After crawling along the ground for my last few posts, I wanted to get out and get back to shooting some more landscapes. The wind here has been howling pretty well, so I headed to one of my favorite spots close by, the Timber Ridge Trail, here along the eastern edge of the Ranch. I’ve shot here many times and many of the wildflowers I presented recently were found along this forest trail. As you can see from the three images I present here I did actually manage to capture one landscape, but was still drawn to the wonder and beauty of the local wildflowers.
The first image is one of our local oddities here associated with the San Andreas Fault called a “Sag Pond.” As I have mentioned in earlier posts, the fault runs through the Ranch in a southeast to northwest direction. The San Andreas Fault Zone is about a half mile wide here and has many parallel strands or breaks along its path. The fault is produced by the movement and abutment of two plates; the North American Plate on the eastern side of the fault and the Pacific Plate on the west. As this movement occurs, the stresses cause the ground to “stretch” which creates gaps in the surface soils. In addition, as the plates grind together it pulverizes the rocks into a fine clay which dries and forms a hardpan which lines the bottom of these depressions or sags. This allows water to accumulate in the depressions forming the sag ponds we see today.
This image is of one of the eight sag ponds which occur on the Ranch. These ponds are very specialized ecosystems, and it’s rare to find ones that are not disturbed by development or agricultural practices. You can also see that the water in this particular pond is quite brown or reddish. This is most likely from humic acid which accumulates as a function of biological decomposition. These ponds are static, and have little or no flow-through, so these humic substances build up over time, especially after the rains have stopped. I’m very glad that Sea Ranch has decided to provide access to these ponds and has done a great job of preserving them, while also educating our residents about their uniqueness. I also happen to think they’re a very interesting subject to photograph.
The next image is that of a Pacific Starflower (Trientalis latifolia), a member of the Primrose family. This is a very small flower (~ ½ inch across.), and is also a very short plant at about 3 inches high (which also meant more crawling on the ground.) This dainty little flower is a shade lover, as are many of the forest plants here.
The last image should be familiar to everyone, the Rhododendron. Specifically, this is the Pacific Rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum), a native species and it grows wild here in our redwood forests. If you look closely at the image, you’ll also see what I discovered after I processed the image…hundreds of tiny flies swarming over the flowers in hopes of gathering some pollen. That also helped to explain what all the buzzing was when I was setting up my camera. Even so, it’s still a beautiful flower.
Rhododendrons have always been special to me as they were a favorite of my mom, and we had many fine specimens around our yard growing up in Long Island. I never really saw one just growing in the wild until I came to California, which is interesting because most of the 800 or so species grow predominantly in the east along the Appalachians. Here in the West, California Indians used to make wreaths out of them for use in ceremonial dances. Perhaps this was their equivalent to Hawaii’s “Lei.” In any event, they’re a joy to come across in the wild. They also have one added feature that I especially like…they’re tall!
Additional Notes: The Sag Pond and Rhododendron images were 9-shot HDR images processed through Photoshop CS5’s HDR layering process. I also wish to thank the Sea Ranch’s Interpretive Trails Committee’s write-ups on the Sag Ponds as they were helpful in providing background on this topic.
Equipment: Nikon D3s, Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 lens, Oben Tripod