It’s that time of year again – the wildflowers are about to bloom throughout Arizona – giving photographers a beautiful “Welcome to Spring” bouquet. PAC was honored to have professional photographer Colleen Miniuk Sperry share with us her Wildflower Forecast and top 10 tips for the coming season.
Bloomin’ Seasons – each type of flower has it’s own season to peak.
- Annuals (poppies, lupine, etc.) – A song season starting in March is predicated on significant rains starting in November/December following by showers through March. This year will probably not be a good year for annuals due to a dry winter. However, annuals can be found in ‘controlled environments’ like the Desert Botanical Gardens and Boyce Thompson.
- Perennials – the flowers that bloom each year are not as dependent upon rainfall, and generally bloom in February – April throughout the state.
- Cactus and Trees – expect these flowers to be in full bloom from now through April. I’ve already seen some members posting beautiful cactus blooms on PAC Facebook.
- Monsoon – the monsoon season which occurs between August through October can offer not only dramatic skies but wonderful flowers, especially in the high country.
BONUS SEASON – Disturbance Blooms. This is when man made or natural occurrence creates new flower beds as a result of reseeding. This would include construction sites as well as events such as wildfires.
Colleen’s Top 10 Tips for Better Flower Photos
- Equip Yourself Properly – Bring along several lenses including a ‘normal’ and wide angle lens, in addition to your macro lens, filters or or extension tubes. Use a tripod with an adjustable center column allowing is to get low to the ground. Use a shutter cable release so you can move while the camera doesn’t. A polarizer or graduated neutral density filter can be used for better color saturation. Control light using a diffuser and/or reflector. A Hoodman Hoodloupe allows you to see the image on your camera’s LCD screen even in full sun. Finally, a Wimberly Clamp can stabilize flowers by connecting the stem to your tripod leg.
- Know Your Subject – before hitting the shutter, figure out what you want to convey in your photo. Is it the field of color, or a solitary bloom? Do your research before heading out – know what’s blooming where. Work your subject. Practice visualizing your subject from different perspectives.
- Create Shape with Light – Using sidelight and backlight rather than top and front lighting. Find out what direction the natural light will be coming from using the Photographer’s Ephemeris (www. photoephemeris.com). Use a flash to create light when needed.
- Compose Effectively – Crop in the camera and fill the frame with your subject. Keep in mind the rules of thirds and create depth by creating and using lines. Use the Dutch Tilt (holding your camera at an angle) to add drama. Look for layers in your composition – a foreground, middleground, and background.
- Change your perspective – not only over and under, but consider the photo’s orientation. A vertical photo makes the subject more dramatic while a horizontal shape conveys a peaceful feeling.
- Bring your own background – A piece of posterboard, a t-shirt, or even another photo can create a background allowing the viewer to focus on the subject. Place the background 6-12″ behind the subject and use a shallow depth of field.
- Focus with Precision – Use manual focus and live view for best results. www.dofmaster.com calculates for focus point at various apeture setting to acheive the desired depth of field. When taking a macro, keep the lens parallel to the subject.
- Make Friends With the Wind – Even the tiniest breeze can create a blurred macro photo. Use your equipment to create a windblock and take photos on continous shoot mode to increase your changes of freezing the moment. Compose wider to allow for movement of your subject. Up your ISO to allow for a faster shutter speed. If grain is a concern, take 2 photos – one at a high ISO and one at a low, and then stack and blend them. Use a Wimberly Clamp (see Equip Yourself Properly). Using a flash at 2nd curtain sync can freeze the action. If all else falls, stop fighting it and use a slow shutter speed to capture the ‘dance.’
- Rain, Rain, Don’t Go Away – Bring your own rain using spray bottles with distilled water. If you’re going out in the actual rain, waterproof yourself and your camera (they have raincoats too, you know). Focus on the droplets. Use graduated and polarizer filters to enhance stormy skies.
- Work the Scene – Look for different subject and lighting angles and new perspectives. Look fore leading lines and clusters of colors and contrast. Take lots of photos – your in a unique and once-in-a-lifetime moment. Take advantage of it.
Tis the season – to get wild! Happy shooting!
Thanks to all our wonderful sponsors and friends, including:
Vivyx Printing – You’ve been framed. Check out their new frames and wall clusters. And be sure to enter PAC’s weekly theme contest on Google Plus for a chance to win a beautiful print from Vivyx.
Bay Photo – Use PACWC20 for a 20% discount “Like” their Facebook page for daily specials.