Photographing the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve in Lancaster, CA

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The California Poppy (Golden poppyCalifornia sunlight, or cup of gold) is a species of flowering plant in the family Papaveraceae.  One of the best places to see poppies in the world is the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve in Lancaster, CA.  Here is what you will see.

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Poppies are the official state flower of California and can be regularly seen on the side of many highways.  The best place to see them is the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve CA State Park.  It is in Lancaster, 80 miles northeast of Los Angeles.  It has 8 miles of walking trials and there are fields and fields of poppies just outside the park too, within a few miles.

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Because of the on-going drought in CA, the last few years have been very very poor.  With a late winter storm in March, we got an above average bloom, but not spectacular.

With a fish-eye lens
With a fish-eye lens

 A few hints about the location:

  • The poppy bloom usually runs mid-March to mid-May, with mid-April being the height of the season.  This varies year-to-year based on rainfall and temperature.
  • Poppies need sunlight and warmth to open, so this is not a dawn shoot.
  • The parking lot at the Reserve is small and fills up quickly.
  • It will be crowded so you will have to deal with people, in general, and possibly, in your shots.
  • The Reserve is exposed to winds at all hours of the day.  It is hit or miss with the winds.
  • Stay on the trails – do not step on or pick poppies…it is a misdemeanor crime in CA.
  • The fields around the Reserve can be better than inside the Reserve.  Drive around.

A few hints about photographing the poppies:

  • We always use tripods, especially for composition (see our blog on tripods).
  • Increase the ISO to as high as you can (without much noise) to get a fast shutter speed.  Most cameras can get to about 800-1000 ISO before noise is noticeable.
  • Go wide angle, close-up, and macro.
  •  We processed the photos with saturated color and de-saturated color.  You choose.

See Mary’s blog on photographing CA wildflowers.

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Hopefully, we will get back to normal rainfall (El Nino,anyone?) next year.  This is a great place to visit with friends and family.  There is great hiking and beautiful scenery.  It is a bit of a drive from LA, but well worth it to see one of nature’s spectacular shows.

To see more of (and buy) our photos, please go to


  1. Loretta S

    Lovely spring photos with great color impact. Especially like the one with the s curve of the path included, gives perspective and depth. These fields of flowers remind me of the Texas flowers in the Texas Hill Country and around the LBJ Ranch–spectacular, you cannot get a bad shot. Back here on Long Island, New York, Spring is in its full glory. Today, I spent several hours at Old Westbury Gardens, one of the old gold coast estates here on Long Island, shooting bearded irises and reflections. Love it, love it!

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