Five top landscape and nature photographers provide expert advice on how to get the best shots this spring
Tips 8-13 from Colin Roberts
A specialist in landscapes and nature, Colin Roberts turned professional in 2005. He has received a number of awards for his nature images, including International Garden Photographer of the Year and the Royal Horticultural Society’s Photographer of the Year. To see more of his images visit his website at www.colinrobertsphotography.com
8. Capture the transforming landscape
Spring is a season of transition and a great time to explore the countryside as trees come into leaf, fields turn green and hedgerows thicken. Many landscapes look their best at this time of year when foliage is fresh and pristine, and the harsh woody outlines of trees become softened by lush spring growth.
Make the most of footpaths and byways to access the more unusual viewpoints, and look beyond embankments and tall hedges to find views that would otherwise be missed. The real atmosphere of spring is often seen at dawn, when a touch of brilliant light shows the landscape awakening – in more ways than one.
9. Visit beechwoods
Beech is one of our most photogenic native trees, and its appearance in spring is no exception. Its newly unfolded leaves create a translucent canopy of vivid green, making deciduous woods look stunning at this time of year. The leaves emerge from April onwards, so be sure to take advantage of the spectacle while it lasts. Within a few weeks the leaves mature and the pale colour darkens and loses its brilliance.
Shoot in soft, overcast light for best results and choose calm conditions, because even the slightest breath of wind can cause foliage to blur. In terms of composition, one option is to use a wide lens and shoot directly upwards for a dramatic view of the tree trunks converging skywards.
Alternatively, try moving in close to frame a small cluster of leaves, softly backlit to show their fine detail.
10. Capture colour on the clifftops
Spring flowers aren’t restricted to woodlands and hedgerows – the coast sees some fine displays too. Among others, pink sea thrift and white scurvy grass are found along many parts of the British coastline. Growing in tight clusters, usually along clifftops and headlands, they make excellent foreground subjects that add colour and interest to wider shots of the coast.
Sea pinks look particularly impressive when caught in the golden rays of a rising or setting sun. They can also be seen sprouting from rocky crevices, where they make an eye-catching focal point and a strong natural contrast with the stony environment. Both species look pristine when they emerge in April and May, with the best of their colour over by summer.
11. Search for tree seedlings
Among the flurry of spring growth, keep a watch for tree seedlings emerging from the forest floor. They are always something to marvel at, especially when seen growing beneath the towering structure of a mature tree. As a foreground subject they put the woody landscape into context, or make a fascinating study in their own right. But look carefully because their first leaves are often very different from those of the parent trees – for example, beech seedlings emerge with a semi-circular leaf, while those of sycamore produce tapered leaves.
12. Visit parks and gardens
Whether formal or semi-wild, parklands and gardens are a notable and accessible source for spring subjects. For blossoms, early flowers or trees coming into leaf, there are few other locations that offer so much variety in one setting. Good structural features like trees, fountains or topiary add scope for composition, while good lines of sight are often crucial for showing depth – so look for pathways, avenues, stone steps or boardwalks.
The versatility of zoom lenses makes them an ideal option for smaller gardens where space is confined and plant beds often restrict your movement. Hone in on seasonal details like fern fronds unfurling, or the colourful reflections of waterside blossoms.
13. Plan ahead
Forward planning will ensure you’re prepared this eventful and inspiring season.
To me, spring means the British landscape at its best – I never go abroad in April or May for fear of missing it. So start by making a hit-list of locations for spring landscapes, wildflowers and trees based on your local knowledge and a bit of online research. It’s worth remembering that all prolific spring flowers are perennial, meaning they live for many years, so you can rely on them being in the same place year in, year out.
Also bear in mind crop rotations. If you have a location in mind for oilseed rape, for example, you’re unlikely to see it in the same field more than once in three years – sometimes longer. And don’t forget the change to British Summer Time (29 March this year), which briefly makes those early starts a bit easier as sunrise will be an hour earlier.