Sunset in Our Meadow

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Tufted Hairgrass, Meadow Barley
Tufted Hairgrass and Meadow Barley with Sicklekeel Lupines
Last summer we planted a native seed mix instead of a traditional lawn in front of the studio. We got them from a contest we entered at It has a bit of a wild look, and now that the grasses and lupines are coming into bloom I think it’s becoming very attractive. The seed mix is called Coastal Grasslands and came from Sunmark Seeds in Oregon.

When I stepped out of the office at sunset last night I was immediately struck by how nice the grasses and lupines looked in the late afternoon light. I ran back inside and grabbed my camera and 70-200mm lens and went to work in the few minutes before the sun dipped below the horizon.

Sicklekeel Lupine
Sicklekeel Lupine (Lupinus albicaulis) blossoms
The Sicklekeel Lupines, Lupinus albicaulis, are just beginning to open. I think they look best with only a few blossoms open and the top of the raceme still in tight little buds. I like the warm color from the setting sun, but it’s definitely not how your eyes would perceive these flowers in the cool of the morning.

Meadow Barley
Meadow Barley (Hordeum brachyantherum) dominates the grass mixture in our meadow.
Gardens are always changing, and ours is still very young. I had to frame this image carefully to avoid showing a large bare spot between the Meadow Barley in the meadow and the lupines in the background. That bare area surrounds a mix of native shrubs that are barely two feet tall this year. Some folks may say that photos never lie, but as a photographer I know that it’s my job to control exactly what I show you and what I leave out.

Meadow Barley
Meadow Barley (Hordeum brachyantherum)
Our meadow isn’t uniform, just like most natural meadows, with a mix of taller and shorter plants that create a subtle visual wave. Over time we’ll plant additional wildflowers among the grasses so there will be intermittent colorful accents. So far we’ve got a couple of clumps of camas, which bloomed a few weeks ago, and some columbine seedlings that we just set out a few days ago and won’t bloom until next year at the earliest.

Grasses almost always look better photographed with backlight or sidelight, which accent the individual stems and help separate them from the background. Working with a telephoto lens also helped to find order in the otherwise chaotic sea of grasses. I bracketed apertures on some of these images so I could choose the degree of background softness that worked best. I found I liked the background less sharp; it’s one form of contrast that separates subject from everything around it.

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