Poppies, Poppies and More Poppies

Wildflowers are blooming in Arizona and the season seems to be in full swing a bit early this year!  Yesterday I spent the day at Picacho Peak State Park as several photographers had posted photos on social media.  They have been blooming for a couple of weeks, so it was a possibility the poppies were passed peak and I had missed them.  Still, I took the chance knowing other wildflowers were most likely blooming.  There will be a gallery at the end of the post and you can click on any image to start a slide show.

poppies and dew dropsThere had been reports of dense fog in the area and as I was driving south on I-10 I could see the fog.   While driving I was envisioning photographing wildflowers in the fog and thought they would be so unique.  Unfortunately the fog had all lifted by the time I arrived.  However, there were beautiful white puffy clouds and my plan was to stay until sunset.  At the entrance the park attendant informed me the poppies were so wet from the rain and fog that they weren’t open.  Wet poppies?  My mind immediately was focused on dew drops on the wildflowers!  Not only were the poppies wet, they were bent over from the added weight. A few unopened poppies still had on their rain hats and were soaked!

poppy with dew drops and reflectionAs I was on the ground a couple was hiking the trail and I immediately apologized for being in their way.  They said I wasn’t and wanted to know what I was shooting.  I told them there were dew drops on the bottom of a poppy and I could see a reflection and my hope was to find some open poppies.  They continued on their way and I continued on making images.  While processing this image I noticed the dew drops are almost running down the poppy they were so large and heavy.

mexican gold poppiesAfter searching for a couple of hours I finally found a few open poppies alongside the park road.  As I was shooting a truck drove by and then backed up.  I looked over and it was the couple that had been on the trail earlier when I was shooting the above photo.  The gentleman asked if I was the person they had seen earlier,  I replied “yes” and he replied “I’m glad you found some open poppies”.


brittle bush at sunset at picacho peak state parkI spent about 5 hours searching for open poppies yesterday and was able to make a few images.  It was then time to think about sunset and the possibility of some beautiful color in the sky.  As I was getting set up for a sunset shoot a couple pulled up and the gentleman got out and brought a small portable table with two cup holds.  He then brought out two camp chairs and his wife brought two wine glasses and a bottle of wine!  I said “You two know how to do it right!”  The lady replied they just had different toys than me.  We chuckled and settled in to watch sunset, them with their glasses of wine and me with my camera, tripod and a 3-stop  graduated split neutral density filter. Disappointed the sky didn’t have more color, I packed up to leave..  full moon at picacho peak state parkThe lady who had been drinking wine came over to me and mentioned that the moon was coming up just over the mountain behind us.  The moon was almost full.  I couldn’t resist grabbing a quick shot.  Once again I packed up my gear and proceeded to leave the park.  I had been shooting on the west side of the park and the entrance is on the east side.  Part of me thought I should have checked the moonrise before leaving home as I probably could have made a much better image.  However, I wouldn’t have met such a nice couple!

Driving home I was disappointed at how many poppies didn’t open to make for some beautiful wide images, but still it was a good day.  I had chatted with two nice couples and made a few nice shots of the beautiful wildflowers in Arizona and it doesn’t get much better than that!

Poppies at Peridot

poppies at peridot arizona


The Mexican Gold Poppies at Peridot Mesa near Peridot, Arizona were at peak bloom yesterday!  Although the skies were cloudy and at times what seemed like gale force winds, that didn’t keep me and a fellow photographer friend from venturing out.  The forecast for the weekend was wind and rain, potentially destroying the poppies.  This area has been on my list to see and photograph for some time.  There are carpets of poppies in this location on the San Carlos Indian Reservation.  In order to photograph here you must obtain a recreation permit that is $10.00 per person.


Typically I shoot macro photography during wildflower season.  Knowing this year there was the possibility of carpets of wildflowers, I began shooting more landscapes in the desert as  landscape photography is quite different than macro photography.  And yesterday it was all about carpets of poppies and landscape photography!

My day started out early as my alarm was set for 5 a.m.  Quite early indeed, but I wanted to give myself plenty of time to get ready and finish loading my gear, water and snacks.  Not to mention a few cups of coffee to get me going.  It would take me almost an hour to drive to the location where I would be meeting my friend.  Then another hour to hour and a half to Peridot Mesa.  We wouldn’t be there for sunrise, but the poppies would still be sleeping  until well after sunrise, so we chose to leave about 7:30.  Arriving in the late morning would give the poppies time to open.  They are fickle wildflowers.  Poppies require the right amount of sun and not too cold to open.  Then at the end of they day close.  We were hoping the sun would be shining or at least peaking through the clouds so that the poppies would open.  In the above photo, the sun was just starting to peak through and the poppies were starting to open.  If the poppies opened, my plan was to switch to macro photography.  But no such luck as the clouds just kept moving in.

With rain in the forecast I had packed my rain gear for me and my camera.  If there was light rain, my plan was to shoot macro images of the poppies and rain drops.  Although it didn’t rain, I was glad to have my rain jacket as it blocked the wind and kept me warm.

esteves pincushion

Due to the wind and bright overcast skies, it wasn’t a good day for macro photography.   Any movement of the flowers in macro photography will create a blurry image.  Sometimes that’s okay if your goal is to make an impressionistic image.  My preference is to have sidelight or backlight when shooting macro.   I did make several images, but am only happy with this one and it’s not a poppy.   A Esteve’s Pincushion (Chaenactis steroids) which I had not seen before.  The poppies were at peak bloom, but there are several other wildflowers yet to bloom.  In addition to the poppies and this single Esteve’s Pincushion, there were lupine, blue dicks, and desert chicory in bloom.   In order to make a sharp image I used my Wimberley Plamp to hold the flower still.  I have an older version, but you can purchase the newer version here.


While I was set up for wide shots, there was a break in the clouds and blue sky with white puffy clouds was headed in the direction I was shooting.  It only took about 10 minutes to go from cloudy skies to some beautiful blue skies with white puffy clouds.  Not long after this image was made, the sky was once again full of gray clouds.  This next image is probably my favorite of the day.  With hills covered in poppies and paths here and there I was able to make several images that are quite different.  At the end of this post is a gallery of images and you can click on each one to see the a larger version.

Carpet of mexican gold poppies near Peridot, Arizona in the San Carlos Indian Reservation.

It certainly has been an interesting year as we started with snow on January 1st, fog on February 1st and even though these were shot yesterday, it was a great way to start March.  Another first for me as I had never seen or photographed the Mexican Gold Poppies at Peridot!