Photographing flowers in the wild seems like a simple thing. There's no need to carry huge lenses, you don't have to sneak up or direct your subject and you can spend as long or as little as you like photographing them. However, there are a few other problems you have to address especially with a subject like snowdrops. They are small and bloom when it is cold, hence the technical challenge.
In the UK, common snowdrops can bloom from late December through to March but thanks to the cold weather the UK's experienced over the last few months, a lot of places still have snowdrops decorating their gardens. Be quick if you're heading to a place that opens to showcase their snowdrops, though, as many tours will be ending soon.
If your garden no longer has snowdrops in it, many of these tips can be applied to other types of spring flower photography too. Crocuses are just starting to appear and these will soon be followed by colourful daffodils.
To get close enough to a small flower you can use a macro lens or a telezoom lens with an extension tube. Ideally, you need to be working at the same height as the flower so you'll be working close to the ground which will make it difficult to use the viewfinder so LiveView would be useful as you'll be able to see what the viewfinder sees without actually having to use it.
To get good depth-of-field you need a small f/stop, which means you need a long exposure and as a result, you'll need a tripod. A tripod will help reduce camera shake but you'll need to splay the legs and, if possible, adjust the centre column from vertical to horizontal to get closer to the ground. Vanguard's Alta Pro range
features tripods with this ability. In fact the centre columns can move from zero to 180-degree angles in variable vertical and horizontal positions.
Accessories For You And Your Camera
The camera's self-timer or even a cable release will also help you keep your shots steady. Having a waterproof sheet to lay on or a mat to kneel on would be a useful as the ground will be wet and sitting on damp soil for long periods of time isn't a pleasant experience. Kneeling pads, the sort gardeners use are handy too and make life more bearable.
Places To Go
Snowdrops (and other spring flowers) can be found in many places and can grow quite happily in your back garden, but there are several places right across the UK which open specially to showcase their blooms, so why not take advantage of them?
These are just some of the places which have great snowdrop gardens in the UK:
Snowdrop Week has ended but the Gardens are now open for the season and there are still thousands of snowdrops to see! Plus, crocuses and daffodils are showing their heads too.
Here the snowdrop season runs throughout February and early March and snowdrops cover around 5 acres of the estate. It's one worth making a note of for next year's season, although the cold weather could mean quite a few snowdrops are still on show.
Rode Hall's snowdrop walks close on 10 March so you'll have to visit this weekend if you want to take part in one. The gardens are filling with other spring flowers that are worth capturing, though.
Photo by David Clapp - www.davidclapp.co.uk
Movement From Wind
A problem all flower photographers face is wind and since you'll be often using long exposures the slightest breeze blowing across the flower can cause movement and blur. Even though we'd like to, we don't have the power to control the weather so wind is something we just have to be patient with and wait to pass by. You can also use small pieces of wire to steady the flower but if you do this remember to remove the wire when finished and don't leave any rubbish lying around. Another gadget would-be flower shooters should consider is the Wimberley Plamp.
Find a specimen that has distinctive features or you just like the look of that doesn't have anything in the background or foreground and shoot a shot that's completely isolated. By doing this you'll have a background that's far out of focus and not distracting for the viewer. To do this you need good depth-of-field that blurs the background but yet keeps the flower sharp. Starting at f/8 and experiment from there.
Take your focus in even further and solely focus your attention on the head, cutting the steam and any other distracting objects completely out of the frame.
Centre Of Attention
If you find a group of snowdrops or even crocuses find one or two in the centre that you want to be the focus of the image and use the other flowers surrounding it to create a out of focus frame. Out of focus snowdrops can also be used to create a white backdrop to add an interesting twist to an image where we usually expect to see a green background. You can also have a single flower pin-sharp at the top of the image and use a narrow depth-of-field to blur all the flowers in front of it to create an almost filter blur.
Instead of having an empty background try using a second flower to fill the image. You don't want this flower to distract from your subject so adjust accordingly to blur to second flower out of focus.
Shoot After A Rainstorm
Working with macro lenses means you can capture raindrops that gather on flower heads and leaves. When doing this, try capturing the flower from more of an angle to get more drops in shot and to give them a more dynamic feel.