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Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve

I recently discovered the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve near Murrieta, CA and, I have to say, I am extremely excited for all the future photo opps I have to look forward to. The terrain is classic California with rolling hills, meadows and oak trees dotted throughout. I personally love this type of landscape both for hiking and taking pictures. And I can already tell this place will be exploding with wildflowers in the Spring - I can't wait to get out there on a beautiful Spring day with billowing cumulous clouds drifting overhead.

This first picture was taken in January before any major rains hit the area so the terrain was quite dry. Nevertheless, the hike out there was fantastic and the oak trees, lighting and clouds refused to let me leave without taking a picture or two.

The following week, Southern California experienced some of the most severe storms since El Niño way back in the 90's. The rainfall was like nothing I've personally ever seen before. It was coming down hard, fast and relentlessly. It caused havoc at my home by choosing to seep under the walls and soak my carpet, but it made for some interesting scenery (and anyone who knows me knows I love inclement weather, so I was happy). The following two pictures were taken during a very small break in the rain. In fact, I was out there with an umbrella over my camera for some of the shots.

This first shot is a natural pool that formed in this meadow. The clouds reflecting off it were begging for a vertical composition.

There was also a creek flowing in between the hills that was quite interesting to me. It was like no creek I'd seen before - obviously a very rare one - because it wasn't in a typical creek bed with rocks and sediment. It was just water flowing through the valleys between these hills, right on top of the grass and finding the path of least resistance. I wouldn't consider it a beautiful creek and I wouldn't even consider the following picture a beautiful picture, but it was just too interesting to not photograph and share.

My time out there in the rain among these beautiful hills and meadows all by myself was beyond words. But as if all the amazing scenery and peaceful solitude wasn't enough, I was lucky enough to spot two coyotes traversing the hills on the other side of the creek. Seeing them in their natural habitat was truly breathtaking.

The craft of photography is always fun, but it's experiences like these why I really go out there and take pictures.

Chino Hills State Park

I went on a little hike yesterday through Chino Hills State Park. It was my first time visiting and I have to say, it's a really great park. Despite the abundant power lines and air traffic overhead, you feel pretty detached from the surrounding cities. I love rolling green hills - classic California landscape - and Chino Hills SP has plenty of them!

I think it was a little bit early for peak bloom this Spring, but there were a lot of flowers out. I saw poppies from a distance, purple lupines and tons of these little white guys (see pictures) for which I don't know the name. Also saw lots of coyote and mountain lion tracks in the mud.

Could have used a few more clouds to spice up the skies and sunset a bit, but oh well. I'll be back before too long. I was out maybe a total of 4-5 hours and I am ridiculously sore today. I need to go hiking with a full backpack of camera gear more often!