Episode 2: Welcome to our first Tidbit Tuesday episode, where I give you practical photography tips or outdoor advice and answer your submitted questions. Today, we talk about filters used in outdoor photography, which also relates to two of our listener questions.
I explain the four different types of filters commonly used in outdoor photography, the three that I think are the ones worth having, how and when to use them, what to look for when choosing a filter, and some recommendations. So if you are considering whether or not to add filters to your photography kit, or whether it’s time to upgrade what you have, this episode is for you.
I then answer three listener questions.
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ABOUT BRENDA PETRELLA (host)
You're listening to the Outdoor Photography Podcast Episode 2. Today is our first Tidbit Tuesday episode, which will come out every other Tuesday and will alternate with our longer form interview episodes. Tidbit Tuesday is where I'll share some practical photography tips or outdoor advice and it's also where I'll answer a few of your submitted questions.
Our topic today is all about filters used in landscape and nature photography and I admit this one's a bit longer than what our typical tidbit Tuesday episodes will be because there is a lot to cover. We will chat about the four different types of filters commonly used in outdoor photography, the three that I think are the only ones worth having, how and when to use them, what to look for when choosing a filter and some of my recommendations. So, if you are considering whether or not to add filters to your photography kit or whether it's time to upgrade what you have, this episode is for you. So stay tuned.
Hi, I'm Brenda Petrella, the creator of Outdoor Photography School. Join me as I sit down with top landscape and nature photographers and outdoor industry experts to chat about creativity, composition, photography tips and techniques, essential gear, safety in the outdoors, respect for nature and so much more. Tune in every week to learn how to create compelling and impactful images while exploring and enjoying the natural world. Welcome to the Outdoor Photography Podcast.
Hey everyone Brenda Petrella here here to help you create better images and reconnect with nature. I'm excited for today's episode because I get a lot of questions on the Outdoor Photography School Youtube channel about photography filters, and so I hope this overview will be helpful for folks interested in using them.
So let's start off with a very basic definition. The filters that I'm going to talk about today are physical pieces of glass that mount to the front of your lens to achieve a desired effect in your image. These are different from digitally applied filters that you can add two images on social media platforms like instagram, which we will not talk about today. And they are different from digital filters that you can apply in photo editing software such as Adobe Lightroom, which we will talk about later on when I answer one of our listener questions.
So what is the point of using filters in the first place? Well, when we expose an image we control the aperture shutter speed and ISO in such a way as to capture the nature of light on our subject, filters are just another tool that we can use to control the amount of and the quality of the light hitting our camera's sensor. So we're going to talk about the four basic types of filters commonly used in landscape and nature photography. And they are the circular polarizer filter, neutral density filters, graduated neutral density filters, and a UV or ultraviolet filter. So let's start off with the UV filter since it's fairly simple to explain and there are a couple of misconceptions around it, especially for new photographers. When you look at the electromagnetic spectrum of light, Visible light is basically sandwiched between ultraviolet light and infrared light. So visible light includes the wavelengths of light that are perceptible to the human eye, which spans between 400 and 700 nm below 400 nanometers, you start to enter the ultraviolet or UV spectrum.
So back in the days of film photography, certain types of film depending on their chemical composition were actually sensitive to UV light which would throw off the colors in the image. Therefore filters that blocked wavelengths of light in the UV spectrum were actually super helpful in digital photography. However, there is very little utility and using UV filters for two reasons. One, most modern lenses already have UV blocking coatings on them and to digital sensors also have built in UV IR cut filters that block the UV and IR or infrared spectrums of light. So, in fact, if you wanted to do photography that used UV or IR light, then you would actually need to get what's called a full spectrum camera conversion which is a modification where the camera's internal UV IR cut filter is removed and replaced with a clear filter. So I'll put a link in the show notes at outdoor photography school dot com forward slash episode two to a peta pixel article if you want to read more about the lack of need for UV light filtration on modern cameras.
