The wonders of wildflowers (part two)
This is part two of a two part series on wildlflower photography. You can see part one, from last week, here.
The rules of composition are not absolute, but they can help
Photographic rules can be manipulated to your advantage, so I encourage you to use whatever tools you can to put your subject on centre stage.
At the same time, you don’t need to be explicit with your use of compositional aids. Branches and leaves can be used to direct our line of vision while creating a natural framework for example and can be used to make subtle leading lines.
When it comes to the rule of thirds, I like to instead focus on the use of negative space in the frame. This gives structure to our image and room for our subjects to pose and breathe – in some cases the rule of thirds will help this, but it shouldn’t be a template for every situation.
Finally, some images can only be captured by shooting low to the ground, so be mindful of surrounding vegetation and creatures, e.g., bull ants, snakes, mosquitos, and ticks!
Form, shape, and contrast are potent elements
To keep your work interesting, look for ways of incorporating odd numbers, repetition, and symmetry to provide visual depth, balance, and appeal.
A useful technique is to try to break down a scene into shapes. Branches and clusters of flowers can create triangles, and petals can create circles, leading the viewer's eye to the main focal point. At the same time, you can use other elements in the frame to give your subject a sense of scale.
Key with all of this is time to allow yourself time to meander. Wildflower photography is not a rushed art; it is about giving yourself time to discover what lies within your surroundings.
Learn to observe; botanicals don’t go anywhere in a hurry. If you have patient friends, they can make great spotters and often see things that we may not.
Remember too that seasons have a significant impact on botanicals and their surroundings. Colour, mood, and wildlife activity is in a constant flux of change. I will often revisit an area over several months to capture buds, flowers and then the state of decay.
Many camera/lens combinations can be used to achieve a beautiful wildflower image, but I believe what’s equally important is understanding how to manipulate your camera and lenses to achieve your desired vision.
Become familiar with the focusing distance of your lenses so there aren’t any surprises in the field. A 100-400mm lens is not much use when you’re on a narrow track and can’t move backwards!
Also, remember that the depth of field at F5.6 on a 100mm macro lens close to your subject will be much shallower than using a long lens from a distance zooming in.
I prefer to hike light and make quick compositional changes, so a tripod is not often by my side. On the occasions I do take it out, I like to replace the long centre column with a shorter one, so I can shoot closer to the ground.
If you are new to photography, I recommend starting by shooting in P mode. P mode gives you some control of the camera’s manual settings but lets the camera do most of the deciding.
Doing this allows you to concentrate on your composition and study the light.
As your confidence grows, switch over to Aperture priority mode and experiment.
Do you prefer the look of an ethereal botanical shot at f2.8 or an image with more details shot at f11? Use your ISO to help your shutter speed stay equal to or greater than the inverse focal length of your lens and use spot AF so you are in control of what is in focus. ❂