I always wait with anticipation for the blooming of the crocuses on the grassy hillside on Evening Island at the Chicago Botanic Garden. The hillside is covered in purple, yellow and white crocuses, a sight to behold. This spring, with many rainy and chilly days, the crocuses were slow to open. They are fleeting, only staying fresh a few days once the sun and temperatures allow them to fully open. If it's overcast or chilly they will close back up, so timing is everything. They are unfortunately often trampled by children and adults who walk through the grass without watching their step, or those laying down in them to capture a selfie amidst the flowers. I have often seen parents allow their children to pick them, a concept that is hard to fathom in a public garden, but unfortunately happens. Yesterday they were in their glory, fully open in the sunshine but they won't last much longer.
Full sun can present a challenge when capturing the beauty of crocuses. If the sun is too strong, I use a diffuser to soften the light. Crocuses can be beautiful shot from the ground, allowing backlighting to illuminate the petals, but this kind of light will not work when trying to capture the inner structure and patterns of the crocus, when more diffuse light is needed.
Unless I am shooting the inner structure of the crocus I tend to prefer to photograph crocuses at lower apertures and create a soft portrait of the flowers. Lower apertures help to blur the brown grass the crocuses grow in.
Backlit crocuses shot with the Lensbaby Velvet 56 at f2.8. This patch of 'Remembrance' dutch crocuses was shot in the late afternoon light. The light illuminates the petals, showing their structure, but does not overwhelm them.
A diffuser was used here to soften the strong light for this macro shot of the inner crocus. Although I often shoot hand held, a tripod (placed carefully so as not to disturb any flowers) is helpful when needing to hold a diffuser or shooting at higher apertures. My tripod has a tilting center column allowing it to go all the way to the ground.
Here again, the soft late afternoon light provides beautiful light for capturing these lovely early spring blooms.
In past years I have photographed the crocuses after a rain. The raindrops add textural interest to any flower. This year rain has accompanied chilly temperatures so the the crocus have been tightly closed after the rain.
Another helpful hint is to carry a plastic garbage bag in your camera bag. The grass is almost always damp and the migrating geese frequent the hillside to nibble on the grass leaving plentiful presents behind. Because shooting crocuses means being down low to the ground, a bag to sit on is always a must. There is plenty of grassy space around the crocuses to place both a tripod and a bag without damaging any flowers.