My blog this week was inspired by one of my British friends living in Florida, whose request for springtime images of Shoreham could not be ignored! The downside of living in the Sunshine State, is that there are only really two seasons - the wet one, and the dry one. Admittedly, there aren't many other downsides, so I don't feel too sorry for her, but having crossed back over the pond, I do have a heightened appreciation of English seasons and the changing light and colours that they bring.
So over the past couple of weeks I have been reflecting on how best to capture springtime photographically. Of course, there were grey skies and rain for most of that first week, and the buds on our cherry tree showed no signs of opening, so my mood was anything but springlike. But for the past few days, the sun has smiled down on Shoreham, and I knew that it was now or never.
The problem was, I couldn't think of what to photograph! So after a trip to the dentist, feeling a little miserable with receding gums and now a receding bank balance to boot, I wandered around Shoreham town a little aimlessly, looking for inspiration to strike. Then I saw springtime! It appeared in the form of a vibrant carpet of white and pink flowers, leading up to St Mary de Haura church. The sky was blue, and I felt my mood lift a little. Trouble was, it was midday, and I knew it was pointless to try to photograph pale flowers in strong sunlight: a camera's dynamic range cannot match that of our eyes, and the colours would be washed out, and the church overly dark in comparison.
So my second problem was when to photograph. To get the soft sunlight I needed, my only two options were 1. early morning, or 2. early evening. Neither work particularly well with motherhood, and by Wednesday I was starting to panic, my self-imposed deadline being Thursday (and back-up deadline, Friday!). So when my husband announced he was working from home on Thursday, I knew what I had to do!
Feeling quite pleased with myself, I arrived at St Nicolas' church by 6.45 this morning, armed with my tripod, my trusty 24-70mm/f2.8, and my cheeky little ultra-wide angle 16-35mm f/4. Got out my camera and then remembered I'd taken a different camera bag out with me the day before to a job in Brighton, and left all my memory cards in it. The card I'd had in my camera was now slotted into my PC, and the camera was showing a bit fat "E". Now feeling rather less smug, I begrudgingly made the journey back the 2 miles or so East on Upper Shoreham Road. I really am not a morning person. Even less so before an intake of caffeine.
But I was back at St Nics by 7.00, just pausing to reassure my early-bird daughter that yes, I would be back in time to take her to school (as if)! And with the light just how I wanted it, and knowing I only had an hour, I quickly got back my photographic mojo. With my ultra-wide lens in place, I decided to really focus on the flowers to support my theme, with the church and gravestones as more of a back-drop. It's a lens I don't use often - I first rented it a few years back when photographing a wedding on a boat, knowing space would be tight. It was so useful that I subsequently bought it, and although it doesn't come out much, it does justice to this type of image, enabling me to get close to the flowers while fitting the whole church in the frame.
And close I did get! Please don't tell Ann (our lovely parish vicar), but at one point, I was actually lying down, elbows in the flower bed, with the petals touching my lens. That's how you get the close up flowers in the foreground, and makes for some lovely unique images, but you do have to be prepared to get a little dirty in the process. I tell you, landscape photography is not easy!
I then made the short trip to the other parish church - St Mary de Haura in the town centre. This was where my inspirational pink and white flower carpet was, so I abandoned the tripod again and got down on my belly, experimenting with different foreground flowers until I found the ones tilting in just the right way. By this time it was gone seven-thirty, and I did get a few sniggers from some boys walking through the churchyard en route to Shoreham Academy. But I'd got the shot I'd planned, so I was happy now, and went in search of something new.
My eye was caught by clusters of flowers among the gravestones, and I decided to pick out a couple of my favourites. I loved this lone peach-hued tulip (below) and switched the ultra-wide for my mid-range zoom, enabling me to get greater compression between the flower and the gravestone and throw the latter out of focus with its f/2.8 aperture. I wanted the viewer to see the headstone but not be able to make out the words, which would have felt a little intrusive, I think.
My final image focuses on the shadow made by the flower, rather than the plant itself. The hardest thing here was keeping my own shadow out of the frame, and it took a bit of experimenting to position myself just right for the composition I was after, with the leafy shadow leading up to the engraved letters. I particularly like that the yellow of the flowers matches that of the lichen on the headstone.
At this point, more school children were passing, and I remembered that mine were a little younger, and would need a bit of gentle persuasion to get ready for school as doubtless my husband would be on a conference call. Time to pack up and head off....
...and I still made it back in time to make packed lunches!
Hope you enjoyed seeing my lovely home town in the springtime, please let me know your thoughts, and come back for more Shoreham charm next week...