Photo by Peter Bargh.
- Wide-angle lens – shoot a carpet of red
- Short tele-photo lens – single out a flower
- Longer tele-photo lens – compresses perspective and helps turn the field into layers of colour
- Polarising filter – enhance colour of poppies and blue skies
If you're lucky to stumble across one of the few poppy fields left, do remember it belongs to someone so unless there's public access, don't go walking through it. You'll be able to get perfectly good results shooting from the side of the road, just make sure your car's parked so it's not causing an obstruction. If there's a hedge blocking your view just extend your tripod's legs until you can see over the top of the hedge and use Liveview. If your camera has a screen that tilts even better as you can move it to stop glare bouncing off it.
If it's windy, it won't matter how strong your tripod is as nothing will stop the flower heads swaying in the breeze. This will be less noticeable if you're shooting sweeping vistas with your wide-angle lens but you'll still need faster shutter speeds to ensure your shots are sharp. Of course you could try something a little more abstract and slow your shutter speeds down to blur the movement of the flower heads. If it's a bright day you'll need to use a smaller aperture and a polarising or ND filter to get the slower shutter speeds. If you want to add warmth to the image shoot at sunrise/sunset when the sky has more colour in it. For contrast, shoot against a blue sky dotted with white clouds.
What to photograph?
If you want to capture the whole field look for a slightly higher vantage point to help emphasis the size of the field. Having some background detail such as trees or a lone building will give your shot shape and break up what can be a boring, flat horizon.
For closer work, try backlighting the flower so the spikes on the stem can be seen. A silver reflector will bounce plenty of light back onto the flower, adding light to shadow areas and balancing the exposure of the shot. If you find a particularly pleasant poppy that has a blanket of poppies behind it, use a wide aperture, focus on your chosen flower and throw the background of poppies out of focus. Where there's a few heads grouped together, pick out a couple for the centre of your shot and use the surrounding poppies to create an out of focus frame.
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