So the only other reason that one might consider a UV filter for outdoor photography with a digital camera would be for protection. And sometimes when you buy a camera dealers will actually include a UV filter in a bundle or upsell you on it saying that it will add protection to your camera lens. Unfortunately, this has led many photographers to believe falsely that a UV filter will protect their lenses from breakage if dropped When in reality, what the filter might actually offer protection against is fingerprints, dust, water droplets and things of that nature filter manufacturers when they say they're UV filters will provide protection. Do not actually claim that their filters will protect the lens if dropped. But many photographers still consider this filter as cheap insurance for their expensive lens and it's just not. So in truth, if you drop your lens, it's more likely to suffer internal damage than getting the front element scratched or broken. And I'll put a link in the show notes to a video by steve perry who tested this very question of whether UV filters protect lenses from breakage or scratches any better than without the filter and it's a really interesting video or checking out.
So are U V filters worth investing in? My recommendation is no, if you're using a DSLR or mirrorless camera. Well, what if you already have one that came bundled with your camera. Well, unfortunately, those UV filters are often made from cheap materials and it's more likely going to adversely affect your image quality than effectively protect your lens. So I think you're better off without it. Okay, so now let's move on to one of my favorite filters. The circular polarizer filter. This filter pretty much never leaves my bag and I'll explain why in a bit. So the purpose of using a circular polarizer or CPL is to reduce the glare or reflective nature of water. So it's great for waterfall photography or photographing rivers and streams, lakes, really any body of water and it's also helpful for reducing glare on wet leaves, rocks, or other surfaces after a rain. CPLs can also improve contrast a little bit and increase color saturation, which is something to keep in mind when you use it because that may or may not be your intended effect.
Cps also often reduce the transmission of light by about one or two stops depending on the manufacturer and that can come in handy as well for using slightly longer shutter speeds if you'd like. We'll talk more about long exposures when we chat about neutral density filters. So how does the CPL work in? How do you use it properly? Well, a circular polarizing filter consists of two special lights, pieces of glass that rotate around each other in between these two pieces of glass is a very thin polarizing film that together with the two pieces of glass works to reduce the polarization of reflected light So each piece of glass has its own ring? One mounts to your lens and the other one is attached but rotates and turns the polarizing film in place so you have full control over how much of the polarization filter effect is applied as you rotate the ring. So let's talk about a couple of things you should look for when choosing a CPL.
First of all. Like with any filter, the glass material makes a huge difference ideally you would choose a filter that's made from either german shot glass. That's S C H O T T shot glass or Japanese optical glass, since these are the purest forms on the market and have the most light transmission. Second, look for filters that have multi-coatings because these codings further improve light transmission and also reduce the flare and possible ghosting that can occur. Third, look for that central polarizing film to be optical grade. Now, not all manufacturers will indicate this, but if they do, you know, it will be of a higher quality. And lastly, look for the rings to be made of brass instead of aluminum because brass is a harder material and is usually much better engineered, which will make threading it on and off the end of your lens a whole lot easier. This is true for all screw on filters. I can't tell you how many times I've been frustrated out in the field not being able to remove a screw on filter from my lens and totally missing the shot. So why do I love using a CPO? Well, for one waterfalls and streams are among my favorite subjects to photograph.
And I almost always use a CPL for those compositions and to the glare-reducing effects of the CPL is not something that can be replicated using digital filters available in post processing software. So now I'd like to mention a couple of quick tips when using a CPL one. The polarizing effect is greatest when your lenses pointing perpendicular to the sun, although you can still have the effect to some extent when you're not exactly perpendicular to be sure to repolarize the filter if you're switching between landscape in vertical formats because that will change how it's working. And three, as I mentioned before, it will add a little bit of color saturation and there are times when you might not want that effect or you could actually potentially blow out one of the RGB channels, especially when shooting, say the fall colors. So you should be sure to check your RGB histogram to make sure you're not blowing any of those channels out. So when would you not want to use the polarizer? Well, when you actually do want to get a reflection on the water, like a mirror image shot or when you want to capture reflected color on the water, then I would recommend not using it at all.
