of Colors in an Otherwise Hostile Environment
Back to Bill Caid's Home Page
Part of the cycle of life
in the desert is the spring bloom for the wild flowers.
Recent winter rains followed by a warming trend created the ideal
circumstances for a so-called "super bloom". The local flora
was on display for all to see; and there were plenty that
came. We traveled to Borrego Springs on a Monday thinking we
would avoid the crowds, but no such luck. While not as
crowded as it would have been on a weekend, there were plenty of
flower viewers -- enough that our favorite restaurant had a
multi-hour wait for a table and when we were finally seated, they
were out of most dishes.
For this trip, we had several cameras along: an older Fuji X100T
with a fixed 23mm (35mm equivalent) lens, my Sony A7RM2 with new
90mm macro lens and my Olympus EM-1 with a 12-40mm zoom
lens. These 3 cameras have wildly different capabilities and
strengths. The Fuji is compact and light, but years-old
technology and only 12mp. But, it produces great color
rendition and has an APS-C sized sensor which creates a "crop
factor" of 1.5. The Olympus is relatively new (3 years) but
is very high-tech and has one of the best image stabilization
systems of any camera in existence today. It has a 4/3
format chip which results in a crop factor of 2.0 (that is to say
a 50mm lens "looks like" a 100mm lens in terms of field of
view). The Sony is the most current model and is a
full-sized chip with a crop factor of 1.0 (that is no crop).
For these photos, the crop factor plays into the look and feel of
the final image. The higher crop factor cameras produce a
deeper depth of field (DOF) than the no-crop Sony. For
close-up photos, like flowers, the shallow DOF produces a very
narrow band of focus and sometimes actually works against you in
obtaining a "good" photo.
The photos below are
what we saw.
We approached Borrego Springs from the west on Montezuma
Grade. The grade has a view point that allows oversight of
the entire Borrego Valley. Note the while area at the
center right of the photo above. This is the so-called
"Borrego Sink". Rain in the valley flows towards the sink
and then evaporates leaving the light colored silt. The
Santa Rosa mountains are the ridge at the left of the photo
We got to Borrego Springs around noon and decided to head to
Carmelita's for lunch. Nope. Every other person in
San Diego county was waiting there, so we decided to go see the
sights and return in a few hours. Steve spotted this
church nearby, so we went to have a look. The Fuji did a
great job of rendering a bright blue sky.
Looking to the WNW from the church we could see the mountains
above Palm Canyon in the distance.
The flowers were in bloom almost everywhere. Note the
black specks in the petals: these are dust flecks.
The blooms looked great in the bright sun. The pollen has
spilled onto the petals of the flower.
The pod on the left has not yet opened.
The blooms attract the insects as the flowers are dependent on
the insects as their primary pollination vehicle.
The internal structure of the flowers in quite complex with each
flower species having a different finely developed approach to
procreation. Note the pollen on the petals.
These blooms are on the creosote bush; the blooms are very
Nature seems to have all the blooming species on the same clock
to leverage the insects. Three species are blooming in the
This bloom was tiny, but has its own individual flower
The structure of this large white flower looks like arms of an
There were plenty of the white blooms, some in dense patches of
Yet another unique center structure.
The dark specks are road dust. There plenty of folks
driving and walking stirring up clouds of dust.
The center structure looks like a tomato on a stick.
Tiny blooms with intricate structure.
The previous photo is one of the blooms on this bush.
The small hairs were not easily visible to my eye but are
clearly visible in the high-resolution photos.
The northern ridge of the Santa Rosa Mountains is visible in the
distance. In some areas the flowers formed a dense mat of
The sand verbena is a small plant with a small flower.
Up close, the verbena has a pleasing, but simple structure.
I found the pale purple color to be more interesting than the
intense yellow of some of the blooms.
This flower also got the dust treatment. This whole flower
is about the size of a dime.
DOF is alway an issue when shooting up close, but the narrow
band of the bloom that is in "critical focus" reveals the fine
details of the complex structure of the flower.
These bright yellow flowers start out as red pods. Note
the immature bloom at the top left of the photo above.
The red center fades as the bloom matures.
By this stage, the red is completely gone.
We drove over to Henderson Canyon and were presented with a
carpet of bright yellow blooms. Our pants were coated with
pollen as we brushed against the flowers.
The creek in Coyote Canyon empties into this area resulting in
"excess" water and a nice bloom in the spring.
The fellow above brought his DJI drone to take photos from
above. A great idea -- basically I view a drone as a "tall
tripod" and can provide an interesting view of an otherwise
When viewed from closer to the ground, the flowers are a riot of
The remarkable thing about the desert is that anything grows at
all. This dry mud crust had enough moisture to support
this young plant.
We finally made it to Carmelita's for lunch and they were able
to seat us, but due to the huge lunch crowd, they were out of
nearly every dish. We did get fed and what we ate was
good. When we finished, we headed back toward San Diego up
the Montezuma Grade. As we gained altitude heading west,
the harsh desert floor gave way to lush areas with dense stands
of cactus. Note the huge spines on this fellow.
Some cactus have large spines, some large. This guy has
The wet winter provided sufficient moisture for a nice
coat of leaves on this ocotillo cactus. The Santa Rosa Mountains
are in the distance.
Ocotillo, cholla and desert wild flowers.
Looking east the density of the brush becomes apparent.
A parting view of the Borrego Valley.
I did not
expect an many people as we encountered. I did know that
the place went crazy on the weekend, but given that it was a
Monday, I somehow convinced myself that things would be
OK. Sadly, Carmelita's is one of our favorite Mexican
restaurants and we got stiffed on our choice of dishes. I
guess that means that we'll have to return after the flower
Despite the potential for
crowds, the blooms are worth seeing. But, if you do elect to
go, go very early in the morning as I heard the waitstaff at the
restaurant saying that the police were going to close the road
after a fixed number of people had entered the city.
Back to Bill Caid's Home Page
Copyright Bill Caid 2017. All rights