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Archive for the ‘Realizations’ Category

Early Fall on Highway 178

Every Autumn, I take a drive to Bishop for a couple days to look for fall colors.  It is always a nostalgic trip because I think of my dad traveling with me.  We made the first trip together years and years ago.  I now imagine him traveling with me in spirit.  This trip is always a chance to slow down and contemplate the wonder of Nature as the end of the year approaches. It is a great time to realize how lucky I am and to start making plans for the new year.

This year I made the trip during the second week of October, a bit earlier than previous years.  I started the drive traveling on Highway 178, which initially follows along the Kern River.  It is one of my favorite drives, regardless of the season. There are not many trees along the route that offer much fall color, but the Rabbit Brush, sage and other scrub brush offer enough color to usher in a beautiful fall.

Sacred Datura, also known as Locoweed, punctuated the roadside.

I do not know what these rust plants are, do you?

A Quick Glimpse of Lake Isabella

There Was a Nice Purple Color Gracing the Hillsides

Rabbit Brush


Mountain Asters

If you have not driven Highway 178 lately, consider taking a nice leisurely drive some afternoon.


The first time I visited Gray Lodge Wildlife Area north of Sacramento was in February 2019.  It was a great day with lots of birds:  geese, ducks, herons, egrets and even sandhill cranes and swans.  Since the area is a wetlands that supports birds all year long, I figured the best way to really know the area is to visit it several times throughout the year.

This time, I visited in early October.  The area showed the beginnings of fall colors across the landscape.  There were some birds, but nothing like the numbers from my earlier visit.

Still, it was a great leisurely afternoon! I saw a few others out at the site, but mainly I was on my own on the dirt road scenic drive.

Birds were around, but most were either overhead or out on the water.

Sometimes, my closeup lens would let me get some birds in focus, even though the colors often stayed muted.

Northern Pintail

Common Egret

Great Blue Heron

I did not notice the spider until later

Snow Geese Dark Phase (I think)

Black Necked Stilt

This green algae was all over one of the waterways

This Great Blue Heron was hard to spot even with a closeup.

American Coots

A Common Egret playing hide and seek.

Lesser Yellowlegs

I don’t know what there are, but they sure are pretty!

I dropped by Sutter National Wildlife Refuge thinking I might see some more birds, but the road at this access point was roped off.  The area did have pretty golden fields.

It was a great afternoon.  I’ll have to visit again, maybe in winter–or early spring.


Upper Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park

“If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff.”   Jim Richardson

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place. I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”  Elliott Erwitt

Taking photographs can be seen as an easy task. Just point the camera (or phone these days) and click.  But some photographs are better than others.  They somehow capture our attention, pull us in, make us pause for a moment, help us appreciate what we see.  These reactions are what I like about photography.  Plus the captured memories.

Pretty Buds, Yosemite National Park

But how do photographers capture those photos.  In great part, it is trial and error.  Some good advice is to fill the frame.  Get close to the subject.  Look for different perspectives. See what can be eliminated from the photo as well as added.  Experiment by taking lots of photos.

Here are some more of my photos where I was able to fill the frame.

Tuolumne Meadow, Tioga Road, Yosemite National Park

Yucca Bud, Red Rock Canyon, California

Mount Whitney Behind Alabama Hills, California

Great Fritillary Butterfly, Whitney Portal Road, California

Of course, there are also times when I literally frame a photo in my side view mirror.  Let me explain.  I am a roadside naturalist.  My mobility limitations mean that I experience nature along scenic drives, staying in my car to capture whatever wonders I can.  A long time ago, I accidentally caught an interesting photo in my side view mirror. Since then, I look for what I might otherwise miss in those side view mirrors.

Back Roads around Bishop, California

Flowers in Carrizo Plain, California

Afternoon Light, Leaving Carrizo Plain, California

Autumn Leaves along the Merced River, Yosemite National Park

Aspen Grove Near Bishop, California

Hills along Highway 58 Heading to Carrizo Plain, California

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Some Quotes to Remind Photographers to Just Take Photos

“There are no rules for good photographers, there are only good photographs.”  Ansel Adams

“I walk, I look, I see, I stop, I photograph.”  Leon Levinstein

“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”   Ansel Adams

“To consult the rules of composition before making a picture is a little like consulting the law of gravitation before going for a walk.”  Edward Weston

“A good photograph is knowing where to stand.”   Ansel Adams

“Best wide-angle lens?  Two steps backward. Look for the ‘ah-ha.’”   Ernst Haas

“Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.”  Ansel Adams

This post is my response to the Lens Artist Photo Challenge 66: Filling the Frame.

It’s Fall!

Today is the Autumnal Equinox.

“There is something incredibly nostalgic and significant about the annual cascade of autumn leaves.”   Joe L. Wheeler

I love this time of year.

Even though I live in California, where many feel there are not really four seasons, I see the change of colors about town in small doses every year.  In about a month, I will take a drive looking for greater swatches of autumn colors strewn along the highways and back roads.

Until then, here are some photos from last year that offer a promise of what autumnal glories are to come in 2019.