Or just applying a tiny bit of the polarization effect. It's also less effective on a cloudy day. So I still typically use it for water shots when it's cloudy out, but others may prefer not to. And third it can turn a regular blue sky into a deep blue color, which in some conditions might be a good thing, but it could also make it look a little unnatural. So again, this is up to your personal preference. So the bottom line on the CPL, if I had to pick just one filter for my photography kit, it would be this one. All right now, let's get on to the third kind of photography filter, which is the neutral density or ND filter. ND filters work by blocking the transmission of light ideally without changing the color of light in any way. This is where the word neutral comes from. And the simplest analogy for nD filters is that they are like sunglasses for your camera. ND filters are essential to long exposure photography because they allow you to extend the shutter speed well beyond what you would use for normal exposures under most conditions, you can also use the ND filter to reduce the intensity of light if you want to use a very shallow depth of field with a white aperture in really bright conditions.
ND filters come in a variety of strengths based on how dark they are and how much light they block. So they're typically characteristic according to how many stops of light they block. And a stop of light is just a unit that represents one exposure value or E V. And an exposure value is just a relative change in exposure that is controlled by your aperture shutter speed and ISO settings. So for example, a change of one stop of light is the equivalent of either having or doubling the intensity of light hitting the camera's sensor And the math behind this is based on the way light behaves on many modern cameras. When you change your exposure settings. Using the command dial, every click of that dial represents a change of one-third stop of light. So in order to change the intensity of light by one full stop, you would do three clicks. And on most cameras, you can change the settings so that each click is a different ratio of a stop of light, but a third is usually the default setting. Now, if any of that was confusing to you, I'll put a link in the show notes to an article I wrote on outdoor photography school if you want to learn more about stops of light.
F stops in aperture. So nd filters that are commonly used in landscape photography include the three stops, six top 10 stop, and 15 stop filters. So a three-stop filter blocks the equivalent of three stops of light from hitting your sensor and you would be able to then change your exposure settings by three stops of light. So for example, if you wanted to do a long exposure, you would decrease your shutter speed by three stops, which is nine clicks on your shutter speed dial. If your camera is set to exchange exposure values by one-third of a stop. Unfortunately, the terminology around how ND filters are characteristic differs between manufacturers and this can be very confusing when you're trying to choose an ND filter. So some manufacturers use stops to reference the light filtering capability just as we were talking about. Whereas others use what's called an ND factor, which is the multiplier of light being blocked. So for instance, an ND four filter would block four times the amount of light and because of the halving and doubling nature of one stop of light.
An nD four filter blocks, two stops of light. This is why it can start to get super confusing and I wish manufacturers would just standardize the classifications that would make it a lot more helpful. There is a third classification called the optical transmission factor or the optical density, which I find even more confusing because a filter with an optical density of 0.3 blocks the equivalent of one-stop of light, which is half the amount of light hitting the sensor. So that just makes my brain do gymnastics and I find it very confusing. So thankfully some filter manufacturers provide tables that show what these different classifications mean, but you may need to dig around on their websites to find about it a little bit more. So when would you want to use an ND filter? Well, primarily nD filters are used for long exposure photography where you want to drastically slow the shutter speed down to get a creamy look of moving water or clouds or blur the motion of moving subjects such as people or wildlife or cars or whatever.
You can use Nd filters with a circular polarizer filter as well, which is what I commonly do for waterfalls in order to achieve even longer shutter speeds. And as I already mentioned, they can also be used to reduce the depth of field on a bright day. It might be too bright to use the aperture you wish for your desired depth of field. And like the circular polarizer, it is nearly impossible to replicate the effects of an ND filter in post-processing because it allows you to make creative decisions around your exposure settings that control motion capture and depth of field. So one thing to keep in mind when using a neutral density filter is the darker the filter, like a 10 stop filter, for instance, the more challenging it will be to focus. So you will either need to focus before applying the filter and try to maintain that focus point while mounting the filter, or with the filter on - crank the ISO way up to brighten the scene and then focus and then adjust it back down to the appropriate is so needed for the exposure.
