As the days get longer and brighter and, hopefully, warmer, this is the time of year when everyone feels optimistic. Trees begin filling their branches, and everywhere you look new shoots and buds are unfolding in a wide array of colours. Spring is a great time to be a photographer, and itu2019s the perfect time to launch our Plant Life round of APOY 2009.

APOY Round 4 Plant Life

As the days get longer and brighter and, hopefully, warmer, this is the time of year when everyone feels optimistic. Trees begin filling their branches, and everywhere you look new shoots and buds are unfolding in a wide array of colours. Spring is a great time to be a photographer, and it?s the perfect time to launch our Plant Life round of APOY 2009.

The possibilities in this round are almost limitless. The number of species of plants and ways in which you can show off their interesting qualities means there is no right or wrong picture to be taken. Perhaps you are drawn to still lifes and get great afternoon light streaming through your kitchen window. Or maybe a wider view of your local garden centre appeals. It could be a close-up of the texture on the cabbage leaves at your allotment, or even the base of a tree looking up.

These are just a few examples. Take lots of pictures and try a number of subjects and compositions to see which you think works best. To the right we?ve provided a few helpful tips to help get you started.

Patterns

While the bane of many photographers, grey, overcast days (which we never seem to lack) provide a nice, even light and can be a great opportunity to start thinking in monotone. Spring doesn?t have to be all about colour. Rather than seeking out the boldest, brightest blooms, you might go out with your camera in search of patterns and shapes. It?s all around you this time of year but can be hard to notice among all that colour. As with these trees, when you?re emphasising patterns a subtle change in perspective can add more drama to your composition.

Macro

Macro photography no longer requires an expensive lens. Even many digital compacts these days have exceptional macro functions that produce great results. That said, you will still get your best results with an SLR and a dedicated macro lens. Whatever you use, the key to a good macro image is to fill your frame with your subject and make sure you have pin-sharp focus on the most important part of your image. Remember that when you?re working closer in like this, camera position means everything. Any slight movement can alter a composition, so use a tripod or whatever you have to hand to keep your camera still.

Angles and backgrounds

Not every image of a plant has to be macro to be effective. Quite the contrary. Think of all the great wideangle pictures you?ve seen of swaying rape fields or symmetrical rows of forest trees. Try experimenting with different angles and backgrounds to see what works. For wider shots, try getting down low to make your subjects loom larger in the frame, or stand on something to get an overview. For closer shots, try putting a piece of coloured paper or fabric behind your plant to create a more vivid background.

1st prize

Our first-place winner will receive Canon?s 10.1MP EOS 1000D, worth £459.99. The lucky winner will benefit from continuous shooting at up to 3fps and seven separate focusing points to lock onto subjects fast, as well as Live View and Canon?s EOS Integrated Cleaning System. The winner will also get Canon?s compact, lightweight EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens, worth £509.99. Ideal for shooting the natural world, it offers high corner-to-corner resolution, contrast and image quality, with fast autofocus with near-silent USM. Finally, the winner receives the perfect addition to any kit bag: the new Canon Speedlite 270EX II, worth £149.99, which includes a zoom head to ensure efficient light distribution, and a bounce flash head, allowing for softer tones and depth in your pictures.

2nd prize

Our second-place winner will receive Canon?s brand new Pixma Pro 9500 Mark II printer, worth £729. Producing gallery-quality prints at up to A3+ and 14in wide, the Pixma Pro 9500 Mark II offers ten Lucia pigment inks with superb colour control and a wide range of media support.

3rd prize

The professional-quality Canon CanoScan LiDE 5600F, with a 35mm film/slide holder and exceptional 9600x4800dpi resolution, worth £149, goes to our third-place winner. Users benefit from 11sec, 300dpi scans, with zero warm-up time for instant operation. Other features include seven EZ buttons and Auto Scan Mode.

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For more information on Canon products please visit www.canon.co.uk