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
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