The 2017 California Wildflower Super-Bloom will go down in history as one of the most colorful spring seasons this state has seen. Clear across California, vibrant shades of orange, yellow, red, purple, and pink sprouted from the valleys and hillsides, drawing attention to regions that rarely see flora of this nature. Although this event signaled a welcomed end to a decade-long drought (Southern California is a desert after all), it offered more than the freedom to run your sprinklers without receiving harsh judgement from your neighbors. For those of us who grind through the work week in anticipation of a two-day adventure, hunting for scenic views and wildflowers presents a prime opportunity to adventure. Don’t pass that up.
Wildflowers present an irresistible urge to break out a camera and start shooting — no matter your skill level. In fact, I couldn’t control my appetite to photograph every flower field within a two-hour drive from me. This continued for nearly a month as I looked to capture these plants with a different perspective and composition. Sure, flowers bloom every year, but it’s always different. And when they do, they naturally generate a story to tell; in my opinion, photography is the perfect tool for telling the best stories. Not everyone likes to read, but I’m confident in my assumption that most people enjoy looking at good photos.
Photographing wildflowers presents a challenge that’s worth accepting: capturing a balance of color, shape, and light. When these three factors come together magic happens — there’s no other way to explain it. Everyone who’s up for this challenge will find some level of success — there’s no better feeling than finally securing the shot that makes others say, whoa! During my hunt for the best wildflower viewing location, I met many photographers with impressive toolkits (plethora of lenses, multiple cameras, and tripods), and although they were doing a fine job, they too spent most of their time adjusting to color, shape, and light.
For more wildflower photography, check out these stand-out Instagram accounts:
Wildflowers attract birds! OK, I’m a bit of a wildlife lover (yes, I support the Audubon Society), but birds in particular are very rewarding to observe. If photographing birds sounds a bit daunting, binoculars or a scope will do the trick.
Wildflowers, especially in the quantities we experienced this year, provide more pollen/nectar and attract more bugs which in turn, you guessed it, attract more birds. Isn’t nature lovely? And much like the wildflowers themselves, many of these birds are glowing with contrasting colors — it’s captivating to see firsthand. From humming birds, roadrunners, hawks, vultures, warblers, jays, orioles, finches, kestrels, cardinals… the list goes on. My point is, California already has a “healthy” wild-bird population, but our concrete jungles are too dense for adequate viewing. So when we the wildflowers lure us to their fields, we are also rewarded with the sights and sounds of natures finest creatures.
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For more wild-bird photography, check out these Instagram accounts:
Much like the great peaks within our national parks, or the roaring geysers catapulting from their riverbeds, wildflowers exist with a powerful, natural beauty that draws people in from regions all over the country. Often the case with natural settings existing just beyond the fingertips of the urban sprawl, viewing wildflowers calls for some degree of travel — commonly a road trip. But then again, as life goes: the journey is often more important than the destination — it’s a naturally created conduit for learning and self awareness.
This past year for example, as the wildflowers continued to burst with color, representing an army of flora in the California desert, I found myself hitting the road for hours on end just to ‘see’ the magic for myself. Call them mini-road trips in comparison to my adventures up the California coast, they still provided a natural escape from daily routines, and unlocked opportunities for discovery that would otherwise remain out-of-sight and out-of-mind.
Spur-of-the-moment road trips are a natural creativity booster. They force us out of comfort zones, and facilitate the transition to an open-minded approach to life. Many times, I have returned from a day-long adventure on the road with a new idea that was seemingly locked away in my subconscious.
A road trip — big or small — is an opportunity to experience something ‘new’. No two days are the same; no two drives are identical — a refreshing perspective on reality when the weekly working grind can instill the exact opposite perspective. So when the flowers are blooming in impressive numbers, pack up the car and go!
The wildflower is the perfect symbol for creativity. From their bold colors, unique growing arrangements, and contrasting resilience to weather/climate, wildflowers have an unexplainable way to excite the senses and stimulate thought, even for a person who isn’t outwardly interested in plants.
You can be a photographer, artist, or designer and find wildflowers as the ideal subject for your craft. They embody the essence of fresh growth in our lives, and lure you in when in their presence, just begging for interaction of the non-physical kind. It’s in their nature to come and go, therefore we place inherent value in their scarcity — that’s life.
Thinking about the three points discussed above (photography, birds, road trips), the presence of wildflowers enhances the creativity we experience with all three: greater interaction with birds leads to more interesting photography which in turn, create a more fulfilling purpose for a road trip. So, in theory, if you want to overcome creative block, chase more wildflowers!
Leave your ego at the door, we’re all here for the flowers. Let’s face it, not everyone feels the intense urge to explore the great outdoors. That is, until you tell them wildflowers are blooming like never before, in their very own backyard. As current political affairs prove, this country is divided in many ways, and nature/wildlife is one topic that stirs our emotions. But as I witnessed earlier this year, Mother Nature has a funny way of bringing people together, especially at her finest hour. Togetherness; community; environmental awareness — whatever you want to call it — all were observed each and every time I visited a wildflower “hot spot,” even by people who admitted, “I don’t normally care for this type of thing.”
Wildflowers bring people together that wouldn’t normally hang out on the weekends. When they bloom, a now-or-never mentality surfaces — much like an eclipse. Most of the people I spoke with on my adventures unanimously agreed that it’s not enough to look at other’s photographs, they all wanted to see these “super-bloom” spectacles with their own eyes. From motorcycle groups to foreign-tour buses and families with newborns, people got together to enjoy this rare event. And although I noticed a frequent manhandling of our beloved state flower (California Poppy), these valued flowers resonated with people from vastly different cultures and backgrounds. That’s enough reason for me to chase wildflowers again next season.