Flora - Nature - Photo Expert (Part 4) - Viewpoint

6/4/2012 5:42:39 PM

A photographer's viewpoint has a significant bearing on the look of the final result, so select your shooting angle carefully. Nature photographers are often advised to shoot from a parallel angle, as this creates the most natural-looking perspective and will also help maximise the depth-of-field available. Certainly shooting at eye level will work in many circumstances, producing engaging and intimate results. However, you should avoid getting in to the habit of always shooting at the same angle as your images will begin to look repetitive and you won't always capture the best result. Approach every subject with an open mind and don't be afraid to adopt a low or overhead viewpoint. An overhead shooting angle is particularly well suited to relatively flat, open flowers - like ox-eye daisies, corn marigolds, roses and gerberas. Position your camera parallel overhead and crop in tight to fill the frame. Placing the subject centrally can work well in this instance, creating a feeling of symmetry. An overhead angle will also prove effective when you wish to emphasise a subject's texture or detail.

Description: Flowers

Viewpoint: Shooting your subject from underneath gives a whole new dimension to your flower photographs, making your subjectsappeartallerand more imposing.

The shift in perspective caused by simply lowering or raising your camera angle can be hugely significant. When photographing subjects significantly above eye-view, the subject immediately looks smaller and less imposing. In contrast, when shot from a worm's-eye view, a subject appears to loom larger. A low viewpoint can look very striking when photographing flowers or fungi. Lie on the ground and point your camera upwards, or, alternatively, hold your camera close to the ground and use a right-angle finder or an articulated LCD to compose shots. It is best to use a wide-angle or fisheye lens for the most striking results. Plants will appear artificially tall and imposing, while flowers will stand out boldly against the sky. If the sky is clear and blue, a polarising filter can saturate its colour further and give your shots added punch.

Your viewpoint has a significant impact on the strength of your composition, so always take a few moments to walk around your subject and explore the possibilities before deciding on your shooting angle.

Backgrounds & 'gardening'

It is easy to underestimatejust how important a subject's background is and the overall effect it has. What you exclude from the frame is often just as important as what you include. Ugly background elements like partially out-offocus highlights and distracting bits of vegetation draw the viewer's eye away from the subject. Peer through the viewfinder and explore the subject's surroundings. Distracting elements can often be excluded easily, either by altering viewpoint or using a larger aperture to create a narrower depth-of-field. It is often possible to remove distracting vegetation by gently flattening it by hand or using scissors - nature photographers call this 'gardening'. Keep a pair of scissors in your camera bag just for this purpose. Just be careful not to damage other flowers in the process.

When a subject's background is particularly messy, small tweaks are unlikely to suffice. An artificial background may be best. To create your own backdrops, spray different coloured paints onto card to simulate out-of-focus backgrounds, or simply photograph foliage - with your lens defocused - before printing the results at A3 or A4 size and attaching them to stiff card to create an authentic-looking artificial background.

Water droplets

Tiny water droplets add scale, sparkle, depth and interest to your flora shots, so one of the best times to photograph nature is after rainfall or on dewy mornings. You can also create your own droplets using a gardener's spray or atomiser. Spray your subject from a short distance until droplets form.

They will glisten attractively in the sunlight and also project a refracted image of the subject directly behind them. In fact, why not use a macro lens or close-up attachment and make the refracted image the focal point of your photo? Still conditions, a tripod and pinpoint focusing are a must. Keep depth-of-field as shallow as possible to ensure the background subject isn't too sharp. Best results come from careful set up: spray a leaf or blade of grass so that droplets form, then align a colourful flower behind it - in a pot or vase - to produce the refracted image. Glycerine works better than water; its higher viscosity makes it more stable and it is less affected by evaporation.

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