California live oaks

On my visit to California I saw a favorite tree, the gnarly California live oak, in the Sonoma and Mendocino areas:

The first image is from the Yorkville area in Mendocino. The trees is this area mixed pine and redwood with California live oak. The view of the layered landscape up into the hills was quite a sight. I had only a few moments to take the image before I and my camera were drenched. The second image is from the Dry Creek Valley area in Sonoma. In Sonoma, I just had to cope with a drizzle instead of the buckets of rain that fell in my Mendocino visit. Both oaks were decked with a lichen that is often confused with Spanish Moss – lichen may be Ramalina menziesii.


Mendocino headlands

Last week, I visited Mendocino, California and Mendocino Headlands State Park:

As you might have read, it was rainy last week in California. For my visit to the headlands, it was just drizzly, but not enough to dampen my enthusiasm for viewing the coastline or photographing it. For the drive back from Mendocino to the Bay area, it rained buckets, and I drove through winds strong enough to knock the car around. I converted the leaning tree image to black and white because the influx of water from the Navarro River turn the sea a muddy green, not the nice blue green in the other images.

Early flowers

Two flowers I saw a few weeks back before the recent snow and cold weather:

On the left, one snowdrop in a crowd of snowdrop foliage. On the right, the early buttercup Adonis vernalis, but just the flower center at high magnification. I’m looking forward to later next next month when native wildflowers begin blooming.


Newly fallen snowflakes in the woods:

Two weeks ago, the temperatures were warm and spring-like, in the 50s and 60s F. Snowdrop flowers were blooming, and I found the first Adonis vernalis of the season (a buttercup) in a conservation area managed by a local town. Then a week later, snow and colder temperatures.

On this outing, I had hoped for ice, and there wasn’t any – but the fresh snow on tree branches was unmelted and crystalline. These snowflakes were on the top of a horizontal tree branch, the images taken at 4x magnification. I’ve tried photographing jumbles of snowflakes before, but I haven’t had much luck finding large well-formed snowflakes. On the branch, I could use use distant snow for a background and lichens in the foreground.

From a winter meadow

A few things I’ve seen recently:

From left to right, last season’s gaillardia in late afternoon light, sweet fern (Comptonia peregrina, a shrub, despite the name), And some criss-crossing branches that caught my eye. It’s a shrub I haven’t identified. Click in the images to see them in a larger size.

A few lichens

British soldier lichens, the red lichens in the first image, are a bit of welcome color in winter:

The two lichens in the first image, Reindeer lichen and British soldier lichen, are both in the genus Cladonia. I found them on the ground in a dry spot, with some hair cap moss around. The little lichen forest of spindly, curving shapes was growing on a log. It may be in the same genus. The last lichen covered a rock on a stone wall in the woods.

From a cold morning

When it gets really cold (single digits Fahrenheit) I look for feather or fern-like ice crystals near streams:

The frozen stream was covered with them, with many groups like the ones in the third image above as well as crystals on the edges of leaves and pine needles. The crystals are pretty large; the cluster in the last image is an inch across. Please click an image and view them at a larger size.
The next day I went out again, but the temperatures were up in the 20s. Only ghost-like traces were left of what I saw the morning before. The third image above shows what was left: parallel shards outlining the shapes from the previous morning.
I’ve been out at 6 or 7 deg F many times, and I can manage being out for more than hour. It was -7 degrees F on the first morning, and it was a different experience entirely. I wore multiple layers, but I could only manage barely 30 minutes outside before my hands got unpleasantly cold. I wish I could have spent more time with them – I doubt I’ll see these again this winter.


Curving switchgrass leaves with an aster stem growing through it:

After I posted this black and white image I’ve been working on trying to make a series of intertwined winter grasses and flowers. It’s really hard to find a pairing that works well.

Seacoast in winter

Three views of the Maine seacoast, one at sunrise:

And another at sunset:

And a long black and white exposure in the evening:

The surf was furious and there were piles of seafoam on the shore side. Although temperatures were only in the 30s F, the strong winds froze me to the bone, especially on my walk at sunrise.

Winter asters

A cluster of asters from a winter meadow:

In the last few years I’ve learned to love how flowers look in the fruiting phase, even after the seeds have flown.