Spring is in the air. You know it's that special time of year. A time of change. The air temperature is rising, birds are singing and ah yes all those beautiful wildflowers are beginning to bloom. Let's take a look at some of the equipment used to make photographing these beautiful little wonders of nature. Also we'll view some techniques used to achieve those pictures that people are in awe about. There will also be a few of my personal tips aimed toward getting those special effects. This will help you to become a better photographer.
Tools of the Trade
Owning the gear used to take these images is very affordable. The trick is for people to learn how to use their camera. The owner should have a working knowledge of his camera to maximize picture quality. In taking the time to familiarize yourse this any person could take images that would make them proud. Here's an opportunity to look at the various equipment used to capture those wildflower pictures
1. Camera A simple point and shoot camera is good to use for starting out. A very important feature that you will need to photograph wildflowers is the macro mode. By using this close up feature (macro) a photographer has the ability of moving to within inches of the subject. There are many good cameras on the market. You can purchase an adequate point and shoot camera for less than $100.
Here is the one that I use:
2. Tripod A good steady base to hold the camera motionless is important in obtaining those detailed shots. The wind (however slight) is creating enough movement to allow the picture to be blurred. The use of a tripod will eliminate camera shake from the photographer. You can expect to pay approximately $35 for a descent tripod.
3. Instruction Manual Familiarization with your camera is the most basic item any photographer regardless of their skill level needs to The book with all your camera's instructions should be read and reread. This will give you a better understanding of what all those functions are suppose to do. The instruction manual is virtually priceless. Find the minimum distance that you can take an image using your camera without any distortion. This information will be found in the owners manual. If you have lost it or discarded the manual you may be able to find it on the manufacturers web site.
Those are the 3 essential items that you will need in order to start taking those beautiful photographs of flowers. There are some other items considered non-essential but by having them it makes the task of photographing wildflowers a bit more comfortable. A good pair of boots is an important item for keeping your feet dry and warm. Sometimes a long walk is in order to locate that special area where the flowers are blooming. Then too carrying a tarp or large plastic trash bag in a backpack helps to keep you from wallowing in the dirt. When lying on the ground caution must be used in order to keep the area pristine as possible. So please be mindful of where you place this barrier on the ground. You do not want to smash any flowers by laying on them.
Many photographers use beanbags or sandbags to hold their camera on the ground. The bags are used in an effort to become even closer to the subject and closer to the ground while still having a steady camera. That way the close ups can be shot without the use of a tripod. Both types of bags are cumbersome and have the potential to break, making a mess, so I use a bunch of old socks stuffed into another sock as my "beanbag." This helps to keep the backpack lighter. Another non-essential tool I find useful is a small level. Using a level with the tripod ensures that the camera is on a level plane (both side-to-side and front-to-back). By maintaining a level camera the images made are more pleasing to the viewer's eye.
Good lighting is another important factor in any photography and wildflowers isn't any different. Seasoned photographers say that their definition of the word photography is when the artist paints with light. Many special photographs have either been made or ruined by the lighting. Here is a homemade tool that I use for "fill" lighting shadows that the sun shining on the flowers produces. It is constructed by taking an 8 1/2 by 11 inch piece of white cardboard. One side has aluminum foil affixed to it. This serves as a reflector hard light (aluminum foil) and soft light (white cardboard side). Making your own tools is both fun and rewarding.
Do not stay indoors on those cloudy days. These days produce some of the best lighting for photographing wildflowers. It is a softer light with fewer shadows. So don't look at those cloudy days as lemons. Go out and make some lemonade.
Ethics in Photography (A Matter of Personal Choice)
All photographers hold themselves to a different standard from one another when it comes to capturing wildflower images. There are those people who clear all the leaves, sticks, rocks, etc. completely away from the flower before snapping the photograph. I prefer to leave the flowers in my photographs natural looking. Yes, the aforementioned items do hide some details of the wildflower but this is how I want to portray the subjects of my images.
A small trick that some photographers use is that of filling a spray bottle with water or glycerin. This liquid is then sprayed onto the flowers being photographed. Placing moisture on the wildflowers is done in an effort to simulate the natural dew that is created by the atmosphere. Using this trick allows the photos to be taken any time of the day and still achieve that "early morning" appearance.
Composition of a Photograph
Now a few words about the composition of a photograph. A common mistake many beginning photographers make is that of centering their subject matter in the image. Moving the picture's subject to an intersection located within the "rule of thirds" will create a more pleasing looking image. Keep this "rule" in mind before snapping the shutter and your photographs "looks" will improve dramatically. The picture below utilizes two of the four intersections available to make up the "rule."
Here is a graphic illustrating how the "Rule of Thirds" should appear in your minds eye. Think of it as kind of a tic tack toe board on your viewing screen. This composition rule is useful in any photography not just that of wildflowers. Another good idea is trying to fill the entire frame of your camera. Subject matter just seems to be more vibrant when the entire frame is filled. This allows more detail to be shown in the picture as well.
A Few Helpful Tips
You can practice photographing flowers at your home garden. This is an excellent way to sharpen your skills and practice different techniques. The cost is low as you do not have to drive anywhere. Timing is not a problem as this is one place where you can make the time. Your subjects are as close as your backyard. So why not enjoy the outdoors and have a little something to show the world for all of those efforts?
Every camera lens has a minimum distance that an image taken without distortion. As stated earlier any photograph shot at that measurement or beyond will be in sharp clear focus. To make a valuable tool cut a piece of string equaling this exact length. Use the string as a measuring device. By doing this all of the guess work about distance to a subject will be eliminated. Carry this string with you in your camera bag. It will prove it's worth over and over again with sharp detailed photographs.
Go out and have some fun taking photos of all those wildflowers that are starting to bloom.