The Poison Ivy Problem

This is part of a weblog documenting my travels and photography. I am primarily a nature photographer, and you can see more of my work at

I have been approached by both National Geographic and National Geographic Adventure magazines this year, inquiring whether I had any photographs of Poison Ivy. I had some, but none that would meet their requirements for a story on how Poison Ivy is growing lushly in this era of global warming. So I have been on the lookout for good patches of this evil vine.

When I rolled into camp at Caddo Lake State Park at twilight, my van’s headlights illuminated a healthy Poison Ivy vine climbing a pine tree right in my campsite. It was late and I was tired, but I decided to try shooting anyway. The ground was covered with Poison Ivy, so I laid down large plastic bags to completely cover the plants so that neither my legs or the tripod legs would brush against the leaves. I set my digital camera to the highest ISO setting and placed the camera on a tripod. I wanted to look up the trunk at the sky, so I used a special 24mm tilt lens that allows me to get everything in focus from the immediate foreground to the top of the tree, plus I used small f-stop to achieve a greater depth-of-field. It was almost dark, so I “painted” the Poison Ivy using a flashlight during a fifteen second exposure. Then I went to the picnic table and downloaded the image to my computer to check the exposure. My initial guesses as to composition and exposure were good, so I then took two more photographs and called it a night. In the computer the only major change I made was to the light temperature, which I changed to a more daylight balance (the flashlight’s tungsten bulb was too yellow).

That is how I solved my Poison Ivy problem. I really like the resulting image, which shows the lush growth of Poison Ivy and actually shows stars in the deep twilight sky. Plus I only got one Poison Ivy blister, on my trigger finger!

Explore posts in the same categories: caddo lake, danger, environment, hiking, nature, outdoor, photo, photography, plant, science, state parks, texas

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