Five top landscape and nature photographers provide expert advice on how to get the best shots this spring
Tips 26-33 from Mark Littlejohn
Mark Littlejohn is an award-winning landscape photographer based in the Lake District. Winner of the Take a view UK Landscape Photographer of the Year 2014, he specialises in atmospheric early morning conditions. www.markljphotography.co.uk
26. Capture mist
In spring, mist is very common near water due to cold and warm air colliding. Shooting in misty conditions can be wonderfully atmospheric, but the key is to find the edge of the mist. Early low light coming through mist can give you a wonderful soft diffused light and also provide a bit of contrast. Work quickly as the best light will only last a short time. If you can keep your shutter speed up, then keep moving and shoot handheld. If shooting near water, wellies are a must, and neoprene versions will warm your feet in cold conditions.
27. Use a wider aperture
If shooting in mist, don’t be afraid to use a larger aperture than normal. The mist will soften the outlines of anything further back in the scene and the use of a larger aperture will accentuate this and heighten the feeling of depth in your image. It will also heighten the sharpness in your foreground. The background will be soft, both from the mist and the larger aperture, but the viewer will not know if this is from processing, mist or whatever. Making the imagination work is key to an atmospheric image.
Watching new-born lambs gambolling around a field can be very enjoyable. Clearly, the last thing you want to do is scare them away, so take a longer lens, kneel down and keep still. They will either forget you are there or will come across for a closer look. If you normally take your dog with you, it’s best to leave it behind on this shoot. If the ewes see the dog they will shepherd their youngsters away, even if your dog is well trained and on a lead.
29. Get there early
When shooting a spring dawn, make sure you get to your chosen location an hour before sunrise is due. On some mornings with little cloud, you can be treated to the most amazing graduations in colour up to 45 minutes before dawn. You also need to plan your composition to ensure you make the best use of the early light and colour. If there are any steep drops or climbs near your chosen location, make sure to visit beforehand and get the lie of the land. Do not visit for the first time in darkness. A good-quality head torch is vital in these conditions.
30. Avoid harsh light
Each year, make a note of where bluebells, daffodils and wildflowers grow. In that way, you can plan out which areas are best to visit at the beginning and end of each day, when the composition will match with the right light. Use an app such as the Photographer’s Ephemeris to work this out.
If you are shooting wildflowers, you don’t want to photograph them in harsh light in the middle of the day, as it’s hard to control the highlights and the saturation.
31. Layered clothing
Lightweight, layered clothing with a waterproof outer layer will be sufficient for most spring days, and if you are wearing layers it is easier to remove one to cool down, as opposed to wearing thick jerseys or down jackets.
32. Try something different
Fresh snowdrops, daffodils and bluebells covered in dew and glistening in the early light can make fabulous subjects for macro shots, but don’t be afraid to get up close and personal with a wideangle lens as well. Most wideangle optics can focus quite closely and have an extensive depth of field, and it can be fun trying something different. I have a 24mm f/1.4 lens and shooting flowers close-up at a large aperture can be great fun.
33. Keep an open mind
Early light in springtime with all the new growth can be a magical experience. Don’t just think about the one ‘big’ shot. Keep an open mind and look all around you. It might be that it’s the first light hitting a stand of silver birch behind you that’s the shot of the day. By keeping an open mind about what you want to shoot, it opens your mind to the beauty all around you.