Where in the World – Backstories Behind the Images – Lupine Season


Beginning in late May, fields, pastures and roadsides in New Hampshire’s White Mountains are decorated with gorgeous spikes of color as lupines begin to bloom. Many visitors are drawn to the area to enjoy the lovely flowers and take in the annual Lupine Festival, sponsored jointly by a number of mountain communities.

I looked forward with great anticipation to lupine season, and photographed the blooms every year.

As with the autumn foliage, however, this “show” can be somewhat unpredictable – both in terms of timing as well as how productive various fields might be from one year to the next.

The season this photo was made was a challenging one. The lupines didn’t begin to dot the landscape until quite late, and even then many of the fields which are normally reliable performers had relatively few flowers. Mid-June rolled around and my camera and I were still pretty much empty-handed. Quite unusual. In one final attempt, I drove the nearly 150 miles from my house up to the north side of the Presidential range near the town of Jefferson for a late-day shoot. This is not an area I normally worked during lupine season, but a friend had tipped me off to some fields there and I decided to give it a try. The forecast didn’t look all that great: mainly clear skies meant there would be little chance for color in the sky at the end of the day. However, this being the 20th of June, I knew the clock was ticking in terms of the blooms lasting much longer. I was going no matter what.

After about an hour, I was surprised to see the sky filling with cumulus clouds. Such good luck! The further I ventured, however, it had the makings of too-much-of-a-good-thing, with the clouds thickening quite a lot. I wondered if it might be completely overcast by the time I arrived. Still didn’t matter. I was going no matter what!

I arrived at the field at about 5pm, scouted it, and found my shot. Now to wait: both for sunset, and to see whether there’d be any color. This being the longest day of the year, sunset was a long way off.

No problem! I was on a gravel road out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by lovely scenery. I could take a walk, or pull out a lawn chair and read a book, right? Wrong. Because springtime in the mountains of New England isn’t just lupine season: it’s also black fly season. And that evening, they were out in droves. These little creatures aren’t just annoying (I’ve had the camera lens covered with them)……they also bite. In fact, they love to bite! At least, they love to bite me – and I’m allergic to them. Bug repellent, netting….I’ve tried it, to no avail. In the end, I wear long sleeves, a hat, and tuck as much in as possible to limit the damage. 🙂

So I sat in the hot car with the windows rolled up and waited, while watching the clouds. About 45 minutes prior to sunset, I joined the flies (who were happy for my company) and made my way into position. I’d be shooting to the east, and was hoping to catch some alpenglow. In order for the shot to be successful, it required a good sky. I kept turning around to see what was happening to the opposite horizon – where there were a LOT of clouds. Were they going to part and let the last rays of light poke through? Were the nicely-shaped clouds hovering over the mountains going to hold together long enough to pick up any color? It didn’t look promising.

But then, for just a few minutes, everything worked. There was a sliver of an opening to the west: enough for the sun to create some wonderful alpenglow. Though the clouds directly overhead were flat, the ones hugging the Presidentials were perfect. This was the finishing touch I needed for that season’s last-chance lupine shoot to be a success.

I finished working, packed up my gear, and settled in for the long ride back home.

The black fly bites don’t feel nearly as uncomfortable when you’ve got a photograph to show for it.

This image was used in our “Come and See” series of inspirational art.

Stop by next Saturday to see where in the world we’ll go next!

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