©Bert Gildart: Oregon grape is now growing in profusion in our back yard, just as it is in areas all over the northwest. It’s a harbinger of spring but also one of my favorite plants, a judgement that began years ago.
In a college botany class each student was required to create a plant collection then select one species from the collection and describe everything about it that might make it interesting. I selected Majonia repens (Oregon grape) because it was not only beautiful but functional as well.
As seen, the plant produces a cluster of small, bright yellow flowers, each of which contains six petals, nine sepals, six stamens. Not too much prior to my college collection the plant was reclassified.
Previously the plant had been grouped with the genus Berberis, but because that genus also included 500 other plants botanists renamed Oregon grape and designated it Majonia.
Interestingly, come fall the plant produces a grape which is high in Vitamin C and was once used to treat scurvy. Many still collect the berry which is crushed and made into a jelly. Indians crushed and dried the yellow roots to cure such maladies as heartburn, rheumatism, kidney problems, and some skin conditions.
With its yellow flowers the plant is a delight to photograph and to accentuate the vibrant yellow color I decided I wanted a black background. As a result, I set my tripod mounted camera on manual, then set my two strobes to “slave.” I went to the camera’s menu, found the appropriate window to designate my on-camera strobe to master, then chose an aperture of f32 to maximize depth of field.
Then, to completely overpower existing daylight, I set the shutter to 250th of a second. Because I had no photo assistant I set the camera for a 15 second delayed exposure so I could step away from the camera and hand hold the strobes. Recently fallen rain increased the plant’s color saturation.
It’s a technique that works well for me.