I suspect that anyone who loves wildflowers heard about the super bloom in California this year.  After five years of drought and dry winters, most of California received above average rainfall – and glorious wildflowers.

Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

In Carrizo Plain National Monument, a grassland preserve in eastern San Luis Obispo County, the wildflowers painted the hillsides with yellows, gold, blues, and orange.

Is it is hard to get a sense of scale in this vast landscape and ordinary camera lenses don’t seem to do it justice. Wide, panoramas are the way we see it but the photographer does not need a special lens to pre-visualize and then crop a panorama from within the frame.

Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

The only real trick is to use a wide-angle lens and put the straightest horizontal line of the eventual panorama in the center of the original composition.  This is because wide angle lenses create curved lines, called barrel distortion, that is more pronounced at the outer edges. In the very center, the horizontal line will appear level.

Note how this is cropped panorama of Soda Lake Road running through fields of yellow Lasthenia seems somehow bigger than the full frame shot.

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The horizon line shows very little distortion because it was cropped for the center of the original.

But on this view of a yellow flowered ridge set against the deep blue sky, the horizon line is in the bottom third of the panorama composition, but was in the center of the original composition to keep the line as straight as possible.

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Careful pre-visualization is essential.

Some of the most varied wildflower displays were in the hills surrounding the central valley of Carrizo Plain. In the early mornings and late afternoons this is allowed making panoramas against dark backgrounds.

Wildflower meadow with Streptanthus inflatus or Caulanthus inflatus, Desert Candle, panorama Carrizo Plain

In these cases I used longer lenses to be sure the background was pulled into the composition as a single shape.

Monolopia lanceolata, yellow flowering hillside daisy in Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

This was particularly effective with grasses which really need a dark background to make them stand out. And after all, Carrizo Plain is a grassland.

Poa secunda, One-sided Bluegrass, flowering grass in afternoon light Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Pre-visualizing the panorama makes it a simple matter later to crop the best part the frame into a really strong composition.

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Sometimes the full frame composition is equally strong, as in this view of a wildflower meadow with desert candles set off against the dark textures of a distant hill.

Streptanthus inflatus or Caulanthus inflatus, Desert Candle, in Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

But then the panorama is pretty nice too.

Streptanthus inflatus or Caulanthus inflatus, Desert Candle, panorama in Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

More California superbloom wildflowers from Anza Borrego Desert State Park in March.

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