Today's newsletter is all about native blossom and the apt term Blackthorn Winter provides us a reminder of how harsh weather can return at the drop of a hat- it refers to the habit Blackthorn has of flowering just before a cold snap.
Subjects to seek out this month:
Surely it is a hard heart which does not brighten at the sight of spring blossom. Blackthorn, Hawthorn, Apple, Cherry- we are spoilt for choice. Some winter flowering species have been and gone but many natives are just starting to break or yet to come (looking through my archives I have taken many lovely blossom shots in May).
Blackthorn is one of my favourites, this is the only time of year it is easy to tell apart from the Hawthorn, as Blackthorn comes into flower before the leaves have come out. The delicate petals against the stark branch and lethal looking thorns make a wonderful contrast. Any witches in need of a new staff or wand (apparently this is the favoured wood) or autumn foragers in need of Sloe Gin, may wish to note the location of these bushes now.
A few pointers for creating pleasant blossom images-
1 These photos can often be busy, with lots of extra branches criss-crossing behind the subject, a shallow depth of field can help blur the background. On a phone-camera this may be replicated by choosing Portrait mode. In nearly all cases you will dramatically narrow the depth of field by ‘zooming in’ on your subject - which is to say, standing back and setting the lens to magnify the scene to fill the frame once more (choosing a longer focal length). If you use a Macro lens, which is a great choice if you have the option, you will naturally get a blurry background.
2 If you are vertically challenged (like me) and try to photograph the blossom above you in a tree you will invariably be shooting into the light. If you want to avoid a silhouetted subject you will need to be careful. Consider turning the flash on on your camera, normally this has a great measuring system and will compensate by itself for the available light and just provide you with a suitable amount of ‘fill in’ flash. If flash isn't an option or looks too harsh you can otherwise force the camera to brighten the scene. On a phone-camera try holding your finger on the screen then gently sliding your finger upwards, this often opens an exposure scale and allows you to manually brighten the image. On a camera, if you are not yet comfortable with manual mode, you can use the helpful exposure compensation button. A simple “+/-” symbol will denote the physical button or menu option you need to press. It will normally be set to “0” move the dial towards +1 or even +2 playing about with how much is appropriate- if in doubt err on the side of a slightly dark image. You MUST remember to turn this back down afterwards or your next images will forever be too bright- this setting rarely resets itself.
his composite image could be described as digital photographic art, it comprises around 9 different blossom photographs in a technique adapted from a one covered in our Editing Club. The Editing Club is a supportive, friendly environment where once a week members come together via video call. During the calls editing techniques are discussed and ideas are generated, there is lots of opportunity to delve into problems we have all faced, work out solutions and come away feeling a lot less silly than we had done while struggling alone. I would love to take credit for the successes which arise from these clubs (and the many wonderful images created) but I am merely the conduit- group feedback is the key. To this end we would love more members, whether you are brand new to editing, an old hand or somewhere in between you would be very welcome. Each set of lessons lasts 6 weeks during which a project prompt is given for inspiration, learners work at their own pace and submit to the group as much or as little as they wish. Brand new students may choose to work through the beginners tutorial videos I have created. Perfected end products or draft works in progress are both accepted with open arms into our private online gallery. Currently we have a call on a Wednesday at 9am, but other time slots can be considered if they prove popular. Let me know if you are curious about the club and have any questions.
Follow this link for the step by step instructions to making a similar stacked image in Photoshop: blossom
Did you know?
‘April’ could be derived from the Latin Aprilis (from aperire) to open, I like this definition so I can neatly tie it into our blossom theme, although some argue the origins may be related to Aphrodite instead.