Now, if you're using a mirror, less camera, this will be less of an issue for you. And lastly sometimes calculating the appropriate exposure settings can be challenging when using an ND filter and so to do this, say for a long exposure, what you would do is set your aperture shutter speed and ISO to get an appropriate exposure and then change the shutter speed, the same number of stops of light that the ND filter blocks. So for example, let's say your scene would be appropriately exposed at an aperture of f 16 11 25th of a second shutter speed and at ISO 100 you were going to use a six-stop and the filter then you would need to change the shutter speed by six stops, which would be 18 clicks of your dial, which would give you a new shutter speed of one half of a second. Alternatively, you can use apps such as photo pills to calculate the new exposure settings based on your nd filter and if you're brand new to photo pills, I've done an entire series on how to use photo pills over on the outdoor photography school youtube channel.
Although I don't think I covered this particular tool in this series, but I'll just plug it anyway. If you want to get started in learning how to use photo pills for planning images, especially night sky images, then be sure to check out my PhotoPills Friday series. Okay, so the bottom line is if you want to play around with long exposures or shallow depth of field on bright days, then having a set of ND filters in your kit would be a good edition. If you wanted to just pick one to start with, then I would recommend starting with the six-stop ND because it's easy to work with and it usually provides enough light-blocking capability to get the effect you want in a long exposure. And then if you like what you get from the six-stop, you can always get the 10 or 15 stop filters later if you want to start using shutter speeds longer than say around three or five minutes. Okay, we are almost done. The fourth filter most commonly used in landscape photography is the graduated neutral density filter, basically graduated neutral density filters which are also known as grads or GNDS are a piece of glass where about one half of the glass has light blocking properties like a regular neutral density filter And the other half is clear and there's a gradient transition between the two and this transition can either be really gradual throughout the entire filter and this is called a soft GmD or it can be more abrupt and this would be considered a hard G nd.
A graduated neutral density filter is helpful when you're photographing a high dynamic range seen and you would like to even out the exposure difference between the highlights and the shadows in a single image. So you would put the darker portion of the G and D over the brighter areas of the scene, photographing an ocean, for example, is a good use case for using a G and E. Especially a hard G. Nd if you have a horizon that's not broken by cliffs and island lighthouse or something like that. A soft GND on the other hand is a little more forgiving given its wider gradient. And it's handy for when you do have objects in your scene that break the horizon. Keep in mind, however, that objects that protrude above the horizon will also be darkened a bit by the filter. So that can be a trade-off bottom line on the Grad nd. So should you get one or not? Well, unlike circular polarizer is and neutral density filters, The effects that you can achieve with the Grad ND actually can be replicated in post-processing using software like Lightroom.
And I'll go into more details on this when I answer a listener's question on this very topic. Before we get into the questions though, let me give you a few final thoughts on what you should consider when purchasing filters for your landscape or nature photography. So one, filters can be screw on square or rectangular. So which shape should you get? Well, first off, the circular polarizer is obviously circular, so that's a no-brainer. The neutral density and GND filters can be either shape the square or rectangular filters do require a filter holder that mounts to the end of your lens. So while this could potentially add cost. The advantages of going this route include being able to stack multiple filters together without needing to screw them to each other, which can often mean that they just get stuck and near impossible to separate. I would also highly recommend that if you wanted to use brad nd's that you avoid the screw on kind altogether because it really limits you and how you can compose your image.
You must have the horizon in the middle for a circular grad nd to work properly. Whereas if you use a square or rectangular one, you can adjust where that gradient is exactly to where you want to darken a specific area of your image. So next, what filter size should you get? Well, the size of the filters depends on the thread sizes of your lens. But generally speaking, the most versatile route is to go by one set of filters that you can use across multiple lenses. So for circular filters, I would recommend getting an 82 millimeter filter and a handful of step down rings that will allow you to convert from the 82 millimeters to whatever smaller thread size you need for your other lenses. Step down rings are fairly inexpensive. They're about 1/5 the cost of filters, but you don't want to go super cheap on them either so that you don't run into poor engineering and jammed filters. So why do I recommend 82 millimeters? Well, it's probably the largest filter thread you will need because wide angle lenses, which are lenses with focal lengths wider than, say about 20 millimeters, will often have a bulbous front element and they're not conducive to screw on filters.
