As I wrote last month this is the time when the UK’s flora and fauna enjoys its peak of activity.If we get any reasonable weather through the end of the May and into June then we photographers go into a frenzy of opportunities where good planning really comes into its own because in just a few weeks our sexiest species bloom, breed, hatch, fly, emerge and display and if you miss it . . . then next year will be your only option and that’s a long wait. What we all need however is a proper summer, not like the last couple, when one swallow really did make it! July can be good too, particularly for insects, but you really do need to be busy now.
Fortunately all this activity co-insides with our longest hours of daylight so there’s no excuse for not squeezing more of every day. There is no justification for laying in bed when the rest of the world is up and about buzzing in beautiful light. So dig into those reserves of stamina and set the alarm for four thirty. No, four!
These are our most glamorous species of plant and the majority are blooming now. Some have only short flowering seasons and soon go over. Shrivelled flowers on the bottom of the spikes don’t look very nice so the timing is critical. Checking text books or the web is a good start but there are lots of seasonal and regional variations so, if you can’t monitor the subjects in advance, you need to be politely mailing or phoning someone who does have their eye on them.
Remember the B-Team
Okay so orchids are fascinating and beautiful but there are plenty of others who hold a torch to their charms. Bog bean has lovely flowers, a spread of water crowfoot atop a stream or a slack full of grass of parnassus is a sight to behold and a subject to be explored. Even the lowly ferns are glowing their greenest in the damp shade of the woods and mossy stumps bathed in emerald leaf light are at their annual best.
Make the Most out of Midday
High hot overhead light is no ones favourite so its time to use its volume not its characteristics. If you are working in controlled conditions, such as the conservatory or windowsill you can use a sheet of tracing or greaseproof paper to diffuse the light. And if you have set up tanks in the garden you will need this type of light to penetrate the depths and give you enough speed. So get out the pond net and go fishing for new subjects and let those newts go while you are at it!
Okay butterflies are everyone’s favourites but there are plenty of other inverts which are perhaps even more charismatic and the hopefully warmer days mean that this and next month are their main seasons. We have some wonderful beetles, the shimmering wing cases of the ferocious tiger beetle, the wacky antennae of the longhorns or the brilliant scarlet of cardinal beetle all offer great picture potential. And we have some really smart spiders too so strap on your macros and get down into the undergrowth.
The sunshine will mean that our six native species will be active and therefore available to snap. Sand lizards are specially protected so should only be approached in the wild – not caught, and the same applies to smooth snakes. That said, these snakes are not nearly so attractive as adders or grass snakes anyway. Common lizards are probably the easiest to find and get close to but you will still need your super-sneakers on as they are all really skitty. Often it’s best to find out where they bask first and then return when you know where you are going to.
Fox cubs will now be outside their dens in the early evening and present one of the seasons most popular subjects. Some are really tolerant and can be readily approached without to much caution, others need real care. I would always case the joint first, figure out the best position in terms of view, background and light. I might even do a little bit of gardening on this account but only if it wouldn’t make the den in anyway vulnerable . Remember that whist we love them, there are still plenty of idiots who don’t.
Many of our woodland bird species will still be singing their little hearts out and this is very helpful as a fair proportion do so from a static perch. They are thus sat still and often predictable too. You can either go for stealth and a long lens of if you have any privacy you could move a hide in and then get up and into it early on a nice morning. Blackcaps, garden warblers, redstarts and pied flycatchers are all great subjects, but even robins and wrens will pose whilst pumping out their greatest hits.
Mull Marine Mammals
This is the best time to visit this fabulous Scottish Island and get yourself out on a boat in search of cetaceans, and there are plenty to be seen and snapped. Perhaps top of the pops are the Minke whales and I’ve had these creatures gliding back and forward under the boat in crystal clear water. Everyone got photos proving that the UK has some brilliant whale watching opportunities and that you don’t need to fork out thousands to go somewhere exotic to score these shots.
In this busy period, when you are rushing around doing this and that, remember that just getting a shot is not really enough. You have to also get something special, something new and novel. Something no one has ever seen before.