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The inside of a bloodroot flower, taken at Newton Hills State Park.
The inside of a bloodroot flower, taken at Newton Hills State Park.
Dutchman’s Breeches at Newton Hills State Park.
Dutchman’s Breeches at Newton Hills State Park.
Blossoming trees on the south side of Sioux Falls add unique color to an otherwise ordinary scene.
Blossoming trees on the south side of Sioux Falls add unique color to an otherwise ordinary scene.
Flowers will attract insects and if you are lucky, colorful butterflies like this blooming lilac and Eastern Swallowtail found in Sherman Park in Sioux Falls.
Flowers will attract insects and if you are lucky, colorful butterflies like this blooming lilac and Eastern Swallowtail found in Sherman Park in Sioux Falls.
A single flower against a solid background of uniform color is a great way to isolate the beauty of the flower. This is a Canada violet at Newton Hills State Park.
A single flower against a solid background of uniform color is a great way to isolate the beauty of the flower. This is a Canada violet at Newton Hills State Park.
Western wallflowers on a prairie hillside of Todd County. The church in the distance is Sacred Heart Church.
Western wallflowers on a prairie hillside of Todd County. The church in the distance is Sacred Heart Church.
I’m not exactly sure, but I think these are locoweed blooms (lighter lavender) with a species of milkvetch (darker) at Badlands National Park.
I’m not exactly sure, but I think these are locoweed blooms (lighter lavender) with a species of milkvetch (darker) at Badlands National Park.
A Custer State Park hillside covered with what I think are American Vetch flowers, however I’ve not seen them so distinctly two-toned like this before.
A Custer State Park hillside covered with what I think are American Vetch flowers, however I’ve not seen them so distinctly two-toned like this before.
A sand or star lily in amongst the purple blossoms.
A sand or star lily in amongst the purple blossoms.
A pasqueflower going to seed amongst white blossoms on a hillside of Custer State Park.
A pasqueflower going to seed amongst white blossoms on a hillside of Custer State Park.
Wild Flax blooming on the flanks of Bear Butte.
Wild Flax blooming on the flanks of Bear Butte.
Shooting stars found in Wind Cave National Park.
Shooting stars found in Wind Cave National Park.
Early morning dew on blue bells found along the border of Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park.
Early morning dew on blue bells found along the border of Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park.
Dewdrops on a star lily petal.
Dewdrops on a star lily petal.
Missouri pin cushion cactus about to bloom in Wind Cave National Park.
Missouri pin cushion cactus about to bloom in Wind Cave National Park.
This white-blossomed beauty was found near a patch of shooting star flowers in the Fort Meade Recreation area near Sturgis.
This white-blossomed beauty was found near a patch of shooting star flowers in the Fort Meade Recreation area near Sturgis.
A chocolate lily in bloom at the Reva Gap campground in the Slim Buttes of Harding County.
A chocolate lily in bloom at the Reva Gap campground in the Slim Buttes of Harding County.
Eastern red or wild columbine in bloom at Sica Hollow State Park.
Eastern red or wild columbine in bloom at Sica Hollow State Park.

Dirty Work

Jul 7, 2014

I have to admit that my photography hobby could fool people at a casual glance. If you didn’t know me and happened to catch me when the photography muse strikes, I could forgive you for thinking that my elevator may not reach top floor. What other passion takes you out in the middle of clear, moonless nights for hours at a time miles from home … on a weeknight? What other hobby causes a grown man to sprawl spread eagle on the open prairie, awkwardly avoiding cactus and cowpies while brushing off bloodthirsty creepy crawlies just to get the best angle of light on a flower?

I’ve ripped countless jeans in far too many places from pesky barbed wire or simply awkward positioning in the heat of the photography moment. I single handedly keep insect repellent companies in business during the summer. I’ve gone to work looking like I was in a bar fight the night before because a gnat bit my eyelid and it nearly swelled shut. I got a satisfying kick out of saying, “you should have seen the other guy … squashed him like a bug,” to any co-worker who asked (and some who didn’t). Photography is probably proving that I’m a touch on the crazy side.

Lately, I’ve been obsessed by country churches and stormy skies. There is something, however, that can break me away even from those pursuits. Anytime I spot a patch of blooming wildflowers, I can’t help but grab a camera and start shooting. When I can get flowers with a country church, then it’s near photographic nirvana.

It’s been a late and wet spring. That means wildflowers have been going strong this year. I took a trip in late May to the western half of our state and found hillsides in bloom in Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park. On my way back east, I stopped at Sica Hollow State Park to find more woodland beauties. Most of the spring flowers are done now, but the sunflowers, coneflower and prairie roses of early summer are out just waiting for you take their photos. Here are a couple suggestions on shooting wildflowers to get you prepared:

  • If possible, buy or borrow a macro lens. These lenses are engineered to allow very close focusing, which allows small buds and petals to appear large and detailed in a photograph. The first time I put on one my camera, I didn’t want to take it off for days. It can transform how you see a flower or even a bug.
  • Make use of a wide angle lens. Shooting as wide as possible does two things: it makes your depth of field rather big so more of the scene will be in focus, and it allows you to show the general area where the flowers are found. So you can show the entire hillside of flowers instead of just a few.
  • Don’t be afraid to get dirty. Anybody can shoot a flower from a standing eye level looking down. Interesting angles and details not always seen can be found at or below the flower’s level.
  • Watch for distractions in the shot. I’ve been frustrated more times than I like to admit when I notice an odd piece of grass in the composition that I didn’t notice while shooting. It is easy to get so focused on the flower that the surrounding details don’t get noticed. This is a tough one for me, but it pays to pay attention to everything in the frame.

Christian Begeman grew up in Isabel and now lives in Sioux Falls. When he's not working at Midcontinent Communications he is often on the road photographing South Dakota’s prettiest spots. Follow Begeman on his blog.

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