During spring a few of South Africa’s parks steal the spotlight as millions of wildflowers burst into bloom. Knowing where to go is one thing, but how to capture the moment… Our top tips for wildflower photography will get you snapping in no time. By Arnold Ras and Magriet Kruger
If blooming buds make your heart beat faster, these Wild Card destinations should be on your check-list: Cederberg Wilderness Area, Namaqua National Park, West Coast National Park, and Tankwa Karoo National Park. And because protected areas have a strict ‘no flower picking’ policy, the best memento is a photograph. You don’t need to be a pro to come away with a special picture – simply let the flowers do the talking.
Follow our top tips for taking great wildflower pictures while being a responsible traveller.
#1: Selfie not selfish
Whether you’re checking in, uploading a quick snap or sharing a selfie, don’t compromise your natural surrounds in doing so. Don’t be tempted to walk right into the middle of a field or lie amid the flowers for more effect; their beauty is more than enough to impress. Kneel or squat on the road next to the flowers, then get the photographer to shoot from a low-angle – it will seem like you’re among the wildflowers without damaging any blooms. Wild travellers, remember to tag your pictures with #wildadventuregoals. We want to be part of your adventure!
#2: Find your focus
When surrounded by thousands of dazzling flowers, it can be hard not to feel overwhelmed. So rather than trying to capture the whole landscape, why not focus on a few flowers? Position a pretty shrub in the foreground and use a shallow depth of field to blur the background details. This emphasises your subject and lets the star of the show – the wildflowers – shine brightest.
#3: Show context
Flowers are not just pretty, they have a purpose. Take pictures that show wildflowers in relation to the ecosystem. Get down on to your hands and knees and you will soon see that an array of fascinating creatures visit the flowers. A bee covered in pollen or a butterfly sipping on nectar will add new interest to your flower photos. To best capture these visitors, you will need to use a macro lens but even a cellphone can get up close and personal.
#4: Keep it steady
When shooting flowers from close up, even the slightest movement can result in a blurry picture. Use a high shutter speed to prevent motion blur and stabilise your camera with a tripod. Choose a tripod that is adjustable so you can get as close to the ground as possible. And if a tripod has slipped your mind, improvise with your backpack as a camera rest.
#5: Still life in flowers
The wind is not your friend when it comes to flower photos. For sharp images, use a windbreak or even your body as shield to keep the flowers from moving. If that doesn’t work, walk around and hunt for a flower in a more sheltered spot. After all, looking for flowers is half the fun.
#6: A fresh perspective
Sometimes the most memorable photos are the most unexpected. Experiment with shutter speed, f-stop, camera angle. Here the low angle makes the flowers look like a sea of orange and the solitary springbok emphasises the abundance of the flowers.
#7: Lighting in the wild
You can’t control the sun’s location, but don’t try to avoid Earth’s biggest light by completely ignoring it. Work with the sun and you can turn it to your advantage. You don’t have to shoot with the sun falling over your shoulder either. Some of the most striking images are backlit, with the sun’s rays shining through the petals. And don’t let overcast weather or even light rain dampen your spirits – the soft light often shows the flowers to best effect.
#8: Be different
Think out of the box – dare to be different and bold. No one but you should like your photography. You are the creator and you make your own rules. As they say, beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. Whatever your approach, camera settings, equipment or photography knowledge, it all comes down to portraying what you feel while exploring wildflowers this spring. But remember, you are in the wilderness: always be ready to click when the unexpected happens – like a Cape spurfowl walking into the frame.
Happy spring, Wild travellers!