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How To Photograph Garden Plants and Wildlife Through Four Seasons

How To Photograph Garden Plants and Wildlife Through Four Seasons

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How To Photograph Garden Plants and Wildlife Through Four Seasons

355 pages
2 heures
Apr 6, 2018


Arnold Wilson is a professional biologist and an award-winning photographer, and both these skills are shown to their best advantage in How to Photograph Garden Plants and Wildlife through Four Seasons.

As the title suggests, this book is a comprehensive guide to all aspects of garden photography throughout the year. Its early chapters discuss the technical intricacies of the camera and the many models currently available, before giving an impressively practical overview of the vital, but often misunderstood, subject of photographic composition.

The next four chapters cover each of the seasons in turn, explaining what techniques to use to get the best out of flowers and other plants and how to produce appealing and unusual action shots of garden wildlife.

Throughout, Arnold Wilson very much practises what he preaches. The book is illustrated with over 200 of his magnificent photographs – becoming, in effect, a showcase for the glories to be found in a British garden.

How to Photograph Garden Plants and Wildlife through Four Seasons is an indispensable guide for every nature photographer, from aspiring to accomplished.

Apr 6, 2018

À propos de l'auteur

Arnold Wilson, a professional biologist, has spent his working life in teaching and lecturing. Photography has been his lifelong interest and, over the years, he has contributed to most of the current photographic magazines and has written five books. His work has been exhibited both in the UK and abroad. He was an early overall winner of the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition and in September 2000, Arnold was judged overall winner of the BBC Countryfile Photographer of the Year competition with a close-up photograph of a bumblebee in free flight. Having taken early retirement, Arnold Wilson now spends some of his leisure time photographing people and places, but his overriding interest is still nature photography.

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Aperçu du livre

How To Photograph Garden Plants and Wildlife Through Four Seasons - Arnold Wilson

About the Author

Arnold Wilson is a professional biologist who has spent his working life in teaching and lecturing. Photography has been his lifelong interest and he was an early winner of the prestigious ‘Wildlife Photographer of the Year’ competition and also of the BBC’s ‘Country­file Photographer of the Year’ competition. He has appeared on both radio and television. His work has been exhibited both at home and abroad and he has had several books published on various aspects of nature photography.

Arnold Wilson

How to Photograph Garden Plants and Wildlife through Four Seasons

Copyright © Arnold Wilson (2018)

The right of Arnold Wilson to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with section 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers.

Any person who commits any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.

ISBN 978-1-78612-509-5 (Paperback)

ISBN 978-1-78612-510-1 (Hardback)

ISBN 978-1-78612-511-8 (E-Book)


First Published (2018)

Austin Macauley Publishers™ Ltd.

25 Canada Square

Canary Wharf


E14 5LQ


The production of a book is rarely, if ever, the work of one person – the author – and my book is no exception.

I would like to thank the staff at Austin Macauley, especially Vinh Tran and Liz McCann for their help and support. My very special thanks to Walter Stephenson who designed and created a first class book. Thank you very much, Walter.

My thanks to Julie Richardson who produced the excellent digital illustrations for the section on Colour in Chapter 2 (Composition). Over many years my friend Mark Senior of CC Imaging, Leeds, has helped me with image selection and has processed many hundreds of images. Thank you, Mark, for your support.

Much nearer to home, I have greatly appreciated the interest shown by our good friend Dr Phoebe Edwards who allowed me full access to her lovely garden, enabling me to photograph some of the flowers when at their best. Phoebe’s garden was the inspiration behind the seasonal approach adopted in this book, resulting in a large garden photograph heading up each seasonal chapter. Thank you, Phoebe.

Finally, a very special thank you to my wife Margaret who not only encouraged and supported me throughout the entire project but also read each chapter, suggesting some useful improvements on the way. Margaret also did all the word-processing, converting my just about readable hand-written text into a form acceptable to the publisher. Thank you very much, Margaret, I could not have done it without your continuous help and support.

Arnold Wilson



This book should be of interest to keen gardeners whose garden is their chief interest, right through to those who love flowers but due to shortage of space are reduced to keeping window boxes, indoor potted plants and cut flowers. Often many of these enthusiasts would like to take a photograph of that very attractive dahlia, the hanging flowers of the fuchsia shrub or the robin and blue tit which frequent their garden. Even with a ‘point-and shoot’ digital compact camera or a smartphone, they should be able to take very attractive photographs if they take on board some of the ideas and concepts discussed in Chapter One on ‘How the Camera Works’, but particularly Chapter Two on ‘Composition’.

