Craggy Gardens - Blue Ridge Parkway, June 2017Craggy Gardens - Blue Ridge Parkway, June 2017

Wildflower Season in the Carolinas

April 20, 2022  •  1 Comment

It's been a long seven months since my last post.  I had open heart surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm in late September. It was an up and down recovery with two additional weeks back in the hospital for two other relatively simple procedures to correct some issues that arose. But I'm getting back on some easier hikes and hope to be back to somewhat normal shortly. I am so ready to get back out.

Luckily, I have been getting out to enjoy the wildflower season in North and South Carolina.  Tomorrow I head to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to hunt for more wildflowers there.  The wildflower season seems a bit late this year.  Our weather has been so up and down this spring.  One day in the upper 70s and then back down to lows in the 30s.

I've added to my macro gear in preparation for this wildflower season.  I bought the Nikon 105mm macro lens and also the brand new Lensbaby Soft Focus II optic.  I already had the Lensbaby Velvet 85mm lens, which is a great macro lens when used with macro filters as well as their Sweet 50.  For their softness or "glow", I think I like the Lensbaby but for autofocus the Nikon wins since Lensbaby lenses are all totally manual. Given that fact, I also use two macro focusing rails, which really helps get pinpoint sharp focus.

Shooting wildflowers can be challenging since they are so small, requiring the photographer to get down to their level for most compositions.  I also had to watch out when I was lying on the ground so I wasn't crushing other nearby wildflowers.  Being a flexible contortionist helps to get into certain, let's say, uncomfortable, positions for the image in you have in mind.  Knee and elbow pads are a welcome item in my gear for this work.

The photographs shown below just happen to be taken by my Lensbaby lenses.

This first photo is of the Carolina Springbeauty.  Given they aren't more than a two inches tall, they look like simple white flowers from a standing position. But on closer inspection you see the purple lines and yellow center.  Without the benefits of a macro lens, you'd never even notice their delicate beauty.


The next flower isn't technically a wildflower.  I only had to look into my wife's garden to capture this Rocky Mountain Blue Columbine.  This was taken with the Lensbaby Soft Focus II with a +4 macro filter.  I also blended three photos to capture different aperture settings.  You can see the glow this lens produces at wider apertures.

Another photo of the Blue Columbine from above - just using a different composition.  That's why so many pros suggest looking at your subject from many different angles as they may yield another perspective that is better than the first.  I actually prefer this version myself.

There are a multitude of trilliums in the Carolinas. The Catesby's Trillium is a new one to me.  But it is pretty unique.  This photo was taken with my Lensbaby Velvet 85 with a +2 macro filter.

Finally, this is a Sweet White Trillium, which you will find in numerous forests.  This was also taken with my Lensbaby Velvet 85.  Not only can Lensbabys produce a nice glow to their subjects, they can also show great detail when needed.

Another nice thing about Lensbaby lenses is that the cost is much less than traditional fast macro lenses. I highly recommend them not only for flower photography but for other types as well.




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The Carolinas are filled with so many beautiful sights that it's hard to pick just one. But if you're looking for a place to go this spring, I'd recommend heading south. It's not the most obvious choice, but there are some incredible wildflowers in these parts. The best time to see them is during the spring and summer months. That's when the flowers bloom, and it's when they're at their best. However, if you want to take advantage of this special time of year, you should plan your trip well in advance.
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