Black (and white and color) Friday

Well Thanksgiving has come and mercifully gone.  Laid a little low by by an action that was stunningly brilliant even by my own standards; I managed to put my back out the previous week and spent much of the week trying not to move since nearly any movement sent a flood of pain through me.    The cat tried to cheer me up by making her famous “Turkey Feast “ surprise for Thanksgiving and though Lord knows I appreciate the effort, the truth (which I can say here since she cannot read very well) is that she nearly always overcooks it so it becomes little chips of what is apparently old turkey feet in a somewhat slimy gravy.  But she tries.  And her sweet potato-flavored kitty treats was an unexpected addition.  My paltry vocabulary is bereft of the words to properly describe it all.

On Black Friday, my friend Lee Peterson and I were ready to avoid crowds and get out of town.  It was raining and snowing in the mountains so we loaded some camera gear and headed east into the Cuyamacas.  To be honest I didn’t care if we got completely skunked and never saw an image just waiting for one of us to capture it; just to get away and get my mind on something other than the holidays was a profound blessing.

I was driving this time so we headed to the Boulder Creek Road between Descanso and (ultimately) Julian.  The sky was made of lead in the mountains and it rained off and on the whole trip.  But it was like being in a giant light tent where the newly washed items were richer in color than their normal dusty appearance.  The light was rich and full of tone.  Marginally directional, mostly from the lighter cloud cover off to the west, it still provided a sense of form and texture.

Most outdoor photographers search almost exclusively for dramatic light and of course I often do too.  But just as in the studio there is a place for softboxes and a place for polished reflectors, there is also a place for this light and instead of huddling in the car we found ourselves several times leaping out in the rain to grab a shot.  Sometimes  the clouds would tease us and look like there were going to open up such as for this shot across the hills (they call them mountains out here) looking toward the ocean.

View to West

View from Boulder Canyon Road looking west toward the ocean.  the rain was coming in pockets and cells separated by thin clouds or even clear skies with low-lying clouds and fog in the valleys.

It  briefly let up to allow Lee to photograph this wonderful old tree without getting too soaked.

Lee and the tree

Lee Peterson finding his shot of this gnarly old tree along the Boulder Creek Rd.

But most of the time it was ranging between a slow drizzle and some real rain,  it even snowed on us in spots.  I loved it and just the look that made you want to snuggle up next to a roaring fire with a cup of hot cocoa… if there was someone to snuggle up with.  Oh wait, I forgot the cat.

For me that soft light focused my eye on smaller details from the nearly abstracts and nature details to, at most, the so-called “petit landscape” views of smaller treasures of tonal and sometimes color poems found in smaller views.  The plants in this often dry area were clinging to the drops to hold them as long as possible.

WET LEAVES for blog

The plants were desperate for water after a prolonged drought. They seemed reluctant to let even a drop of the rain get away.

Below are some of the other photos I’ve managed to thus far edit.

Plant and rock

This little roadside bouquet in the dark wet ground seemed like a perfect subject for a B&W tone poem.

Fall leaves

These little “petit Landscape” scenes stood out because of the brilliant fall colors against the dark wet greens. At other times everything can simply blend together and be flat and visually boring.

Erosion pattern

Along the sides of the road the run-off from all the rain formed some interesting patterns. This one was interrupted by a stubborn little rock that refused to be intimidated by the rushing water.

Rock Cliff Textures

The heavy rains had washed away top soil and exposed some of the rock foundations of these hills.

Tree trunk

This weathered old tree trunk clung to the ground as the earth around its roots was being washed away.

leaves and twigs

Wet branches and leaves against a reddish, golden rock base. I intended this as a black and white shot but the rich earth tones against the pale green argued fror leaving it in color.


How could we pass by these white trunks and fall leaves against the dark green hillside shrubs and plants?

I had to add this last shot.  These plants with the red Holly-like berries were in bloom all over the place but neither of us knew what they were.  However, surrounded by the various greens of other foliage it made for a subtle color poem.

Red Berries

These bushes filled with their red berries were everywhere along the southern sections of the road. I’ve no idea what they are but the spots of bright red add interest to the surrounding green overgrowth.

I’ve not yet seen Lee’s shots but he usually posts them on one of his own blogs at so be sure to take a look.

Now I’ve got to get back to editing some architectural shots for a client and finishing off some school administrative stuff and grading before Monday and we are back to the grind.



About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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