Walk on the wild side

I recently took a walk near the Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge near Elk Grove. Perhaps it’s due to the drought and spring rains that have only come recently, but it seems that some of the wildflowers are a bit late and are just now starting to bloom. I saw emerging lavender carpets of long-beaked filaree and yellow-orange goldfields left in swathes left in the place of now evaporated vernal pools.

Golden California poppies and fiddlenecks were just starting to appear as was the deep purple of winter vetch. All this emerging beauty is the inspiration of the next Reader’s Photo Challenge assignment: Wildflowers.

The very first challenge assignment was “flowers” but this is a little different. The submissions are to be limited to blossoms growing in the wild. No photos of gardens, orchards, planter boxes, or houseplants will be accepted. Now this doesn’t mean you have to travel way out into the boonies to get your photo (though if you’re so inclined you’re perfectly welcome to). There are many flowers, such as wild mustard and wild radishes, growing naturally in open lots and along roadsides within the city or in rural areas just outside of city limits. Traveling way up into the foothills and the Sierras may afford you a greater variety of flowers but there are plenty of blossoms within less than an hour’s drive from Stockton. Within the next few weeks most of them should be blooming in full swing.

You can shoot a close up of the flowers themselves or they can just be a part of the composition such as a foreground or background. They can be an accent to a portrait or you can even pick some and put them in a vase for a still life photo. They just have to either be a photo of a wildflower or be incorporated into the picture in a recognizable way.

As with any photo the best times of day will be either in the early morning or the late afternoon/early evening for the best light. For close ups a macro lens will help you to get in close to the wildflowers with tend to have smaller blossoms than domesticated plants. Wide angles are good for an overall scene. Try to avoid front lighting the flower. It can make an otherwise colorful flower look dull and washed out. Backlighting tends to have the best results because the sunlight can shine through the blossoms’ thin petals and really make the colors pop out.

Whether you travel near or far, go for a close up or an overall, go out early or stay late, this challenge assignment will allow you to get out and walk on the wild side.

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Here are the rules:

1. Entries can be emailed to coto@recordnet.com. Type in “Wildflowers” in the subject line.

2. Photos have to be shot between April 14 and April 27.

3. Include your name (first and last), hometown, and the kind of camera/lens you used and where it was taken (ie: “John Doe, Stockton. Weber Avenue in downtown Stockton. Canon EOS Rebel Ti with 18-55mm lens”)

4. If there is a recognizable person in the photo, please identify them (name, age, hometown). If possible, try to identify the type of wildflower in the photo.

5. Please feel free to include any interesting anecdotes or stories on how you took the picture.

6. The deadline for submission is Sunday, April. 27. The top examples will be published on Monday, May 5 with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day.

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  • Blog Author

    Clifford Oto

    Clifford Oto, an award-winning photographer, has been with The Record since 1984. Through the changes from black and white to digital photography, he’s kept his focus on covering the events, people and life of San Joaquin county. This blog deals ... Read Full
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