Getting the Shot – Peridot’s Poppies

Author Ambika Balasubramaniyan


Location: Peridot Mesa, Peridot AZ

This location in Arizona typically explodes with poppies early February if the rain and temperature conditions are conducive to a dense bloom. Feb 2015 brought reports of hillsides of poppies – another short-lived dramatic spring season in the Arizona deserts.

Location guide: Wild in Arizona™: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers, A Guide to When, Where, & How (Expanded 2nd Edition) by Paul Gill & Colleen Miniuk-Sperry

Objective: Capture the overall vibe of the ” Fields of Poppies” as well as highlight the delicate beauty of the Poppy.


  • Camera: Canon 5DMIII
  • Lens: Canon EF 16-3.5 f2.8 II USM
  • Settings: Av (Aperture Priority)1/30 sec, f16, ISO 400, 16mm
  • Filter: Galen Rowell Graduated Neutral Density Filters ( 3 stop – Soft Edge)

The day I was out at Peridot Mesa was an overcast day with a thin band of opening on the western horizon. I was going to get a brief pop of late evening warmth. I wanted to make the most of the dramatic skies and poppy laden hillsides so instead of the usual focus on the flower itself, I wanted to include the landscape & the skies as an integral part of the composition anchored by a beautiful open specimen that showcased the delicacy and color of the poppies.

I located a poppy plant that had a number of fresh open blooms and positioned my camera with a Wide angle (Canon EF 16-3.5 f2.8 II USM) lens low to the ground to create an arresting foreground element of the side lit poppies with leading ribbon of color that highlights the flower laden hillsides and capped off with some beautiful clouds. It was a windy day so I have to wait for wind to die down to make the image so that I did not get wind movement on the poppies.

I used a soft edge split Neutral Density filter to hold back the brightness of the skies so I could make a capture that opened up some of the shadows in the foreground with a longer exposure. This particular image was one where the strong breeze paused long enough for me to get a sharp capture inspite of a slower exposure.

Post processing was minimal – some cropping and pop of contrast & saturation in Lightroom.

Ambika is an Arizona Highways Photo Workshop trip leader.