Improve your garden photography
Now is the time to get some great autumnal photos of leaves, such as this maple which I photographed with a macro lens against a green lawn (click on the image for a larger version)
Capturing the ephemeral beauty of your garden on camera is hugely satisfying, requiring a combination of good timing, good luck and a lot of patience. It's a skill which takes a lifetime to perfect - so to get you started leading professional garden photographer Clive Nichols shares some of his top tips.
Keep it simple
Keep equipment simple - try to avoid having a camera bag full of different cameras, lenses and filters. One camera and a couple of different lenses - say a zoom lens and a wide-angle lens, should be enough to capture garden scenes. Use a macro lens if you want to go in close on a flower or leaf.
When to shoot
Shoot in the early morning and late afternoon on sunny days for better light. Brilliant midday light is too harsh and will wash out colours as well as burning out highlights and turning shadows into inky black pools with no detail. During the day I usually prefer to shoot in cloudy, overcast conditions - the light is softer, less contrasty and therefore often more flattering to garden subjects.
Choose days when there is little or no wind to reduce subject movement. I am constantly checking the weather forecast and when the wind speeds drop below 5mph I will go out into the garden. With little or no wind subject movement is less of a problem and so your chances of getting pin-sharp images with good depth of field are enhanced. If you are shooting on a windy day and you want to render a plant sharp, you need to use a fast shutter speed of around 1/500 second or faster, otherwise the plant will be recorded as a blur.
Use a tripod
I always use a tripod whenever I can - it stops the camera from shaking during exposures and also slows you down, helping you to compost your image with greater care.
Film or digital?
Most of us have converted to digital now, but if you are still using film, try using a slow transparency film such as 50 or 100 ISO -
Rather than just taking loads and loads of photographs, spend more time on each subject and concentrate on one or two good compositions of a single subject. if you are shooging a flower close-up, check all around the viewfinder for any distracting details such as plant labels, greenfly or damaged petals, particularly in the background. Although these can sometimes be removed after the event in Photoshop, it is better to get the shot right in camera. Try to fill the frame with the subject that has caught your imagination.
Go with your emotions
Try to photograph subjects that you feel some emotional response from - an aquilegia dripping with early morning dew; a rose dusted with frost; the more beauty you feel for the subject the better the picture you will take.
Early morning is the best time to capture dramatic garden scenes like this
Now it's your turn...
Now you've got some tips, it's time to have a go yourself. There are hundreds of fantastic plants and gardens photos on Gardeners' World Flickr Group to inspire you - do add your photos if you haven't already.
And if you manage to capture the image of your dreams, there's still time to enter the International Garden Photographer of the Year. Judges include Clive Nichols and fellow garden photographer Andrew Lawson. If you need some extra inspiration, last year's entries are on display at Wakehurst Place in West Sussex until 16 January 2011.