Anyway, that said, if you have a lens with a filter size that is greater than 82 millimeters and it does not have a bulbous front, then start with that size filter and get step down rings according to that. Every lens has a filter size marked on it. So if you don't know what it is, you can usually find it under the lens near the mount or on the front element and it's indicated by the greek letter phi, which just looks like a circle with a line through it. Lastly, let's talk about cost versus quality. So you've probably heard the saying by nicer by twice and that definitely applies to photography filters. Now, there are plenty of low quality, cheaply made and therefore very affordable filters out there. But the quality of the glass is just not even worth that minimal cost. They will degrade the quality of your image through the netting color cast being easily scratched and are likely uncoated and so you might get ghosting or flaring and they likely have threads that will end up jammed or bent in some way.
It's a glass on your lens is of higher quality. Even with kit lenses. So if you put a low quality filter in front of it, it will affect the image. So it's better not to use any filters and just save up for when you can purchase a quality filter. People ask what filter manufacturer I used to recommend and after trying out different levels of quality and different brands a couple of years ago I decided to invest and breakthrough photography filters which I absolutely love for the following reasons. One there is essentially no vignette ng even at wide angles which is amazing to compared to other manufacturers, they have essentially no color cast and I'll put a link in the show notes showing a comparison of this three. They're very lightweight and scratch resistant for the screw on filters are really easy to take on and off five. They have a 25 year guarantee, meaning if anything happens to your filter during that time, they will replace it And they also have very excellent customer support. Now they also have my new favorite type of filter.
It's a new technology which they call magnetic filters. So you basically get this magnetic filter adapter, you screw that onto your lens and then you can magnetically attach your filters to that. So I use this for my circular polarizer and it is so easy to use and turn and they also now have what's called the dark CPL, which is essentially a three stop ND filter and circular polarizer filter combo. So it's one filter doing two jobs that's easy to take on and off your lens. And these are the two filters that I use almost all the time when I'm doing any sort of water photography. The only downside to Breakthrough photography filters in my book is that they're often out of stock so that can be kind of a pain. So you may have to be patient if you're looking to order some. Okay, now let's answer your submitted questions. I love hearing from you. So, if you have a question about photography or the outdoors that you would like to have answered on the podcast, just head on over to outdoor photography school dot com forward slash podcast and you'll see a button there that you can click to record your question.
So, here's our first question. Hi, my name is Tim. I'm from New Zealand. Um, is it best? Do you think? Sorry? Do you think it's better to use nd grades or do it in post afterwards in Lightroom. Thanks. Hey, Tim. Thanks so much for this question and it fits really well into today's topic. It's one that's been debated a lot in the photography community. So, as I mentioned previously, the effect you get with the Grad Nd is one of the only ones that can be digitally replicated in adobe lightroom using the graduated filter tool. So the question is then, do you really need to invest in a Grad nd? And one thing that I've wondered about is whether there is a difference in quality on the pixel level between using a physical or digital graduated filter. And after doing a lot of research on this, I could not find any studies that indicate that there actually is a difference. Now, I haven't run any tests myself, but I think this shows that on a practical level there really isn't any significant difference between the physical and digital graduated filters.
In fact, many professional photographers have sworn off the use of physical grad filters altogether. So I think choosing between the physical filter and applying the same effect in lightroom comes down to two things. Personal preference for how you like to create your images and the scene you're photographing. So if you're the kind of photographer who would rather spend more time in the field with your camera and exposing your compositions as you see fit in camera, then by all means you'll have a lot of fun with the Grad NDs. However, if you're someone who enjoys experimenting and creating the final image during the post processing process, then using the digital Grad in Lightroom is probably the better option for you personally. I enjoy doing both and I do use my Grad Andy's in the field, but if I'm shaving weight in my pack, they are definitely the first ones that I ditch. So what are some of the advantages of using a graduated filter in lightroom or a similar post processing software? Well, one because no glass is involved, it does not add any color cast to the image whatsoever to by making these adjustments digitally, you're not limited to just modifying the exposure.
