First Rain !

– Posted in: Garden Photography

In California the first rain is a cause for celebration,  Not just for gardeners who can turn off the irrigation systems but the earth itself is joyous.  Storm clouds move in from the Pacific, a stillness awaits as the cycle of life begins again.

I love walking in the rain this time of year.  With each raindrop my soul is replenished, I laugh with the wet earth as it soaks up its very lifeblood.

I was determined this year to take pictures in the rain.  It was raining buckets and I knew I could not take my professional gear and tripod but felt there would be moods and details that could only be captured in the rain.

The moss on the trees turns green within hours of the rains starting.

Lichen, dormant and gray, for the hot sunbaked summer months comes to life.

The normally muted colors of our fall foliage glistens and glows in the rain.  It is pouring when I took this photo of Quercus lobata, Valley Oak.  I am bundled head to toe in waterproof gear and hold a small umbrella with one hand protecting my point and shoot camera.

As if on cue, knowing the rains bring life, the native scrubby Baccharis, Coyoye bush, flowers.  The landscape is bleak now as autumn ends and winter begins, colors muted and dull.  In days the grass will begin to sprout.  In weeks there will be  a green flush.   In months, if we are lucky, these hills will be emerald.

It is been often said by gardeners who care little for flowers that green is a color too.  And I celebrate green in my garden, reveling in the colors of grasses and foliage.  Green is the color of life.  In dry climates we learn that brown is a color too, a natural part of our cycles.

Even gray is a color we should learn to appreciate.  Not just for the somber reminder that winter is a quiet time.  Maybe this is a stretch for gardeners, to see beauty in gray.  For a photographer though, gray may be the most interesting color with infinite subtleties.  The camera never lies:

Saxon Holt
Saxon Holt is the owner of, a garden picture resource for photographs, on-line workshops, and garden photography stories. An award winning photojournalist and Fellow of The Garden Writers Association with more than 25 garden books, he lives and gardens in Northern California. PhotoBotanic - Garden Photography online at
Saxon Holt

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Titania November 4, 2008, 5:57 am

We rejoice too when it rains. Today we got a good soaking; it dries out very quickly now and it is still spring. The photos are great, love the lichens.

Titania – thanks for dropping by from Down Under. I will one day visit to see some of your wonderful native flora. I wonder if, like California native plants, often more appreciated as garden plants once they go abroad. – Saxon

Gail November 4, 2008, 8:43 am

Beautiful photos even with your point and shoot! We are waiting for rain to come to Nashville…it will wash away weeks of dust….and the moss will perk up and shine in the darker corners.

Gail – At least you do not have to wait 6-7 months to wash away the dust, but it is great to notice the mosses will brighten up in every clime. – Saxon

Nancy Bond November 4, 2008, 10:06 am

Beautiful photos, and I’m so glad you’ve got the much-needed rain. Love the photo of the mossy tree — it looks like a green goddess with arms outstretched to receive those precious drops.

Nancy – Thanks for noticing the green goddess. I braved 4-5 shots of that tree looking up into the rain from under the umbrella trying to capture exactly that mood. The tree both shelters and celebrates its cloak of moss. – Saxon

Barbarapc November 4, 2008, 1:00 pm

Saxon – had to look twice – that second shot resembled one of our snowy fields with tufts of dead stocks. Sometimes the camera obfuscates.

Barbara – I guess the second look revealed the raindrops (g). And I have said here many times – it is the photographers job to make the camera obfuscate – Saxon

Jeannie Hanson November 4, 2008, 1:57 pm

really lovely…I had to stare a bit to see if the river picture (the gray one) was static or a video! That’s some capture of motion.

Thanks Jeannie – Photographers love it when viewers stare and linger. You have made me see the photo in a different way too – the water (in the marsh) is not moving and dead still for a moment when the rain let up. Compare that to the second one where Barbara saw a snowy field. – Saxon

Lisa at Greenbow November 4, 2008, 7:31 pm

Wonderful colors of green. I can just imagine the wonderful feeling of the humid air soaking into every pore of being in the area.

Thanks for the comments Lisa. That wonderful feeling of humid air soaking into every pore is a hard to capture and delighted you felt that. I just got a photo request from a publisher looking for a “wet fern” to illustrate the feeling of wet, damp, woodsy earth. He described the photo he was looking for by saying the photo needed to be “about” that idea not necessarily literally a wet fern frond. I hope my personal photos as posted on the blog are “about” something, not just literally a photograph. – Saxon

Les November 4, 2008, 9:22 pm

I really like the first shot, it was lonely and beautiful at the same time. I am glad you got rain. I got soaked voting today and was glad of it.

Thanks Les. The first photo of any group needs to be the establishing shot, trying to set the mood. It was actually in the middle of my hike in a moment of calm between squalls. Glad your rain did not deter your voting. Seems lots of Americans were undeterred. – Saxon

Cameron (Defining Your Home Garden) November 5, 2008, 6:33 pm

Really beautiful with great information.

I had voted early on Oct 20th here in North Carolina, so I was able to stay home in our rain yesterday and keep up with the election.


Thanks for the comments Cameron, and glad you liked the information. California landscape photos are not exactly gardening information you can use in NC. – Saxon

ESP November 5, 2008, 8:47 pm

Loved the lichen shot, very creative and an interesting perspective.
Good work.

Thanks. I was playing withe the macro setting on my point-and-shoot trying to see how close I could get to the lichen on that fence post, and it just turned out nicely letting the top of the post get big and out of focus. Saxon

Brent November 7, 2008, 4:36 pm

I celebrate the rain too, though not as poetically.

Rain is always the signal of renewal and growth in California. Thanks for lifting my summer-blasted spirit!

Brent – I think all gardeners celebrate rain, but for Californians it is just soooo welcome after the summer blast. So many people only think of CA as sun drenched but don’t realize how much we need the rain to refresh our own spirits not just the earth’s. – Saxon

Mr. McGregor's Daughter November 10, 2008, 12:46 pm

I can’t imagine what it’s like to live in a place that turns brown every year. Your photos have captured the magical quality of rain-revived plants.

Wait just a minute ! Do I pick up on some disrespect for brown? You are in Illinois I believe? and doesn’t it turn brown and gray there in your dormant season? (g) Check out my town in the green season: – Saxon

Bonnie Story November 28, 2008, 11:53 am

Ah, Novato, a town I know so very well. When the hills turn from gray to green it is so sublime and inspiring. I hope CA has a cool, wet Spring so the hills can stay green velvet well into June. Funny how the tourists seem to miss out on the first greening. It’s so spectacular – but perhaps too subtle for the non-native eye. I really enjoyed your post. Thank you – Bonnie

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