Going wild

One person’s weed is another person’s wildflower. I have a perennial battle with bindweed. Part of the morning glory family it has half dollar-sized white blossoms and crawls along the ground in vine-like fashion. In my backyard, where it likely came in as a hitchhiker on my dog after a walk, it snakes through the grass and climbs up to clog the air conditioning unit. At my home it’s a pest to be eradicated, in the wild it’s among some of nature’s beauties.

Some people may just drive by wildflowers that grow along the roadside, seeing them as nothing but weeds, but just giving them a slightly closer look can reveal the natural beauties that they are.

For the latest Reader’s Challenge assignment of wildflowers 20 people sent in 75 photos. Some did some traveling to find their shots while others stayed close to home. Here are some of the best examples of their efforts.

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When people think of nature photography many don’t consider the issue of timing. They think natural scenes are pretty static and unchanging, but capturing the right moment can be as important as a great sports photo.

When driving down Jess Ranch Road in Livermore Darrin Denison of Stockton spotted an old broken down truck in the middle of a field that caught his eye. He stopped his car but the truck was too far away to capture on his iPhone4. He then noticed a morning glory growing near a fence post closer to him. Within seconds a small bee landed on the blossom and Denison captured the quick serendipitous moment.

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When most people think of wildflowers they think of bright, eye-catching color. Ken Class of Stockton took a slightly different approach.

He photographed pre-blossoming lupine along the Merced River in Yosemite with an iPhone5s. The swirling whitewater of the river provided a dynamic backdrop for the darker green stalks that had not yet started to bloom, proving that you don’t always need the color for a good photo.

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While some people traveled quite a distance to find their wildflowers, and equal number stayed close to home.

Susan Scott of Stockton toted her Canon Rebel DSLR no further than Buckley Cove in Stockton to get her shot. She photographed wild radishes growing along the rocky shore of the deep water channel. The wildflower has small petals that are either purple or white with a slight bluish tint. Scott shot the radishes against the pale blue of the channel for a gently graceful photo.

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Poppies are the California state flower and they make for great photo subjects. The blossoms are relatively large and the bright golden/orange color helps them to stand out from their surroundings.

Ron Wetherell of Linden used a Canon 7D DSLR to photograph poppies along Orange Blossom Road near Oakdale. He used a 70-200mm lens with a 2x teleconverter combined with his camera’s 1.5x crop factor (due to the 7D’s smaller sensor) to extend his visual reach to the equivalent of a 600mm lens on a full-frame sensor camera. Wetherell employed the extreme telephoto effect to separate the flowers from the background making them stand out. The backlighting of the blossoms gives their color and extra pop as well.

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Teresa Mahnken of Morada also stayed close to home but instead of photographing a single bud or a small bunch of flowers she concentrated in shooting an overall scene.

On the corner of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Golden Gate Boulevards in south Stockton she found a field exploding with color. Using a wide-angle lens on her Nikon D3200 Mahnken captured bright orange poppies in the foreground which draws the viewer’s eye into the photo. Yellow tidy tips fill out the center of the photo with a pair of wild mustard plants framing the scene. A red barn in the background balances out the poppies in the front. Although Mahnken didn’t travel far, the scene looks as good as any found in the Mother Lode or the high Sierras.

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Sydney Spurgeon of Stockton used a Nikon D90 DSLR to photograph an eastern dogwood tree at Yosemite National Park. She used a fill-flash technique to illuminate a single pink blossom on the tree. Sunlight filtering thought he branches in the background created a pleasing bokeh effect (out of focus highlights) which counterbalances the color and offset composition of the flower.

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When it comes to wildflowers, the rule is usually the simpler the better. Dave Skinner of Stockton used a 200mm telephoto lens on his Nikon D5100 DSLR camera to isolate a spider lupine from the background growing on Electra Road near Jackson. The blurred green backdrop contrasts nicely with the color of the flower with the graceful upsweep of its stem makes for an elegant photo.

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Rick Wilmot of Lodi didn’t go very far at all to find his wildflowers. He took a photo of poppies on an unattended lot on his property in Lodi with a Canon EOS 5D Mk III DSLR and a 300mm lens. The backlit color of the poppies pop out against a dark background and the diagonal composition helps to emphasize the in focus flower at the center of the photo.

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As always there is a gallery of all the entries at Recordnet.com. Stay tuned for the next Readers Photo Challenge assignment, which will be announced next Monday.

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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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