I was out digging up roadside trees (poaching?) to plant on my land today when I found a beautiful stand of Round-lobed Hepatica. I forgot about the trees for a while and spent about a half hour with this one clump. Hepaticas are interesting in that they can be one of several colors. Most clumps around me were white, but this group was bluish violet. They are one of our earliest wildflowers, blooming before the leaves come out on the trees. Species that bloom at this time of year in northern deciduous forests are called spring ephemerals and also include the Trout Lilies, Large-flowered Bellwort, Large-flowered Trillium, Wood Anemone and several violets. It may surprise some of you “southerners” that the aspen leaves are just now opening up here near Lake Superior. We are in the midst of “green up” and the ephemerals will be closing up shop as soon as the canopy closes up.

In my early days of photography, I was mainly interested in nice portraits of the entire plant for use in my naturalist talks and programs (for you kids, that was in the “film days” and presentations were via slide projecter…I’m ancient!) Only since adopting digital photography in 2004 have I been experimenting with “artistic” flower shots. Here are several variations from todays shoot.

Straight-up species portraits are not as easy as you might think. You really need to spend a few minutes “grooming” the site, flower and background. This is especially true with the smaller plants, like today’s hepaticas, since the background is only inches away and one bright stem or pine needle can ruin a shot.
A. Handhold your camera and experiment with angles to find the best camera position for your shot.
B. NOW set up your tripod and put the camera on it.
C. Check your background by stopping your camera down to f16 or so and taking a photo. Analyze on your LCD screen.
D. Groom the plant by removing dead stems and dead leaves.
E. Fix your background by removing “hot spots” created by out of focus light-colored needles, leaves, stems, sticks.
F. Tie back branches that are in the way. You can also use a heavy stick to lay gently on vegetation you’re trying to keep out of the frame.
G. Manual focus and use the Live View LCD magnified 10x to get precise focusing (Turn autofocus off!)
H. If sunny, shade the flower with your body, or better yet, a diffuser. (More about this in a later post).
I. Use your self timer or live-view to reduce shake resulting from pressing the shutter button.
J. Shoot many frames experimenting with varying f-stops to see what you like best.

I think we’ll talk more about wildflower shooting in an upcoming post. Too much to include in this post alone.

Canon 7D with Tamron 60mm f2 lens, fill flash from camera’s pop-up flash, tripod