As the old saying goes April showers bring May flowers and if it is correct this should be a banner year with all the rain we have had this spring.
Using the camera on your smartphone or the automatic settings of your camera will provide you with a satisfactory but ordinary image. Here are some tips that will help you take extraordinary images of wildflowers.
First and foremost, please practice wildflower-friendly photography techniques being careful not to damage the flowers and their habitat.[wc_row][wc_column size=”one-half” position=”first”]
“Cloudy skies create the ideal lighting conditions since the same intensity is spread throughout the forest.”[/wc_column][wc_column size=”one-half” position=”last”]
Consider the composition of your subject. Do you want a single blossom or include a grouping of several flowers? Are there elements that are in the foreground or background that detract from the image. A tripod will keep the camera steady and allow you to use slower shutter speeds. Even though it may seem to be a nuisance to have a tripod in the field it will actually help you to carefully compose your shot. You will find that a remote camera release will also assist in taking shots when you use a tripod.[/wc_column][/wc_row]
Generally speaking the best time of the day to take photographs is in the first couple of hours in the morning and the last couple before sunset since the light is less harsh. In the forest, the lighting is often variable ranging from direct light that can cause harsh shadows or bright highlights. Cloudy skies create the ideal lighting conditions since the same intensity is spread throughout the forest.
With composition and lighting under control you will need to explore the manual controls of your camera, aperture, shutter speed and ISO.
In addition to regulating how much light reaches the camera sensor, the aperture opening of the camera controls how much of the subject is in focus. A small aperture opening such as f/16 will allow most of the subject to be in focus such as the entire flower. A large opening such as f/3.5 only a small portion of the flower such as the stamen or pistil will be in focus. Adjusting the aperture is an important portion of your creative vision where you decide what is in focus and what is not.
In the outdoors and in the forest, it is often windy and the flowers are waving about which makes it difficult to keep them in focus or create sharp images. Like aperture, the shutter speed control also regulates how much light reaches the sensor but does it a different way by controlling how fast the shutter opens and closes. A faster shutter speed will freeze moving objects whereas a slower shutter speed will help create an image with an intentional blur. Generally speaking, a faster shutter speed is needed to freeze moving flowers.
With the camera mounted on the tripod, you have found the perfect flower and the composition is ideal. You have set your aperture and shutter speed but find that your images are under-exposed because there isn’t enough light. This is where ISO comes into play. The ISO adjustment allows you to change the sensitivity of the sensor and help you achieve the proper exposure.
I am very pleased to be hosting a wildflower workshop on May 27, 2017 as part of the Couchiching Conservancy Passport to Nature program and I will be showing all the above techniques and more. To find out more about the Passport to Nature’s free programming please click below.
Arni Stinnissen is an award winning wildlife photographer and volunteer at The Couchiching Conservancy, a non-profit land trust dedicated to protect nature for future generations.