Spring is a time of new growth, flowers and colour, in the Lakes it is a time where we lose the beige of late winter, and the old bracken, and get the fresh spring greens.
Before you go out looking for spring landscapes, take a moment to consider what constitutes spring. In the Lakes, I think of Rannerdale valley, with it’s open carpet of bluebells, fresh spring growth and new bracken unfurling to open up and cover the dead bracken of last year.
If you’re working in a landscape with a carpet of flowers, or wild garlic, try a low viewpoint to emphasise the perspective and to bring the blooms to the fore, while still giving an overall view of the scene. A small aperture, such as f/16 or f/22 will ensure front-to-back sharpness and if you can, check the depth-of-field by using your depth-of-field preview button. As a guide, to ensure maximum depth of field, manually focus the lens about a third of the way into the picture from the closest point to where your lens ‘sees’ infinity.
If doing spring landscapes in woodland areas, dappled light shining through the leaves helps to emphasise texture, depth and the fresh, spring feeling. For an added abstract style, try a drag landscape, by panning the camera upwards during a longish exposure, to give an impressionist feeling.
To go in tight on details of carpets of flowers, try using a long lens of 200-300mm at a wide aperture. The wide aperture will give a band of narrow focus through the picture for the eye to lock-on, whereas the telephoto compression offered by the long lens will pull the layers of flowers together to portray a denser mass of colour. A polarising filter may help by taking reflections off the petals and intensifying the colours.
Landscapes with trees showing that wonderful fresh green that they only have in springtime really give a sense of season – whenever I photograph these, I wait until the landscape behind them is in the shadow of a cloud, to really make the light greens stand out. Be careful metering scenes like these, as the dark background may fool the meter into overexposure, resulting in lost highlight detail in the leaves of the subject tree! So keep a close eye on your histogram.
I’m all for working in any weather, but when you’re trying to get across the feeling of a spring day, it pays to pick a good one! Certainly include skies if they are bringing out the feeling of spring warmth, but try to find skies with interesting cloud detail rather than overall featureless blue. If the angle is right, a polarising filter can bring out the blue to great effect. Be very careful when using a polariser in conjunction with a wide-angle lens, as the filter only successfully polarises light at 90 degrees to the sun, a very wide angle of view can often result in one side of the sky showing strong polarisation, whilst the other half shows none. Sometimes a graduated ND filter can have a more even effect on skies taken with wide-angle lenses.
So get out on a good day, and make the most of the fresh, spring feeling.
Article by John Gravett of Lakeland Photographic Holidays – www.lakelandphotohols.com