California is just about covered in flowers right now, and I figured where better to see it from, than from the air itself? That’s right my friends, here’s what California looks like from a small plane right now! A friend of a friend who owns a Cessna 172 graciously offered to fly me around some of the wildflower locations I wanted to see and photograph this past week, giving me a unique perspective on the vast expanses of color carpeting our hills. This year the hills surrounding the Carrizo Plains National Monument in Southern California exploded with color – mostly yellow (Coreopsis flowers), but with spring greens and patches of poppies, lupines, and others (unidentifiable by me from the air) adding some nice color contrasts. The hills looked like a painters palette with splotches of colors waiting to be mixed into a fabulous spring painting by Claude Monet.

“Spring from the Air” ~ Carrizo Plains National Monument, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 16-35mm mkII, handheld
Exposure: iso 400, f/8, 1/1250th

“Monet’s Palette” ~ Carrizo Plains National Monument, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 100-400mm, handheld
Exposure: iso 400, f/8, 1/1000th

I often realize after getting back from a trip like this that perhaps I should have taken some more general photos that show what the area looks like, rather than only scaleless abstract art extractions of the landscape. Oh well, if I did that then I wouldn’t be focusing all my attention on the art, so a description will have to do. The Carrizo Plains is a roughly 750 square mile semi-arid grassland plains, bordered by the Caliente and Temblor Ranges (all the photos, except “Rolling Gold” are from the Temblor Range, “Rolling Gold” is from the Caliente Range). Right down the middle of the plains runs the San Andreas fault, which is surprisingly obvious – it literally looks like a tear in the Earth.

The Plains were turned into a National Monument in 2001 by Bill Clinton, and was even considered as a nominee for World Heritage Site status (the only other such parks in California being the Redwoods and Yosemite), though nearby oil drilling operations prevented that from going through. In addition to vast expanses of wildflowers in the spring – at least, when there’s enough rain (the plains average 9 inches per year) – the grasslands are home to the Pronghorn Antelope as well as 13 other endangered species. Unfortunately we didn’t see any Pronghorn on our trip!

“Spring Tapestry” ~ Carrizo Plains National Monument, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 100-400mm, handheld
Exposure: iso 800, f/8, 1/1250th

“Rolling in Gold” ~ Carrizo Plains National Monument, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 100-400mm, handheld
Exposure: iso 800, f/8, 1/1250th

This was my first time photographing from the air, so I thought I would share a few things I learned and enjoyed. First of all, I found aerial photography to be a lot like wildlife photography. What? Yes! I was using long lenses (all of the images in this series were done with my versatile 100-400mm) and while the subject may not be moving, I was, which meant that every opportunity was fleeting and it would be very difficult to get another chance at redoing a composition. You literally have to shoot ‘on the fly’. The plane was perfect for photography since, after taking out a screw, we were able to open the side window completely, allowing me to stick the lens out without any dirty glass in the way. Of course, that meant that I was sticking the lens out into 60-100mph winds! With a steady hand, image stabilization, and sufficiently high shutter speeds (1/1000th or higher for the long lens work to be safe), I was able to get tack sharp images despite all the vibrations. For someone who loves shooting abstracts and relatively unique perspectives, this aerial photography thing was an incredible opportunity. Everything looks photogenic from the air, and it even looks best at what you might consider relatively harsh light from the ground. While the point of the trip was to photograph the flowers from the air, I couldn’t resist these incredible patterns I saw around Soda Lake – a mostly dry alkaline lake in the middle of the plains. The meandering curves and colors from what I assume to be small blooming flowers (though it could be algae) were just fascinating!

“Earth Veins” ~ ~ Carrizo Plains National Monument, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 100-400mm, handheld
Exposure: iso 400, f/8, 1/800th

The plane, a Cessna 172, and pilot David Werntz

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28 Comments to “Spring is in the Air”

  1. Ben Glatt says:

    YA! Sweet shots man! Love those plane shots! 😉

  2. Derrick says:

    Excellent story. I really enjoyed reading it and your descriptions of the park and your experience! Beautiful shots too.