You can also use the grad filter to adjust color temperature or tint Contrast, saturation clarity, d haze and so forth. three. Let's say you exposed properly for the sky because the sky was really interesting, but you want to lighten up the foreground a bit. Then in post processing you can drag the graduated filter tool up from the bottom of the image to apply the effects to just the foreground. And for you have more fine tuning control using the graduated filter in lightroom than a physical one. So, for example, when you have objects that protrude above the horizon line, then you can use the graduated filter tool to darken the sky and then use a brush to erase away where that gradient was applied so that the objects that are above the horizon are not darkened as well. So are there any disadvantages to using the digital graduated filter? Well, if you didn't capture the exposure properly in the first place, then post processing isn't going to recover lost pixels such as blown out highlights.
So if you have a really high dynamic scene, the physical grad. Nd might still be helpful to use so that the image you capture has all of the pixel information you need to properly process it. Alternatively, you could skip the graduated filters altogether and capture two images, one exposing for the highlights and one exposing for the Shadows and then blend those images in post processing. So I hope that answers your question. Hi Brenda Joshua. Gucci from Connecticut um, big fan of your Youtube channel and I'm really excited about this new podcast. Congratulations. Uh, and good luck. Um, my question for you is um, about light pollution filters. I'm a novice. I just started doing um, astro photography. Um, and I've been seeing some of these um, filters online and I wanted to know what your opinion on these are. If they're worth getting if there sometimes that are better to use them than others. Um, just your general thoughts on those. Um, and that's it for now.
Thank you very much. Bye. Hey josh. Thanks so much for your kind words. I really appreciate that. And this is an excellent question that I think many people getting into night sky photography have. So to start off, I want to make a distinction between night sky photography and astrophotography. The terms are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference. So you can think of night sky photography as shooting star trails, image leeway or the moon using standard focal lines that you would typically use in landscape photography in astrophotography. The goal is to capture deep sky objects such as nebulae, which requires whole different setup of equipment, including potentially a different camera body, a telescope, multiple types of filters and a star tracker. So I'm going to assume since you're just getting into it, that you're most interested in learning about using light pollution filters for night sky photography and I'll put links to references in the show notes for more information about using filters for astrophotography, since I actually don't have any personal experience with that. Okay, so let's start off with the problem and then talk about solutions.
So finding purely dark skies is quite the challenge due to light pollution and we can see the effects of light pollution in our night sky images even when we are in remote areas. So light pollution will add an orangey hue to your images and can also make the stars look a little more washed out. Now there are ways of correcting this somewhat imposed processing but it could enhance noise or introduce unwanted artifacts in the image. So what light pollution filters do is filter out the specific wavelengths of the orangey yellow light that's emitted by street lamps which are still most commonly sodium and mercury vapor lamps and the colors admitted by these lamps fall on the electromagnetic spectrum at about 575 to 600 nanometers. Light pollution filters are made of didanium, which is basically a special mixture of different types of glass that blocks these specific wavelengths of light. In fact, a quick little history lesson didanium was first used in eye protection for glass blowers to protect their vision from the bright orangey light that gets admitted by the hot sodium that's present in melted glass.
So using a didanium light pollution filter will capture a more accurate color of the night sky. It will create a cleaner raw file and it will reduce the amount of post processing time that you'll need to spend in trying to clean up the image. Now there are many light pollution filters out there and all of the quality versus cost considerations that we've already talked about in this episode apply here as well. So the two filters that I recommend you check out our one, the Hoya Starscape filter, which used to be called the red intensifier. It works really well and it is the more affordable option of the two I mentioned. However, it is only available in a screw on format and it's uncoated. Also, it will reduce a little bit of light transmission so you might need to adjust your night sky exposure settings. So the second one that will recommend if you want to go for a little bit of a higher quality is the one from Lonely Speck called the pure night filter and it's available in a square version. So this way you can use it with any lens so long as you're using a compatible filter holder.
And what's also better about the pure night filter is that it's multi coded, which improves the contrast a little bit and it also reduces flare when you have a bright light source against a dark background. And lastly, it also has slightly stronger filtration properties than the Hoya filter. Either one would improve your night sky images by filtering out the light pollution wavelengths. So it's really up to you which one to go with? And I'll put links in the show notes at outdoor Photography school dot com forward slash episode two for these. If you want to check them out, I hope that answers your question Now for our last listener question. Hi Brenda paul Rotten here. Um I'm interested in photographing what I call dog tooth violets, sometimes known as trout lilies. Um when is the best time to photograph them? In other words, when do they bloom? And also where's the best place to find them? Um I'm into the violet pictures. So I'd love to find a spot where I can take pictures of dog tooth violets. Thanks Brenda.
