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.
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.
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!