Dawn photoshoot at Uvas Creek Open Space Preserve

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a dawn photoshoot in a future open space preserve owned by the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority (OSA). The property, currently not open to the public, will be called Uvas Creek Open Space Preserve. In southern Santa Clara County, it is near Uvas Reservoir County Park. Uvas Canyon and Chesbro Reservoir County Parks are not far away.

Participants gathered about 30 minutes before sunrise and were escorted by OSA docents to an area where there are 3 spring-fed ponds. The significance of the ponds being spring-fed is that they have water year-round, even 4 years into a drought. The primary area where photographers set up was looking east across one of the ponds toward some hills over which the sun would rise.

As luck would have it, there was sufficiently thick cloud cover that dawn only consisted of the sky and general area gradually becoming lighter: the sun itself was not visible. However, the ponds were quite photogenic and provided many interesting reflections. This was the main viewing direction about 15 minutes before sunrise, during the time period called civil twilight.

picture of pre-sunrise reflection

Pre-sunrise reflection

There was a group of 4 horses grazing in the area between two of the ponds. The horses were magnificent and did not seem to mind a few dozen people walking around and taking pictures.

image of horses near one of the ponds

Horses near one of the ponds

There were several of these pretty white wildflowers. I was pleasantly surprised to find any wildflowers still in bloom in mid-October!

photo of white wildflower

White wildflower

The photo shoot was an opportunity to experiment with photographing reflections. Because of the low light levels, I took virtually all of my pictures using a tripod. In this shot I experimented with the ISO setting and selected one that forced the exposure to be relatively long. Most of the field of view is what I call impressionist-like, but the water surface at the lower right is in focus and confirms that I didn’t simply move the camera!

picture of impressionist-like reflection

Impressionist-like reflection

Nearby low hills were nicely reflected in this pond. This was a few minutes after sunrise.

image of hills reflected in a pond

Hills reflected in a pond

After staying in a rather small area for awhile I started to explore the other nearby ponds. On the way I came across the partial remains of a vehicle that had been left behind.

photo of abandoned tire near one of the ponds

Abandoned tire near one of the ponds

There were coots swimming around and feeding in all of the ponds. The docents told us that they are not always there. The swimming activity created interesting patterns of ripples on the water surface. Every few minutes one, or a few, of the coots would apparently get agitated and run across the water surface, sometimes halfway across the pond.

picture of coots swimming around and running across the surface of one of the ponds

Coots swimming around and running across the surface of one of the ponds

For about a half hour I just walked around slowly and explored the area around the 3 ponds. Gradually the morning became brighter, and the sun started to intermittently break through the clouds. This pond was more in the direct light and had some pretty foliage, as well as an interesting-looking dead tree, on the far side. The surface of this pond was especially calm.

image of reflection of pretty foliage

Reflection of pretty foliage

Apparently there is a green heron living in the tree that overhangs the pond. However, it was wary of the human visitors and did not make an appearance while I was watching.

As the morning continued to get brighter I found another nice reflection in one of the ponds.

photo of reflection


After nearly 2 hours on-site, taking my time to enjoy each of the ponds, I returned to my car.

Although the actual sunrise was absent as a photo opportunity, in other respects this photoshoot was quite interesting and pretty. It was a treat to be able to participate in an outing in a future open space – it will be well worth a return visit after it opens!

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