Hey paul, thank you so much for this question. So even though this question doesn't fit into our topic today, I wanted to include it because when this episode is being published is when the dog tooth violets should be blooming. So it's very timely question and I'll admit I didn't know anything about the dog tooth violets or trout lilies before receiving your question, but I had some fun doing research and now I'm excited to try to find them as well. So the dog toots violet is a bulbous perennial woodland wildflower that is considered what's called a spring ephemeral, and this just means that there is a tiny window of opportunity to catch the bloom. They pair early in the spring, they quickly bloom and then wither away before the canopy trees of the forest have actually leafed out. Now the exact timing of the blooming depends on the location, so it can vary between february and may depending on your latitude in elevation. They enjoy soils that are covered with leaf litter, our humus, rich and well drained but moist and prefer dappled light, such as what you would get in a mixed deciduous or northern hardwood forest or even in a mountain Conifer forest at higher elevations.
They can also be found along streams and on slopes of some ravines, interestingly the dog tooth violets actually does not belong to the violet family of flowers, even though it kind of looks like a violet, it actually is part of the lily family. And so the other common name of trout lily is actually a little bit more accurate. So the reason why it's called a trout lily is because it has a distinct spotted pattern on its leaves, which looks like the spotted pattern of a trout. The name dog's tooth comes from the shape of the bulb, which is also known as the corn. So how do you identify them? Well, the plant only produces one flower which can be yellow, white or lilac in color and grows to be about 10 inches tall. The lilac version is native to europe, and so it can be found in the wild there, whereas the yellow and white flowers are found here in the eastern Us and Canada. The flower itself is small, it's just about an inch wide and it has pedals that curve backward. The head is also pointing down towards the ground.
It's best to try to photograph them on a sunny day if you can, because the flowers open and close according to the amount of light that's present and they may actually stay closed on a cloudy day. The spotted leaves can occur in Singleton's or pairs and their oval in shape. They're usually about 6-7" in length. And you can identify a mature plant because a mature plant will have two leaves, where as a juvenile plant usually only has one leaf and it's the mature plant that is most likely to bloom. So it's not uncommon to find a ground cover or colony of these leaves without seeing any blooms. So some other interesting facts that I learned about the trout lily. This transient and somewhat insignificant plant plays an important role in the woodland ecosystem by acting as a stabilizer for the forest floor and it also contributes important nutrients to the soil. And they also tend to reproduce underground via their corms rather than with their seeds. This is why they grow in these clusters or colonies and they will thrive in the right habitat.
But if that habitat gets destroyed somehow, the plant can become endangered because there are few seeds that are traveling to new sites and setting up new colonies. So they are actually becoming more vulnerable in certain states in the US. And I'll put two links in the show notes to maps that show this. It's always fun for me to learn about how nature is interconnected in this way. So thank you Paul for sharing your question.
All right, thank you so much for listening to our first Tibbett Tuesday episode and for your submitted questions as always, I appreciate you and I hope you got a lot of value out of today's episode. We have several amazing guests coming up on the podcast. Next week we'll be chatting with chase tucker, who is a certified strength and conditioning coach who helps people like you and me prepare our bodies for pain-free hiking and I've actually taken a couple of his programs and they work shortly after that. We'll have fine art, landscape, and nature, photographer Brenda Tharp on the show who is passionate about sharing her love of and respect for the natural world through her images, educational offerings, and workshops.
I'm really excited to share these conversations with you. So please stay tuned. If you want to get access to the links and other information mentioned today again, they are all in the show notes, which you can find at outdoor photography school dot com forward slash episode two, and last but not least if you are loving the podcast, it would mean the world to me. If you would take a minute to leave a review over on apple podcasts, this is the best way to help others learn about the show and I really, really appreciate it. And I'll be back here next week. So until then get outside my friends and find yourself a little nature. Take care.