Winters in the UK can be long, cold and harsh – particularly if you’re a fan of picture-taking. In the real depths of the chilly season you’d be forgiven for feeling as though spring was never going to turn up… and then, out of nowhere, vast swathes of snowdrops pop up out of leaf-strewn woodland and give us all a sign that the warmer weather is just around the corner!
Snowdrops can make beautiful subjects for photos, but they’re not around for long – so it’s important to make the most of them while you can. Here’s how to capture snowdrops on camera, along with some creative ideas to get you thinking about these most seasonal of flowers…
You’ve not got long to enjoy snowdrops: they normally pop up towards the end of Jan and linger until March, depending on where you’re located in the UK and the weather you’re experiencing, of course!
Some locations – particularly National Trust properties – specialise in these delicate blooms, and true Galanthus (that’s Latin for snowdrop) aficionados will make pilgrimages across the country to visit these special places. In peak snowdrop season they’re bound to be busy, so think about dropping by mid-week to enjoy photographing the flowers undisturbed by other visitors.
Set your alarm clock
Once you know where you’re heading, getting there early will give you the best possible chance to enjoy the day. As well as avoiding large crowds, you also might get an opportunity to shoot the snowdrops in morning mist, and enjoy the sideways light found at the start and end of the day.
Pack the right kit
To get the most out of a trip to photograph snowdrops you’ll need some good kit by your side. Mirrorless and DSLR owners should pack a wide range of lenses, including wide-angles to capture the banks of flowers in woodland – as well as macro lenses for extreme close-ups. Take extra memory cards and a spare battery too, if you have one, so you can extend your day out as long as you like.
If you’ve got a compact camera, the above still applies – but check your camera’s automatic modes to see if you have one that suits flowers or macro subjects.
Get a better perspective
Snowdrops are deeply tempting subjects to photograph, but so many people simply stand above them and snap downwards. The best approach is to get down to their level – which might mean a little lie down in the mud! Pack a binbag or other plastic sheeting to protect yourself from the worst of the grub, and be careful not to damage any other flowers while you’re setting up your shot!
Shooting at the same level as their white hanging teardrop-style flowers will give you a chance to appreciate their delicate details – time to get out the macro lens and experiment with a shallow depth of field. If you’re looking at a lot of flowers all together, try blurring out the other flowers so they appear as white bokeh, blurred in the back of your shot: adjust your aperture to check results as you shoot. Do you want a single bloom in focus, or a clump? Try both, and see which you prefer.
Consider your lighting (and get creative!)
Natural light is best, especially at this time of year – but the direction in which it falls on the flower can make all the difference. Try capturing the snowdrop from all angles: backlit can be particularly dramatic, leaving the snowdrop with bright glowing leaves.
If you pack a small reflector in your camera bag, you could also experiment with bouncing light back into the shot to add extra illumination. A small water spray bottle will allow you to gently add moisture when you’re working extremely close-up to flowers: these fake dewdrops can add real interest to an image.
Don’t forget black and white
Most people approach snowdrops by working in colour, especially with the bright white blooms against leaf-strewn ground and bright green leaves – but there’s no reason why a monochromatic approach wouldn’t work either, especially in high-contrast areas with shadows galore. Experiment, and tag us in if you get a good one!