How to Shoot a Trout Lily

That’s shoot as in photograph, of course, not discharging firearms.

Hike for ten minutes to the one place where you know white trout lily grows. Realize that it’s a cloudy day and the flowers will likely be closed. Get annoyed with yourself when you see them closed and vow to come back on a sunny day.

Next sunny day, hike the ten minutes again. Spend awhile scouting the area to find the best candidate. Praise your luck that it’s growing on a slope up and not too far from the trail. Take a few pictures. Look at pictures on the camera monitor. Realize that the other plants that didn’t seem to be in the way are really in the way. Carefully move the invasive vine out of the picture and shoot again. Realize that the good angle you have for shooting includes some basal leaves of golden ragwort that won’t stay in focus. Look around for a stick to place atop the leaves to get them out of the way without damaging them. Take a few more shots. Realize that the sun has gone behind a cloud and the lovely golden glow is gone.

Review pictures in camera. Realize that the dead stems of last year’s asters are making funny vertical lines behind the lily. Carefully snap off dead stems. Take a few more pictures. Realize that the large dead oak leaf on the ground is reflecting light in a particularly annoying way. Move said oak leaf. Move a few others while you’re at it.

Take a few more pictures. Realize that the golden ragwort leaves popped up again and get them back down with a heavier stick.

Hear hikers approaching. Stand up so you don’t look like a total fool doing a poor approximation of downward-facing dog. Brush dirt off jeans and realize there’s a load of laundry to be washed in your near future. Remember how painful lone-star tick bites are and realize there’s also a shower in your near future.

Re-establish self on ground and try some different angles. Realize that elbows are getting scraped and fetch bandana from daypack to use as cushion. Review pictures again and realize that with new angles come new bits of plant material causing odd lines and reflections and other composition-destroying things. Clear area and try again. Note that sun is back out and shoot like mad while you can.

Decide that you need to better isolate the subject from the background and start playing with aperture settings. Take series of pix from f/4 to f/8. Repeat from different angles.

Stand up and try to work kinks out of neck. Take pictures of something else to clear brain.

Go back to shooting trout lily.

Look at cell phone and realize forty minutes have passed since your first picture.

Take a few more pix of the other trout lilies just in case and carefully replace vines and dead oak leaves and remove sticks from golden ragwort leaves so as to leave no trace.

White trout lily (Erythronium albidum) is listed as S2/threatened in Maryland. USDA PLANTS, BONAP, and the Maryland Biodiversity Project all have different records of where in Maryland it can be found, but they all agree it’s in Montgomery County. I first spotted this patch in 2010, and though I’ve missed seeing the plants in bloom some years, I always visit to check on them.

Did I get the shot I wanted? Not really. But I had a lot of fun trying.

5 thoughts on “How to Shoot a Trout Lily

  1. Or you could drive for three hours out to Spring Gap on the C & O Canal (about mile 175) and then walk at least a few seconds from your car to see twenty to thirty White Fawn Lilies (Erythronium albidum) and ten to twenty Yellow Trout Lilies (E. americanum) blooming under some wide spread trees in the lawn and thousands of non-blooming plants. Nowadays it is easier for me to Spring Gap (about 10 minutes south-east of I-68 in Cumberland) since it only takes about half an hour (through Cumberland) from my house. You just have to make sure they haven’t started mowing the lawn. All the Yellow Trout Lilies yesterday (April 8, 2017) had red stamens. I went to south-west Garrett County later to Potomac State Forest but the Trout Lilies haven’t come up yet. No Yellow Fawn Lily (E. umbilicatum) yet. I think I’ll travel to Ferry Hill on the Canal near Sharpsburg today and see what color they have there. Maybe on the way back I’ll see if I can find the Shale Barrens along Sideling Hill Creek at Cliff Road on the Allegany County side in Green Ridge State Forest.

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