Spring is galloping under sustained temperatures of 15-20C and not a drop of rain in the past few days and none forecast. If this continues I will begin to feel like a headless chicken dashing hither and thither to my favourite haunts for the shots I know I will find.
So it was nice last week to go to Rousham, a totally unspoilt, and un-commercial country house garden untainted by crowds, gift/tea/ticket shops, and to which children under 15 are barred.
There’s simply an honesty box for a five pound ticket. It’s a haven of peace and tranquillity in which one can wander: Green lawns, sloping woodland down to a stream. Water features, statuary, hidden gems. Walled kitchen and flower gardens, a huge dovecote. It’s a place we ‘discovered’ rather late but now visit through the year. There were only 3 other visitors on the day we visited. Wonderful!
The bulbs were out – and here they are. Crocuses, Daffodils and Tulips.
My approach to Spring foliage, flowers and blossom is to try to shoot towards the light to capture the translucency of the colours. My favourite lens for this work is my 24-85 Nikkor with a macro facility. I rarely use a tripod unless I am working with a long lens – I find a tripod inhibits my freedom to get the composition right. Metering can be tricky: I opt for spot metering, set the exposure compensation to Minus 0.3 or 0.5 stops and the shooting mode to Aperture Priority.
My viewpoint is often flat on the ground; at home in the garden I can often be seen carrying a large waterproof groundsheet to avoid getting wet! I have no compunction about weeding out stray grass or removing dead leaf litter from a shot, but try never to damage the plant itself. Avoiding bright out of focus highlights at the capture point is useful but often not possible.
Back home my workflow is predictable. In Camera Raw I recover any blown highlights but usually do little else other than increase Clarity by +10-15.
In Photoshop my first task is to use the Spot Healing brush to deal with any unwelcome blemishes on the flower/blossom/Leaf and then employ the Clone Stamp tool to deal with distracting highlights – that can be time consuming and tricky. At this stage I may have a crop in mind but usually I resist the urge to crop. Better to do all the processing on the full image and then play around with crops later.
I work my way through a familiar set of possible adjustments: Levels, a Linear Contrast Curve, maybe a tweak to Saturation, and then possible use of Shadow/Highlight and/or Brightness/Contrast to see what improvements they yield, in that order. More often than not I will clip the shadows to allow the object to stand out from its background. Then lastly, sharpening. I save the uncropped image and save a cropped version separately if I think that a crop improves the composition.