Do you recall the time of day the shot (above) was taken?
I sure do! It was sunrise – 6:15 am. This image was made shortly after the first rays of sunlight filtered through the trees.
What drew you to this particular spot?
I always come to Pilcher Park in early April to play in the mud in search of the delicate yellow blooms of marsh marigold. My goal was to find an uncluttered spot in the black mud so that the flowers and surrounding foliage would glow against a dark backdrop.
How long did it take you to get the perfect shot?
It can take years of waiting or planning to make a successful image of a specific blooming event. There can be a season when the weather and light do not cooperate or years with low densities of flowers. This was my first year photographing these flowers, and it was a good year. In the predawn light, I gave myself enough time to find the right spot before the sun arrived.
My process for creating photographs always begins with paying attention to my heart, my emotions. As I walk along, whenever I see something that makes my heart pitter-patter, I close one eye and, with the other to the viewfinder, I examine the scene. Once again, I'm immersed in the splendor, but through the lens of the camera. I call this "living in the viewfinder."
Through this new perspective, I carefully compose the image by paying careful attention to my feelings. I tilt and turn and lift and lower the camera until what I see in the viewfinder makes my heart race again. Only then will I release the shutter to record the moment that also includes my emotional experience: my feelings on film, my emotions on emulsion, my senses on the sensor. If, however, I cannot replicate the feeling through the viewfinder, I simply move on without snapping the shutter.
Did you have to go back several times to get the shot you wanted?
To minimize the risk of missing once-a-year or once-in-a-decade blooms, I used my time in the wilds of Chicago to create a computer database of peak wildflower bloom times that occur throughout the season. Every day, the database prompts me on my screen to go out and scout various preserves.
However, nature is unpredictable, and my dates act more like time windows. Therefore, to nail down an exact peak bloom time for that year, it's often necessary to make multiple visits to a preserve. Because I wanted to photograph the marsh marigolds at their peak, I visited this spot in Pilcher Park one or two times in the days prior.
What do you hope people feel when they look at the photo?
I'm hoping that people will feel something that's hopeful, positive, and uplifting. In my photographs, I try to convey the essence of what nature is currently presenting along with the emotion that it brings out in me.
For me, this springtime image brings feelings of hope, newness, and rebirth, as the low welcoming light of day illuminates the golden marigolds and shines through the large fanning leaves of skunk cabbage.
Is there anything else that you’d like to mention?
The wonderful mud at Pilcher Park is as opaque as black ink, as proven by the stains on my clothes!