Flora - Nature - Photo Expert (Part 1)

6/2/2012 3:21:25 PM

It is hardly surprising that plant life is so popular among photographers. Wildflowers, plants and fungi are varied, beautiful and easily accessible subjects. Regardless of where you live, or the equipment you own, great nature shots are well within your reach -and this month's we show you why

Description: Power plant!

Power plant!

Who can ignore the impact of a field of red poppies? Make sure you're camera-ready with our guide in hand when the UK's in bloom this year

THE FLOW, COLOUR, design and delicacy of plants - flowering or nonflowering - make them a popular and rewarding photographic subject. In frame-filling close-up, photographers can highlight fine detail and colour; while from further away, plants can be shown in context with their surroundings. By adopting a shallow depth-of-field, or creatively using subject or camera motion, photographers are able to capture abstract or painterly looking results. Plants can be vibrant or dull; tall or low growing; form large carpets of colour, or be found growing singularly. Some have colourful, impressive blooms, while others, like fungi and lichen, don't flower at all.

With such great variety and diversity within the natural world, there is never a risk of running out of inspiration.

As the seasons change, photographers are presented with fresh subjects and opportunities. During spring, new growth is everywhere. Visit woodland, parks and gardens to discover delicately unfurling ferns, emerging leaves, swathes of bluebells and colourful blossom. During the summer months, the countryside is brimming with colour. Meadows are home to a wide array of wildflowers, while foxgloves and willowherb stand tall along hedgerows and banks. When summer gives way to autumn, foliage turns golden and, while many plants stop flowering, the sudden emergence of weird and wonderfully shaped toadstools and fungi present a new challenge to nature photographers.

When you look at great nature images -for example, the work of German photographer Sandra Bartocha - they look stunningly effortless. However, great shots are rarely accidental. Although plants are static subjects - meaning photographers enjoy a great degree of control over the look of the final image - highlighting a plant's beauty, form and design in a single frame is still far from easy. In fact, in some respects, the level of control plant photographers have over their results just adds to the pressure to get things right -both technically and aesthetically.

Simplicity is often key, while background choice and lighting are also particularly important when photographing plants. A clean, flattering backdrop, free of any distraction, will help your subject stand out boldly; while the light's quality and direction will dictate the image's mood and help highlight fine detail.

Plants, in all their many guises, provide great subject matter for photography. It is time to hone your close-up skills and begin exploring the wonderful world of plants...

Get the gear!

Nature photography requires a modest kit investment to capture the best results. Here we summarise the type of gear you need

Description:  great nature pictures

WHILE SOME SUBJECTS require costly, specialist kit to photograph them, nature photographers can get by with a comparatively basic set-up. While a good range of focal lengths will naturally give you greater options and flexibility, it's possible to get good results using just a standard zoom. However, most plant photographers will want to capture frame-filling close-ups of their subjects from time to time, so a macro lens or close-up attachment is high up on the list of priorities. Aside from lenses, a number of useful accessories, lighting aids and supports are available that will benefit your nature images.

Lenses for nature

Macro: Being optimised for close focusing, a dedicated macro is an ideal choice for nature photography. They typically have a maximum reproduction ratio of 1:1 life-size and have a large maximum aperture - typically f/2.8 - which helps provide a bright viewfinder image to aid focusing and composition. A focal length upwards of 70mm is a good choice, providing a useful working distance.

Description: Macro lens

Wide-angle: A wide focal length, in the region of 18-28mm, is ideal for showing plant life in context with its surrounding environment. By getting close to subjects, you can create unusual, distorted perspectives. Wide-angles are particularly useful when shooting from low angles looking upward, or views of vast swathes of flowers. Wide-angles naturally possess a large depth-of-field, making it possible to achieve front-to-back sharpness. For more extreme results, consider using a fisheye lens.

Description: Wide-angle lens

Telephoto/telezoom: Telephoto lengths - in the region of 200-300mm - are perfect for isolating single flowers. Combined with a large aperture, depth-of-field is shallow at longer lengths, so with the use of a telephoto it is possible to render one flower sharply against an attractively diffused backdrop. You don't need a fast, costly lens - the telephoto end of a 70-300mm will suffice. Extension tubes can be useful to reduce a telephoto's minimum focusing distance.

Description: Telephoto/telezoom lens

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