POTD: California Poppies

California Poppies, Eschscholzia californica

California Poppies (Eschscholzia californica), the California State flower.

It is poppy season in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I was at the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Fremont. My mission was to photograph shorebirds but it was one of those days when they were in short supply. Some days they are around in abundance and some days they are mostly gone. So I turned my attention to the California golden poppies in bloom all around the large parking lot at the refuge headquarters. To find this location look for the sign that says 1 Marshland Drive. It is just a little ways past the visitor’s center.

My camera was on a tripod and I used a 24-105mm lens. It gave me enough magnification to photograph small clusters of poppies. For closeup work of just one poppy I added a 25mm extension tube between the camera and lens.

It had mostly been a cloudy morning but there were a few moments of nice light. The biggest photographic challenge was the breeze. I had to wait patiently for the moments when the breeze would die down.

For this image I chose an aperture of f/16 to increase the depth of field and keep a lot of the poppy details in sharp focus. For some photos I do the opposite and use a wide aperture life f/4 to minimize the depth of field. That way just part of one flower is in sharp focus and everything else is blurred. Depth of field is an important artistic decision.

If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area in mid-April and you don’t have time to drive all the way to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve (which is poppy heaven), the Don Edwards wildlife refuge is a great place to photograph California poppies. You won’t have whole hillsides covered with poppies like you do at the California Preserves, but you will find plenty of small clumps of poppies to shoot. The Don Edwards wildlife refuge is also a great place most days to shoot shorebirds.

To get to the Don Edwards national wildlife refuge, on the east side of the Dumbarton Bridge (CA 84) take the Thornton Avenue exit and go south to the big sign marking the refuge entrance.

FYI: The poppy season at the California Preserve is usually ahead of the poppy season at the Don Edwards wildlife refuge.

Photo Data: Canon 5D Mark III. Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L lens at 105mm. f/16, 1/50 second, ISO 100.


Update: The sequel to this article, Unexpected Gifts!

The Best “How To” Nature Photography Books

Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge – the official site

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve – the official site