Coulter’s Snapdragon (3 photos)

Perhaps due to the “super” blooms at Anza Borrego, Carrizo Plain and elsewhere this year (thanks to California’s wet winter), I’m looking at our local flora with a more elevated sense of curiosity than during regular walks in the springtime. Because maybe, just maybe, there’s a flower or plant out this year that I haven’t seen before?

Or maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention in previous years, of course. :-P Either way, this relatively small member of the snapdragon family was new to me. I found it growing underneath and in between some Buckwheat at nearby Lake Hodges, and “just so happened” to have the camera and macro lens with me (for these local walks, I often just carry the camera and one single lens).

I “explored” the little plant as best as I could, making photos of not just the flowers, but also the leaves and its curious tendrils that it used to grab a hold on a nearby buckwheat – while these photos aren’t really worth showing, they were useful in asking for help with the identification – and thanks to the help of a fellow chaparralian (thanks again Brian!) here’s Coulter’s Snapdragon, Antirrhinum coulterianum syn. Sairocarpus coulterianus for you. Say hi! :-) (and click on any photo to open it larger, as usual)

Tech Notes

I make these macro photos hand-held. Very often, it’s tedious or impossible to get a tripod in the right position to make photos like this. On my morning walks with an impatient dog :) I prefer to move fast, so I have my camera in Auto-ISO and use my stabilized macro lens. Noise doesn’t really matter to me (the ISO for these photos ranges between 250 and 560, so it’s not an issue at all).

This plant is small, and it’s individual flowers tiny. You can see the hairs around the smallest flowers, so I was pretty damn close. Since the angular movement is so much higher with close-ups, the general rule of “exposure time is 1 divided by focal length” for a steady handheld photo doesn’t apply.

With this rule and my 105mm lens, 1/100s should have been safe, but even with lens stabilization, I found 1/200s to be much easier to use, and more reliable – it doesn’t make sense to make 20 photos of the same thing, just because you can’t be sure you really have a good one, and/or evaluate the sharpness on the tiny camera display, or wade through all the photos at home and make a pick. I rather have one photo that’s reliably sharp, and be done with it.

Or maybe it’s just my age?! :-)

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