Five top landscape and nature photographers provide expert advice on how to get the best shots this spring
Tips 18-25 from Jeremy Walker
Jeremy Walker is an award-winning photographer specialising in high-quality landscape and location photography around the world, for use by advertising, design and corporate clients. www.jeremywalker.co.uk
18. Use colour
It’s spring, so there should be plenty of colour around, but avoid the trap of just shooting an individual plant or flower. Look for blocks of colour that either work with each other or use colour that clashes and has impact. Good locations for this type of image will be the commercial bulb growers in Norfolk, Lincolnshire and Cornwall. Or, of course, the famous bulb fields in the Netherlands.
19. Shooting with a reflector
Bright sunlight can often be too contrasty, especially with small, fragile and delicate plants. A reflector can bounce soft light back into the subject from the opposite side to where the sun is shining, to lift the shadow detail and reduce the contrast. However, you should do this with a soft white type of reflector and not a silver one, which would be too hard.
Alternatively, if you have a white/semi translucent type of reflector, you could hold it above the subject and effectively cast a soft shadow over the whole subject to reduce contrast, using the reflector like a softbox in a studio.
20. Using a windbreak
Remember the windbreak you have in the garage that you use for two weeks in the summer every year? Why not use it to protect the plants you are shooting from the wind? The slightest breeze can disturb a plant, and if you are using a macro lens, for which depth of field can be very limited, the slightest wobble will cause you to lose your shot.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be a beach windbreak, as anything large enough to protect your subject will work. Just make sure it doesn’t get into the shot.
21. Slow shutter speeds for blur and motion
It is very tempting when shooting plants and close-ups to forget creativity in the pursuit of the ‘record shot’. In trying to squeeze out every last detail we put aside our artistic vision in the pursuit of sharpness and detail, so go the opposite way and use a slow shutter speed to achieve some blur and motion.
If it is a breezy day, don’t dismiss the idea of getting some shots – think instead about flowers with long stems, such as daffodils, that will sway in the breeze and create interesting shapes and colour. Experiment with shutter speeds of around 1/4sec or slower. A tripod will be essential, though.
22. Patterns, shapes and textures
Shooting images in spring is not just about close-ups of flowers and recording colourful landscapes. Look for abstract images, detail shots and scenes with bags of texture. Look beyond the normal and check out the patterns in fresh leaves and petals, shoot shapes and textures and see how the light interacts with the structure of the plants. A macro or close-up lens is an essential tool for this type of work.
23. Use a Lensbaby for a soft, ethereal look
An interesting and alternative way of looking at the world is by bolting a Lensbaby onto your camera. With different accessories you can create a range of effects, from controlling the depth of focus to softening the image and having the colours go very pale and pastel-like. There are a range of Lensbaby accessories, so a little experimentation may be necessary.
24. Get a waterproof picnic blanket
Available from any good hardware store, a waterproof blanket will keep you from getting muddy and wet when working down low. I’ve lost count the number of times I have come away from shooting with dirty knees or have had to put my bag down on wet grass or mud, so a blanket (or a large refuse sack) is a much better alternative.
25. Look for quirky angles
Try to avoid shooting everything at eye-level, looking down on your subject. Instead, look for quirky and odd alternatives. Directly overhead is a good starting point, or try a worm’s-eye view. For every angle you shoot from, think of the opposite point of view.
If your camera has a tilting, rotating LCD screen, it is easy to place your camera on the ground and point the screen up so that you are still able to see the image. Autofocus and a cable or remote release are essential for this approach.