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After a long winter of bare trees and monochrome landscapes, the cornucopia of colors that erupts in spring is visually overwhelming. We easily can start snapping away haphazardly at anything and everything in a quest to take in all the vivid hues. Here are some tips to consider that will help you gain focus and produce stunning photos that take full advantage of what nature serves up this spring.
Go Full Tilt
1 Having everything perfectly straight and parallel can be perfectly boring. Look for scenes where you can have dramatic angles in the shot. This hillside is ideal. The horizon line created by the hill adds a dynamic quality to the photograph. A note of caution: Don't just tilt the camera to create angles. It seldom looks like anything but a mistake.
Eliminate The Horizon
2 You don't have to be completely literal all the time when you shoot. Try eliminating the horizon to create a slightly abstract look. Here, the sense of a limitless carpet of yellow flowers is accentuated because there's no horizon. Try this technique with longer focal lengths that compress the perspective. It's not right for every shot, but it's perfect for these yellow black-eyed Susans.
Use Dramatic Weather
3 The ominous dark gray of an impending storm can set off a field of wildflowers like nothing else. Watch your exposure so you don't blow out the scene. Your camera's meter can be fooled in these conditions, so keep an eye on the histogram and bracket if you can. If the sky is really good, use a wider-angle lens to get it all in the frame. Too many photographers are so focused on the flowers that the wild sky gets cropped out of what would have been a special photo.
Close-Up Quick Tips From George Lepp
Put Yourself In The Flower
4 You can create a wild and surreal look with a wide-angle macro technique. I take a wide-angle lens, usually a 17-40mm or 16-35mm, and place a small extension tube behind it. The extension tube needs to be in the 8-12mm range; anything longer and the wide-angle lens won't focus on anything. By stopping the lens down to ƒ/16, you'll get a lot of depth of field; just move the whole camera/lens back and forth until you find the sharpness. You'll be very close, with the petals possibly touching the front element, so getting light into the flower can be a bit difficult, as it's hard to get out of the way of your own shadow. An overcast day solves this problem.
The wide-angle approach gives the effect of standing on the petal looking into the center of the flower! Usually, you can find the composition and distance you want by varying the focal length (16-17mm is the most dramatic) and setting the focus on the lens to infinity. For even more radical renditions, put an 8-12mm extension tube behind a fisheye lens, stop it down to ƒ/16 or ƒ/22, and capture a close-up that encases the viewer. Or include a sunburst in your image by getting under the flower and shooting up into the sky. The world becomes a more intimate place when a 15mm fisheye and a 12mm extension tube are used to photograph the seed head of a dandelion.
—George D. Lepp
Isolate With A Long Lens
5 We tend to go out photographing wildflowers with a macro lens, but next time take your long telephoto lens and see your subject a little differently. I often use my 100-400mm zoom set to 400mm to isolate one or more flowers from the group. With a long lens, depth of field is shallow, so with careful placement you can put the emphasis right where you want it. Set the aperture close to wide-open to further minimize the depth of field. An advantage of this is that your shutter speed will be pretty fast so that handholding the camera/lens will be possible. You'll quickly notice that your long telephoto won't focus as close as you might like. Bring along an extension tube or two to shorten the focus distance and allow full-frame flowers. I've taken this idea to the extreme by using my 500mm ƒ/4 telephoto and two extension tubes to capture my subject amidst a beautiful soft-colored background without any distracting detail. This Cosmos flower was isolated using a 500mm ƒ/4 lens at ƒ/5.6 and a 25mm extension tube on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III.
—George D. Lepp