It's now officially springtime! And if you don't have wildflowers in your area yet, they may not be far off from sprouting up and adding some colors to the landscapes near you. In my home of the Southwest, I have been roaming the state of Arizona capturing poppies all over the place. We had a beautiful bloom this year, due to the reasonably wet winter.
I had my camera in hand, with me every step of the way this month capturing and processing many wildflowers. Let's talk about some strategies and ideas to make the most of your springtime photos outside with Mother Nature this season.
I do pack a variety of lenses, but my favorite to bring along is my macro, which has a fixed focal length of 150mm for those killer close-ups, and also drops down to f / 2.8. The low aperture helps me achieve an excellent depth of field and allows me to go handheld without issues enabling a faster shutter speed. Varying my depth of field can make quite an intimate and unique shot amid all the flowers. Use this to your advantage and experiment. Try the same up close composition, but play with depth of field and your focal area when using this type of lens. You may be surprised at how much of a different style or feeling you can portray without moving at all and just making lens adjustments. Depth of field also works great for adding seclusion to your subject.
I do travel with a tripod with me, and I will use it. However, I will not hesitate to ditch the tripod if it's going to get in the way or trample flowers. I am particularly careful not to step on the plants, which is tough to do, so please stay alert and try to preserve the beauty for as long as the season and weather will permit.
Speaking of the weather, pay attention to the forecast before you head out. Windy conditions will be challenging as you will also have movement to deal with. If this can't be avoided, adjust your camera settings to achieve faster shutter speeds. A subtle wind can be excellent for some creative blurs in the photo and can also add interest to your shots if you are into videography. Be alert to rain or storms in the forecast. The water can quickly weigh flowers, along with their petals, down and make for some non-photogenic scenes. If this happens, give the area a few days to recover, you will be surprised what a gentle rain and some sunshine afterward can do. As with most landscape photography, early light and sunsets will enhance the wildflowers whether shooting close up or using your wide angles. You can get incredible backlit and glowing scenes when you position yourself correctly with the sunlight, so don't be afraid to move around and try different locations.
During the cloudy days, I will try to work those moody clouds and textures into my shot. When creating vast landscape compositions, I aim to focus 1/3 into the scene to create a deep depth of field within a single shot. While on a clear day I would avoid a dull sky and shoot tight and close, staying below and land features in the distance. When shooting in bright conditions pay attention to your histogram. You will want to make sure you are not clipping the right side, which is your highlights. I underexposed on some of these shots by 1/3 - 2/3 to ensure nothing in the scene was blown out.
Another great tip that I abide by is that I don't always look for the "prettiest" flowers in the fields. Sometimes it's the worn, weathered, and beat up ones that have all the character and can really tell a story in your photo.
For some parting notes, make sure you do your research. You may need permits or passes on some of the lands and parks. Please watch where you step, and be respectful of the areas. Now, soak it all in and happy wildflower hunting!
About Mike Ince
Mike Ince resides in the sun-filled desert of Mesa, Arizona. Arizona's dark skies provide plenty of opportunities for him to chase the stars amongst many other nighttime shots in the state. During the monsoon and winter seasons you will find him enjoying the weather and the many off-road trails in the area with a camera in hand. He also enjoys soaking up nature and traveling for a variety of landscape, macro, and wildlife photos.
Mike is currently writing a few eBooks and developing other photography projects that will provide valuable learning tools for aspiring photographers. Visit his website for updates and to subscribe to his blog for helpful tips.