Posted: Wednesday 29th March 2017 by DevonWildlifeTrust
Nigel's view: our Lady's Wood nature reserve in spring. Photo: Nigel Hicks
Top South West photographer Nigel Hicks offers some springtime tips for taking the best seasonal images.
At last the cold, dark winter days are past, and things are definitely improving quite rapidly. I can actually get up in the mornings now, which is always a sure sign that spring has arrived, aided by the wonderful songs of the robins competing for space in my back garden.
With all the new activity and lengthening daylight hours there are fewer and fewer excuses for not getting the camera out, dusted off and charged up. There is just so much stuff waiting to be photographed, I hardly know where to start.
There are plenty of views that work all year round, views such as the dawn or dusk on the coasts and across the moors, surf rolling across rocks, moorland and woodland streams splashing downhill over and around boulders. All good stuff at any time of year. My tip when photographing moving water is to put the camera on a tripod and slow the shutter speed right down. The resultant blur in the water really puts over the sense of movement.
As we come further into spring, the difference now is that - having just past the spring equinox - the sun is rising and setting further and further to the north, changing the lighting angles at different times of day, and allowing sunlight onto those awkward north-facing subjects, at least early and late in the day.
At the end of March and into early April these are still looking a little wintery, but that won't last a whole lot longer. By late May the trees will have leafed out - even on Dartmoor - putting a magnificent cloak of irridescent green across our landscapes. This is a time for some great woodland photography, both landscape views and leafy details (the latter particularly when the sun is backlighting the leaves) greatly showing off this new life.
Until then, concentrate on the woodland floor, and plethora of flowers that will be taking advantage of the early spring light, before the woodland canopy closes over. Slowly drawing to a close now are the wild daffodils and wood anemones. When photographing either of these these (or indeed any ground-level flower), don't just stand over them and photograph from the upon-high human perspective: get down low and intimate with the flowers, to really home in on their beauty and detail. You might get wet knees or a soggy bum, but you'll have images that really capture the flowers' loveliness.
In a few weeks' time bluebells will carpet many of our woodland floors, a hazy layer of blue-cum-violet mixed in with the vibrant greens. Again, get down low to get a flower's 'eye-view' of their world and shoot across the tops of the flowers. You may want to use a telephoto view in order to crowd the flowers together in the final image. Although this results in a narrower view of the woodland, it enhances the sense of a dense carpet of flowers. Use a wide view and you'll see a lot more of the woodland in the image, but the bluebells will appear to be much more spread out and fewer in number, losing the sense of a dense blue carpet.
The back garden
Finally, never forget your own back garden. Not only are those robins singing like crazy, but they and a host of other birds are getting quite frantic with feeding, territory, courtship and nest-building. The activity in the garden can be quite amazing, particularly if you have bird-feeders set up, and many of the birds will be so busy they'll hardly notice your presence, provided you sit still and quiet. Having the camera at the ready on these occasions can result in some great, surprisingly intimate shots of all this spring activity.
These are just some ideas for all the nature photography you could be doing in the coming weeks. So, get that camera going, get your walking shoes on, and get out to enjoy the spring weather and nature's new life!
The images in this blog are part of Nigel Hicks's Wild Southwest project, a book about the landscapes and wildlife of southwest England.
You can find out more about Wild Southwest here. www.nigelhicks.com/Wild_Southwest.html
Published by Aquaterra Publishing, Wild Southwest is priced £14.99, and is available from all bookshops in the southwest. Online it can be bought from Amazon and at www.aquaterrapublishing.co.uk.
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