Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Photo By Ron Edman

Carrizo Plain National Monument is a large grassland plain located on the southeastern edge of San Luis Obispo County in California. The prominent features of the plain are Soda Lake, an alkali lake that, depending on rainfall, can vary greatly in size, and Painted Rock, which is a large rock alcove adorned by pictographs created by local Native American peoples over thousands of years. Mountains rimming the plain have been created by the activity of the San Andreas Fault, which runs through the park. When the conditions are right, for a brief period of time during the spring, the plain is transformed into an almost endless carpet of a variety of wildflowers. At this time, small wetlands form on the plain and are known as vernal pools. These harsh alkali pools are home to rare plants and animals, including the longhorn fairy shrimp, an endangered species.

My camera club, NANPA Nature Photography Group of the Central Coast of CA, held a meetup in early April of 2019 to photograph wildflowers at the Carrizo Plain National Monument. Our area had seen above-average and well-timed rainfall, resulting in a tremendous display of wildflowers in several locations around the central coast but especially at the Carrizo Plain. I had been to the area only a couple of times in the past and didn’t know it well, so this was a perfect opportunity to visit it with others who knew it better.

When we reached Carrizo Plain, we were fortunate enough to see a small group of pronghorn, which were reintroduced to the area in the 1980s. Next, we were confronted with a spectacular display of wildflowers covering large patches of the plain and surrounding hillsides. Varieties seen included tidy tips, fiddleneck, purple haze, creamcups, owl’s clover and San Joaquin blazing star. It was late morning when we stopped along one of the many dirt roads that crisscrossed the plain. Not too far off the road, we came upon several vernal pools encircled by wildflowers. The yellow of the goldfields and purple of the phacelia were predominant colors in this wildflower carpet. These colors were complemented well by the blue, partly cloudy sky.

Being careful not to disturb the fragile environment, I positioned myself so that the reflection of the clouds in the pool was to my liking. Although I had a polarizing filter on my lens, I rotated my filter to ensure that the reflection of the clouds was still visible. Shooting handheld, I tried several different positions and framing, but I liked this composition the best.

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Fujifilm X-T2, FUJINON XF18-135mmF3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR at 19mm, polarizing filter. Exposure: 1/160 sec., ƒ/11, ISO 200.

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