Three safaris with thirteen folks attending. These three safaris spanned 5 days in the Antelope Valley near Lancaster. Normally we travel to three locations, but on these we traveled to just two – and on one safari we stayed in the valley. Arvin was a disappointment as the weeds were taller than the flowers. With the cold and rainy weather persisting longer into spring than normal, I was interested to see the effects it had on the fields of poppies.
On the 31st we shot the poppies then traveled above Caliente (off Hwy 58) to photograph baby blue eyes and other wildflowers. It is hard to tell if the the flowers are just a little late, or if the additional rain and cold damaged the bloom. In some locations north of Antelope Butte the flowers were fairly thick, though still less than normal. The Goldfields, Cream Cups, and Pygmy-leaved Lupine were evident in numbers, with the Goldfields providing the bulk of the color and a background for the brighter poppies.
In traveling to Arvin and finding the high weeds, we did spot a hunting bobcat near the new National Cemetery on Hwy 223. In the past month I’ve seen at least a dozen bobcats and photographed a number of them. This male bobcat put on a bit of a show, mousing (or squirreling, as was the case) in the meadow before heading for cover after we stopped out cars.
Though I’ve warned people about the snakes in Antelope Valley for years, it wasn’t until the April 2 safari that we actually ran across a few – two Mohave green rattlesnakes and a gopher snake. It was a great experience to safely photograph them.
While we had to maintain a distance from the rattlesnakes, I was still able to shoot them with my 60 macro lens (the lens I happened to have on the camera and didn’t have time to change) from about 3.5 feet or so. The gopher snake was much more tolerant and I was able to crawl up to within 18 inches, again shooting my 60 macro – sometimes you just have to shoot with what you have. My longer lenses (like the 80-200 and 500) were safely back in my vehicle, about two hundred yards away – I only had my macro and wide angles with me.
Between the Antelope Valley and the Southern Sierra foothills the wildflowers were adding their beauty to the deep green landscapes. I’ve always found the contrast between the greening hillsides and the just leafing-out Oak trees to be an interesting dynamic to photograph.
Even though the flowers weren’t as thick as normal (at least not yet), there were still vast fields of poppies and small areas where the flowers were very thick. After seeing the snakes we paid particular attention to where we knelt and laid down in the flowers to take photos. Knee pads made the process a lot easier.
The wind was the biggest problem. The high desert is known for a fairly constant wind, but on April 2nd we had a strong wind that didn’t seem to subside much. There was a constant battle trying to time images when the gusts were least. While the wider shots don’t show the wind as much, the portrait and macro images were particularly hard to do.
In the image below I used a strong group of foreground poppies to make the overall scene look like the flowers are denser than they really are. Notice that the wind is playing havoc with the flower petals of the left most poppy. I shot 16 images of this scene and kept only one due to the strong wind distorting the flowers.