As I write this, snow is swirling outside my office window. Anyone who knows me well knows I hate winter. Winter in Canada anyway. October to May in the Caribbean, Thailand, Bali to name a few places would be infinitely more bearable. Life is what it is and I am firmly planted here in Calgary Alberta, Canada for the foreseeable future.
Today my thoughts turned to a right of spring I participated in for at least 30 years. It was the search for the perfect crocus photograph. According to Wikipedia: “Crocus (plural: crocuses, croci) is a genus in the iris family comprising about 80 species of perennials growing from corms. Many are cultivated for their flowers appearing in autumn, winter, or spring. Crocuses are native to woodland, scrub and meadows from sea level to alpine tundra in central and southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, on the islands of the Aegean, and across Central Asia to western China. The name of the genus is derived from the Greek krokos (κρόκος). This in turn is probably a loan word from a Semitic language, related to Hebrew כרכום karkōm, Aramaic ܟܟܘܪܟܟܡܡܐ kurkama, Persian and Arabic كركم kurkum, which mean saffron or saffron yellow. The name ultimately comes from Sanskrit कुङ्कुमं kunkumam, unless the Sanskrit word is from the Semitic one.”
As the weather warms and the snow recedes I keep an eye out for a faint burst of purple peaking through the native grasslands around Calgary. I inherited this crocus fascination from my mother. I think deep down she was just as depressed about winter as I am. As a child I would tag along with her as she hiked through local grasslands looking for that “perfect” crocus. Many years later and several hundred photographs of crocuses printed my mother rewarded my efforts by purchasing a crocus photograph from one of my photographic students. This picture was prominently displayed on our living room. In all fairness it was a very nice photograph (grumble grumble).
My quest continued, now with a heightened sense of urgency, I had to replace that photograph in the living room with one of my own. It was a pride thing. The gauntlet had been thrown down.
It never happened. My mother died from cancer but at least she had a crocus photograph that gave her pleasure and reminded her of the great times we had together. However my quest continued unabated.
Jump forward a bunch of years to an afternoon spent in Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park with a group of photographers from my Large Format Users Group. I started this group around 2006 to promote the use of large format film cameras in Calgary. Naturally a side benefit was meeting and becoming friends with a great bunch of photographers. On this day however I had my Nikon D70s equipped with a razor sharp Nikkor 60mm macro lens by my side. No pretty large format landscapes for me today, it was crocus day!
After two hours of climbing hills, sliding down into steep gullies just to climb up the other side I finally found my crocus. There were no trumpets. Charlton Heston did not appear as Moses and point to this perfect flower with his God given staff. Nor was the light right. Urgh! After several moments of disgust I thought I might as well take the shot and see if I could do something with it in Photoshop. Heck if you can make ugly people look like runway models in Photoshop I should be able to fix the lighting.
My tripod would not allow me to get down to the level I wanted so my LowePro pack was pressed into service. A few errant sprigs of grass were removed (yes I am one of those, get over it) focus was adjusted and I was ready to make my photograph. Then a miracle happened, a cloud covered the sun. Thanks mom, I am sure you were watching me. Hopefully you find this shot worthy of your mantel in heaven.
The photo may not be perfect in your eyes and maybe you have better ones yourself. Personally I am happy with this one and have ended my quest. I have not taken another crocus picture since. Mission accomplished.
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