Colour­ful blooms

Spring is syn­ony­mous with fresh shoots, new growth and colour­ful blos­som. This is the per­fect time of year for you to pho­to­graph ex­quis­ite blooms and high­light the de­sign and in­tri­cacy of flow­ers

Digital SLR Photography - - The Beginner ’s Guide -

Ur­ban or ru­ral, you are never far from pho­to­genic flow­ers dur­ing spring. In towns, parks and in the gar­dens of stately homes you will dis­cover an abun­dance of plant- life. Fruit trees and shrubs are blos­som­ing and flower- beds are brim­ming with new, colour­ful blooms. The coun­try­side is alive with fresh flow­ers: de­cid­u­ous wood­land will be car­peted with blue­bells, wild gar­lic and anemones; while mead­ows will be ablaze with but­ter­cups, or­chids, cowslips and ox­eye daisies. Wild or cul­ti­vated, the kit you need and the way in which you ap­proach your sub­ject will be sim­i­lar.

You might as­sume you need a macro lens for flo­ral pho­tog­ra­phy, but there are lots of dif­fer­ent ways to cap­ture great shots of flow­ers aside from in close- up. The long end of a tele­zoom will nor­mally fo­cus close enough to en­able you to iso­late just one or two flow­ers. To help your sub­ject ‘ pop’ from their sur­round­ings, opt for a wide aper­ture in the re­gion of f/ 4. Care­fully fo­cus on your sub­ject – the com­bi­na­tion of longer fo­cal length and shal­low zone of fo­cus should re­sult in pho­tos where your sub­ject stands out against a pleas­ing out- of- fo­cus haze of colour ( see March 2016 Is­sue 112 for our full tu­to­rial). Al­ter­na­tively, con­sider us­ing a wide- an­gle lens. Do­ing so will al­low you to cap­ture shots of plants in con­text with where they are grow­ing – maybe in a church­yard, the grounds of a stately home, or un­der a leaf canopy. Wide- an­gles have the abil­ity to fo­cus close to sub­jects, while re­tain­ing far- reach­ing depth- of- field. As a re­sult, you can achieve some in­ter­est­ing and in­ti­mate per­spec­tives.

If you want to pho­to­graph a soli­tary bloom or just part of a flower – like in­di­vid­ual pe­tals or sta­mens – you will need a close- fo­cus­ing lens. A macro is the best choice, but don’t over­look close- up fil­ters or auto ex­ten­sion tubes, which are ca­pa­ble of gen­er­at­ing a sim­i­lar level of mag­ni­fi­ca­tion by trans­form­ing a nor­mal lens into a close- fo­cus­ing one at a frac­tion of the cost. If you in­tend tak­ing close- ups of flow­ers, wait un­til a still day or use a wind­breaker – if sub­jects are wind­blown, fo­cus­ing and fram­ing is very chal­leng­ing. At higher lev­els of mag­ni­fi­ca­tion, depth- of- field nat­u­rally grows shal­lower, so close- up pho­tog­ra­phers should rely on a tri­pod when­ever pos­si­ble to aid fo­cus­ing.

When shoot­ing close- ups, pho­tog­ra­phers have far more con­trol over light. A good ac­ces­sory to have is a small re­flec­tor. Ba­si­cally, this is a white, sil­ver or gold re­flec­tive disk, which you po­si­tion close to your sub­ject to bounce ad­di­tional light on to it. It is use­ful when the light is poor – for ex­am­ple, when shoot­ing in dark wood­land. You will also want to sup­ple­ment the light in bright, high­con­trast con­di­tions, to help re­lieve dark shadow ar­eas. Even a piece of white card can be used to re­flect light onto small sub­jects.

Morn­ings are of­ten a good time of day to pho­to­graph flow­ers: not only is the light softer, but af­ter cool nights, flow­ers and leaves will be smoth­ered in tiny dew drops adding fur­ther in­ter­est and sparkle to your flower

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