Tony Worobiec is a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and one of our Fotospeed photographers. He has won awards for photography both in the UK and internationally, and has authored 16 books. In this blog post, adapted from his RPS workshop, "The Landscape Photographers Calendar", Tony tells you what to look out for in April. Tony uses Fotospeed’s Platinum Baryta and Platinum Matt.
You can find out more about Tony here.
With Winter positively behind us, the weather continues to get warmer as we slip into April. It is a period when flowers begin to emerge and trees start to leaf. As you investigate the land, you will not help but notice that it has become more colourful. From an agricultural standpoint, the fields appear refreshingly green as the cereal crops steadily begin to emerge. April truly is a remarkable time of the year to shoot landscape.
Even if you have just a passing interest in landscape photography, it would be hard to ignore the captivating beauty of bluebells. Almost as a token of the passing of winter, these beautiful flowers appear at their finest from mid-April onwards. Tracking down potential locations is rarely a problem as they are generally to be found in the shade of deciduous woodlands. The contrast between the bright purple of the bluebells set against the lime green leaves of beech trees really takes some beating. If you are a stranger to an area, tracking down bluebells isn't very difficult. I am constantly amazed by the generosity of other photographers' postings on websites such as Flickr and Pinterest detailing almost on a daily basis where to find the best spots. Early morning is a popular time to photograph these fabulous places, as this is when you are most likely to encounter pre-dawn mists. Others seek to capture the first rays of the day which illuminate the blooms, although care does need to be taken to ensure you do not experience too much contrast. From a personal standpoint I prefer to shoot under a grey sky when the lighting is softer. By using the leaves of the trees as a substitute sky, a lovely balance can be achieved between the vibrant purple in the foreground with the delicate greens of the trees in the distance. It also helps to avoid the strange pinkish hue one can often experience when photographing bluebells in full sunlight.
Yellow is an opposite to purple on the colour wheel, and from a landscape perspective, April heralds the emergence of rape-fields. Should you ever fly over the UK during this month, you will be impressed by the rolling fields of mustard which add an impressive feature to the British landscape. At ground level, locating these fields is rarely a problem, as they can be seen from miles away. When it comes to composition, it is worth remembering that yellow is a primary colour, so if you are able to compose a picture which includes elements of blue and red, (the other two primary colours), the effect can be stunning. If you are shooting under a blue sky, you may well consider using a polarising filter in order to heighten the contrasting colours.
Another flower which appears in abundance during the month of April is the humble dandelion. They rarely make great photographs, even when carpeting a relatively large area, but the secret to making the best use of all the features each of the month presents is to vary your approach. Pick up a dandelion and examine its delicate structure and you will be amazed by its beauty. It is the perfect occasion to reach for your macro lens. Personally I prefer to shoot them in location, but if that poses a problem, then bring one indoors and shoot it as a still-life. When photographing macro, depth of field becomes an important consideration – the wider your aperture the more "abstract" the final result will appear. With respect to suitable papers, the circle of the bloom perfectly fits the square format, so why not try printing on square inkjet paper; my personal favourite is Fotospeed's Platinum Etching as it offers a reassuring "fine-art" feel.
Another impressive feature of April is the prevalence of empty fields with just a hint of green, heralding the emergence of cereal crops. I am a great fan of the "under-stated graphic landscape" which of course such settings provide. In order to make best use of this genre, find a location where the land appears to undulate and if you are able to secure a relatively high vantage point, then all the better. The best results are achieved when using a long-lens; I find my 100-400mm zoom invaluable in these situations. Don't fear a minimalist approach; too often landscape photographers scour the view for an obvious point of interest when one is not required, particularly if you wish to create an interesting abstract effect. This is another one of those situations where your final image would be complimented by printing on Fotospeed's square format Platinum Etching.
Don't ignore the coast; with the passing of winter we often experience periods of great calm at this time of the year, which can be very eloquently photographed when visiting a sea-side location. Good landscape photography is largely about capturing mood and this should never be compromised by including unnecessary detail. I seem to be obsessed with minimalism in this month's blog, but if you are able to reduce detail, your image will appear to have more conviction. It is also worth noting that the mood of the landscape will be considerably enhanced when shooting at dawn or dusk, because that is when you are most likely to encounter the greatest period of calm. Once again do consider your choice of format; a sense of calmness is increased by using a landscape rather than a portrait format and if you really want to exaggerate that sense of calmness, why not present your image as a panorama?
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