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Colorful Camera Phone

Sagehen Summit, Mono County (10/2/21) Michael Tolchard

The images seen on this site are taken by all types of cameras, from the big beasts made by Nikon, Canon, Leica, Sony, Fujifilm and others to ubiquitous camera phones. When submitting these images, color spotter Michael Tolchard dismissed himself as, “just a hack with a decent cell phone camera.”

Camera phones take great pictures. They may not be publishable in a magazine or have the quality to be printed in large format, but they capture color and light beautifully and look great on websites.

Good composition isn’t something a camera can correct. Some improvements can be attained with post-processing/editing software, such as Adobe Lightroom, but it takes either an artistic sense or being exposed to lots of well-taken photographs to develop an eye for what looks best.

Michael got these right. Here’s a look at what you can capture during three days in the Eastern Sierra, with a camera phone. (click to enlarge and scroll right to view)

In addition to submitting a respectable body of work, Michael scores a First Report for Poole Powerplant Rd., which had previously never been singled out.

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Eastern Sierra Weekend

North Lake, N Fork Bishop Creek (10/2/21) Gary Young

This is a good time to visit the Eastern Sierra. Peak is happening at the Virginia Lakes, Lobdell Lake Road and Sagehen Summit in Mono County and at South Lake, North Lake and Lake Sabrina in Inyo County.

High above the June Lakes Loop (9/29/21) John Ehrenfeld

Napa Valley color spotter John Ehrenfeld worried about timing his trip, though when we report it’s approaching Past Peak, then’s the time to go, as John did, for Peak is moments away from happening.

Monitor Pass, CA-89 (9/29/21) Woody Elliott
Monitor Pass, CA-89 (9/29/21) Woody Elliott

Woody Elliott got the same idea and crossed Monitor Pass to find it gloriously painted in Patchy color. He continued on to Upper Virginia Lake to revel in its Peak color.

At Sotcher Lake in Madera County near Mammoth Lakes, Angie Plaisted got a First Report for her camera phone snaps of kayaking on a blue lake ringed with yellow willows.

Don Vilfer headed to Lobdell Lake Rd., as we’d recommended, and found peak color along the length of the road. We estimate the color along Lobdell Lake Rd. will last another week, but now’s the time to go. Delay any longer and you’ll miss it.

Lobdell Lake Rd. (9/30/21) Don Vilfer

And, Mark Hanning-Lee found the color along the Rock Creek Rd. as advertised.

  • Monitor Pass, CA-89 (8,314′) – Patchy (10 – 50%)
  • Lobdell Lake Rd (8,600′) – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW! (AWD/4WD Recommended)
  • Virginia Lakes (9,819′) – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!
  • June Lakes Loop (7,654′) – Just Starting (however, peak color is being seen on slopes high above the lakes)
  • Sagehen Summit (8139′) – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!
  • Sotcher Lake (7,651′), Madera County – Patchy (10 – 50%)
  • Upper Rock Creek Rd. (10,800′) – Near Peak (50 – 75%) Go Now!
  • South Lake, S. Fork Bishop Creek – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!
  • Lake Sabrina, M. Fork Bishop Creek – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!
  • North Lake, N. Fork Bishop Creek – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!
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Happy New Year!

Frémont cottonwood, Desert fan palms, Cottonwood Springs, Joshua Tree NP (12/26/20) Mark Hanning-Lee

Sometimes, the best Christmas presents arrive late. Mark Hanning-Lee waited until the new year to send these shots, taken at Joshua Tree National Park on the Christmas weekend.

The Deserts is the last of California’s regions to peak and then, you have to know where the few winter deciduous trees can be seen. Hanning-Lee found peak Frémont cottonwood at Cottonwood Springs a short distance from the parking lot, scoring a first report for Joshua Tree NP. Before leaving for Joshua Tree, Mark watched the moon rise over an ornamental pear in Irvine.

  • The Deserts – Past Peak, You Missed It.
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Marin Coho Run Begins

Coho salmon, Lagunitas Creek (11/24/20) Marin Municipal Water District

The winter run of critically endangered Coho salmon is running late, the Turtle Island Restoration Network reports.

The largest run of coho salmon and steelhead trout to be seen occurs in Marin County along Lagunitas Creek, San Geronimo Creek, Olema Creek and several other tributaries. It continues through February with peak viewing now through January. Steelhead trout spawn later, ususally between January and March.

Some 300 to 700 of the salmon are expected to spawn this year, which is considered to be above average.

This winter’s run begins at Tomales Bay where the salmon enter freshwater streams. This year, however, the run is late as little rain has fallen. To see the salmon, visit the Leo T Cronin Salmon Viewing Area, operated by the Marin Municipal Water District in the town of Lagunitas.

Salmon can be seen spawning in the creek directly below the parking lot and at several locations upstream along fire road. For more information on seeing the coho salmon run, CLICK HERE.

  • Coho Salmon Run, Marin County – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Forest of Nisene Marks

The Forest of Nisene Marks SP, Aptos (12/4/20) Sam Reeves

The Forest of Nisene Marks in Aptos is an example of forest regeneration. 

