Wildflower is published quarterly by the Wildflower Center. Its content is national in scope with articles about the conservation and use of native plants as well as news from the Wildflower Center. A subscription is provided to Wildflower Center members as a benefit of membership.
In the Picture - Winter 2010
This spring we surveyed photo contests of various large nature organizations and decided to host our own contest for wildflower photos. With 2,500 submissions, our six judges had their work cut out for them. The entries were meticulously screened for resolution and adherence to contest rules, then screened again. Judges then discussed, argued over and advocated for their favorites from the top 25 in each category. A Center botanist checked finalists to be sure that the plant subjects were native. They were. Voila! Here are the winners.
First Place-People with Wildflowers
Jason St. Peter
In his downtime, Dell employee and dad of two Jason St. Peter says, "I always have my camera with me." This Easter weekend, he photographed Olivia (4) in La Grange, Texas. He asked Olivia to sit in a spot with sunlight coming through breaks in some oak trees. St. Peter then used a wireless flash to light the front.
Second Place-People with Wildflowers
"I just took a picture," says Sara Leslie of Plano, Texas, of the picture of her two-year-old son Kevin exploring bluebonnets. Leslie says this picture taken with a point-and-shoot camera in April was captured during their third time out with son Kevin for what she calls the "Texan rite of passage" of taking your child's picture in the bluebonnets (something her native Californian husband might never fully understand, she says). They found the perfect spot out of a high traffic area behind a local 7-11™ store just before the bluebonnets disappeared for good.
Pink evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa)
Now employed by landscape design firm Big Red Sun Austin, Justin Kasulka took this photograph of pink evening-primrose (Oenothera speciosa) in 2009 when he was doing contract photography work for a small newspaper out of Lockhart, Texas. "At the time the big news was that it had rained after a long period of drought," says Kasulka who used a Minolta Maxxum 7D digital SLR and a full frame fish eye lens to capture the raindrops on the flower petals. The Macon, Georgia, native says he looks for all kinds of beautiful things to photograph.
Old-man's beard (Clematis drummondii)
Photographer Steve Schwartzman had to get really close to this old man's beard (Clematis drummondii) to take this winning photograph in Austin's Bull Creek Greenbelt. "The fact that the entire swirling mass shown here occupied not more than 2 cubic inches tells you how closely I approached with my macro lens," says Schwartzman. "I got down low and aimed somewhat upward; that way, not only did I have a bright blue sky as a background, but the sunlight also shone through the feathery filaments and illuminated them."
Dewy grasses and Liatris sp.
Randy Heisch of Georgetown, Texas, had visited the location of this contest winner several times before to photograph a lone, old pecan tree. One morning last October, "the reflections in the morning dew as the sun came up just exploded and quickly switched my focus." He took several shots over a period of 10 or 15 minutes to get the right one. A senior engineer, Heisch has been photographing landscapes since high school and has donated several wildflower images to the Wildflower Center's image gallery.
South Texas landscape that includes Phlox sp., Castilleja indivisa, Argemone sp.
and other wildflowers in the shadow of a live oak (Quercus virginiana)
Mexican native Jesus Corona spends his time between Piedras Negras, Mexico, and San Antonio, Texas, near where he photographed this winning image in Medina County this spring. Corona had been taking photographs in this location for seven or eight years, but says he'd never seen anything so beautiful as the scene of Phlox sp., Castilleja indivisa and other wildflowers in the shadow of a Live Oak in this picture before this spring. "I spent six hours over three or four visits to take this picture," Corona, a semi-retired opthamologist, says. Corona's father taught him to love photography when he was just 12.
Bluestem prickly-poppy (Argemone albiflora)
Wimberley, Texas, resident Winifred Simon photographed this bluestem prickly-poppy (Argemone albiflora) in a small plot right behind where a church and cemetery meet near Poteet, Texas. Using her tripod and Nikon D300, Simon got close to photograph what she calls a "kind of unfriendly but beautiful" wildflower. She's been taking pictures since a kid, but stopped while working and raising her son to pick it up again after retirement. As a Hays County master naturalist, Simon performs a lot of educational outreach work.
Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum biflorum var. commutatum)
Jane Rogers says she must have taken 40 images of the same plant this April to get this winning image of Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum biflorum var. commutatum) in her Akron, Ohio, garden where she has propagated the small grouping of this plant by harvesting the seeds and by root division.
To photograph isolated wildflowers, "I might prop something up with a stick and a twist tie to get it to angle better," she says. Rogers considers herself lucky to have many plants she'd like to photograph on her small (100 x 200 feet) city lot and the smaller (20 x 100 feet) woods behind her home. For this image, she used her Canon 50D and 180 mm Canon macro lens and achieved the dark background by using a long exposure. As a volunteer, Rogers lectures on woodland wildflower propagation and conservation.
Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Claud Byron Yeiser
The botanical category was so full of entries (1,548) and so many good ones that we had to name an honorable mention. Claud Byron Yeiser spotted this gathering of purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) last August at Austin's Zilker Botanic Garden. "I wanted to capture them in a way that would both compliment their unique color and design, and also create something visually different."
Using a Canon 20D, equipped with a Canon 70-200 F2.8 with a 12mm extension tube on it to help decrease the focusing distance, Yeiser singled out one of the coneflowers and let the others go slightly out of focus. "I shoot in my home studio, and in the field, botanical gardens and anywhere I can find wildflowers or garden flowers."
It's a snap
How to photograph wildflowers
When he retired three years ago, Bruce Leander set out to combine his love of photography with his passion for wildflowers. Since then, he's taken thousands and donated hundreds of wildflower images to the Wildflower Center. The self-taught amateur photographer says he turns to his "library of photography books" and emphasizes practice, practice, practice to hone his craft. One of our contest judges, Leander offers this advice to aspiring amateur photographers who want to take better wildflower pictures.
- Avoid mid-day and sunlight. This helps you prevent shadows for close-up images, and for landscape pictures Leander says "A field of flowers at mid-day is not interesting." Go out at sunrise, sunset or during fog.
- For sharp pictures, use a tripod, mirror lock-up and cable release.
- Don't shoot on a windy day.
- Use the rule of thirds that tells you to place your subject in the upper left, upper right, lower left or lower right of the frame not dead-center.
- A polarizer will allow for richer color.
- Get low. "Most pictures by amateurs have you look down at the wildflowers. Walk around and try to figure out what the best vantage point is for flowers. Try not to get anything in the immediate background."
- Use the right lens macro for close-ups and wide angle for landscape images.
- If you're serious: invest in a digital SLR (cost is from $500 to $2,000), a quality macro lens, tripod, cable release and knee pad to kneel on.
- Practice: "Like with anything, to get better you have to go out and practice. Once you're comfortable with the equipment, you can focus on getting the right angle, lighting and background rather than the mechanics of the camera."