18/06/2009

Flower/Wildflower Photography

Not only do flowers have great emotional value, but we as photographers can use them to our advantage. Because of their bright, bold colours, they can be used as foreground elements to draw attention to a background subject; such as in landscapes or mountainous scenes, in wedding photography, bridal bouquets and corsages can be used to draw attention to the bridal party. Collectively, they can produce an overwhelming array of patterns and shapes, from filling the scene with acres of wildflowers to getting right in close and personal Macro shots of single flower heads.

To photograph flowers it is only your own imagination that restricts you, and of course the equipment you have at your disposal. But even some of the current digital point and shoot cameras will allow you to get very close to your subjects. Although the closer you get to your subject, the more susceptible you become to, not only light loss and loss of depth of field but also camera shake and even the best built-in anti-shake facilities are restricted to a certain degree, so a tripod is vital in these close-up situations. A remote shutter release would also be a great asset, but you can get by using the camera’s timer facility.
One piece of equipment I couldn't do without whilst photographing flowers is a little pair of scissors. They help with the removal of any dead leaves or petals so as not to spoil the shot.
It is not advisable to use a polarizing filter with flowers, as they tend to alter the natural colours of the flowers. if you are concerned about reflections from background matter, etc., simply remove them or alter your position.
It is important too, for obvious reasons, that there is no wind. The longer the flower stem, the more they are susceptible to movement.The manner in which you photograph flowers is virtually limitless and from whatever angle and/or viewpoint you choose.

From a mouse’s eye view, looking up the stems to an interesting sky, to a bird’s eye view, looking down to the patterns they produce within the landscape. Or, to an ant’s eye view, (Macro photography) from a petal looking back at the stamens and deep down the throat of the flower.
Composition is also up to your imagination. It all depends on how you wish to portray your subject.
If, for instance, you are looking straight down onto the head of a daisy, keep the subject tight, but not too tight. So that all of the petals are in the frame, there are no distractive elements in the background and the inwardly pointing petals draw the viewer’s eye into the scene. But for other examples and ideas, I would advise you take a look at some gardening books to see how professional photographers portray their subjects.
There is no real best time of the day to photograph flowers, however, wind-wise I find it better, early to mid morning. It is preferred not to do it in the height of a bright, sunny day. It is far better if you have some light cloud cover. This diffuses the light source somewhat and allows for a more acceptable, even lighting effect on the subject, with very little or no contrasty shadows, which can act as unsavoury, secondary interests and draw attention away from where you want it most. And as the surface of some flower petals can be smooth and shiny, bright sunlight can cause them to have unwanted, washed out areas. A reflector could be used to bounce light back into the shadow areas of the flower.

I said earlier that photographing flowers can be challenging, but also a very rewarding and addictive experience.

WildflowersIf you are shooting wild flora for a photo competition, part of the competition rules may state that your subject/s cannot include any cultivated or hybrid plants, only those which are growing in the wild and/or indigenous to a certain region.
It pays to thoroughly check the competition guidelines.



The shooting of wildflowers is pretty much the same as shooting flowers in your own garden. However, it is worth considering that you may have to drive for miles till you get to where your subjects are and there could also be quite a bit of trekking involved, so you need to go well prepared.
A good idea is to check beforehand with your local tourist information service. It's amazing what they can inform you about your own locale, probably more than you'll ever know.
They are likely to have brochures and/or leaflets that explain the best times of the year to view certain flowers and how accessible they are and you can take the brochures with you so you can identify which flower species is which.



What about the terrain? Is it hilly or flat? Is it boggy or dry? You have to also ask these questions so that you will know what sort of equipment you need to take. That might not only include your general camera and bits and pieces but what about a plastic ground sheet, in case you need to get down on the boggy ground? And your knee length rubber boots of course. You'll find some of the best blooms can be found in the most unreachable boggy places, accessible only to those who spend a little extra time in planning and organizing their trip. The boots can also guard against snake bite.
Long trousers or jeans should also be worn to guard against scratches, etc.
I have listed below some of the things you will probably need to take and some that you might not normally consider. Especially if you are going a long way from home.

1. Camera and bag/backpack, usual lens and/or Macro, any other close-up gear, filters. You do not need a polarizer to shoot flowers. As mentioned above.
2. Tripod
3. Remote shutter release
4. Check Media Card
5. pre-charged batteries plus extras for.....
6. Flash unit
7. Fold-up reflector or sunlight diffuser
8. Rubber boots or waders
9. Compass/GPS
10. Binoculars
11. Bottled water. You can quickly dehydrate wandering about in the sun.
12. Mobile phone...charged
13. A white handkerchief or tissues to cover and diffuse the flash
14. Small note book and pen
15. A small pair of scissors. (as mentioned above)
16. A roll of adhesive tape.