We’ve had some really stormy summer weather in the UK over the last week or so. Unlike those intrepid fauna nature photographers, us plant photographers are normally lulled into a false sense of smugness that our subjects stay still long enough to allow us to frame every shot taking all the time we need. Wind however is a game changer.
I have written before about photographing trees in the wind. In that post I explained, perhaps counter-intuitively, how using a long exposure on windy days can create interesting results – read the post here. This weekend I came across some wonderful old farm buildings and the contrast of their rusty corrugated iron with the stormy sky was compelling, and both provided great features to some images I wanted to capture of elder Sambucus nigra.
I came to this first elder because it was sheltered from the wind by the building. I liked the perspective offered by its dark empty windows and how they led to the elder as the focal point in the image. The roll of fence netting in the foreground offered some interest without detracting from the main subject on the middle distance. The ash tree far left provided a helpful sense of perspective. I wasn’t sure about the powerlines overhead. I was in two minds whether they added some sense of the industrial or whether they detracted – what do you think? I suppose I could remove them in Photoshop but that’s not my style.
I resorted to a long exposure times for this second photograph (below), wanting to contrast the movement in the plants with the rigid structure of the collapsed old farm buildings. I aimed to accentuate how much the vegetation was moving in the wind by increasing the exposure time (using a slow shutter speed). I used a neutral density filter (x8) to reduce the light entering the lens; meaning that I could use a longer exposure time. I also added a polariser filter to further increase exposure, with the added benefit that this enhanced the stormy clouds. Lastly I set my film speed to the lowest on my camera (ISO160) and my aperture to the smallest (f22); both with a view to increasing exposure time. With all these steps the correct exposure in the bright summer light was 0.6 seconds; just enough to really capture the swaying trees in the background and the moving grass in the foreground. Naturally I used a tripod (Benbo Trekker) and cable release. I fired off lots of shots, waiting to coincide them with the strongest gusts. For just one frame I was in luck when a blackbird perched atop the elder that was my main interest, providing a great focal point in the image.
I’ve included both these pictures at twice the size I normally upload as their detail is better to explore at this size. Both were captured as RAW format and processed using Adobe Lightroom.