Photographing Spring Wildflowers

Today’s blog article was written by Rob Stimpson. He is an internationally published, award-winning photographer best known for capturing the wilds of the Canadian outdoors. His outdoor photography workshops – many in Ontario Parks are very popular!

With the arrival of spring, the wildflowers are quickly populating the forest. The overhead canopy of leaves is just starting allowing the spring sun to work its magic on the forest floor. Photographing these flowers is always a treat – so what is the best way to capture them with your camera. Let’s look at a few ways that will help you.

Lens selection: A macro lens is great – it allows you to get very close to the flower and fill the frame. You have to be very selective here as you cannot achieve great depth of field with these lenses. Make sure the flower is parallel to your digital sensor – which means the top of the composition is the same distance as the bottom to the sensor on your camera, if the camera is tilted, you will find the image might be a little soft at certain points in the composition. The trillium was shot with a 105 macro Nikkor lens.

Perspective: Most of our spring flowers are quite small which means get down on your hands and knees – if your tripod has a centre bar that can be reversed – do so – this allows the camera to be very close to the ground, if you don’t have, boost your ISO which allows faster shutter speeds. The miterwort flower at left is very tiny and requires one to get quite close to the ground to capture it effectively. Make sure your backgrounds aren’t cluttered or it will detract from your centre of interest.

Lighting: Watch for flowers in sunlight with the background in shadow. How do you capture that? First aim your lens at just the flowers – you may want to get right up close to them and meter on just the flower – using that information, re-compose and shoot. Your background should be dark and the flowers nicely exposed – see image of hepatica. If you let the meter take over after you re-compose the result will be lost because your camera will want to also meter the background showing the detail in the shadows.

Patterns: Some flowers grow in groups, such as bunchberry, they can provide some very interesting patterns – watch for them. The image was shot with a 24-70 mm lens @ f8.

Time of day to Shoot: Early morning, late afternoon, after a rain, all work. Don’t forget to bring a small reflector with you to add some light to the flower if it is in shadow. Also bring a pad to kneel down on and watch for other plants – careful you do not step on them. Have Fun!