“Tennessee Coneflower” by Robin Conover Canon EOS 5D Mark IV EF 180mm, 3.5 L lens ISO 200, fl5.0 at 1/125 second, Gitzo tripod
The cedar glades in Middle Tennessee provide a habitat for some of the state’s rarest and most beautiful species of wildflowers. Several varieties like the Tennessee coneflower and yellow prairie coneflower thrive in this harsh habitat of barren limestone with very little topsoil.
You can explore this rare ecosystem in Long Hunter and the Cedars of Lebanon state parks. Both have protected natural areas within their boundaries that include stands of the Tennessee coneflower.
Due to conservation efforts, these localized populations have rebounded enough that the Tennessee coneflower was removed from the endangered species list in 2011.
I recently photographed this coneflower near the Bryant Grove and Cedar Glade Trail area of Long Hunter State Park just before sunset. Taking care to stay on the rocky areas near the road so as not to destroy any of the delicate plants by stepping on them, I looked for a single plant with a simple background. Many of the coneflowers in this patch face east so they are backlit at sunset. The warm light cast from behind added a translucence to each petal.
I used a small silver reflector to bounce a little light into the center of the flower. You don’t have to buy an expensive reflector to accomplish this effect; try a piece of foil wrapped around cardboard or even a white sheet of paper.
Either can serve to reflect light back onto a backlit subject.
Using a macro lens and mounting the camera on a tripod, I framed the flower against the green background to make the subject stand out. The macro lens had a very limited depth of field, so it completely blurred the details behind the flower. A complicated background would have distracted from the simplicity of the image.
The jumping spider added another intricate part of life in the ecosystem. I observed it crawling back and forth as it left a single trail of web behind. I always feel privileged to witness the tiny details and opportunities nature provides if I just take the time to see them.