Ephemerals

Posted by on May 8, 2011 in Articles | No Comments

Those rascally spring ephemeral wildflowers! You wait all winter, your pulse quickening as March dissolves into April, eyes on the ground ever scanning for green hints of blossoms to come. And then when the time comes and the flowers are blooming, Poof! They are gone!

Botanists call them ephemerals because they have a very short period of time to grow, blossom, get pollinated and set their seeds before the tree leaves overhead come out and diminish the early spring sunlight on the forest floor.

Photographers call them ephemerals because they last in prime condition for what seems like seconds. Okay, they last for a few days but that is usually it. Once the flowers are out all it takes is an unusually cold night, or a stiff wind or a hard rain to ruin what was once, briefly, perfect. Arrrggggghhhh!

Now for professional photographers who really don’t have anything better to do than hang around and watch a flower bloom this is not a really big deal. We can adjust our toothbrushing schedule to fit in a wildflower in prime condition. But to you, my kind readers of this drivel who are actually contributing members of society, a wildflower noticed on a Wednesday may not be around or in good condition on Saturday when you finally have a chance to grab your camera.

So what do you do? There are a few tricks that might help you. If your patch of flowers is past try looking for more of them at a slightly higher elevation. In Vermont wildflowers in bloom now where I live will be in bloom a week later 1000 feet higher in the mountains. Also, wildflowers growing on north-facing slopes bloom later because north-facing slopes are cooler. This causes the season to be delayed a bit, perhaps not a week but certainly a few days. If you can find a north facing slope at higher elevation you will get an even longer delay.

All of this speaks to the value of local knowledge. I’m sorry, I meant to write the incredibly essential value of local knowledge. If you go on a trip to a wonderful exotic photo locale and things just aren’t working out photographically for you, you are probably out of luck- you don’t know anything, or at least not enough, about the area to remedy the situation. But if you  are in your home region you will know and you’ll be able to get the shot.

Sounds like I am advocating doing most of your photography in your home region, doesn’t it? Glad you picked up on that. If you go on a trip just be prepared for some disappointment when (not if) things aren’t perfect. Of course, you can pay someone like me who has no life and is intimately familiar with lots of photo regions to show you around. But then you have to hang out with someone like me and feed someone like me and, well it just uglier and uglier.

Get to know where you live. You’ll be rewarded many times over.

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