First Day Of Spring At The Los Angeles Arboretum

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California Poppy at the Los Angeles County Arboretum. My favorite image of the day, I like the shallow depth of field that blurs the poppies in the background, rendering them as soft splashes of color. Nikon D750, Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Macro VC. Photo by Wes Pitts.

Yesterday, I visited the L.A. County Arboretum to do some close-up photography with the new Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 MACRO VC. It was a popular destination on the first day of spring—we snagged one of the few spots left in the overflow parking—but with 127 acres of gardens to explore, it didn’t feel crowded.

Many photographers were there, from casual shooters like my friends who came with me, to serious bird photographers with massive telephoto lenses, and numerous portrait pros taking advantage of the sunny weather and natural backdrops, with assistants hauling their strobes around. Worth noting: when you’re visiting locations like this, check first if a permit is needed for photography; usually, personal work is fine, but if you’re bringing lights and assistants and models in, you’re probably going to need a permit.

I love the light on the curls of this flower. Shot with a wide aperture of f/3.3 to blur the background. Photo by Wes Pitts.
I love the light on the curls of this flower. Nikon D750, Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Macro VC. Photo by Wes Pitts.

The weather was warm and mild, though a little breezy at times, which can pose a challenge for close-up work, as any movement of your subject is magnified and creates blur. You can use this creatively, set a faster shutter speed, or be patient and wait for breaks between breezes to take the shot, using the time to explore your composition.

While I was working with the new lens, my mom and my friends who came with me explored the gardens on their own. Places like this, including your local park, are great for letting you try new gear or work on a specific technique with friends and family in tow, since there’s plenty for them to enjoy on their own.

A honey bee dropped in to this composition just before I made the exposure. Nice timing! California Poppy at the Los Angeles County Arboretum. My favorite image of the day, I like the shallow depth of field that blurs the poppies in the background, rendering them as soft splashes of color. Photo by Wes Pitts.
A honey bee dropped in to this composition just before I made the exposure. Nice timing! Nikon D750, Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Macro VC. Photo by Wes Pitts.
Here's a cropped version of the above image to show the bee in greater detail. Photo by Wes Pitts.
Here's a cropped version of the above image to show the bee in greater detail. Nikon D750, Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Macro VC. Photo by Wes Pitts.

I’m by no means an expert at macro photography, being much more comfortable with and innately drawn to wide-angle framing. That said, I got a few images that I like quite a bit, and will definitely be working with this lens, and close-up photography in general, more in the future.

The Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 MACRO VC is a true macro lens, with 1:1 magnification. The lens is sharp, creates beautiful bokeh in defocused areas and includes Vibration Compensation, which was essential for me, as I was shooting without a tripod. It also offers a focus limiter function controlled by one of the ergonomically-thoughtful switches on the side of the lens, which helps speed AF performance, particularly useful for macro work. This new lens is the third from Tamron that features upgraded design and construction, the first two being the SP 35mm F/1.8 Di VC USD and SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD.

Another composition of California Poppies that I thought turned out well. Photo by Wes Pitts.
Another composition of California Poppies that I thought turned out well. Nikon D750, Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Macro VC. Photo by Wes Pitts.

California Poppies are one of my favorite wildflowers, and with the recent rains, they were in full bloom for the spring equinox. I spent a lot of the day trying different approaches to them with this lens. Though it offers a wide aperture range from f/2.8 to f/32, I was typically shooting at apertures near wide open to create a soft, dreamy effect with the poppies.

Backlit blades make a beautiful spring image. Photo by Wes Pitts.
Backlit blades with shallow depth of field make an abstract spring image. Nikon D750, Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Macro VC. Photo by Wes Pitts.

MEANWHILE, SOME IPHONEOGRAPHY

While I was experimenting with the new Tamron 90mm, my friends were doing some pretty interesting scenic work using their iPhones. I nag them to try interchangeable lens photography, but I can’t tell if I’m making progress there. Here’s a few of their best shots of the day.

A peacock shows his full splendor. Photo by Victoria Sullivan.
A peacock shows his full splendor. iPhone 6. Photo by Victoria Sullivan.
Field of poppies. iPhone 6. Photo by Victoria Sullivan.
Field of poppies. iPhone 6. Photo by Victoria Sullivan.
Waterfall framed by lush foliage. iPhone 6. Photo by Victoria Sullivan.
Waterfall framed by lush foliage. iPhone 6. Photo by Victoria Sullivan.
Beautiful pink blooms provide a focal point for this hillside view. iPhone 5. Photo by Ryan Sullivan.
Beautiful pink blooms provide a focal point for this hillside view. iPhone 5. Photo by Ryan Sullivan.
Another field of poppies. iPhone 5. Photo by Ryan Sullivan.
Another field of poppies. iPhone 5. Photo by Ryan Sullivan.
We think the sign would be better if it read,
We think the sign would be better if it read, "Wildlife Observation Duck". iPhone 5. Photo by Ryan Sullivan.

Wes is the editor of Outdoor Photographer.

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