Although it is still winter the days are getting longer and warmer. Well, at least in the Napa Valley. The hills are turning green, daffodils and tulips are sprouting, the first of the fruit trees are in blossom and the vines are being pruned.
Just two weeks ago I enjoyed photographing at Frog’s Leap Vineyard because of the copious mustard crop. The vines had last year’s shoots reaching skyward some five feet from their point of origin. Occasionally you could see a few old dried up grape clusters or leaves that never fell to the ground. But upon return, while scouting for a photo-trek I was leading, poised to take a shot, a half dozen men lined up at the beginning of each row right in my frame.
A signal was given and in sync they methodically began to rip off last years shoots. No clippers for this crew. Apparently there are many methods of pruning. By the time I realized the beauty of this art they were already 100 feet into the job. I was only able to get a few shots framed. But I knew the storm clouded sky would be dominant in the image even though the work of the pruning crew was fascinating. After the initial overall shot I did move in to photograph an individual pruner.
If a sky is beautiful it can be the majority of the picture. If it is so-so than a little is the way to go and if it is dull than leave it out all together!
February is the month for pruning and some of the workers wear yellow waiters that appear to mimic the tall mustard plants. This important vineyard operation sets the stage for vine management throughout the rest of the growing season.
“The purpose of pruning is to reduce the number of buds to a manageable number that will promote a balance between shoot growth (vigor) and number of grape clusters (yield). Each bud theoretically will produce one shoot that will contain two clusters. A well-balanced vine will produce just enough vegetation to fully ripen its fruit.” Read more about pruning.
Other wonderful subjects around the winter vineyards are the wetlands used by migratory birds. The one in front of Ram’s Gate winery delightfully reflects the rolling hill, winery and winter skies. What the website for the winery says about itself is similar to my experience with image making: “The best things in life don’t happen by accident. They require passion, attention and above all time. We’re crafting a winery of exception. One bottle at a time.”
I am attempting to craft portfolios of beauty one image at a time! Please enjoy them.
Coming from the south, Ram’s Gate Winery is just past Infineon Racetrack (Sears Point, HWY 12) on the right. It’s the first winery you’ll see in Sonoma.
If you want to creatively expand your own photographic techniques consider attending one of my “Photographing from the Heart” classes. My next offering is March: Sea/Landscape Creative Capture – Sunday March 18 at 6 – 8 PM (class), Thursday, March 22 (the phototrek) and Sunday March 25th at 6 PM (the follow-up). Email me at email@example.com