By Tom Wilson.
If you like to photograph wildflowers, March and April are prime time. One of my favorite places to go in the last week of March is a particularly easy boardwalk/trail in Northwest Georgia. The Shirley Miller Wildflower Trail, located at 299 Pocket Road in Chickamauga, is about a two-hour drive from my home in Woodstock. But no matter where you live, it’s worth a trip to the place called “the Pocket.”
The entire walk is just under a mile, including a portion at the end of the boardwalk that takes you to a waterfall at the end of the trail. There are approximately 50 species of wildflowers that can be seen and photographed from the boardwalk and the trail. In addition to the wildflowers, there are also many opportunities for intimate landscapes in this area.
The days that I typically target to visit this area are March 28-29. To help you plan your visit, you may want to check out this website – The Pocket/Pigeon Mountain | USWildflowers.com Journal – which includes a calendar of blooming dates for various wildflowers.
I tend to take a variety of camera gear with me to the Pocket, including my 70-180 micro Nikkor as well as my Sigma 150mm f2.8 Macro lens. One of the reasons I prefer longer focal length lenses at this location is because you are required to stay on the boardwalk, so sometimes you need a little more reach. I also take the lenses that I use for wide-angle close-up shots.
Additionally, I pack equipment for modifying the light, such as macro flash, reflectors and diffusers. A tripod and remote releases are always in my bag, too. It’s not a bad idea to carry a gardener’s kneepad, because even a boardwalk can start to feel pretty hard if you kneel on it long enough. I’ll also carry the lenses and filters that I use for making landscape photographs, since there are good opportunities in the area.
One of those opportunities isn’t on the property itself. It’s the “Blue Hole” in the Crockford Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Area. This natural spring, with its cold, clear water, marks a good starting point for those hiking to Ellison’s Cave, one of the deepest in the continental United States. It’s definitely worth a stop on your way to or from the Pocket. The address is 1399 Blue Hole Rd, #1025, LaFayette, GA 30728.
When I visit the Shirley Miller Wildflower Trail, I like to get there early and bring a lunch with me, even if I leave it in the car. As with all nature photography it’s good to have water, raingear, sun protection, bug repellent and any other gear that you carry on outdoor activities. To legally access this area, you need a valid Georgia fishing or hunting license, or the Lands Pass that provides access to state wildlife management areas.
When planning a trip, remember to consider the weather. Overcast conditions can be very good for photographing wildflowers, and those are the kind of days that I tend to favor when picking a time to visit the Pocket. The other element I consider is the wind. If the forecast calls for windy conditions, I will usually try to select a different day to visit there. Photographing wildflowers in windy conditions can be very frustrating, so it’s best to target calmer days. But whenever you go, have fun and enjoy this beautiful place.
Tom Wilson is a nature photographer working primarily in Georgia and the Southeast. He is Vice President of GNPA, is past chair of the Conservation Committee and is current chair of the Communications Committee.