The other group who might be interested in the book are the enthusiastic photographers who are always looking for something new and interesting to study and photograph. They will be familiar with Chapter One but may benefit from studying Chapter Two.

The main body of the book consists of a seasonal approach to garden photography where flowers, shrubs and trees often take centre stage, but hopefully not at the expense of animal wildlife. Photographing garden birds is discussed in some detail, as are mammals such as the long-tailed field mouse, hedgehog, and fox. The small garden pond and some of its inhabitants are discussed in the chapter on ‘Spring’ while bees, butterflies and moths are covered in the ‘Summer’ chapter.

Throughout the book, full details are given about camera position, lighting, and the choice of background – particularly when the photographs are taken indoors.

If, like me, you are interested in trying to capture examples of nature in action, you should enjoy and criticise my modest attempts to capture the red campion dispersing its seeds, the creeping thistle releasing its ‘parachute’ seeds or the lime fruit and bract spinning to the ground. Finally, try photographing butterflies and moths in free flight. These are fascinating and very enjoyable projects.

To find the most appropriate images to illustrate various concepts and set-ups, I have searched out, in addition to all the digital images, a few images from the past. They were shot on Fuji Velvia 50 or 100 slide film and I was reminded of the excellent colour saturation, high contrast and the superb sharpness of the images. Interestingly, there has been a recent resurgence of interest in black and white and colour film, exemplifying the old adage, ‘What goes round comes round.’

Arnold Wilson

Chapter 1


The fundamentals of photography have not really changed since the Frenchman Louis Daguerre, in 1839, produced a positive image from mercury vapour on a polished coating of light-sensitive silver iodide. Then, as now, we require a light-proof box with a lens, diaphragm, shutter and a light-sensitive surface at the back of the box. This evolved through glass plates, film and the current digital image sensor.

The photograph of the Xmas Cactus, Shlumbergera truncata could be taken using any of the types of camera discussed in this chapter, i.e. digital point-and-shoot compact (including the Fujifilm AX650), compact systems camera (CSC) and the DSLR camera. Finding the perfect specimen, arranging and lighting it appropriately, are much more important than the type of camera you are using. Exposure 1/25 sec. f11. ISO 200

The Lens

The function of the lens is to collect the light and focus it on the light-sensitive surface at the back of the camera. The lens at its simplest one-element form has been around as a magnifying glass since the eleventh century. Its first use in a camera was probably in the Camera Obscura of Cardano in 1550.

Although the one element magnifying glass has been in use since the eleventh century, its use in a camera was probably in the camera obscura of Cardano around 1550. The one in the photograph is a camera obscura mounted in the roof of the Media Museum in Bradford, West Yorkshire.

Lenses are computer-designed, multi-element units, manufactured in glass or plastic with most of the elements being symmetrical and ‘spherical’ (part of a sphere). One or two elements are asymmetrical (not part of a sphere) and are referred to as ‘aspherical’. Lenses are not cheap; the highest quality 600mm f4 telephoto lens for a Nikon SLR camera costs over £8,000!

The focal length of the lens is the distance between the lens and the image sensor when the lens is focused on distant objects, i.e. at infinity. The focal length of a standard lens on a 36 x 24mm film or digital SLR camera is usually 50mm, but to produce the same size image on the image sensor in a digital compact, the focal length would be about 8-9mm Most digital compacts have a zoom lens, enabling the user to produce a larger image from the same distance. My Canon G10 has a zoom range of 6.1 to 30.5mm (the 35mm equivalent is 35-175mm), which is a 5x optical zoom.

Around the rim of the zoom lens are three sets of figures. The first (ignoring figure 1.) is 4 – 5.6, representing the maximum apertures available at the extremes of the zoom lens. The 45 – 200 is the lens range (i.e. a 4½ x optical zoom). Number 52 is the internal diameter of the lens flange and therefore the filter diameter (i.e.52mm)

Diaphragm and f-numbers

Around the rim of a zoom lens surround there are two sets of figures, such as 5.8-34.8mm and 1:2.8-4.8. The first set of figures indicates the range of focal lengths available, in this case 5.8-34.8mm (a 6x optical zoom). The second group of figures (ignoring the figure 1) represent the f-number or ‘speed’ of the lens, i.e. how much light it will transmit in unit time. But what do these numbers mean?

