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Springtime photo safari in Northern San Joaquin Valley

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POSTED March 9, 2012 8:53 p.m.

Photographers – professionals and hobbyists alike – flock to the Northern San Joaquin Valley every year in spring. Mainly for one reason: the world famous almond blossoms that are in full bloom at this time of the year.

The snow-white blossoms start prepping up for the nature-loving paparazzi in mid- to late-February. That’s when the early-blooming nut varieties like the Nonpareil begin showing off their delicate pink and white buds from tree trunks, branches and twigs that are still moist from the winter dew or rain.

If you miss the first wave of flowers in February, there are still plenty to focus on in March when the later varieties break out in blooming profusion. One almond grower said he knows of farmers have switched to the later-blooming varieties due to the vagaries of early winter weather.

It’s easy to find places to get good angles for photographing the almond blossoms especially in Turlock, Manteca and Ripon, the city that prides itself as The Almond Capital of the World. You can pull over just any side of the road next to an orchard, whether you are driving along East Lathrop Road, the entire stretch of Austin Road from French Camp Road and beyond to its dead-end at Caswell Memorial State Park, South Airport Way, West Ripon Road, and East Louise Avenue to name just a few of the major thoroughfares.

It’s a little harder, though, to find the orchards where delicate pink flowers bloom in profusion alongside the snow-white almonds. These pink blossoms are those of the peaches and nectarines varieties. One such orchard is located at the end of Fredericks Road off West Ripon Road.

There are other photogenic places in springtime in this neck of the woods where you can take your camera – or camcorder, if you wish. There are a number of rustic nooks offering carpets of yellow mustard in bloom in the countryside around Turlock, Manteca, Ripon and Lathrop. One of these places can be found at the end of South Manteca Road around the confluence of the Stanislaus and San Joaquin Rivers. Another area is in one of Lathrop’s sphere of influence locations which you can reach by going west on Yosemite Avenue right past the 120 Bypass to where the road dead-ends close to the San Joaquin River. This place, though, is not as consistent as the one on South Manteca Road when it comes to finding fields of mustard flowers every year.

A photo safari to any of the above places will reveal to the serious nature photographer a lot of other nooks and crannies in these rural areas where they can also train their lenses. A drive to any of the major locations mentioned above is just the beginning of their springtime photographic adventure in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.

— Rose Albano Risso

209 staff reporter

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