Make the most of the beauty of wildflowers with the help of three professional photographers in our comprehensive guide to the best techniques, subjects and kit

Subject Suggestion: Sea Thrift

Mark Bauer explains why these vivid pink coastal wildflowers, that thrive on cliff-tops, make great subjects


Kimmeridge shot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 18mm, 6secs at f/16, ISO 100, Lee 4-stop ND and polariser. Image © Mark Bauer

Sea thrift, or sea pink, is a wildflower that grows on sandy, well-drained soil in full sun; it is particularly associated with coastal locations, where it thrives on cliff-tops. As its alternative name suggests, its round flowers are vivid pink in colour. It grows about a foot high, usually in clumps or mats and blooms in late spring; mid-to-late May is often the key time in the UK. For many people a carpet of bright pink thrift on the cliff-top heralds the arrival of summer.

To find thrift, head to the coast and seek out sunny cliff-tops. When you find a suitable location, it’s worth spending some time to find the best viewpoint. Thrift looks its best if you can fill the frame with the colour, so look for a spot where the carpet is nice and thick, as well as an interesting background – it’s easy to get seduced by the impact of the colour and forget to produce a balanced composition. It will also help the composition if there are some small gaps here and there, to provide some contrast with the mass of pink.


To make the most of the colour, shoot in the golden light of early morning or evening. The best time will depend on your chosen location and the direction of the sunrise and sunset. Still conditions are preferable, so that the flowers don’t sway during the exposure, but that said, their stems are quite strong and wiry, and as the flowers don’t grow very high, they remain quite still even in a fairly stiff breeze.

For maximum impact, get in close with a wideangle lens. The flowers will then seem to stretch out in front of the camera, exaggerating the size of the carpet. Try to frame your shot so that there is a clear focal point in the background – such as a headland, lighthouse or rock stacks. Traditional, well-balanced compositions work best, so stick to convention and follow the rule of thirds when you compose your image.


Mark Bauer


Top tips

1. Depth of field

Getting in close with a wideangle lens will create a dramatic perspective, but you’ll need to be careful to keep both foreground and background sharp. Set a small aperture of f/11-16 and use the hyperfocal distance to maximise depth of field.

2. Set up low

Choosing a low viewpoint has the effect of placing emphasis on the foreground and is a technique that works well in conjunction with wideangle lenses. Be careful not to get too low, however, as this can reduce visual separation between key elements in the frame.

3. Respect the environment

You might think that the best viewpoint is from the middle of a carpet of thrift, but however good you think it is, resist the temptation to trample over the flowers to get your shot.

4. Time of day

Warm light from a low sun will really enhance the colour of thrift, and reveal its form and texture. Use an app such as The Photographer’s Ephemeris to find out which end of the day suits your location best.


Mark Bauer

Mark Bauer has been a full-time landscape photographer for over a decade and takes inspiration from the landscapes in the south-west.


Head to the next page for a guide to shooting heather and gorse, courtesy of Justin Minns…

  1. 1. Light
  2. 2. Subject Suggestion: Sea Thrift
  3. 3. Subject Suggestion: Heather and Gorse
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