Almost all of the redwood forest within the forest (south of Santa Cruz) “was clear-cut in a 40-year logging frenzy from 1883 to 1923,” explains California State Parks. “When the loggers left the Aptos Canyon, the forest began to heal itself; now, the scars grow fainter with each passing year. The Forest of Nisene Marks is a monument to forest regeneration and the future—it is a forest in a perpetual state of becoming.”

On a “First Report” visit this week, Sam Reeves found “still plenty of maple action everywhere on Aptos Creek.  The only challenge was the sun and shadows.  It was difficult to get a maple in full view without a big contrast range, but I found one exception on Aptos Creek Road.  A cloudy day would probably yield the best results.”

The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park still retains fall color along both the road and the creek.  Sam observes that because “the canyon is wind protected from the normal northwest flow, so it should be good for another week.”

  • The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, Aptos (164′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.

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Just Keeps Rollin’

American River, Rancho Cordova (12/5/20) Steve Arita

Fall color just keeps rollin’ along the American River.

Yesterday morning, Sacramento color spotter Steve Arita visited Hagan Community Park in Rancho Cordova expecting to find nothing along the American River. Instead, rich orange, gold and red lined its banks.

Peak color speckles the Sacramento area, though most urban forest color has now fallen.

  • American River, Sacramento (30′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.
  • Hagan Community Park, Rancho Cordova (72′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.
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A Colorful Ending

American smoketree (Cotinus obovatus), UC Berkeley Botanical Garden (11/30/20) Sandy Steinman

Weather has been kind to fall color this autumn, allowing it to last and last and last, right to its colorful ending.

At the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, Sandy Steinman found American smoketree (Continus obovatus) brilliantly toned in crimson, orange, green and yellow; American beautyberries robed in purple, and Japanese maple leaves as confections of red, magenta, orange, pink and yellow.

Similar vibrant display are appearing in Southern California where Kathy Jonokuchi found golden yellow gingko leaves and hot pink Honk Kong orchid at the Conejo Valley Botanic Garden.

Nuttall’s woodpecker, Conejo Valley Botanic Garden (11/28/20) Kathy Jonokuchi

Finally, Salil Bhatt made my day by submitting these images and scoring a First Report for the Sunol Regional Wilderness where valley oak and western sycamore have just crested peak.

Salil points out that the Sunol Regional Wilderness, in the mountains east of Silicon Valley, is one of a few areas where significant collections of winter deciduous native trees can be seen at peak in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Wilderness is east of Milpitas and south of Sunol on Calaveras Rd.

  • UC Berkeley Botanical Garden (171′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It!
  • Conejo Valley Botanic Garden, Thousand Oaks (886′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Sunol Regional Wilderness, Sunol (500′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It!
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Fall, Not Spring Color

Trione-Annadel State Park near Santa Rosa in Sonoma County is better known for its spring wildflowers, not its fall color.

John Natelli found the opposite on Thanksgiving Day with black oak, toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) and coyote brush (Baccharis pilularis) providing peak fall color. In doing so, he scored a First Report.

  • Trione-Annadel State Park, Santa Rosa (400′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Asti (11/22/20) Walt Gabler

At one time in the 20th century, Asti in northern Sonoma County was more famous for its wine than many of California’s now legendary wine making regions.

Asti was the base of Italian Swiss Colony wines, established in 1881 as an agricultural colony focused on growing grapes and making wine to serve the large community of Italian immigrants in San Francisco (think North Beach and the names DiMaggio, Alioto, Ghirardelli, Ferlinghetti, Coppola, Giannini and Pelosi). By 1905, its wines had won international awards and acclaim and was producing huge amounts of wine from its 500,000 gallon cistern.

Under Louis Petri, the brand Italian Swiss Colony (ISC) was mass marketed across the U.S. following prohibition, but starting in the 1980s acquisitions and changing wine tastes led consumers toward preferring boutique wines compared to mass-produced ones, reducing the value of the brand. Eventually, Chateau Souverain, one of those boutique wines, moved its production to ISC’s Asti Winery.

Today, America’s sixth-largest wine production facility at Asti and the Souverain brand are owned by E & J Gallo Winery. The acquisition provides a lesson in how fortunes shift in the wine industry. In the 1960s, ISC was bigger than Gallo.

So, when North Coast color spotter Walt Gabler took these pictures, scoring a First Report, he struggled to identify the winery calling it the Asti Winery which it is. The image he captured is classic California wine country: rolling hills scored with rows of healthy vines leading up to oak-speckled, golden mountains. It’s all at peak this week in Asti.

Coppola Vineyards, Sonoma County (11/22/20) Walt Gabler

Walt reports that vines throughout Sonoma County are at peak and trees along the Russian River are also at full peak, “Better than I have seen in previous years.” Though, disappointingly, vineyards in Mendocino County were hit by a freeze and their leaves are brown husks hanging dismally from vines.

  • Asti (404′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Hometown Color

Elk Grove Regional Park (11/21/20) Steve Arita

Californians no longer need to travel long distances to see peak color. It’s now peaking in most California hometowns.

Steve Arita found it and a First Report near home at dawn in Elk Grove Regional Park.

  • Elk Grove (46′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!