Tips for Photographing Wildflowers in and around Merced County

Wildflowers 14
Photo by Friedhelm Golz
Photo by Friedhelm Golz

One early Saturday morning while I was photographing wildflowers, a pick-up truck stopped not too far from me. The entire family got out of the truck with cameras and they began photographing the wildflowers.

I imagine they went home afterwards and shared their images at home on a large screen tv or their favorite social media site. Photographing wildflowers can be a very rewarding experience for the single photographer or a fun project for the entire family.

Location, gear and skill

In order to make this endeavor a success I suggest to consider three points, location, gear and skill.

Photo by Friedhelm Golz
Photo by Friedhelm Golz

1. Location

If you want to photograph wildflowers, you need to know where to find wildflowers. There are some great locations in and around Merced. An absolute fantastic place is at the corner of Santa Fe and Hwy 140 right by the overpass.

Another great spot is an empty field on Yosemite Ave. across from Starbucks. There are also many wildflowers blooming along highway 99. Just be careful to observe all traffic laws and be especially careful when you are photographing with children!

Another great place for wildflowers during March is the Hite Cove trail located between Mariposa and Yosemite on hwy. 140.  Here you will find fields of California poppies and all kinds of other great wildflowers. Again, watch your children, be mindful of poison oak, and rattle snakes.

Photo by Friedhelm Golz
Photo by Friedhelm Golz

Other great places for wild flowers are in the three local National Parks (Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia), the California coast and the desert regions in southern California. My favorite park for wildflowers is the Anza - Borrego Desert State Park which is east of San Diego, CA.

2. Gear

Besides your camera, a few items can help to make your wildflower adventure a success. If you  just want to occasionally photograph a few wildflowers,  a simple point and shoot camera or a cell phone will do just fine.

If on the other side you are getting more serious about photography,  I recommend a DSLR or system camera with a macro lens. In addition, you will need a tripod, cable or wireless release, a light diffuser/ reflector and a small wind tent. The light diffuser and tent can be purchased for about $25 each at Amazon or Ebay.

Photo by Friedhelm Golz
Photo by Friedhelm Golz

If you do not want to purchase these items, consider taking at least a hat with you. Besides protecting you from the sun, a hat can be used to create a shadow on your favorite flower if you want to photograph in bright sunshine during the middle of the day.  Also, bring a small spray bottle filled with water. Spraying a few drops of water on a flower to can help get a more interesting image.

3. Skill

Consider that buying a piano does not make you a pianist, and buying a stove does not make you into a great chef. The same is true for photography. A new camera does not change you into a great photographer! To be or become a great photographer you need to practice, study and practice some more.

Tips to better your skill of photography

I will try to give you a few suggestions that I found very helpful photographing wildflowers:

Photo by Friedhelm Golz
Photo by Friedhelm Golz

1. Avoid direct sunlight

As a rule of thumb, try to avoid photographing wildflowers in direct sunlight except early in the morning or during the late afternoon hours. Your camera sees and records light differently than the human eye. That is why the hat can come handy when you find a flower in bright sunlight. You can use it to block out the sun to get a better image.

2. Fill the frame of your camera!

I have seen many images where the flower was a tiny little spot in the middle of the image surrounded by a whole lot of nothing. I usually take my

I have seen many images where the flower was a tiny little spot in the middle of the image surrounded by a whole lot of nothing. I usually take my 7"tablet with me, which I connect to my camera. It helps me tremendously in composing my image.

Photo by Friedhelm Golz
Photo by Friedhelm Golz

3.  Take your time

Use your imagination and creativity. It is better to come home with a few great images than with hundreds of pictures that you delete right away.

Also, try different angles, for example:  Photograph from the viewpoint of a child and/or experiment with a reflector.

4. Know your camera!

Your camera can do amazing work! Get to know it, study the manual and practice with it. The more you know about your camera the more likely you will be rewarded with amazing results.

5. Edit you images!

Your camera sensor "sees" differently than the human eye. Try to photograph a tree or any other subject in front of a blue sky.

Either the tree will be very dark or the sky will be washed out. Your eye can see both, but your camera is limited. Editing images means to re-create to a certain degree what the human eye saw or imagined.

Photo by Friedhelm Golz
Photo by Friedhelm Golz

6. Study a book or take a class

Before you go out and photograph, read a book, or watch an instructional video on www.youtube.com. I learned a lot from those videos and I avoided a few mistakes and received a lot of inspiration. I also encourage you to take a class on photography.

I also encourage you to take a class on photography. I will be teaching a photography classat Merced Community Services (www.mercedcommunityservices.com).

This class is a great introduction for everyone who wants to become a better photographer.

Go online or call (209) 384-6224 to register.

7. Share your images!

I believe that there is a lot of joy in sharing your images. Print out the best and frame them or share your images with the world using social media. You can also easily create a photoblog using one of the free blogging sites.

Photographing wildflowers is a lot of fun.

It is refreshing to be out in nature where you get a glimpse of the beauty of this earth.

If you have any questions, please email me (frgolz@yahoo.com).

I hope that you sign up for my Merced Community Service class so that I can share my knowledge of photography with you.


About Fred Golz

about me (1)

Friedhelm (Fred) Golz is a local photographer (co-owner of Eye2Eye Photostudio), blogger, and educator.  Born in Germany, he immigrated to California after he married Nancy, a native Californian. He settled in Merced where his daughter and son grew up.

He teaches photography classes at Merced College community services. He is an active contributor to two photo blogs:www.photoblog.eye2eyephotostudio.com, where he shares some of his images.

Also,  www.passionforphotos.com, a photo blog that publishes weekly exercises for photographers.

He can be reached at frgolz@yahoo.com