Shooting Wildflowers in Borrego Springs

by Mar 30, 20190 comments


had to stop and get a photo

I was curious how long the flowers would last, and how they had changed in the last two weeks, in Borrego Springs. So I took another ride out there last week to check things out.

Today I’ll review how I like to approach taking photos at a location like Borrego Springs. I’m looking for a combination of overall shots, that give you an impression of the experience of being there, supported by closer details shots.  Arriving early has some benefits. The angle of the light is great and you can catch some popular locations without people in them yet. Depending on where you are shooting the mountains can block a lot of the sunrise and sunset lighting. So if you want to do specific kinds of shot here you will have to do some research.

I hadn’t planned on stopping for the sculptures today, but my favorite serpent was glowing in the morning light. The sculpture was really standing out against the dark mountains behind it. Of course we had to stop and get a photo. I positioned a bush under his chin to hid the thick pole that supports his head. You could photoshop out the pole but that is more post processing work I’d rather not do unless I have to.

There are over 130 metal sculptures around Borrego Springs by artist Ricardo Breceda. It makes a nice day trip to drive around Borrego and find all the sculptures. You can get a map with their locations from the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association visitor center (near Christmas circle).

I tried to get a shot of the whole length of the serpent, but at this time of day that shot is less successful. I am shooting almost directly into the sun. I tried some post processing but am not happy with this image. For me, the serpent looks unnatural and its starting to feel fake. You can see the head support pole in this image that I managed to hid in the first shot.

The lower morning light was creating a perfect backlit effect on some of the flowers and plants. I really like how this looks. It isn’t how we usually see flowers, or even think of them. The light coming through the petals shows details that we might normally miss like texture and overlapping petals.

Some of the petals have texture that shows best when back or side lit. Cactus thorns catch the light and make the plant look like it is glowing. That is one of my favorite effects.

Another popular technique I like to use when photographing is to capture the whole scene, then do a medium shot and then a detail shot. Here I’ve gone extreme with the detail shot. I actually placed my camera on the ground to get eye level with these little yellow plants that were covering the desert floor in this area. They created beautiful patches of yellow all over.

Here’s the same technique with an ocotillo. I find this one of the hardest plants to get a good photo of. I’m pretty happy with these three shots. Notice that the scale between the wide, medium and details shot changes with the subject matter.

In these five shots I’m trying to show the variety of what we are seeing in an area, so I’ve positioned myself to have a flower or grouping in the foreground, and a hint or view of the overall scene in the background. I like these shots for telling the whole story with one photo of the location we are looking at.

This shot shows a man in the background reading trail signage — giving the viewer even more information about the area. We are in a desert wilderness space with a trail.

Normally you can’t tell the whole story in one shot. I love detail shots that help flesh out the story. I often have a collection of small shots at the end of a story to show what else was around to see.

There were White-lined Sphinx Moth caterpillars all over the place. The caterpillars have a distinctive orange horn on their heads. They show up right after the flowers get into full bloom every year. And they are hungry guys — sometimes you can see whole areas that are stripped of flowers and leaves.

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Make your own footprints…

These resources can help you plan your own trip

Get a membership at the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association to get their newsletter and activity schedule. I’m a huge fan of their newsletter and programs (lectures, hikes and tours). You can download the latest flower reports here.

Check out this website with a full description and history of the Ricardo Breceda’s sculptures and maps you can download here. There is more to do in Borrego Springs than look at the flowers. Check out the Chamber of Commerce website for more ideas.

Enjoy the journey!

Karin H Wilson

Karin H Wilson

Artist | Designer | Photographer | Traveler | Storyteller

I am Karin and I just love to share a good story — preferably with snacks! I’m particularly interested in capturing the world’s beauty and wonder in photographs.

Recently I created Photos for Artists, packs of images for artists to use in their collage and art projects. You can find a detailed description and photos on my Footprints and Photos Etsy store.

Besides my blog, Footprints & Stories, you can also find my images on Zazzle products. I have two stores — one with Gifts for Travelers and Nature Lovers, the other with Gifts for Gardeners and Lovers of Flowers. Items include notecards, wedding invitations, tote bags, mugs, journals and more. Every product is backed by the Zazzle guarantee.

Please use the links provided as it helps me buy better snacks (and funds the website)!