A few weeks ago I headed out to a heavily wooded area that has become one of my favorite spring and fall time locations. I started hiking these woods 3 years ago without any preconceived idea of what I may find, they simply looked like an inviting woodland area that would be fun to explore.

It must have been early April when I first explored this area I can remember the trees still bare of leaves and the ground covered with years of dried leaves but every so often I would come across a few small shoots of green plant life pushing it’s way up through the woodland floor. Closer examination revealed these early growers as May Apples starting their growth towards late April early May blooms. I don’t recall much else discovered during that initial hike but it planted the seed in my mind of a place to return. Needless to say the following weeks were spent traveling back and forth to this area some 25 miles from home if for no other reason than I just felt comfortable there.

Subsequent hikes some taking many hours soon revealed other early season growth, my curiosity and need to understand the land lead me to become familiar with the transformation that was taking place in this woodland area. Nothing much different than in a typical woodland of this area but ease of access and abundance of growth made this spot of particular interest for me.  I soon discovered species such as; Dutchman’s Breeches, Fawn Lilies, Rue Anemones, Purple and Yellow Violets, Ferns, Garlic Mustard and of course May Apples. I have always been a plant lover, my entire childhood was spent in a home that always had indoor plants hanging and sitting around. My Mother love for watching plants grow has surely been instilled in my soul. So for me this newly discovered woodland with multiple early season plants seems to be just what is needed each year after old man winter settles down.

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© Brad Mangas

Fighting windy conditions not only puts a damper on prairie burns but isn’t all that conducive to shooting closeups of wildflowers either. Finding a somewhat compelling composition, getting the tripod in just the right position, holding a diffuser up between subject and sun and then waiting, waiting for the breeze to give you just enough time to push the shutter release, lock the mirror up and 2 seconds delay before exposing the image on the digital film is a lesson in patience to say the least. I know I spent a good 45 minutes in getting this shot of Dutchman’s Breeches. Close to that on a few other attempts that just didn’t turn out to my liking.

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© Brad Mangas

Why do I hike out into the woods in the cool damp mornings looking for small little plants that are blooming? Honestly, I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t. Isn’t understanding the lands we live on paramount to our survival? OK, maybe I’m making this a little over dramatic but I can’t image not wanting to know or see things such as wildflowers blooming in their natural environment.

I do all my closeup work with a Canon 70-200 f4L lens with EF25 II extension tube attached making it a pretty darn good macro setup, to this point it has suited me well. Post processing of these images was fairly straight forward, thank goodness for instant histogram feedback when making the exposures which allowed me to keep the majority of the image dark while exposing properly for the much lighter blooms. With this type of work it’s very evident the need to take extra time in the field to get everything as close to perfect as possible instead of thinking you can just compensate in photoshop with the bigger benefit of spending much more time in nature and less time behind the computer. These are but a couple of the dozens on images made in my 6 hours or so over 2 consecutive mornings in this area. I will look closer at a couple of other captures but if these 2 are all I end up with it was still worth every minute.

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© Brad Mangas

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© Brad Mangas