Tips for photographing flowers with your phone

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Wildflower season in the Winters region is brilliant, but brief. The biggest bloom will only last through April. It ends along with the rainy season, when most native plants begin to dry out.

Here are some of the best ways to find and capture the beauty of the wildflowers before they disappear for another year.

Those searching for wildflowers close by won’t need to travel out of town to find hillsides of lupines and poppies. The walking path in Winters Putah Creek Nature Park leads through clusters of tall Blue Lupines and bright California Poppies. This is the start of California poppy season, and the flowers that grow now will be larger than those that bloom later in the year.

Outside of town, the Putah Creek State Wildlife Area trails wind through ideal wildflower habitat. The wildfires of the last few years have led to unique flower growth. While it is common to see California Poppies, lupines and wallflowers, there are other plants whose seeds can only germinate after being heated in a fire. Wild Onions and Twinning Lilies can be found in regions that have burned.

While walking the Homestead Trail in Stebbins Cold Creek Canyon, it is possible to see Wild Hyacinths, coral pink paintbrushes, Blue Lupines, and the tangling vines of White Virgin’s Bower or Traveler’s Joy. About a mile into the hike, right before the creek crossing, there is a sheer hill covered in hundreds of California Poppies.

Hikers making the steep climb up to Blue Ridge Loop might see a few Shooting Stars, distinguishable by their pointed petals and striking bands of color.

It is important not to pick the wildflowers. Not only is it illegal in some areas, but it has the potential to disrupt native plant growth that is already recovering from fires. Instead, capture the flower permanently with an image.

Traditional cameras are well-equipped to photograph flowers. Many have a macro setting, which is often indicated with an image of a tulip. Taking a good picture with a smart phone can be trickier. In order to avoid the mistakes that lead to unfocused, uninteresting photos, take these simple steps:

  1. Photograph wildflowers in mornings, evenings or on overcast days. Soft light is the best for capturing flowers. The bight afternoon sun will create harsh shadows and wash out the petals’ color. Shadows can be dramatic, but will not capture the softness of a flower’s petals. Some flowers, like California Poppies, won’t open until the sun is high in the sky. Try to find some in shaded areas in order to shoot them in soft light.
  2. Cut out the background clutter. The flower should be the most interesting part of the picture, and a busy background can distract from the subject. Crop the picture so that the flower fills the frame.
  3. Get up close and personal with the flower, don’t use the zoom. The phone’s zoom feature changes the quality of the image, and can smooth and flatten the image. Instead of using the zoom, bring the phone as close to the bloom as possible. This is the best way to capture details in a small flower.

The wildflower bloom ends as quickly as the season changes and temperatures rise. Step out onto the trails if you want to catch it.


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