Wildflower Shooting Tip #2: Outsmart the Elements

As sunrise casts a golden glow, drops of dew cling to a Mexican goldpoppy. Photograph by Suzanne Mathia

Shooting wildflowers amid the desert’s vast vistas is a wonderful experience, but also a great challenge. Harsh light and wind are your biggest enemies, along with vicious attacks from cactus thorns and cholla that love to hide right where you need to be for that perfect composition. Bright sun on a clear day will leave you with blown out highlights and harsh shadows.

Clouds act as a natural diffuser, so when it’s overcast you’ll get the most even light. If the skies are not cooperating, you can use a diffuser, which can be a fancy, elaborate affair or a simple piece of fabric — anything that will block the harsh rays and soften the contrast and allow the camera to capture the full tonal range.

Once you have successfully blocked the sun, you can add back a little selective light with the use of a gold reflector and bounce some light into the shadows.
The slightest breeze can blur your flowers and threaten all those beautiful details. A fast shutter speed of at least 1/200 will help keep flowers tack-sharp. Those diffusers and reflectors can come in handy as a wind block, too.  Shooting early in the morning not only increases your chances of calm air, but also provides soft warm light.
After taming the elements, you can concentrate on composition. Using a small aperture of f-16 or f-22 will give a much larger depth of field, while using a large aperture, such as f-2.8  or f-4, will give a shallow depth of field.  Using a long-focal-length lens will also tend to blur the background, while a wide-angle lens will help keep everything from near to far in focus.

— Suzanne Mathia


Photographer Suzanne Mathia is a regular contributor to Arizona Highways. Her image of a Mexican goldpoppy appears on the subscriber cover for the March issue of the magazine, and the image that appears above was published in the December issue of Arizona Highways. For more information about Suzanne and her work, visit http://www.azicit.com/index.html.

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One response to “Wildflower Shooting Tip #2: Outsmart the Elements

  1. Pingback: Full Time RV’ing – Part One | Car Insurance For Students Texas

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