Chaparral Hillsides

“These oak-and-sycamore-filled cañons are the most beautiful of the South California cañons; though the soft, chaparral-walled cañons would, in some lights, press them hard for supremacy of place. Nobody will ever, by pencil or brush or pen, fairly render the beauty of the mysterious, undefined, undefinable chaparral. Matted, tangled, twisted, piled, tufted, — everything is chaparral. All botany may be exhausted in describing it in one place, and it will not avail you in another. But in all places, and made up of whatever hundreds of shrubs it may be, it is the most exquisite carpet surface that Nature has to show for mountain fronts or cañon sides. Not a color that it does not take; not a bloom that it cannot rival; a bank of cloud cannot be softer, or a bed of flowers more varied of hue. Some day, between 1900 and 2000, when South California is at leisure and has native artists, she will have an artist of cañons, whose life and love and work will be spent in picturing them, — the royal oak canopies; the herculean sycamores; the chameleon, velvety chaparral hillsides; and the wild, throe-built, water-quarried rock gorges, with their myriad ferns and flowers.” – Helen Hunt Jackson, Outdoor Industries in Southern California, 1883

In the mediterranean climate of Southern California, tree growth is limited to higher (and thus cooler) elevations, and the wet riparian woodlands in canyons, gorges and hollows. The hillsides are covered with Chaparral. It’s a diverse plant community one might simply call “shrubs” – but it’s the largest plant ecosystem around here.

My first encounter with a very similar ecosystem was actually way back in Europe, when I was hiking in Greece. There, it is called “Maquis.” Here in California, it’s called Chaparral. But no matter what it is called, it is the defining ecosystem for mediterranean climates.

Soon after I moved to San Diego and began hiking here, I became fascinated with these hardy and drought-tolerant native shrub-lands and began photographing them. Most of my photos are made in Winter and Spring, when everything is green, and temperatures are most pleasant for hiking. It’s not the typical color of Southern California for sure, but the prettiest and most precious to me.

The images are all more or less abstract, many made at very long focal lengths to create intimate extractions of an otherwise anonymous landscape. As such, they are very typical for me and my preferred style of photography.


Also have a look at my three latest blog posts:

All images and content © by Alexander S. Kunz, unless otherwise noted. No re-use without express written permission. Most images are available as prints and for commercial licensing. Please contact me with any questions. Prints and licensed images are NOT watermarked, of course.

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