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A Tapestry of Flowers

How to photograph a wildflower meadow


There can’t be many photographers who would stand at the edge of a field of wildflowers and not want to make a photograph of it.

However common the flower is, seeing it en masse makes it something special – a carpet of bright golden buttercups or a sea of scarlet poppies is almost guaranteed to lift your spirits and make you reach for your camera.

How to photograph a wildflower meadow pic 1

I’ve found though that once I’ve recovered from the euphoria of first seeing the meadow, it can be surprisingly difficult to make a good photograph of it.  Imagine the buttercups - a frame filled with just yellow actually doesn’t have much to hold the viewer’s attention, and somehow doesn’t convey the emotion that the scene itself gave you.

But a view of the buttercup field set in all its surroundings may well not work either, if there are unsightly buildings or roads or pylons or any one of hundreds of possible things that may detract from the beauty of the scene.

The ideal – which I always hope for but seldom find – is a single tree growing somewhere in the meadow.  Then you can use a zoom lens and frame carefully to include the tree surrounded by flowers, excluding any unwanted elements.

The tree now acts as a focal point in the picture, holding the composition together.  Consider setting it off centre in the image for a more visually interesting composition.

If you’re not lucky enough to find a suitable tree, sometimes a fence around the field can be used in the composition, especially if it’s a wonky old fence with a bit of character rather than a brand new regular one.

In this photo of phlox and other wild flowers in Texas, I made use of the old fence to anchor the composition – this was definitely helped by the fact that the flowers were growing in profusion on both sides of the fence.

How to photograph a wildflower meadow pic 2

If there are no trees or fences or other focal points, then just fill the frame with flowers!  It will be easier to make an interesting photo if there is more than one colour of flower in the meadow – in this case, you can think about the placement of the different colours in the frame to try to make a balanced and harmonious composition.

Often a longer lens will help with this, as in this photo of coreopsis, Indian paintbrush and bluebonnets, again in Texas.  Here I used a telephoto lens to frame the photo as carefully as possible, avoiding any bare patches or scrubby areas, and the long lens has compressed the perspective in the scene, making the image look almost two dimensional – a tapestry of flowers!

Geoff Harris

I am a photography journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill, Steve McCurry and the late Mary Ellen Mark. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time.

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