Peek-a-boo: Shooting on Location During COVID-19

I need to take a moment before I begin to stress the importance of respecting all guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and local authorities, as well as using common sense when venturing out during the COVID-19 global pandemic.  

With that preface out of the way, I did leave my neighborhood a couple of days ago using an abundance of care and caution.  It was sort of like playing peek-a-boo, cautiously moving beyond my local community for just a few hours.  Here in Southern California, we are encouraged to minimize trips, and while out face coverings are a requirement.  Some of our local botanic gardens remain open, however, on a limited basis.    

It is natural after eight weeks of confinement to desire an escape for just a bit, and I did so with a great deal of caution.  One garden that has remained operational is south in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA.  Reservations are required, and the number of visitors allowed overall and per hour is strictly controlled.  In addition to the usual planning you do for trips on location, these restrictions necessitate a bit of extra planning.   I can no longer decide on making a spur of the moment trip.  I scheduled this outing for three days in advance to get my preferred morning entry time.  Weekends are “sold out” well in advance.   

Reaching the garden requires a 20-mile drive south.  This location means a trip on the notorious 405 freeway.  If you don’t know about the 405, it is the most heavily trafficked freeway in the United States.  Traffic was clearly lighter than usual for a weekday, although there was more activity on both the highway and surface streets than I expected. 

Upon arrival, all visitors must wear face coverings to enter.  The approach to the entry is marked in 6-foot increments to maintain social distancing, and you no longer walk up to the counter to show your membership card or pay for admission.  Instead, you stand six feet away and give your name to the staff person on duty from afar.

Once inside, signs remind you to maintain social distancing and wear your face covering.  Also, all of the benches inside the garden are taped off.  No seating or congregating allowed on the benches, although I found small family groupings sitting on the lawn in open areas.  The vast majority of visitors kept their face coverings in place, although I did see a few cheaters.  All of the groundskeepers wore face coverings, and there were staff members on carts thanking visitors for wearing their masks or reminding offenders to put them back on.

As far as shooting goes, I decided to travel light with just my Nikon Z6 and two lenses.  The first was my trusty, don’t leave home without it if flowers are involved Lensbaby Velvet 85.  It is a manual mode, manual focus lens that creates fantastic backgrounds and a beautiful glow at more open apertures.  I used it for these two new images on the website that I was excited about on the way home.  I straightaway began to work on post-processing these.

The shots above, below and to the left were with my Lensbaby Velvet 85.

The two images shown below are the reason I was so excited on the way home and I couldn't wait to post-process them.  The image on the left is titled Bring in the Horns, and Blossoms is on the right.

The second lens in my kit for those two hours of escapism was my relatively new Sigma Macro 105 MM lens.  This lens lets me get up close to my subject, but it also has the ability to autofocus.  It is excellent when you want to do focus stacking as the Z6 can do the work for me on autopilot with an autofocus lens.  I captured this beauty right after I entered the garden and adored the smooth background this lens lets me create.

I suspect that this experience may be indicative of what is in our future for some time to come.  I hope that this is helpful to you as you begin to prepare to peek out in the weeks and months ahead.  Please peek out responsibly.