My commute to work 3 days a week is 1 hour and 20 minutes each way (the other two days of the work week, I telework from home). Thankfully, an hour of my commute is on two lane country highways. The back roads, I call them. Although my commute is long (by other people’s standards. I think it’s ok), I love my hour-long drive to the outskirts of Ottawa. At 5:45 am, there isn’t a whole lot of traffic on the road. And I get to admire the scenery along the way. Let me tell you, when the sun is only just up, the scenery can be superb!!
One of my favourite things about the commute, this time of year, is slowly watching each of our local wildflower species appear. Some are native, some are introduced. Some are even considered invasive, such as Purple Loosestrife. But they are all beautiful and now part of our eastern Ontario landscape.
The Yellow-eyed (or Ox-eye) Daisies are out in full force, along with the Brown-eyed Susans. These are my two favourites. Not only are they pretty flowers, but they remind me of childhood, when I used to go for walks down the dirt road at our cottage and come back with a bouquet of wildflowers for Mum to put in the vase on our kitchen table. Those are fond memories.
Eastern Ontario and the northeastern U.S. offer a burst of wildflower blooms that starts in early summer. As soon as the temperatures warm up and the humidity increases, we see the beginning of the summer parade. Different species of plants have differently flowering phenologies, or timing of flowering. So at certain times of the summer, we see different species in bloom.
This is the start of a wonderful time for flower photography. The spring wildflowers that inhabit our mixed forests are done for the year. But the diversity of blooms that inhabit meadows, forest edges and roadsides are just beginning. This leaves us with no end of subjects for our flower photography. Right now is the perfect time to get out with your camera and macro lens to photograph the Daisies and Brown-eyed Susans. Vulper’s Bugloss is in bloom now. So are various species of Campion and Chicory. The plants of Queen Anne’s Lace and Yarrrow are big and busy and will soon burst into bloom.
This is a great time to experiment and let your creative juices flow. Shoot flowers from different angles. Sure, the blooms look pretty from above. But you can also get some great shots from side-on. I also love lying on my back, under the blooms, and shooting up from the base of the stem. Explore all kinds of different angles. Remember, if you’re shooting digital, you can afford to experiment. If you don’t like some of the images you made, simply hit the delete button and try again. It’s practice and only practice that will make you a better photographer. So capitalize on these abundant flower subjects to hone your skills.
Wildflowers are great subjects for trying your hand at photo-impressionism. Using a macro lens, you can get in tight and shoot through the blooms, which causes some of them to be out of focus. This can create a lovely, soft, even etherial feel to your image. If you’d like more information on some of the techniques you can use to create artistic and abstract flower images, please go to my website and download a free copy of my e-booklet on Fine Art Flower Photography. For more example of my flower images, visit my 44th Parallel Photography flower image gallery.
By mid summer, the Purple Loosestrife is in full bloom in meadows across eastern Ontario. Sadly, it is a very damaging invasive species that has outcompeted native vegetation in our wetlands. One of the things that contributed to its spread is its beauty. A few decades ago, some garden stores actually sold spikes of Purple Loosestrife that they had dug up from a nearby meadow. The delicate purple flower spikes are very attractive. Soon, many people had planted this beautiful flower in their gardens and from there, it spread across the province like wildfire. Thankfully, the sale of Purple Loosestrife has been outlawed. And the MNR had made great headway into reducing Purple Loosestrife abundance by importing and releasing a beetle, which eats the plants back in its native Asia. But because this beetle is not native to Canada, it has to be introduced. This carries with it, its own risks. And because the beetle has not evolved in our climate and plant communities, it typically has to be released a number of times in order for populations to establish and eat their host plant. I remember coming back to eastern Ontario in the late nineties and noticing that the beetles had done their job in reducing Purple Loosestrife populations. I don’t know whether the control programme still continues, but it seems that this plant is nearly as abundant as it ever was. Despite its role as a damaging invasive, the plant is here to stay. And in mid to late summer, it can create spectacular shows of purple and pink in our meadows.
Because of its abundance in old fields and meadows across eastern Ontario, you can also experiment with use swaths of colour to create geometry in your compositions. Spend the time scouting, looking through your viewfinder to locate parts of the meadow that show patterns of colour. In the image below, I isolated alternating bands of purple, green and white from the Purple Loosestrife and Queen Anne’s Lace and other plants in the field.
These fields of Purple Loosestrife also provide a fun opportunity to play with techniques such as multiple exposure, to create a very abstract image.
Don’t forget to get out in all kinds of weather. Dull or rainy days will result in increased colour saturation and really make the colours pop!
And don’t be afraid to have fun with creative filters as well. Remember, you’re the artist! Make the images that you like. If you do, your passion will show and most likely, others will find your images attractive.
Don’t forget that there are also many non-flowering plants around that make great photography subjects. I love photographing our native ferns.
Whatever it is that grows along the roads in your area, I hope you get out to soon to photograph the various wildflowers and plants in bloom. For the next month or so, there will be no shortage of flowers to enjoy.