This morning, I spent a stormy Spring morning up at Figueroa Mountain north of Santa Barbara near Los Olivos, California. While I was a little late for the California Spring wildflower season in 2016, I knew that California Poppies tend to bloom late and I could take advantage of the storm clearing most of the Southern California. Below is a gallery of images I made and some notes on how I made them.
I left my home in San Diego a little past midnight and got some rest at the Gaviota Rest Area on US Highway 101 (I was far from alone, many were there doing the same thing!). At sunrise, I left for Los Olivos and proceeded North on Figueroa Mountain Road. This road came to my attention many years ago when Google revealed the location of Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, which is indeed right off the road.
As Figueroa Mountain Road winds its way up the mountain, it is a very narrow paved road, sometimes with only space for a single vehicle. During Spring wildflower peak season, it can get very hectic, and you have to watch for vehicles rather than look at the hillsides.
I was here past peak, and I knew it. But with California Poppies being late bloomers and the storm, I thought I could make some cool images and the weather did not disappoint. Everywhere I turned, there were things to see, if I only I could find a turnout!
Even the turnouts turned out to be difficult once I found them. Because of the storm that blew through, a lot of it was extremely muddy and my Honda Civic Coupe was not built to handle it well. Mud caked all over the bottom of my boots and I gained a couple inches of height just from the mud.
The storm seemed to have two major clouds layers. The lower cloud layer, which I drove through, was low to the ground and hugged the lower canyons. There was also an upper cloud layer that was above the mountain. At the ridge-line, there were many compositions of the canyon below which were amazing to see.
One of the best spots had light rays shining right through an oak tree off the mountain. I found a turnout about 1/4 mile away, but by the time I got there, most of the mist was gone. I didn’t get quite the image I wanted, although I like the color and black and white I selected for this gallery. Still, I have another image that will stay in my mind forever.
I wanted to close with a shout-out to Jeff Sullivan, who posted an excellent blog post on the mountain on April 3. I was a little late for peak wildflower season, and staying only until the morning meant I had closed poppies, but it was a great refresher after not having visited in several years due to the persistent California drought. Thanks Jeff!
Thank you very much for reading, and I hope you enjoy the images!
T.M. Schultze is a San Diego-based photographer, traveller, and writer. He writes, photographs, and draws things of the outdoors that have inspired humans for thousands of years. He co-authored the Photographer’s Guide to Joshua Tree Park which can be purchased here.