Harbingers of spring
One of the most eagerly awaited sights after the cold darkness of winter is the first snowdrop. But where to find one? Thanks to everyone for their suggestions on Facebook in response to my question about the best places for snowdrops. So far, however, I have not been able to get to any of them as they are quite some distance from our new home. I decided to walk and have a look around. To my surprise and delight I found two bunches of them within fifty feet of our front door. One is in the hedge opposite and the other is part of a much larger planting of daffodils amongst a small group of birch - watch this space! Amazing what you find when you really look!
A longer walk - to be honest a short drive - took me to the entrance to Lisanoure Castle and there a carpet of snowdrops spreads out beneath the beech trees!
If you want some great advice on shooting snowdrops, check out the article by Heather Angel in the recent edition of Amateur Photography (16th February). Two years ago I bought one of her books on flower photography and found it hugely inspiring. So armed with her advice I started out.
The lighting was kind - beautiful late afternoon sunshine over a number of days together with an occasional shower which provided some very helpful raindrops - but the wind was not. Snowdrops are jittery little things at the best of times - part of their charm - so hopefully I can be forgiven if they are not all 'tack sharp'. Two other challenges faced me. Getting in close limits the depth of field greatly. Using a tripod to allow an aperture of f11 or more reduced the shutter speed which in turn increased the likelihood of the flowers being blurred. The other problem was that snowdrops are not exactly high off the ground! The only solution was to kneel - and then the problem was getting up again!
Compositionally I decided to go from the general to the particular, from the context to (hopefully) a close-up individual portrait. So this was the general location. The snowdrops were scattered around beneath some mature beech trees, with all the usual debris of rotting leaves and broken branches. There was also a wire fence and then some buildings and a road, so isolating a general shot from these distractions was a challenge.
I then went in closer both for the below shot of snowdrops packed intensely together as well as for the wider shot that was cropped to the panorama at the head of this blog. The evening sunshine was a great boon.
For the closer shots I looked for a contrasting object to help frame the snowdrops or to set them off in some way (Heather Angel's advice). There was nothing in the first location but not far away in a much more overgrown part of the local woodland I discovered a few clumps of snowdrops, one of which was growing next to a moss-covered stone. Ideal!
A handy broken branch, also covered with moss served as my next prop.
It was now time to go closer.
And finally to go closer still.
I hope you enjoyed this anticipation of Spring!
Keywords: Northern Ireland Landscape, Snowdrops
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