These are rusting filing cabinets — I’m pretty sure — in a tumbled pile in a hidden ravine next to the dirt Santa Margarita Road. Likely they arrived when a supply person reasoned this was the easiest way to get rid of the old furniture. An office furniture-knowledgeable person may be able to more definitively identify the metal’s past life and maybe how long they’ve been there. It’s hard to know because rust comes quickly despite the relative lack of rain here. It is regularly damp from dew and fog. Coast live oaks are in the backdrop with some cactus. All this adds to the “texture” in this area of wilderness.
Because of this texture, I initially thought to make this a black and white image to best capture the variety of plants and the shapes of the branches but the red of the rust played well with the tones in the grasses especially when I toned down the inherent goldness. The increased green-yellow of the cactus then balances the increased red.
Enhancing and shifting the colors already there
These oaks were originally black and white as well. The grove is full of majestic, large trees with many dead branches, likely due to years of drought. The branches give the trees an ethereal look with a lot of movement and texture, just calling for black and white. I did try it and liked it, but gave it a fresh look when I reviewed my edits. After enhancing the shadow color of the branches, the cyan/aquas just stood out. After that, it was just a matter of determining what the rest of the image needed. I desaturated the color almost to black and white, leaving some green and adding back tones to the grass to keep from being too stark.
Evolution of the image
This oak was also originally black and white as the shapes and textures were great but there was little color. When I returned to adjust the tones, I started from scratch. After playing with it, I discovered the shadows were much improved in purple. The green leaves didn’t work so I desaturated them and emphasized the shadows to deep blue. I brought back the warmness of the grasses in places to keep it from being too stark, and kept some of the golden leaves for some hits of a complimentary color.
As I was working on this image, I thought about Danny, my brother-in-law. He was diagnosed with lung cancer three years prior and lost his fight the day before. I continue to be surprised when I realize I will not speak with him again. After 30 years in the Navy, he is returning to sea. This tree for me, with it’s cool and peaceful shade provided a resting place for him to prepare for this last journey. I will share Nate’s comments about his relationship with his brother in another post.
Santa Margarita Road starts out as a paved road, becoming a dirt road spur, then a trail before disappearing completely. The map doesn’t differentiate this progression which might explain all the traffic we saw recently. Also, a turn-off onto the dry riverbed appeared recently closed. The drivers of the four-wheel drives may have been used to making their way through the area in the past. This day they drove in and soon after drove back out, the drivers looking apologetic. Further on, several trucks passed us although the road was rocky and washed away in parts.
We encountered a pick-up truck turning around in this section. The driver asked if we’d seen his dog. We heard the dog later but didn’t see him. Hopefully that meant they found each other, especially since we didn’t see the dog wandering around later.
Shadows across the Santa Margarita Road
Shadows dapple the road not because the trees had lost their leaves in autumn. They are oaks with lots of dead branches. Otherwise, they looked quite healthy, just wild and unpruned. Perhaps this is typical of live coast oak in drought conditions. What this means to the health of the trees or the forest is unclear. The dead branches did make photogenic patterns.
Small Boulder on Santa Margarita Road
More obstacles on the road that didn’t deter the truck traffic. Honestly a very small boulder but visually arresting and something for little ones to practice their balance. The terrain was just ragged enough to keep us on the road and amplified the impact of everything located on it. The boulder was now a real point of interest for the kids, both having to jump on it walking each direction.
Santa Margarita River basin flowers still abound even if it is mostly dry right now. Walking through the river basin showed a variety of foliage, even as dry as it is right now. Besides the trees, grass and cactus, I found many kinds of flowers. It wasn’t my thought I would find arid flowers, but it was surprising what appeared. The tall, fragrant, yellow stands of fennel dominated the landscape in some areas. While these are considered invasive since they are not native to southern California, they are pleasant smelling, add a welcome splash of color and apparently are good for cooking. Might be something to try…
Chalk LiveForever (Dudleya)
A rather unusual-looking plant was the chalk liveforever, perched on cliffs next to the road. This native plant has the subtle color and texture that blends it into the landscape. The glowing rosettes looked like part of the cliff-side and I almost missed it at first. The papery outer leaves contrast with the cooly smooth interior. Earlier in the summer they also had stalks with small chains of flowers.
Another native plant is the white sage. It disappears as well into the landscape, its smooth, silvery leaves glowing among the other foliage. This plant, like the fennel, is also aromatic. These are two examples of the many fragrant plants in the southern California area. There are many; a walk on the trails is like wandering through a spice cabinet. Perhaps this is how they repel insects or other predators, but it creates a soothing aromatherapy effect which is very pleasant.
The Santa Margarita road follows the river, which shows up a rather hidden creek since there is not much water. Apparently, the dryness isn’t as severe as a few years ago, but much of California is in some level of drought. Again. This seems to happen a lot and the state spends quite a bit of effort in managing the water systems to mitigate the rather variable climate, storing and moving water mainly from north to south. This gives the area a lot of variety in the types of foliage growing naturally which makes for great textures in photography.
I saw many coast live oak covered in dead branches giving the trees a slightly ghost-like fabulous texture distinctive of wild, unpruned trees. I don’t think too many folks would tolerate so many dead branches…. Slightly unkempt but the overall effect is slightly ethereal, like a large swirling, diaphanously layered tree.
This burned post was randomly in the middle of the clearing in the oak trees. Nothing around it was burned, so it must have been dragged there after it was charred.
This was just beyond the post, looking into the grove and the grouping of oaks with a view of the hills beyond that. Most of the green under the trees was poison oak, one of the evilest of plants.
Looking evil also, the prickly pear cactus mixed with the grass and a variety of mostly spiky plants. Beware stepping off the road!