Sunday, 6 May 2012

Shooting the blossom

First of all I’d just like to apologise for my recent absence, but I have been kinda’ snowed under with work, so…sorry! Unfortunately, the aforementioned work has also prevented me from getting out much with my camera, although I made a real effort the other day to make it up to the University Botanic Gardens, Durham to shoot another seasonal must…the blossom. I pretty much missed it last year and almost did again; a lot of the stuff had already fallen, no thanks to the recent spell of rain and wind we’ve experienced in Britain of late. There was just enough left on the trees to capture some reasonable, colourful close-ups. There’s a lovely area of these gardens called the Japanese Friendship Garden that’s surrounded by blossom at this time of year and while the trees weren’t as full as they might have been a week or so back, this was the first place I headed.

I had intended to shoot some wide-angle images, taking in a broad expanse of the garden, with the vibrant pinks and reds as the focal point. However, the slightly bare-looking trees didn’t seem to make a wide focal length appropriate. I therefore shot all afternoon on my 70-200mm optic, concentrating on isolating individual flowers and branches. Most of these shots were made racked-out at 200mm and wide-open at f/2.8 to throw the backgrounds out-of-focus. The large aperture also allowed me to handhold the shots, which although not ideal, was necessary due to my tripod not extending tall enough to shoot the hanging branches straight on. I composed these examples so that the backgrounds consisted of bold colours to compliment and/or contrast with the blossom. Most of the time I arranged the shots so that other blossom-filled trees were visible as a blur of complimenting colour. For the final shot here, I was shooting from a kneeling position, near the ground, with the bright blue sky behind. Ironically this image was taken in the car park, before driving away; the others were carefully framed and well thought-through, while this was basically a snapshot…click and go! It also happens to be one of my favourites from the shoot. 

f there’s one bit of advice I can convey about shooting boldly-coloured plant life such as blossom, it’s to do so under overcast lighting; sun spots and dappled light just ruin the atmosphere completely. The diffused light from the cloudy sky is perfectly soft and ‘wrap-around’, and is nature’s very own soft-box, studio light. The colours will be far more saturated than under direct sunlight to, but without looking false; they’ll be natural! I also like to underexpose slightly in these circumstances, which did here buy about 1 stop, as this further adds the “punchiness” of the tones.     

That’s all folks...!

I’ll try and post a bit more regularly than once every decade from now on J

Peter  x

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