It’s In The Air – Spring – Mark Gilligan

In this blog we hear from award-winning photographer Mark Gilligan.

So far as this season is concerned, we haven’t had a harsh winter but with temperatures fluctuating from arctic one day to un-seasonally warm the next, our thoughts will soon turn to the spring. It has been fluctuating though.

I have noticed that the birds seem a tad confused by the ‘yo-yo’ weather and their voices are now more audible as they begin defining territory and advertising their whereabouts to interested parties.

Snowdrops have popped up and with ‘daffs’ literally ready to add a splash of yellow to the landscape. A little warmth added to the mix will have us all putting the insulated jacket back into the winter wardrobe and donning shorts and Tee shirts… Well, not quite but you get my drift.

I share most people’s passion for the spring and I have already planned my shoots with one of the best, more visually identifiable aspects of that season in mind. Bluebells.

Amazing how effective that little flower can be on the landscape as it covers the woodland floor with shafts of sunlight illuminating them.
Whilst that may be their usual habitat and you will know where your best locations are to see them, I love photographing them over at Rannerdale in the lakes.

It is not a woodland perspective there but unusually a vast swathe of open land between the shores of Crummock Water and the slopes of the giant Grasmoor Fell. The ‘pointy’ Whitless Pike adding its pleasing shape to the scene.
The display is fantastic.

I like to approach taking images as if on a project, in fact similarly to when I was making TV programmes. I shoot an establisher or locator (an overall photograph of the scene) and supplement that by taking images that literally give you a good flavour of where you are. It’s a great way of documenting a location and just as importantly it gives you a regular process to work with.

Use close ups and selective apertures to get the best from the location and you will gather a more pleasing array of images rather than simply pointing and shooting at ‘the overall’ scene.

Don’t just shoot the obvious. If you want to get the best out of any photographs you take of them it makes sense to get down low and shoot them from ‘their’ point of view. Being ever mindful to take care and not destroy any of the habitat.

In this photograph I have isolated them by using a very shallow depth of field and a low number F-stop. I used a tripod but you could up the ISO so you can get a faster shutter speed and handhold the camera.

A little waterfall in the background is naturally attractive in its own right but I want the viewer to concentrate on the flowers.

These two photographs add to the flavor of Rannerdale. They weren’t obvious at first but after walking around they stood out.

It is NOT just about the bluebells but the other flora and fauna that they share the space with. The way that they interact will give you lots of other opportunities to take images that are presented to you as spend time walking around.

I would also advise that you get out of the habit of happy snapping. You will end up with a myriad of pictures that will needlessly clog up your hard drive or be spending time later on literally deleting the majority that you take.

I was lucky enough to be on TV recently and was showing one of the National Weather presenters, Kerry Gosney how to shoot landscapes for a piece ITV.
I pointed to a few natural features that would create interest and be good leading lines in the photographs but at first she struggled to see what I could see. Sure we all see the same scene but having the ability to ‘pick’ out natural creations around us that combine to make a great photograph are not always as obvious to all of us.

I then asked her to look more closely and then peer through the lens of the camera I had set up. The penny dropped and she uttered a phrase that is vital to landscape photography. “So we need to open our eyes to what is in front of us more closely.”

Like I say, it is obvious but sometimes we simply just look at the wider picture and miss the detail.

Good photographs are interesting whether that is a conventional landscape or more intimate one of flowers, insects or rock formations.

Rannerdale is already in my diary and I can comfortably be there for a whole day taking in as much as I can. The terrain is not difficult with good easy footpaths to follow and it makes a nice walk with memories captured along the way.

Especially when the weather plays ball.
Now where is my tee shirt…..