Carpets of Delicate Lupine

One of the few upsides of a dryer winter in Northern California is that it tends to create favorable conditions for lupine along Folsom Lake in the months of April and May. This year, in 2021, we experienced another dry winter, alarmingly low lake levels, and what has been described as a lupine super bloom season. Before the super bloom hit the media outlets, and despite clear, sunny conditions in the forecast, my husband and I packed up the truck camper for a blissful one night trip after work on a Friday to photograph both sunset and sunrise. Both were beautiful, but sunrise  especially so as it cast beautiful golden light on the lush landscape of rolling green hills, thick carpets of lupine and spring green oaks, set against the sounds of crickets, gentle breezes and chirping birds. That morning, we even witnessed a bald eagle flying overhead, hunting for breakfast. Words are hard to describe what a perfect morning it was, being reinvigorated in nature! It truly was a spiritual experience, exploring the blue oak savanna of the Sierra foothills, with the fragrance of lupine absolutely potent.

The prior evening, after we arrived, I set out with my gear to walk along the lake edge and find compositions. Fortunately, the wind picked up considerably that evening, dispersing the swarms of hungry mosquitoes that descended on me, as well as cool me down from the warm temperatures. In order to get a sharp image in the composition at right during these windy conditions,  I had to compensate using a high ISO of 1000, and fast shutter speed of 1/20 second at a 24mm focal length.  However, the sound of a gentle breeze blowing through the lupine while the crickets were chirping, and witnessing a subtle sunset was so therapeutic and invigorating, I didn't mind the wind or the mosquitoes at all!

By the following week, traditional media outlets and social media posts enticed thousands of people to the shores of Folsom Lake. Even still, knowing these conditions don't occur every year, and with fond memories of our quiet camping trip among the lupine the weekend before, I attempted a sunrise shoot at a different location on a weekday morning, arriving at 5:30 am, while it was still dark. I set out with my headlamp to find some compositions as the morning sun started breaking through the clouds and casting a warm glow on the low water level of the lake. 

As the sun rose, I found to my dismay, many areas of callously trampled and deliberately flattened wildflowers from the crowds. For some time, I've been coming to the realization that tagging specific locations on social media has a direct impact on these delicate ecosystems that can oftentimes cause lasting and even permanent damage, and that notion was certainly reinforced when I saw these conditions this particular morning. Mother Nature truly is a gift that keeps on giving and deserving of our respect! 

I would encourage any landscape photographer who has a reverence for  the natural world, and the photographic subjects nature provides, to adhere to the principles of Nature First, an alliance for responsible nature photography which includes: 

Prioritize the well-being of nature over photography.

Educate yourself about the places you photograph.

Reflect on the possible impact of your actions.

Use discretion if sharing locations.

Know and follow rules and regulations.

Always follow Leave No Trace principles and strive to leave places better than you found them.

Actively promote and educate others about these principles.

In summary, let's take to heart the impact our actions have on the environment and work to preserve these beautiful locations for all to enjoy!

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