Sometimes it pays to try something different. Drop yourself down on the ground and stick your face in among the flowers, and then shoot up, right into the sky. You can wind up with some unique results.
Some flowers — poppies especially — open pretty late in the day. If you try shooting them straight on in midday light, you’ll most likely come up with an unflattering blotch of contrasting lights and darks. So why not go for the ultimate dramatic extreme, and shoot totally backlit, straight up into the sun?
I discovered this some years ago when I first started shooting digital. The wonderful freedom that a digital camera gave me (I call it “guilt-free” shooting, since you don’t have to worry about wasting film), allowed me to try all sorts of creative new things. So, one day I’m confronted with a bevy of 12-inch high midday poppies. I just drop the camera back right on the ground, snap it, pick it up, check the image, see a comp that’s off a bit, drop it down again, snap again, and so on, until I get a shot I like. One of the shots got published as that year’s cover for the wildflower issue of the magazine.
But this hit-or-miss technique can be pretty tedious (although if you own a compact digital with a tilt-view screen, that can help a lot), and I do prefer to be more in control of what I’m shooting. This year’s horizontal shot for instance, was all about orchestrating the reach of the poppies for the sun. So I shot on a tripod, cranked all the way down and legs splayed out. To be able to compose through the viewfinder, I had my cheek on the ground. Using a very wide lens (12mm), and being extremely close to the flowers, the slightest shift in angle or direction — a matter of half an inch — can alter the composition entirely. So be patient and work at it, until you get it exactly right.
Finally, I had the frame that I wanted — the sun at the peak of the triangle of the poppies reaching up. I waited to make sure the flowers were still, then pushed the button. Exposure was 1/30 at f-22. Using a small f-stop not only keeps all the flowers sharp, but creates the finest (most pointed) starburst out of the sun, especially on a very wide lens.
— Nick Berezenko, contributing photographer