“Leaves grow old gracefully, bring such joy in their last lingering days. How vibrant and bright is their final flurry of life.”   Karen Gibbs

“There is a subtle magic of the falling of old leaves.”  Avijeet Das

“No King has a throne more beautiful than a bench covered with the autumn leaves!”  Mehmet Murat ildan

“Rebellious leaves going out in a blaze of glory, setting trees aflame in riotous color. Reluctant surrender of rumors of coming winter.”  John Mark Green

“Autumn! The greatest show of all the times!”   Mehmet Murat ildan

“How beautiful the leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.”   John Burroughs

 “The leaf of every tree brings a message from the unseen world. Look, every falling leaf is a blessing.”   Rumi

“The fall leaf that tells of autumn’s death is, in a subtler sense, a prophecy of spring.”   Robert Green Ingersoll

“Delicious autumn!  My very soul is wedded to it.”   George Eliot

Red Rock Canyon Wildflowers

California’s Red Rock Canyon State Park has some striking red rock formations.  Even if you have never visited this 27,000 acre park, you might recognize its buttes and cliffs since they are frequently used in westerns and science fiction movies.  Once there, you can really imagine a cowboy riding out to the horizon.

I visit this wonder periodically.  It is situated about 80 miles east of Bakersfield, making it less than a two-hour drive.  Its stark beauty is evident year round, but the area is especially beautiful in the spring when the wildflowers are in bloom.  My Spring 2015 visit showed extensive carpets of desert dandelions at the park’s Ricardo Campground as well as miles of globe mallows along Highway 14.  My Spring 2017 visit offered a greater variety of wildflowers, but the wide carpets of color were not evident.

This year’s visit was colorful as well, sort of a combination between my last two visits.  There were some small stretches of desert dandelions and goldfields as well as a variety of other wildflowers popping up here and there.

Goldfields were the most prevalent

Rabbit Brush

Joshua Trees


Chollo Cactus

Owl Clover

Common Fiddleneck

Pretty White Flower

Blue Fiesta Flower

Great Valley Phacelia

Desert Dandelion

California Chicory

Dusty Maiden


Great Valley Phacelia

What can I say?  It was another great spring afternoon!

NOTE: I have tried to name the various flowers I saw that afternoon.  I am confident on most–but not all–of them.  If you can share any names or corrections, please do so.  Thanks.


State Route 178 basically connects Highway 99 with Highway 14, traveling about 75 miles.  It seems to have a bit of an identity problem as it changes from a freeway to local streets, then back to freeway and eventually back to a county road and finally a freeway again.

The section of the road just east of Bakersfield where 178 heads into Kern Canyon as a narrow 2-lane road is one of my favorite drives.  The stretch ascends the lower Sierra Nevada and offers plenty of sharp turns and steep drop-offs.  It travels along the Kern River and past Lake Isabella, offering some wonderful vistas and open fields. The road eventually reaches the almost 5,000 foot Walker Pass, before heading downhill to Highway 14.

This Spring—after a very wet winter—State Route 178 offers some wonderful color in the hills and along the roadside.  Although there are some turn-offs available, so slower cars can get out of the way of the crazy people zooming through the canyon, there are not many scenic stops where one can snap a photo or two.  Much of the road’s beauty, therefore, stays as beautiful memories, but I can always snap some photos.

The roads and vistas are always impressive, especially when so green from all the rain.

There are a couple spots where drivers can stop and enjoy glimpses of the Kern River.

The best feature of this drive in the spring are all the flowers.  This year, the variety seems greater than in past years.

Caterpillar Phacelia

Common Fiddleneck

Great Valley Phacelia

Baby Blue Eyes

Mostly Lupine

Mostly California Poppies


San Joaquin Blazing Star

Although the colorful fields lessen as the road ascends toward Walker Pass, there is still a bit of color as well as some Joshua Trees in various stages of bloom.

Rabbit Brush

Joshua Tree

I love this drive!


“Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world.”   Virgil A. Kraft

“When spring is dancing among the hills, one should not stay in a dark little corner.”  Kahlil Gibran

The other day I headed out to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve to find some poppies.  I was very successful!  This year is proving to be another Super Bloom.

I drove to the Poppy Reserve via Tehachapi and Rosamond and then on into Lancaster.  There are usually some poppy fields along Avenues D and I before getting to the Poppy Reserve.  This year was no different. Intermixed with the poppies were some small patches of Fiddleneck, Goldfields, Baby Blue Eyes, and the start of Lupine.

John Steinbeck (East of Eden, 1952) was accurate in his description of these fields of color: On the wide level acres of the valley the topsoil lay deep and futile.  It required only a rich winter of rain to make it break forth in grass and flowers. The spring flowers in a wet year were unbelievable. The whole valley floor, and the foothills too, would be carpeted with lupins and poppies.”

John Muir was rather poetic: “When California was wild, it was the floweriest part of the continent.”

The closer I got to the Poppy Reserve, the greater the crowds.  Cars were parked along the roadside as people wandered out into the fields.  Such traipsing is technically not illegal on land outside of the Reserve.  I would have been in line about an hour to get into the Reserve itself and start looking for parking.  Too many people.

I really prefer the flowers!

“Every natural object is a conductor of divinity and only by coming into contact with them. . . may we be filled with the Holy Ghost.”  John Muir

 “April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.”  Shakespeare

Spring breezes are a constant companion when out enjoying the poppies.  John Keats noted the same thing:  Through the Dancing Poppies stole a breeze most softly lulling to my soul.”  

I headed home via I-5, so I could drive the Gorman Post Road.  Poppies and Lupine are usually in bloom along this short stretch.  This year, they have not fully arrived yet.  Only one or two poppies were evident and a plant or two of lupine were not yet in full bloom.  The hills were mainly covered by Kern Tarweed.

It was another delightful spring afternoon.

This post is my response to Lens-Artist Photo Challenge 39: Hello April.

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