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California Wildflowers Photography

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California Wildflowers Photography

Photography Tips to Create Images with Impact!

"California Poppies"
Eschscholzia californica
Recently planted on landscaped hillside for erosion control, clouds and blue sky
Hillcrest Park, California
11-1129 DP © 2011 Don Kreuter ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 3/22/11

“California Poppies”

“Infinite patience brings immediate results”
"A Course in Miracles"

Let this be your mantra as a nature and wildlife photographer to become one of the great photographers and make a difference in the world.

My friend and mentor Rich German read the quote one morning in his Daily “Sunrise Energize” program. It resonated with me at the time hearing it and then later in a field of wildflowers while living it.

I walk between 2-6 miles daily to stay in shape for making my photographs and on scouting hikes in areas where I want to photograph. Right across the street, a little over a block away, one morning I saw this stand of California Poppies on a newly landscaped hillside at Hillcrest Park. With record rainfall this spring in Southern California wildflowers are blooming everywhere making it easy to stay near home and make photographs.

Always get out in nature to observe wildlife on hikes or walks to find new subjects to photograph. It is not about traveling to some far off exotic corner of the world to create photographs (even though that is fun). Everywhere, everyday, there is beauty all around us in our lives, we only have to take the time to appreciate it, enjoy it and make photographs to share our vision of nature and wildlife with family, friends and clients.

This was the fist partly cloudy day forecasted, after many gloomy days of rain with a new storm predicted for later that afternoon. The new storm would bring life to the wildflowers but also may destroy the ones currently blooming. So making a photograph of this cluster of California Poppies had to happen that day or the opportunity would be lost forever.

Like everyone else I had a million things to do that day, but making a photograph of this group of California Poppies became my number one priority. From my experience when I focus all my energy and passion into making a photograph – the love for my subject is expressed and portrayed through the eye of my camera lens.

So that was the day it was going to happen no matter what! With thunder clouds sailing across the sky I started by going on a 30 minute hike through Hillcrest Park and up and down the hillsides and the 400+ stairs to burn off some of my excess energy knowing there would be a wait involved to make the photograph with a blue sky and while cumulus clouds in the background.

Then a photo spot was picked to set up the camera and tripod on a sandy barren patch of dirt to respect the wildflowers blooming in the area and not crush them. The camera was set near the ground on the tripod, while lying in the dirt, to get an upward, dramatic close focus wide angle view of the wildflowers and highlight them against the blue sky and white clouds that I knew would appear eventually.

After positioning the tripod and peering through the camera lens a few times I found the composition I wanted. It took moving the camera and tripod a few inches or feet to one side or the other until the composition grabbed me, eliminating distractions then, “Screamed this is it.”

Then the wait began. I had no idea how long it was going to take but it was so close the whole time, it just had to happen. A few test shots were clicked off to capture the composition in case the photo did not improve. Those test shots had gray clouds in the background and a dull drab sky so would not create the photograph I wanted.

I spent thirty minutes meditating with eyes closed to relax and let nature take her course while I put out positive, calming energy. It was hard concentrating on meditating and I would open my eyes periodically watching the sun dance in and out of the clouds painting the bright orange California Poppies with sunlight.

Finally three hours after setting up the tripod I felt the warm sunshine on my face, then opening my eyes and seeing my photograph was ready. The sun was bathing the California Poppies in soft beams of light; the sky was a vibrant blue and for the first time, filled with white puffy cumulus clouds. It was easy to adjust the polarizing filter, click the cable release a few times bracketing and make the photograph.

Since the flowers were backlit it created shadows in the foreground at the base of the plants and on the flowers. To solve that challenge a 12 inch Gold Photoflex reflector was hand held and aimed at the stand of flowers to open up the detail in the shadows of the wildflowers right in front of the lens.

Camera Settings and Information:
Camera: Nikon N80 SLR 35mm film camera
Lens: Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28-85mm wide-angle zoom f 3.5-4 G
Filter: Hoya 67mm Circular Polarizing
Settings: 1/125” f 9.5
Tripod: Manfrotto 055XPROB Carbon Fiber Tripod
Lens Shade: Nikon HB 28 - to prevent lens flare from the sun
Shutter release cable – to prevent camera shake
Reflector: 12” Photoflex Lite Disk Gold Reflector hand held – for detail in the shadows
Film: Fujichrome Provia RDP-135-36 100 ISO Professional Film
Bracketed Exposures: +1 / -.5 f stop on multiple exposures
Photo Date: 3/22/11
Time: 1:30 pm 1330 PST

Photo Tips:
The shutter speed of 1/125 “ is the slowest to freeze any motion of the wildflowers moving in the breeze. It still allowed an f 9.5 aperture with the polarizing filter for enough depth of field to have the subject in focus for emphasis and blur the background making the flowers grab the viewers attention. The 12 inch Photoflex Lite Disk Gold reflector reflected sun onto the leaves at the base of the flowers and the flowers to fill in details in the shadows from the back lighting (lit from behind the subject). The exposure was bracketed from +1 to -.5 to get the best possible exposure. Taking the effort to create a good original slide in the field is more fun than trying to fix a bad image later on the computer.

This would only have been a snapshot if snapped immediately upon arrival at the wildflower bouquet.
With infinite patience, faith and a little planning, the photograph gave me instant results.

“Don’t take snapshots, make photographs and create art.”

The joy of making photographs for me is spending time with nature and wildlife in the wilderness - my sanctuary – even if it is only across the street in a city park! The photograph is the reward for time well spent.

The universe rewarded my patience by requiring me to spend more time in my sanctuary enjoying the beauty on the journey to make this photograph.

“Wilderness is my sanctuary and retreat to meditate, then transcend into creating images of nature and wildlife – my bliss. Love and Light!”
Don Kreuter

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