  3. Kerry says:

    Wonderful photographs. The one named Rolling Gold immediately made me think of some prehistoric monster with aging wrinkled flesh.

  4. Great photos and a lovely reference to Claude Monet.. Aileen Bordman “Monet’s Palate”

  5. […] Plains from a Plane Here are some aerial photos of the Carrizo Plains:   http://www.artinnaturephotogra.....ess/?p=474 0.000000 […]

  6. Kendaly Shimer says:

    Thank you so much for sharing these aerial images and POV’s that most will not be able to see. Fabulous!

  7. Great opportunity & photos. The “Earth Veins” photo is by far my favorite. This would be the best way for me to photograph the flowers… I’d be above all that pollen 🙂

  8. Yang Zeng says:

    Fascinating paintings from the air! I see that free hand on the second picture 🙂

    Love the color and thythm.

  9. Guy says:

    Floris, these are absolutely amazing and unique images. Very impressive.


  10. Steve Weaver says:

    Fabulous images Floris!!

  11. connie fabula says:

    Truly unbelievable. I have been to the desert but from a car or on foot I had NO idea that great patches of flowers were on the hillsides. Thanks for the wonderful pictures.

  12. Lee Ekland says:

    Hi Floris,
    I used to fly between LA and Sacramento (passenger on commercial flights) and I often thought that one of these days I’m going to have to hire someone to take me up to photograph the fabulous patterns on the ground. Congratulations for doing it! Your photos are stunning, you have a great eye for abstract compositions.

    Thanks for sharing!

  13. Ron Richins says:

    Man, what a display of colors! Those flowers really beautify the hills.

  14. Sunnie says:

    WOW! GOD has made a beautiful landscape for all to enjoy!
    Thank you for sharing this with some folks in Austin Texas!
    We Love our Bluebonnets and wild flowers here as well.
    Come fly over Burnett this week and see!
    Deep In The Heart of Texas!

  15. That’s some intense color Floris as seen through a unique perspective – well done.

  16. […] at the monument, which attracted more than 400 people. Many were drawn by one of the most spectacular wildflower displays seen at the monument in […]

  17. Lien Pham says:

    Thanks Floris for sharing these incredible pictures. This place is now on my must-go list. Best, lien

  18. […] at the monument, which attracted more than 400 people. Many were drawn by one of the most spectacular wildflower displays seen at the monument in years. (read […]

  19. Luke Austin says:

    Every now and then I’ll come across an image that just blows my socks off. An image I wish to death I took. You have more then one of those images right here. Amazing and Inspirational.

  20. greg du toit says:

    What on earth does California NOT have ???
    It looks like a photographers dream and I want to move there !!!
    Floris is there any corner you have not photographed yet ???
    Sublime work, as usual !!!

  21. The Rebirth says:

    […] little while back I posted a series of images of flowers taken from the air – well, we had to fly over the San Gabriels to get there, so I took some photos to show the […]

  22. These shots are simply amazing, Floris! My favorite is “Spring Tapestry.” How incredible it must have been to see these vast wildflower fields from up high. Thanks for sharing the experience with us.

  23. Betsy Harbert says:

    I spent the spring working in this area and your pictures really do it justice! I remember hearing planes overhead quite frequently while the monument was in peak bloom and thinking what a fantastic view they were getting!!

  24. Jeff Obee says:

    I consider Carrizo Plain to be my “spiritual home”. I went there three times last year, and although I didn’t capture it very well photographically with the exception of a handful of shots, I found myself profoundly moved there and literally fell in love with it. It is a truly magical place, and these aerial views are breathtaking!

  25. Beautiful colours and shapes!

  26. the thing that is best about abstract art is that it takes the imagination of the viewer to make sense of it :

  27. abstract art have share some of its unique beauty when it comes to art. i like abstract art because it is mysterious “.~

  28. I’m new to your blog and i really appreciate the nice posts and great layout,.