Showy Penstemon

Three photos of Showy Penstemon (Penstemon spectabilis) growing along my favorite local trail for wildflowers – the Piedras Pintadas Trail of the San Dieguito River Park at Lake Hodges.

Showy Penstemon is a real challenge to photograph – well, at least with the way I want to photograph flowers, with rather limited depth of field and good isolation from the background.

The plants can grow quite tall, its stem is rather thin and flexible, and the amount of flowers provide plenty of surface area – a light breeze will move the plant around enough to make any attempt at acquiring focus a real test of patience. The intensive purple/blue color never looks quite right when photographed either (generally too bright) and needs careful treatment to look somewhat authentic. Last not least, there’s the sheer size and depth of the individual flowers – it’s hard to get sufficient depth of field while maintaining a nice bokeh.
When I set up a Smart Collection in Lightroom to collect the images of the plant I had over 30 photos to choose from, from multiple walks in the area. After weeding out the failures (lack of focus etc.) only 14 were left, and three made it into this blog post. When 10% are good enough to show them it’s actually not a bad rate I think… even though this is based on my own flawed evaluation – flawed because naturally, I’m more attached to my photos than anyone else. :-)

Anyway, here they are… and they’re all long gone now of course, blooming here mostly in April and May. I guess I’ll meet them again next year.

Thanks for reading! You can stay up to date with my blogposts and subscribe via email (the subscription form opens in a new browser window/tab). It's easy as pie! :-)

All images and content © by Alexander S. Kunz, unless otherwise noted. No re-use without express written permission. Most images are available as prints and for commercial licensing. Please contact me with any questions. Prints and licensed images are NOT watermarked, of course.

I'm friendly towards strictly non-commercial usage (ie. no monetization through ads, referral systems etc.) on private blogs and websites, but I'd like to know where my images will be used, and for what purpose. Please contact me about your intended usage so that I can evaluate it. Thanks!

6 Responses

  1. Love these penstemon – these and penstemon parryi make me weak in the knees. And lovely DOF – I think you mentioned in an earlier post that you hand-hold the camera? Impressive!

    1. Thank you Chloe – yes, I hand-hold the camera for most flower photos. It’s more convenient than trying to get a tripod into the correct position. I’ve had to look up Penstemon parryii, native to Arizona and Mexico – they’re probably grown cultivated in some native gardens in California, but I’ve never seen them.

      What do you think about the color in the photos above? I’m having a hard time remembering what they look like since I made the photos in April and May. I hope I got the color right, it’s always tricky with intensive blue and purple.

      Thanks again!

  2. I think the color is spot-on! It’s so difficult to capture those saturated colors but you did a beautiful job. I had several p. parryi in my garden (on the Central Coast) but repeatedly killed them by overwater. Evidently a very slow learner.

    1. Thanks for the color verification. :) Yes watering natives that are used to dry climates is a challenge. I’m currently trying to get it right for some Woolly Bluecurls…

  3. I think you got the color spot-on. Its a lovely color, so intense but somehow not garish. I had several p. parri in my garden (on the Central Coast) but repeatedly killed them by over watering. Evidently a slow learner.

Leave a Reply