Sunday, April 12, 2015

How to take a great photograph of wildflowers during a day hike

Pasque flowers usually are the first blossom to be spotted
on Upper Midwest prairies.
With spring’s arrival, wildflowers soon will start to bloom across the United States and Canada. You may be tempted to retain your memories of the beautiful wildflowers during a hike by taking photographs of them – but as you may have discovered, photographing wildflowers isn’t as simple as point and shoot.

Fortunately, by following a few simple guidelines, anyone can take great pictures of wildflowers.

First and foremost, photograph wildflowers on overcast or cloudy days. Sunlight casts harsh shadows and leaves bright highlights on blossoms. Clouds, however, diffuse the light, resulting in an even distribution or balance of light from the sky. If hiking when the day is not overcast, wait for a cloud to block the sun or limit pictures to wildflowers growing in the shade.

When taking the photo, position your camera's sensor (It typically is a small dot at the 1 or 2 o'clock position relative to the camera lens.) so that it's parallel to the flower's petals. This ensures the petals are sharp and in focus on the picture.

Next, if possible use a shutter speed of at least 1/200 second. Even the slightest breeze will cause the blossom to blur if using a slower shutter speed. The alternatives are to wait for a break in the wind or to hike when the air is absolutely still.

Use a telephoto lens with a short minimum focus distance to improve your photograph’s sharpness. The minimum distance should be five feet or less. This will allow the bloom to fill the frame yet remain focused.

Finally, select a background that doesn’t distract from the blossom. The lack of a contrasting color (such as a white flower against a sandy background) will prevent the bloom from standing out. Other background distractions are some shape that stands out, such as the edge of a fencepost behind the blossom. The best background often is one that’s a shade of green and that’s "far away" from the flower, so that the leaves are out of focus on the picture.

Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.