These are some of our favorite images in our new coffee table book, “Beauty and the Beast: California Wildflowers and Climate Change.”
How our journey began (by Rob Badger):
On a warm and windy spring day in 1992, I witnessed what was then a rare and spectacular wildflower display in the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, a California state park in the western Mojave Desert. I was awestruck by what was before me. During twenty years of photographing the West’s dramatic, iconic landscapes, I had never seen the desert so alive, shimmering with such an explosion of color and life. Experiencing such intense beauty was magnetic, intoxicating, and almost overpowering.
That evening I called home to Nita, my sweetie and fellow photographer. I described as best I could how it felt to see the wind move in waves across a vast sea of glowing orange California poppies and purple birds-eye gilia blossoms. Hearing my excitement, she knew she had to see this for herself. Because these flowers would soon disappear in the drying winds and growing desert heat, I quickly returned to San Francisco, where Nita was between photo assignments. We immediately drove back to the poppy reserve to enjoy and photograph this unbelievable beauty together. We did not know then that this was the beginning of a lifetime adventure exploring and photographing what we believed to be a limitless world of wildflowers.
Nita and I share an intense desire and commitment to using our work in ways that benefit both nature and humanity. For decades, her photographic projects have celebrated human diversity and helped members of underserved communities feel a much-needed sense of pride. My work for many years focused on both land conservation and the environmental destruction caused by human activities such as development, logging, and mining. I was becoming discouraged and emotionally burned out by what I witnessed and documented.
Photographing wildflowers opened up a new world for both of us. It allowed us to collaborate in many different ways and brought us closer together as photographers and as partners. Our photography now included both the grand landscape and a variety of ways to capture the world of a single flower. Exploring new areas, developing new skills, and learning more about native plants and where they live consistently brought joy into our lives and lifted my spirits. Searching for new places and flowers was like a magical treasure hunt, for it seemed that there would always be new wildflowers to discover, photograph, and share.
You can learn more in our new book, “Beauty and the Beast: California Wildflowers and Climate Change,” co-published with the California Native Plant Society.
Photographing wildflowers opened up a new world for both of us
Searching for new places and flowers was like a magical treasure hunt
California poppies, Lupine and Desert goldfields, Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve with San Bernadino Mountains in the background, California.
California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), Ring Mountain Open Space Preserve, Corte Madera, California.
It seemed that there would always be new wildflowers to discover, photograph, and share
Desert Canterbury bells (Phacelia campanularia) and Bigelow’s monkeyflower (Mimulus bigelovii) in desert wash during a “100 Year Bloom” in Joshua Tree National Park, California.
Set up of natural light studio and Datura wildflower, Joshua Tree National Park, California.
Datura (Datura wrightii), “Wrapped” Series, Joshua Tree National Park, California.
Poppies and wildflowers on hillside, Hungry Valley Vehicular State Park, Super Bloom, Tehachapi Mountains, California.
Echo azure butterfly (Celastrina echo) on blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum), Cascade Canyon Open Space Preserve, Marin County, California.
Desert sunflowers (Geraea canescens) and eroded lake deposits, Death Valley National Park, California.
California poppy and birds-eye gilia, Pepperwood Preserve, Sonoma County, California.
Desert candle (Caulanthus inflatus), Tansy phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia)detail left, Hillside daisy (Monolopia lanceolata), 2017 “Super Bloom,” Carrizo Plain National Monument, California.
Scarlet Fritillary (Fritillaria recurva) and rufous hummingbird, Upper Table Rocks, southern Oregon (also found in California)
Wildflowers after wildfire, Butts Canyon Road, Lake County, California.
Cobweb Thistle (Cirsium occidentale) with dew drops, Mt. Tamalpais, Marin County, California.
2017 wildflower super bloom, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California.
Leopard lily (Lilium pardalinum), Mt. Tamalpais State Park, Marin County, California.
2017 wildflower super bloom, Temblor Range, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California.
Giant Red Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata), “Contact” series, Inyo National Forest, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California.
Common Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia), Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington (also found in California).
Ground iris (Iris macrosiphon), “Wrapped” Series, Ring Mountain Open Space Preserve, Corte Madera, California.
Cover of our new award-winning coffee table book
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