Photographing the winter garden. We imagine snow ice and frost enlivening our photography. We long for the dramatic juxtaposition of white gardens and blue sky, or frost glinting in early morning sunshine.
I really believe in photographing what’s around you, at whatever time of day or night, and not waiting for the perfect moment. Meeting the challenge of making strong images out of scenes that are generally overlooked can teach us so much about photography – no matter how long we have been doing it.
Fennel in frost, against a backdrop of a beech hedge. An image only made possible by the frost. Photography by Philip Smith
In this wet, mild winter I have been looking out at murky scenes, whether in the woods or in the garden. Very little sun to liven things up. Very little bright colour to make the heart race. Venturing out with the full kit of tripod, lenses, everything else I spend the first ten minutes wondering what I am doing there as I squelch around some dismal looking trees. Where’s the colour? Good question. It’s all around me. But it needs to be discovered.
And I have some shiny new lenses to help me. I have been using Sigma lenses for years and they have asked me to use their 180mm lens for a while to see what I think. It’s wonderfully sharp and I am starting to have fun. My eye is beginning to tune up and the colour all around me is starting to get into my brain. The colour is not bright, it does not scream for attention. But it is deep and subtle, smelling of the earth and the season.
Winter creates shapes and forms that that can open our eyes to new ‘landscapes’.
The ultrasharp focus of my perspective control macro lens makes this kind of winter detail take me to a different universe altogether. Photography by Philip Smith
The first flowers of the year are beginning to emerge. These midwinter wonders offer the photographer so much. The dull grey sky lends a subtlety to dark flowers that is specific to this time of year. When bits of brightness appear, they shine out like jewels.
Helleborus ‘Blue Moon’. Photography by Philip Smith
The flowers tell us SPring is just around the corner. Snowdrops are among the most photogenic of plants, but not always photographed well.
In the winter sun their white petals can trick cameras into over exposing, especially if the scene contains contrasting dark earth. The flowers can be left looking like white blobs.
This shot was taken on a very grey, dark early morning. Dull light, yes, but it does show the veins on the petals nicely because the camera can handle the low contrast very well. Photography by Philip Smith
Try using spot metering to make sure the exposure of the flowerhead is correct. Or alternatively, bracket the exposures and wait until you get back on the computer to choose the best exposure. You will find that it is easier to photograph snowdrops under a grey sky , since the contrast between the flower and its surroundings is much lower, enabling the camera to record detail and true colour more easily.
If you can balance the contrast between the white flower and the background, then your image will have a coherence it might otherwise miss. Here, the background is a mid-toned shrub – handy!
Philip Smith’s workshops for 2016 are now listed on his website –
go to http://www.philipsmithphoto.com/workshop-schedule