With our wet spring, this wildflower
season could be one of the most spectacular in recent memory. And while it’s still a few weeks away, you’re probably already beginning to see wildflowers on hikes throughout the region.
In preparation for the wildflower season, I asked Hiking Bob
for his essential tips on how to make great wildflower pictures
Shoot wildflowers in the morning.
Conditions for wildflower photography are better in the morning, says Bob. “It’s impossible to get a picture in focus if there’s wind.” By hiking early in the morning, you have enough time to find a subject and finish photographing it before the wind picks up.
For even better conditions, shoot on a cloudy day. “Believe it or not, a bright sunny day isn’t the best light for closeup wildflower pictures," Bob says. "I really like to shoot when there’s a thin layer of clouds shading the sun."
Take this prize image of an Arnica flower found in the Garden of the Gods. "The overcast skies were perfect lighting for this, so I didn't need a diffuser,” he says.
And on sunny days? Use a diffuser, a white panel that can be set up over the flower. "The diffuser screen helps to even out the light and gets rid of harsh, contrasty light. I use it almost all the time."
That said, if you have a bridge overhead to shade the flower — like in this image of a Columbine made along the Peak-To-Peak Highway in Estes Park — that will work, too.
Use a macro lens and a tripod.
Macro lenses can get really close and capture the wonderful details of the flower. At the same time, a macro lens allows for the background to fall out of focus.
“My 90mm macro is one of the sharpest lenses I know of,” says Bob. “I like to set up the camera close to the flowers and use a combination of manually focusing the lens, and micro adjustments of the camera on the rail to get the right shot.”
Good wildflower photography also depends on using a tripod and, if you have one, a focusing rail that allows you to move the camera in small increments for better focus.
But what if you're just holding your camera? “Even your breath will cause the camera to move enough to create blurred pictures,” says Bob.
Use a shutter release to avoid blurry pictures even on a tripod, and a tripod with spreadable legs that allows the camera to get closer to the flower.
Always bring your owner's manual.
The process of photographing wildflowers is both technical and precise. So Bob makes it a habit to bring the camera’s owner's manual with him. "You never know when you’ll need it, or need to remind yourself how to use one of the functions on your camera."
By knowing what your camera’s capabilities are when you’re in the field, you can avoid mistakes and increase your odds at getting a great wildflower picture.
As for preferred equipment for great wildflower pictures ...
Your iPhone, while a great option when you don’t have a real camera, is no substitute for a DSLR and the proper Macro lens. Here’s Bob’s equipment list for shooting wildflowers:
• DSLR Canon Mk II
• 90mm macro
• Tripod with a focusing rail
• Extra batteries and memory cards
Colorado Springs wedding photographer Sean Cayton loves remarkable photographs and the stories behind them. You can see his wedding work at caytonphotography.com, his personal work at seancayton.com and his editorial work in the Colorado Springs Independent. Submit your photo and the story behind the image - no more than two a week, please - to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration in upcoming blogs.