Many of us have been impatiently waiting for spring, and for photographers, the chance to get outside and capture the stunning beauty of wildflowers.
Whether you’re an experienced photographer or simply enjoy taking your smart phone along to record your findings, the blooming season of spring brings many opportunities to capture nature’s beauty.
For some guidance on how to make the best of your wildflower photography outings, I talked with two local photographers who were happy to share their passion and experience.
Deb Halbot, who describes herself as a retired teacher turned passionate nature photographer, has developed a reputation (and social media following) for not only stunning photographs, but for sharing her insight gained from exploring nature with her camera. She says the discovery of any wildflower is “simple bliss!”
“Looking at a flower intimately, especially with the use of my macro lens, leads to such an appreciation of its structure, colour and sheer beauty," says Halbot.
"Any wildflower makes me curious. It makes me wonder why it grows where it is, and the purpose of its design and shape. It’s a delightful way of to learn and I love the detective work involved,” explained Halbot.
David Kennedy is a landscape and nature photographer who lives in Oro-Medonte and is past president of Copeland Forest Friends, a not-for-profit organization that helps to conserve and manage the use of the 4,400-acre Copeland Forest.
“I always find the beauty and variety of wildflowers to be amazing – from the tiny exquisite Spring Beauty to the large Red Trillium. Most of these flowers depend on a certain kind of ecology and fungus to survive. When I see an area that is rich in wildflowers, it’s exciting because this is an indicator of the health and wellbeing of the forest,” said Kennedy.
Halbot and Kennedy shared some of their favourite places to explore to discover wildflowers in the spring.
“Most of my favourite locations are Couchiching Conservancy properties due to the fact that they are protected, preserved, monitored and managed for their environmental significance and value,” said Halbot.
“Close to Orillia, I enjoy Grant’s Woods and Scout Valley, as well as various trails at Bass Lake Provincial Park. Some species to spot in these locations are Trilliums, Mayapple, Trout Lily, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Wintergreen and Marsh Marigold," she explained.
She adds that in the Washago area, the Conservancy’s Alexander Hope-Smith Nature Reserve, and the Thomas C. Agnew Reserve are both good spots to explore.
Both Halbot and Kennedy mentioned the Carden Alvar, and in particular, Cameron Ranch, for its unique growth of Prairie Smoke, Wild Columbine and Indian Paintbrush.
Kennedy said he also enjoys Grant’s Woods because it is so accessible, has a good variety, and well-defined trails. Another good spot according to Kennedy, is the Langman Sanctuary, just outside of Orillia, where Lady Slipper Orchids can be found along the trail.
Kennedy is most enthused about exploring Copeland Forest.
“The Copeland Forest is a treasure trove – where you can find almost every kind of flower you could imagine. Within one kilometre, you can sometimes see 40 different wildflowers," said Kennedy.
"It’s a rich upland forest on the edge of the Oro-Moraine. The best access for viewing wildflowers is from Line 5, where you’ll also find beautiful displays of Trilliums.”
As far as timing goes, Kennedy explains that spring flowers bloom in waves.
“The small ones come first,” said Kennedy. “Trilliums bloom anytime between late April to mid-May. It depends on the weather, and of course the farther north you go, the later the blooming season. When it comes to the Prairie Smoke and Indian Paintbrush in the Carden area, the first week in June is usually ideal.”
Halbot added that it’s useful to know when bug season approaches, reminding us that blackflies arrive when the Trilliums bloom. “Bring a netted jacket and hat to protect yourself from bites," she suggested.
Halbot and Kennedy also stressed the importance of learning about the area you are exploring, especially any rules or guidelines when on multi-use trails. It makes sense to stay on trails, whenever possible, to avoid trampling new and fragile growth.
“Respect the sacredness of the forest by appreciating the quiet, leaving no garbage, and keeping the location as pristine as you found it,” said Halbot.
When it comes to getting the perfect shot, Halbot and Kennedy offer these simple tips: Try to avoid harsh sunlight. It’s best to photograph on a slightly overcast day to bring out the true, rich colours of the flower. A day with light rain can add a beautiful lushness, said Halbot.
Kennedy also cautioned to watch the lighting, especially any distracting light such as something reflecting too much light. It’s almost better to take photos in the shade.
Bright light and shadows are difficult. You can bring an umbrella to create shade or use foil wrapped around cardboard to bounce light. There are simple things you can do without having to create a whole studio.
Choose a day with very little wind if possible. This helps you get a tack-sharp image.
Halbot says she adjusts her shutter speed to factor in slight movement.
Kennedy suggests using a tripod to lessen movement. For close-ups, you can use a macro lens or close-up filter on your lens.
And if you’re using your cell phone, consider a camera app that enables you to do macro photography. Your smart phone gives you a beautiful screen for viewing composition and you can use it with a mini tripod as well.
Get down to the level of the flower to see its beauty. You often need to lay right down on the forest floor to get the perfect angle to spotlight the flower. Halbot says she often brings a kneeling pad.
Aim to have an interesting composition. Find elements that relate to each other and remember that odd numbers are more interesting.
Watch for distracting backgrounds. Nothing ruins a photo more than a cluttered background. Look for opportunities to capture a flower in front of a rock, tree or log – something that makes it stand out.
We hope this has inspired you to get out with your camera to capture the many wildflowers in our area. To see more examples of the work of our expert photographers, follow Deb Halbot on Instagram (debhalbot) or Facebook and see David Kennedy’s work at his website: https://www.valleyedgephotography.ca/.