Spring days are filled with the buzz of new life and sounds of the earth awakening after a long winter slumber. Now is the time to get great images of fresh landscapes, the first animal babies of spring, and bright springtime color. But don’t forget that that buzz comes from a variety of stinging and biting insects. Winter might have been cold, but at least most of the bugs and other critter (like snakes) were joyously absent. Use bug repellent before heading out if you are concerned about bites, but remember that if you want to photograph bee and birds and other critters, the repellent might work too well.
If your photo journey is primarily geared toward photographing animals, avoid using perfume, perfumed lotions, aftershave, or scented deodorant. It’s also best to shower after your day’s shoot, rather than before.
Tip: If you are photographing Grizzly bears in Alaska, don’t (under any circumstance) light a mosquito coil. They vehemently dislike it!
Hunger forces wildlife to be more active in the early spring. Your best chance for photographing wild creatures is just after dawn and just before and around sunset. To find wildlife, learn what kind of foliage your subject likes best, then scout out likely places during the daylight hours and return at dawn or dusk. If you are in a national park, rangers will be able to tell you what you can expect to see and where. Make sure you follow the rules, both for your safety and the safety of the animals.
Tip: Moose like willows close to running or still water. Look for areas where the willows have been trampled and matted down, since this is likely a moose hang-out. Moose may look friendly and calm, but if their nostrils flare and they begin to snort, you’re too close. Back away slowly and stay low. Do not look them in the eye since eye contact will be seen as a challenge.
Leaves, bark, and barely-budding branches make interesting compositions. Pick a prominent feature that has strong design elements and narrow your depth of field to create a Matisse-like photo. Or try focusing on a neutral colored branch, tree trunk, or grove of trunks (like aspens) that is set amid a sea of wildflower color; blur the background to create a strong contrast to your subject. Look for tender buds grouped together on branches and angle your shot up through the boughs to create interest. Try a variety of different angles to gain a totally different perspective on the scene.
Tip: Think outside the norm, and you’ll be rewarded with truly unique photos.
Spring’s first color usually shows up close to water: a babbling brook, a snow-melt swollen river, or a mirror-smooth lake. Water, wild flowers, spring foliage, and wildlife make great subjects.
Rivers: take photos looking upstream or down stream, considering how the water moves. Compose your picture so that the river flows from one corner to an opposite corner. Find interesting features like rocks or a flower border, a log fallen across, or a tree bending over the river and make that the focal point of the photo. Let the water set the mood.
Babbling brooks: get a low perspective, lying next to the brook so you can see the obstructions and the places where the water flows free. Find a color contrast such as new wildflowers against a carpet of last fall’s leaves, and shoot across the water.
Mirror Lakes: Find the right light angle and shoot the far shore for a perfect reflection. This works with boats and water birds as well.
Tip: Any day in the wild with a camera and the right weather gear is a good day. Adjust your expectations based on what you find. Be open to whatever nature gives you. You’ll be amazed and maybe surprised by the photos you take when you take what is given instead of forcing a shot.