We have a family house in Snelling, California, in the Central Valley on the banks of the ice-cold Merced River. My brother designed this lovely country house as a gathering place for the times when our family is able to visit together, and of course, for some long needed R&R. This is “Gold Country” ! We eat good food, venture out into the countryside panning for gold and we learn the rich history of the surrounding area.
Here in the short-grass prairies, where I love to venture, I can tromp through the prairie fields freely to find interesting places to photograph.
April 25th was my mother’s 93rd birthday, so we decide to celebrate in Snelling with family and friends. We hang out on the porch over the river, talk and remember the years of swimming, rafting and innertubing down the waterway during the long hot days of summers past. The kids are now young adults, both handsome and beautiful, still taking pleasure in the adventure the river brings — and so do we.
Soon I get to take the opportunity to hike the hills and search for something of interest to photograph. It can take hours, but for me, it is a way of looking at the world around me and appreciating it. If find, if I take the time to look and enjoy my surroundings, I find a whole array of interesting things to see. Getting up early for the sunrise, the moon is still full in the sky for this moon/ sunrise shot.
The lighting unfolds like that of a dark curtain raising for a performance. As I look to the other side of the road, it transforms the scene to quite a different landscape. I see this wild flowery spot with lush greenery begin to sparkle on this clear morning. I had visited this same spot the morning before. Then there was a dull beauty, yet I could see if I returned another day it may be just what I was looking for. This sunny shot highlights the clear morning colors which enhance the flowers and make it a more pleasing photograph, I think. When photographing, I use a Canon 5D Mark ll. This is a fine camera that offers high quality images and is easy to use.
I am now heading towards Hornitos, an old gold mining town in the area, and I notice a very personable tree I that have seen many times in passing. This was the time to stop and get to know this old tree a bit more. The morning sky is crystal clear as a bright orange hue of light filters slowly, penetrating the dry grassy hills. Singing birds break the silence from time to time as the sun inches its way over the hilltop horizon, reaching out with its warm radiating glow. As I photograph the trees, the sun strokes my shoulders with a warm and soothing touch. It is a comforting way to wake up on a Sunday morning.
As I walk around the tree to shoot it in different angles, the tree changes shape. I like its round trunk that is full and round on one side and surprisingly hollow on the other side. Along the hillside and surrounding area, the tree are jagged rock formations protruding up through the soil. These rocks make their beds in the hard, hot soil as the summer months begin their rounds.
In the springtime, however, rich bright colors of red, orange and yellow lichen moss, decorate these rocks and the landscape. Later in the fall and winter they will lose their color as the landscape darkens and the colors dry out from the scorching sun. Beautiful solitude I call it, because for me, it offers a natural world that is a joy to watch and experience.
The next morning I decided to go to a favorite spot. These expansive ancient and beautiful oak trees stand solid as the moon shines small against the colored pink sky. The sun rises to light the hills beyond and I find these two trees that catch my eye. I wander about a bit more but as the sun rises I have to return. I realize I was in the place I should be. Sometimes, in looking for THE shot you can miss an opportunity, especially when twilight is so close. Stay put during that brief twilight time and you are likely to find what you want.
The Oaks seem to pose for their best shots as the light glows from the early morning sunrise.
It is time to walk along the nearby reservoir. Along the way, I find more rocks that are decorated with mossy lichen, but this time they are surrounded by small, simple yet fragile flowers that create a sweet scene.
Further down the road there is a small area teaming with warbling meadow larks and croaking frogs. I find these strange crooked plants that bend along the path in their funny shapes.
Then a marsh comes to light with a deepening green and lime reflection that catches my eye.
Back roads! That is where I want to go. In the summer it is dry and gold but in the spring the colored wildflowers become a lovely distraction. The spring blooms have mostly died so I am a bit late to see the hills in color. I do however, find some purple and white flowers standing along the road.
The next morning we go to the monthly pancake breakfast and see old photos of grandma and her friends who made Snelling a lively community for many years. I take the last few photos as we walk back. Below is a giant cork tree that towers above the old historic Snelling courthouse draping it’s limbs long and graceful as I pass by. I look at the courthouse and memories of my grandmother with her “lady friends” quilting (always including me in the quilting fun). My family and I chat about how beautiful this quilt will be for the winner at the Snelling barbecue that comes once a year (and has been for decades). Good memories!
Below is the old town of Snelling years ago. I have also included a photo of my great grandfather (the man on the far left horse), who was a cowboy and farmer with a 15-mule team, all fancied up on his horse “Prince”. He lived outside of Snelling,a few miles away with his loving wife, Sara, whom he proudly named the Rose of the San Joaquin. Cheers to the old days!
I hope you will visit me again on my wandering photo travels through California. If you are interested, follow my blog below and I hope you’re following us on Facebook and please check out my photo store web site at www.lifeforcephotos.com.
You might want to check out our photo-poetry book if you’re looking for a nice little gift: “While Wandering: A Photo-Poetic Journey Through California Landscapes“.
You may also be interested in reading: Longing For The Prairies (lifeforcephotos.wordpress.com) Mosaic-Aspen on Convict Lake (lifeforcephotos.wordpress.com) Wandering the Magical Carmel Coast (lifeforcephotos.wordpress.com)