Playing The Long Game: Outdoor Photography With Telezooms

Photographing Dandelions

Here are a few tips on photographing dandelion clocks creatively.

| Flowers and Plants
As weeds go, the dandelion is arguably the most pretty and certainly worth a picture. Its vibrant yellow flowers are common at this time of year, whether in gardens or meadows but the most challenging photographically speaking is the dandelion clock.

Photographing Dandelions: Dandelions

Find a good specimen or two, out of the wind and you have a subject that is worth spending a little time on. You can shoot close-ups, backlit, from above, from below, with different backgrounds...the list goes on! Of course, being a weed you can just cut the head off to shoot indoors. By doing so you can, as many photographers have, spend ages simulating individual seeds being blown off the head.

If you want to shoot dandelion silhouettes, something we cover further down, please do NOT try this technique with a camera's optical viewfinder because you can cause irreparable eye damage. Always switch to LiveView when looking towards the sun. You have been warned!

Gear Suggestions:

The wide-angle, telephoto and macro approach, all can work with dandelions so do try all your lenses. A tripod will come in handy too. 


Shot Type

With telephotos and macro lenses, really take care with focusing, even more so because you might be using wide apertures. This is especially important with macro lenses as you get in really close. The globe-like dandelion seed head measures roughly 3-4cm from front-to-back and even at small apertures there is precious little depth-of-field; at wide apertures it will be down to a few millimetres.

With wide-angles, get down low and shoot up to get the flowers against an interesting sky. Use Live View, if you have it, to compose images.

With telephotos, explore viewpoints until you get one flower sharp against a lovely backdrop of blurred yellow flowerheads. Keep the aperture value wide for great selective focus. If you're away from your garden shooting with a telephoto lens you may want to consider taking a camera bag such as those available in Vanguard's Kinray Lite collection which are designed with the outdoor photographer in-mind. 


Exposure can be a challenge because brightly lit white seed heads can confuse the meter into thinking that there is more light around than there actually is and make them come out too grey, thus spoiling their look so do pay attention to this. 


If you want to have a go at shooting close-up silhouettes remember to use LivewView so you don't damage your eyes and fix your camera on a tripod to ensure your image is sharp. You need to be working with a macro lens so you can fill the frame, although a  A telephoto lens at its minimum focus, perhaps with an extension tube or close-up lens attached, can work too. Engage Live View, and aim the camera at the sun.

You'll probably find it easier to set the focus and exposure manually. You'll also need to adjust focus by moving the subject back and forth. If you want to change the framing, put the subject down, adjust the focusing barrel and then try again. It's not something that you are guaranteed to get right first time so do take the time to refine and reshoot, repositioning the dandelion, altering your focus or shooting at a different point during the day. Remember that light is warmer around sunrise or sunset due to the level of the sun in the sky but it's not set in stone that you should shoot at this time. 

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