The other day I indulged in some very relaxing photography. With no particular goals in mind, I set out to my local nature reserve to see what I could find; I simply wanted to photograph what I wanted without any pressures or specific markets in mind.
What first leaped out at me was the light, very overcast but not too grim. This proved perfect for seeking out the first signs of changing colour on the hedgerows and trees. I set about shooting some wider shots before turning my attention to more close up images. I soon became hooked. As a nature photographer, I find that the best images are often taken when you go with the flow, seeking out what's there and allowing yourself to be guided by the subject and the conditions at the time. This was certainly the case here, as I realised how perfect the conditions were for creating close up images with a long lens.
It was a long time since I had done this kind of photography properly. Literally years.! I started with some hawthorn leaves that presented themselves well against the shaded background of dark reflections in the canal. Technique is really important for this type of photography. I was using a 300mm lens to concentrate on specific compositions, using the shallow depth of field to blur the background. The wind was low with just a gentle breeze, but even so it was paramount to do everything possible to maintain stability. My tripod is great for this - a big sturdy gitzo, capable of extending to around seven feet. Closing the aperture down to around f9 for enough depth of field in the subject meant that shutter speeds were around 1/50 second - fairly slow with a big lens - even on a tripod. I used mirror lock up, and for even more stability, wedged a spare battery between the tripod head and the bottom of the lens. It was then a case of careful focusing and waiting for the minimal movement in the breeze.
The light was just magical. In the wider world it looked flat and boring, but up close... it was sheer perfection. The whole time I was shooting towards the sun and the hazy soft light couldn't have been better for bringing out the colours and textures. I've lost count of the number of people who have walked past me during similar photo-shoots. "What are you photographing..?" they ask. It seems obvious to me - something glorious and uplifting, an amazing combination of colour and light - all for free..! Most just don't get it - carrying on past and looking slightly perplexed at how I could possibly be excited by the scene..!?
If you would like to learn the techniques for this kind of photography then join me for a One to One Photography Workshop photographing Nature and Wildlife