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Wildflower Photography Tips

March 14, 2018

By Greg Lief

Greg Lief is the creator and curator of OregonWildflowers.org, a resource to help wildflower lovers find great Pacific Northwest wildflower locations and the best times to visit. Lief offers the following tips to improve your wildflower photography, whether it’s with an SLR, smart phone, or anything in between.

Butterfly on yellow flower.

Crescent butterfly (Phyciodes sp.) upon golden fleabane (Erigeron chrysopsidis var. chrysopsidis) at Sutton Mountain. (Photo by Greg Lief)

Wind is your enemy. Even the smallest breeze will cause wildflowers to sway, making it almost impossible to focus. In these situations, don’t bother with close-up photography unless your objective is an ABC (Abstract Blur of Color). Instead, consider a wider view, perhaps with many wildflowers in the foreground. Even with a bit of wind, this kind of shot can be aesthetically pleasing.

Consider the lighting conditions. A good photograph is unlikely in mediocre light. The “golden hour” just before or shortly after sunrise is the best time for any nature photography. Many websites and apps can help you calculate the best “golden hour” times for your intended destination. if you must shoot in the middle of the day, cloudy or overcast conditions produce better wildflower photographs. Your photos will have better saturation and more accurate color representation without the sun’s rays glaring down upon your flowery subjects. If conditions are sunny, pay attention to which direction the light is coming from so your subject is not backlit.

Take only photos and leave only footprints. This adage rings particularly true for wildflowers. You may be tempted to try for a better vantage point by walking upon rocky outcrops or into meadows. Despite your good intention, these actions damage wildflowers. Even if you watch your step carefully, not every wildflower is readily visible; some are very small even when in full bloom, and there is always the possibility of stepping on some that have not yet opened. For more information about the ethics of wildflowers (and why you should never pick them), visit the US Forest Service’s webpage “Wildflower Ethics and Native Plants.”

Some of the “golden hour” apps you might try:

The Photographer’s Ephemeris

Golden Hour

Photo Pills


I wish you perfect light, windless conditions, and beautiful wildflower adventures! 

Greg Lief: greglief@gmail.com


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