An adjustable iris diaphragm, consisting of pivoted blades, is located between the lens elements. Its function is to control the amount of light passing through the lens and, together with the shutter, set the exposure generated by the light meter. The ‘speed’ of the lens is based on the area of the glass elements and its focal length; by international agreement the starting point is f1. At this setting the effective diameter of the lens aperture is equal to the focal length of the lens. Each time the diaphragm is closed down a little and the light transmitted halved, a new f-number emerges. The sequence is f1, fi.4, f2, f2.8, f4.5, f5.6, f8, f11, f16, f22, f32 and so on. Each f-number increase transmits half as much light as the previous f-number. Therefore f1.4 and f2 are referred to as ‘fast’ lenses, which let in a lot of light, while f16 and f22 are ‘slow’ lenses with f32 transmitting 1/64th of the light of the fast f4.5 lens.

As the lens aperture decreases in diameter (i.e. the f number increases) from, say, f5.6 to f8, the lens will only allow half as much light to pass through it. Similarly f22 transmits only half as much light as f16. To obtain the same overall exposure the shutter speed must be altered accordingly, as indicated in the diagram.

Stopping down the lens increases the depth of field (how much of the image is acceptably sharp in front of and behind the point of focus). This is particularly important in landscape photography where most photographers prefer everything from nearby to infinity to be in sharp focus. For a similar reason it is also useful in garden photography. The downside is that longer exposures are required, hence the use of tripods in landscape photography.

Focal Length and Field of View

How much of the subject appears in the final image depends on the setting (the focal length) of the zoom lens. A wide angle setting produces an expanded field of view which is ideal for panoramic garden shots, while the telephoto end delivers a magnified image but a very narrow field of view, useful for close-ups of individual flowers. The focal length (or zoom setting) affects the depth of field; the shorter the focal length, the greater the depth of field, which is why many landscape photographers use the wide angle zoom setting. The converse is also true: a longer focal length (a telephoto zoom setting) compresses the scene and appears to reduce the depth of field. The images overleaf illustrate the effect of setting the lens at different focal lengths.

The Shutter

The camera shutter (and lens aperture) controls the amount of light reaching the image sensor at the back of the camera. All compact digital cameras have a ‘between-the-lens’ leaf-blade shutter. This consists of pivoted metal blades which open and close for a set period of time when the shutter-release button is pressed, allowing the light to reach the image sensor. Shutters are electronically controlled with speeds ranging typically from 15sec to 1/2000sec. The advantage of this type of shutter is that it can be flash-synchronised at all speeds, because at some point in the shutter cycle the blades are fully open. The downside is that cameras with interchangeable lenses would require a shutter built into each lens, making them very expensive.

A very short shutter speed was necessary to ‘freeze’ the movement of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Exposure 1/1000 sec. f8. ISO 100.

The focal length of the lens affects the depth of field. A wide-angle 28mm lens (or setting) produces a very extensive depth of field.

Using a 90mm focal length the image of the youngster is obviously larger, while the sharpness of the house is reduced.

The 200mm focal length produces a decent sized portrait but the house is going even ‘softer’ – shallower depth of field.

The 400mm focal length produces a very sharp attractive portrait while the house goes even more blurred, but it does separate the youngster from the background producing a three-dimensional effect. Note the same lens aperture f8 was used throughout. Stopping down the lens would obviously increase the depth of field.

Digital single lens reflex (SLR) cameras and compact system cameras (CSC) have interchangeable lenses and as mentioned above, would be prohibitively expensive to build a shutter into each lens. All SLRs and CSCs have a focal plane shutter located just in front of the image sensor.

One of the early cameras to use a focal plane shutter was the Leica, manufactured in 1924 by Leitz of Wetzlar, Germany. The shutter was tensioned by the film transport mechanism which itself was moved along by the manual rotation of a knob; now all done using a small rechargeable Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery.

The length of the exposure depends on the width of the slit between the leading and

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