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Angelika Stehle shares her garden photography tips

Maintaining a beautiful garden while concentrating one's precious time on photographing does not have to be a contradiction in itself.

|  Flowers and Plants
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Not to be confused with an abandoned unkempt piece of ground, a natural style wild garden with its wild plants and wildflowers will add photographic opportunities as it attracts wildlife. Butterflies and bees along with other insects prefer chemical-free (weedkiller- and insecticide-free) gardens with wild plants to lay their eggs on. Songbirds and others follow suit and look after the biological balance.

Your little nature reserve will also encourage small mammals such as hedgehogs, and their little families can reward you with lovely scenes to watch and photograph. Water in a garden attracts even more forms of wildlife such as newts, toads, and frogs, as well as dragonflies which show a happy existence between marsh marigolds and water lilies.

For your existing traditional garden to become a labour-saving haven full of interesting wildlife in a beautiful natural setting, the first step would be to remove any items that make things look formal and sterile and replace them informally with rocks and wood, creating nooks and crannies for animals to hide in and for seeds to get caught in. Then you can start planting self-seeding wildflowers among your borders and in other places where soil can still be seen. Climbers can be positioned next to trees and any tall features; and lawns can be adapted and naturalised by planting bulbs and patches of wildflowers in amongst the grass. And from then on let nature do the rest.

Apart from any absolute necessities, resist the urge of mowing and manicuring, - relax and let plants and animals thrive together and keep your camera ready to shoot! Come early spring, and butterflies will wake up from hibernation, looking for nectar. A garden well furnished with flowers supplying pollen and nectar will also be well populated with bees and other insect life.

For satisfying shots, a macro lens (or other close-up equipment) and a sturdy tripod are recommended. On close-up range, the depth of field is very limited, which means that focusing needs to be very precise. The relationship between aperture and timing will decide the exact depth of field, but light conditions and speedy movements of the insect will also influence the choice of settings. In order to catch good images of birds, a densely grown environment is advantageous, but if you can hide behind some sort of cover, equipped with tele lens, tripod, and lots of quiet patience, success might only be as far away as the next branch of a tree. You might even witness nesting and family activities and commit them to film.

Small mammals as well as amphibians and reptiles (lizards) might require a bit of homework, and after you are familiar with their habits you will know what time of day to expect them, and you can establish your gear near their preferred places and tempt them with their favourite food. Some of them will require you to get up very early, or others take pleasure in the long summer evenings, so be prepared for dawn and dusk light conditions.

As objects that can't run or fly away, plants and flowers are a never ending source for shots as they come and go and change with the seasons. You might like to get really close, and in your own garden you can take all the time and go to any lengths that you can think of. As Goethe is known to have said: "Why go to far flung places when look - good things are so near?!" (Warum denn in die Ferne schweifen, wenn sieh das Gute ist so nah!)

Location: Potentially your own garden How to get there: just a few steps outside Best time of day: dawn to dusk, possibly even at night, early mornings are especially good What to shoot: wildlife and wildflowers What to take: tele lens for wildlife, macro lens for plant close-ups, tripod Best time of year: all year round Where to stay: at home Nearest pub: your preference Ordinance Survey map: not necessary Further information: books on wild and natural gardens such as the ones by Violet Stevenson(Frances Lincoln Ltd.) or by Francesca Greenoak (Reed Consumer Books Ltd.)

Wildflowers should be bought in a garden centre. Lifting them from the wild is against the law.
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Finally I have the "wild" garden I've been aiming at for years!

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