It’s Wildflower Season – Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

The California Poppy (Golden poppy, California sunlight, or cup of gold) is the state flower of California.  One of the best places to see poppies in the world is the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve in Lancaster, CA.  Here is what you might see:

Poppies are regularly seen on the side of many highways in CA.  The Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve is 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.

Because of the severe drought the last ten years and the great rains we had this winter, CA is experiencing a “super bloom.”  To be honest, we have seen this area better, but it was the best it’s been in a long time.  The parking lot was full by 9 AM and there were thousands of people hiking in from the main road.


Just east of the Reserve on Avenue D and 150th Street, we found a small field that was a lot easier to shoot than the Reserve.

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.

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