the wonderful violet flowers at sunset further below.

Update 3: Soda Lake Rd into the long valley (head towards the SE Elkhorn Rd) has a huge display of blue lupine and yellow something. Note that Elkhorn Rd from that area on down to Maricopa is very high risk to passenger cars due to deep ruts.

Update 4: north end near visitor center to Soda Lake has some very nice displays, including two shades of yellow and some lupine (limited) along Soda Lake. Drive the dirt road that angles along the lake (not the paved main road) to see the best displays.

Carrizo Plain National Monument flowers, looking north
f5 @ 1/550 sec, ISO 200; 2016-03-20 14:07:20
X-Pro2 + XF10-24mmF4 R OIS @ 15.3mm (10mm)

[low-res image for bot]

Flowers are a mix of species. Here at elevation 2800 feet, there are purple and yellows and oranges. I’ll head down the valley shortly, and see what it has to offer. Growth is advanced given the relatively early time of the season, but there flowers will mature quickly so by the looks of it the rainfall was enough for a good but not spectacular bloom, as compared to 2007 when I was there in a superbloom (year uncertain).

Carrizo Plain National Monument flowers, closeup
f6.4 @ 1/60 sec, ISO 200; 2016-03-20 14:15:15
X-Pro2 + XF10-24mmF4 R OIS @ 36.6mm (24mm)

[low-res image for bot]

From the south side, the hills to the east provide the best flower opportunities (Elkhorn Plain yet to be explored and has a very large bloom). I used a polarizer for this shot. Now I remember why I developed the habit of not using one: things go dull when specular highlights are removed.

Carrizo Plain National Monument flowers, selfie
f4 @ 1/1250 sec, ISO 200; 2016-03-21 11:13:21
X-Pro2 + XF23mmF1.4 R @ 35.1mm (23mm)

[low-res image for bot]

At a distance, I took this orange flower for a California Poppy, but it is not and yet it grows close to poppies, but seeming to need a bit more dampness in the soil.

Carrizo Plain National Monument orange flower
f4.5 @ 1/250 sec, ISO 100; 2016-03-21 14:04:04
Sony A6300 + Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 Distagon

[low-res image for bot]

There are some fields of blue flowers (Lupine I think); these tend to favor meadow areas in which extra water accumulates. I came upon this meadow just at dusk.

Carrizo Plain National Monument flowers: Lupine in Low Lying Meadow
f5.6 @ 1/200 sec, ISO 800; 2016-03-21 19:02:41
X-Pro2 + XF10-24mmF4 R OIS @ 36.6mm (24mm)

[low-res image for bot]

Hotel Yellow Flower Road for the night (I sleep in my SUV which is zero impact, unlike a tent which can crush a lot of flowers).

Carrizo Plain National Monument: Yellow Flowers at Dusk Along Road
f9 @ 30.0 sec, ISO 200; 2016-03-21 19:38:39
X-Pro2 + XF10-24mmF4 R OIS @ 15.3mm (10mm)

[low-res image for bot]
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