Poppies along the Hite's Cove Trail, Merced River Canyon, Sierra NF, CA, USA

Poppies along the Hite’s Cove Trail, Merced River Canyon, Sierra NF, CA, USA

Claudia and I drove up the Merced River Canyon yesterday and found that the poppy bloom has continued to expand since I last checked on Sunday. The flowers near the beginning of the Hite’s Cove Trail are near their peak, as are the other poppy patches down near the bottom of the canyon, especially across the river about three miles east of Briceburg. The bloom is spreading higher on some of the hillsides, and I’m hoping that trend will continue and we’ll see whole hillsides covered in orange like we did two years ago.

Yesterday afternoon Claudia and I walked along the beginning of the Hite’s Cove Trail, where I made the accompanying photograph. I’m always looking for patterns, and found this zigzag design on the steep hillside above the trail. This is one of the few situations where I’ve used straight-on frontlight. I usually prefer soft light (shade or overcast) for colorful subjects like this, but direct frontlight is the next-best thing, since the light is even and nearly shadowless. And since poppies only open when they’re in the sun, frontlight is sometimes the best option.

The redbuds have also made progress. About 60 percent have started to bloom, though most of those are not fully out yet. I’d guess that they’ll peak in a week or two, but you can find some photogenic specimens now.

There’s a chance of rain in the forecast next week, but until then the weather is supposed to be warm and clear. The poppies will like the sunshine, so that might help them spread further during the next few days. If we get colder temperatures, wind, and substantial rain next week that might bring the poppy season to an abrupt end, but some light showers would be fine, and might even help the bloom last longer. We really, really need the rain though, so as much as I like photographing poppies, I’d love to see some big storms even more.

— Michael Frye

P.S For more information about where to find flowers in the Merced River Canyon, see my last post, and also my Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite book and iOS app.

Related Posts: A Good Year for Poppies?; In Praise of Soft Light; Redbud and Poppies

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Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to YosemiteYosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom 5: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.