Driving through flat fields of farmland in the Sacramento Valley can sometimes be a mind numbing experience. A look in any direction will generally bring the same scene, the only variable being if the field has crops or free range cattle. Not much to see, I usually drive straight through without consequence. Recently though, I found myself driving through the valley along Highway 20 after some winter rains and was blessed with multiple conditions coming together at the perfect time to create an otherworldly experience.
Everywhere I looked, perfectly still water covered the horizon reflecting the landscape back on its mirror surface. It was as if MC Escher had designed the area and if one went a step too far, they would fall into themselves and the world on the other side of the looking glass. I could imagine Alice with the White Rabbit being chased by the Jabberwocky and I chuckled to myself at the image as I got lost in the drive.
As civilization cleared out, and farms continued to take over, I started to notice more and more waterfowl. Hundreds of them were on their yearly migratory journey down south and had stoped here for a days reprieve.
I looked to find a place to pull over but could only find fenced off farms. Then I saw it, an abandoned building with an open gate. On the other side, a dirt road leading into one of the fields. I assumed it was private property but the scene was too perfect. I just had to capture it.
As I walked out and set up my tripod, the Sutter Buttes towered in the distance. The Buttes are an interesting state park, surrounded by private property with no public road to access it basically making it private property in itself. I’ve always wanted to hike there, but without trespassing, the only way is a guided tour and those are just no fin. With Covid, they are shut down anyway, so even if I wanted to pay to have someone take me, I couldn’t.
This scene was more than I could ask for though. On the other side of the highway I watched a tractor till the flooded land. As it came closer to a group of birds, they all exploded into the sky like the bbs from a shotgun. All of a sudden the sky was filled with them!
I went back to focusing on taking the perfect selfie on my side of the street. I imagined if I could set the camera up close enough to the birds without scaring them, I could walk towards them and get a picture with them flying away, filling the background while I was walking towards the buttes. It would be magnificent.
After I set up the tripod though, I decided it wasn’t close enough for them to fill the frame. so I moved it closer… and closer… and closer… Then, right as I was about to set the timer, all the birds started taking off! OH NO!
I hit the shutter on the intervalometer and rushed toward the birds, but alas… it was too late. I would not get my perfect picture.
But that’s ok. I still loved these couple of hours and decided to hang and watch the tractor plow a bit longer. Everything was peaceful and I couldn’t let the moment end quite yet.
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