Five top landscape and nature photographers provide expert advice on how to get the best shots this spring
Introduction and Tips 1-7 from Mark Bauer
Finally, the March Equinox has arrived and spring is here! The countryside looks its prettiest, the trees are beginning to blossom, and all in all you couldn’t ask for better conditions for some great landscape photography.
Of course, seasons come and go before you know it, and that’s why it’s important to make the most of them. With that in mind, we asked five top landscape and nature photographers to get their tips on how to get your best shots this spring. First up, here are a few pointers from Mark Bauer…
Mark Bauer has been a full-time landscape photographer for more than ten years. He is based in Dorset and takes his inspiration from the beauty of the surrounding landscapes. He is the author of four books and has won numerous awards. www.markbauerphotography.com
1. Use flowers for foreground interest
Most wideangle landscapes benefit from having some foreground interest, and with flowers coming into bloom at this time of year there’s plenty of choice. Get in close and fill the bottom of the frame with flowers.
It’s important to keep everything sharp from foreground to background, so choose a small aperture such as f/11 or f/16 and focus about a third of the way into the scene. For greater accuracy, set the hyperfocal distance for the focal length/aperture combination you’re using. To help calculate this, make a chart to keep in your camera bag or use a smartphone app.
2. Spring showers are great for landscape photography
It may be tempting to stay indoors on rainy days, but you’ll be missing out on some amazing landscape photography opportunities. When showers clear, the light is often dramatic: dark stormy clouds above, spotlighting on the landscape below, and incredible clarity, as all the particles have been washed out of the atmosphere. If a rainbow appears, use a polariser to enhance the colours.
For the best shots, you’ll need to be in position, ready for when the rain stops and the sun bursts through the clouds. You’ll be standing around getting wet for a while, but the results are worth it.
3. Check the forecast for misty mornings
Mist simplifies the landscape, hiding unwanted detail and clutter, and gives the scene a romantic atmosphere. The most photogenic type of mist is ‘radiation fog’, which lies low on the ground, often in valleys, and looks great when shot from above, with the tops of hills, trees and other features above it.
Spring is a great time for finding these conditions. Head out early after a clear, still night when the temperature has dropped a little. A gentle south-westerly breeze first thing can encourage the development of mist.
4. Use a polariser
We associate spring with colour: fresh greens, bright wildflowers, fields of yellow oilseed rape and so on. Sometimes these colours look a little washed out in a photograph, as they can be dulled by haze in the air or glare on the surface of the flowers. A polarising filter cuts out polarised light, reducing surface reflections and glare. It therefore has the effect of cutting through haze and restoring natural colour saturation. Using a polariser is easy: just rotate the filter while looking through the viewfinder until you see the effect you want.
5. Shoot bluebell woods with backlighting
When we think of spring, we often think of bluebells. They look their best in mature woodland, so try to find a thick carpet on the forest floor without too much clutter. If you shoot them backlit at the beginning or end of the day, shadows from the tree trunks will race towards the camera, creating a sense of drama, and the flowers and foliage will be given a saturation boost. Partially screening the sun behind trunks helps to reduce problems with contrast and flare, and if you choose a small aperture, such as f/16 or f/22, diffraction can create a ‘starburst effect’.
6. Shoot woodland on overcast days
Overcast skies are not the landscape photographer’s favourite conditions, but they are very good for shooting in woodland. The level of contrast is low and manageable, and as a result the colours of the foliage and plants are enriched, which can be enhanced by the use of a polariser. By contrast, although dappled lighting looks attractive to the eye, the contrast often exceeds the dynamic range of the camera’s sensor, which means it doesn’t photograph well.
7. Use longer lenses to compress carpets of flowers
When you see a large carpet of flowers, the natural tendency is to get in close with a wideangle lens. However, this approach doesn’t always do the scene justice as it can exaggerate the gaps between the flowers. Instead, try shooting from further back with a longer lens, which will have the effect of compressing the gaps and making the flowers look densely packed.