Photo 101 – Warmth & the Quality of Light

Golden Poppies stretching to the sun

Golden Poppies stretching to the sun

Photo 101 – Warmth and Quality of Light

I took this picture at the Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve in the Santa Cruz Mountains west of San Jose/Silicon Valley.  The sun isn’t in this shot…but, it is obvious that these California Golden Poppies sure know where that sun is in the sky!

Not many shadows in this picture.  But, I think the combination of the Golden Poppies, the green grass, and blue sky feels like a warm day to me.  What do you think?

I might experiment with getting some more side lit shots on my next hike.  Can I submit an assignment more than once for extra credit?  🙂

If you’re looking for me, I’m over the hill.

The Thursday Picture – Eschscholzia californica


Eschscholzia californica – Or, as residents of the Golden State call it, the California Golden Poppy. It’s our state flower.

It’s golden petals close at night, and open each day. It grows wild here in Northern California. This one, the star of this post, was growing along the Bay Area Ridge Trail in the Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve. What I like about our California Golden Poppy is that it is an annual that always comes back each spring. No matter how tough the winter, how strong the wind and rain, how the intense the rays of the sun, the California Golden Poppy always opens up each day. I took a lot of pictures of Golden Poppies on this hike. I was looking to get the “Sunset” magazine cover shot of our state flower. But, I chose this picture because this Golden Poppy is not perfect…you can see faint streaks of discoloration and the pedals are slightly worn. But, it’s an authentic part of the real, natural beauty to be found all around us. You just have to open your eyes and look.

Links: – I devour this magazine every month. Pick one up if you’ve never read one!

Where are you hiking this weekend?

If you’re looking for me, I’m over the hill.

Hike No. 8 – Russian Ridge OSP – Ridge/Borel Hill/Hawk Ridge/Ancient Oak Trails

State Route 35, or, Skyline Boulevard as we know it, is a two lane highway that runs along a ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountains from western Santa Clara County all the way to San Francisco.

The views from the Skyline are fantastic…both the Pacific Ocean and San Fransisco Bay can be seen from many stops along the way.  There are also many California State Parks, Santa Clara County Parks, and Open Space Districts along the Skyline.  On this bright Sunday morning, I decided to hike at the Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve.

I started from the trailhead just off of the Skyline at the Alpine Road parking lot.  There were several mountain bikers gearing up that I would see along the trails all day long.  I started off along the Bay Area Ridge Trail  which climbs steadily for about a mile.  A short spur to the top of Borel Peak gave me this incredible view of a fog covered Pacific Ocean!

Pacific Ocean Covered in Fog

After admiring the view, along with several other hikers and bikers, I continued on the the Bay Area Ridge Trail for another mile to the junction of the Hawk Ridge Trail.  I found it hard to keep a steady pace with such magnificent views!

Hike No. 8 from the Ridge Trail - Pacific in the Background

At a water break, I set up my camera for my regular “look at me, I’m hiking number…” shot…and, stopped to admire the view of Pacific Ocean.

I cut over on the Hawk Ridge trail at about the 2 mile mark and headed down into the valleys of the preserve.  This trail gently descends just below the ridge trail and into a tree covered canyon.

Hawk Ridge Trail - Hike No. 8

Yes, I could hear Hawks calling out in search of breakfast in the tree covered valley below…

After another 1.5 miles, the Hawk Ridge Trail ends at a junction with the Ancient Oaks Trail.  This trail leaves the treeless grassy green ridge and enters a valley of…very old Oaks.  I could hear several creeks spilling over small waterfalls as I hiked through this valley.  After hiking in the bright sun for many miles, I had to take off my sunglasses as I traveled through the shadows of this tree covered trail through these “ancient oaks!”  After nearly a mile, I left this valley and emerged from the shadows to be greeted by a bright sunbow overhead!  Sunbow from the Ancient Oaks Trail - Hike No. 8I did my best to capture the colors…but, as always, my photographic talents couldn’t quite capture the moment…but, I guess, moments along the trail like this is why we love hiking!

As I neared the end of my day, a lone Oak on a south facing slope of Russian Ridge reminded me of just how great spring hiking is along Northern California’s green mountains!

Lone Oak - Hike No. 8

I’d rate this 5.8 mile hike as easy/moderate.  There are a couple of sections of climbing…but, no more than a few hundred feet.  The views of the Pacific Ocean along Russian Ridge are pretty spectacular!  There is no shade along most of these trails…bring a hat and sunscreen!  As you know by now, bring a map to follow my rambling route…Trails: Bay Area Ridge > Borel Hill > Hawk Ridge > Ancient Oaks > Bay Area Ridge.

That’s 8 hikes and 49.7 miles…32 hikes and 150.3 miles to go!