2019 has proven to be an outstanding wildflower season. While many are so focused on joining thousands of other people in a few crowded locations, I wanted to try something different. Why not look at a couple images, from the same location, taken a couple years apart.
The basis for this idea was a recent discovery of a unique bloom near my home. Out of my peripheral vision, I found a thick patch of Ground Pink flowers that were among the best in San Diego County. It occurred to me that the same location was my March 2017 Photo of the Month.
2017-2018 was considered a dry and disappointing rain season, but it was sandwiched by two very good seasons before and after it. I put both images into a simple gallery: Being able to flip between both images seemed a good way to see how the images differ, what it says for the larger weather patterns we see, and how all things in life age.
Rain Seasons Differ
Both the 2017 and 2019 images were taken in rain seasons (July 1 – June 30) that were about 120% of average (from San Diego, Santee information is harder to come by). In 2017, I remember the rain season kicking into gear later than it did this past Winter. As my friend Alex noted, despite the great Winter rains, it was a dryer than average March.
While both scenes have the same chaparral growth, this year proved to be just perfect for the beautiful Ground Pink patch to form. I couldn’t begin to tell you why the weather this year was so ripe for wildflowers. Were these seeds lying dormant in the ground all this time? How long can a seed be viable anyway? In the larger and longer period of drought that the Southwest has endured, it is a little respite to think there may be millions (billions?) of wildflower seeds waiting for just the right time to germinate. As their ancestors die, it’s the seeds that same them from extirpation and extinction. It is a powerful testament to adaptations to the environment that seeds can outlast generationally significant drought periods. Let’s hope our own actions do not permanently upset this renewal of life.
My 2017 image was taken March 27 at 5:22 PM and my 2019 image was taken March 9 at 5:09 PM. This seems consistent with my impression that this year’s wildflower season arrived earlier than usual. Temperatures also seemed to stay cool for much of the early Spring: I only remember a day or two hitting 80 degrees. There are many years when we have had our first 90 degree days by now.
My first image was taken with my 35mm F/2 Nikkor lens, while in the second I used my customary 24mm F/2.8. Perhaps the lack of wildflowers in the 2017 image influenced me to focus on the Santee boulders. Contrast that to my 2019 image where I was hoping to draw your eye to that patch.
I also photographed the 2017 image about 40 feet West of where I chose my 2019 image. I remember picking that location in the first image primarily because there was a mountain bike trail scar just off the Mast Blvd sidewalk leading into the ravine. I wanted to keep that out of the image.
In 2019, I wanted to emphasize the large view of the West Hills and the area around the wildflower patch. People gravitate to the flowers, but it’s the green hillsides that have kept me awestruck all Spring.
Finally, I believe my editing has changed in the last couple years. My 2017 image doubles down on contrast and bring down shadows as a way to create some perceptible depth. Recently, as in my 2019 photograph, I have been editing a much more subtle look. Neither is necessarily better than the other, and have their uses for different scenes. If I look over a longer time period, like the past decade, I can immediately see how I have changed as a developer at home.
As always, thank you 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.