Photography Project: Photographing California Wildflowers


This year I decided to take matters into my own hands…..instead of searching in vain for “natural” wildflowers, I was going to search for “man-made” (or cultivated) wildflowers.  Much to my dismay, even man-made wildflowers were challenging to shoot.

I mean really, if you are going to scatter wildflower seeds somewhere, perhaps it can be done in a place that gets some shade during the day and is protected from the wind.  I don’t think that’s asking for much.  In full disclosure, I spread some seeds in my backyard, and did not consider the above, and found myself struggling with the natural elements – sun, wind, and a dive-bombing hummingbird that happened to build a nest right above my flower patch.

Below are flowers from 3 locations:

  • The side of the road near my neighborhood, courtesy of
  • The LA Arboretum (again courtesy of
  • My backyard

Here are some general tips for where ever you might drop your tripod to photograph wildflowers:

  • Set a high ISO to freeze any movement.  Wildflowers are genetically adapted to flutter in the breeze to improve their chances of propagation.
  • Use a remote trigger.  This will stop camera shake when you press the button and allow you to better time when the shutter opens to a lull in the breeze
  • Overcast days are the best, if that’s not possible, search for flowers in the shade or create shade with your body, a jacket, or a reflector
  • Get close with a open aperture. Wildflower scenes tend to be messy – many do look like weeds.  Using a macro to isolate a bloom or two while throwing the background into a blur will contribute to creating a beautiful image.
  • Look for the ugly.  Sometimes beauty can be found in “spent” flowers, those on the downside, or that have gone to seed.

1404_MFA_Flowers_026 1404_MFA_Flowers_023-Edit 1404_MFA_Flowers_013-Edit 1404_MFA_Flowers_006 1403_MFA_flowers_509 1403_MFA_Flower_377 1403_MFA_Flower_367 1403_MFA_Flower_305



  1. Loretta S

    Hi, Peter and Mary, another lovely presentation of images! One of the most lovely images I captured of a flower was inadvertent–I pressed the shutter just as the wind kicked up. What a image…a nature blur with streaks of color from the flower, not PhotoShop involved. Sometimes an amateur like me gets lucky.

  2. pamphotography

    Hi Loretta – I love those moments. Sometime I will post my favorite “accidental shot” when I went on my first photography workshop. Peter and I still laugh every time we see it. It was one of my favorites from the experience.

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