At last it’s here! It’s alive! Proper spring has sprung. All the birds bar a few stragglers have set up territories and are blasting the dawn with song, the Bluebells are out, carpeting the cliffs and woodland floors, fresh leaves are shimmering green, butterflies are flitting, fox cubs frolicking and badgers bumbling. Natures sap has risen, the birds and the bees, in fact almost everything is breeding and this means there’s an orgy of opportunities for the photographer.
Debate rages as to where the richest blue can be found in the UK, we all have a favourite glade. For what its worth my top spots are Queen Elizabeth Forest in Scotland and Scomer Island off of south west Wales. The density here is a delight and blue cliffs and blue sea combine for spectacular landscapes. But get down in amongst them too, isolate individual bells or the odd sprig of red campion.
Photography at the nest has really fallen from favour, everybody seems so scared of scaring the birds, but there are some species that are easy and bombproof – notably seabirds. Stick to the paths on places like Scomer, the Farnes, the Isle of May etc and you’ll still be too close for some of the sitters such as guillemots, razorbills, shags, puffins, kittiwakes and terns. Get low, shoot through the bladder campion.
Into Nature's Nave
When the beech leaves break their buds the colour is amazing, shoot it true and it will look like you’ve overdone the vibrancy. Beneath a stand of big trees the air appears to glow green as the light filters through the fresh emerald leaves. It only lasts about a week, the tree pumps them full of toxins to thwart the browsers and they become just a normal, boring green. Get into the stained glass spots and worship the light.
If blue is not for you, then go yellow as there is hopefully a damp meadow somewhere nearby that you can lay in and play with impressionistic views through swathes of buttercups. Remember tho’ that its been done, I’ve done it, so you’ll have to come up with something new. My plan this year, and I know I shouldn’t tell you, is to try some very long exposures at night .
It's not only the terrestrial world that’s in full swing, on the seashore everything’s on the go too. Check the tides, get a shallow water housing off eBay and get wet knees and a cricked neck bending over rock pools peering at anemones, blennies, prawns, all the gang. Wait for a sunny day tho’ as only then will all the colours really come out.
White - out
Hawthorn explodes in early May and turns hillsides and hedgerows into soft pillows of bee buzzing cream and if you were lucky enough to get a yellowhammer perched on top . . . cotton grass’s fluffy seed heads bob over the wet acid heathland mires and if you’re lucky and the sun sets behind them they glow orange . . . and in streams the delicate water crowfoot blooms speckle the glistening surface . . . go on, get in!
Adonis, chalkhill and common blue butterflies are, weather permitting, flying over their favoured short grasslands. Up close a freshly emerged male is frankly beyond compare. They are really skitty tho’ so getting a frame filler will require a fair degree of stalking and a longer focal length macro lens will pay dividends.
Enter the Dragons
The real peak of abundance, activity and diversity won’t come until much later in the season but a few of the larger darters, skimmers and hawkers are already out and sometimes, if its been a cool night, you can find dew covered dragonflies hanging in vegetation near the ponds. Again you’ll need to be very cautious in approach and get to them before the sunlight warms their wings.
Some birds are better than others and amongst Britain’s best is the corncrake. Its subtle rusty colours are superb but it is ‘King Skulker’ and unless you get to the western isles of Scotland in May you’ll only be listening to its mad rattling cry. You’ve got to beat the growth of the vegetation and in early May its not impossible to get decent shots, often by using the car as a hide.
Beg, steal, borrow or dig deep and buy a moth trap. Set it over night and then spend the rest of the next day finding pretty perching places for the spectacular array of species that you catch. They are invariably compliant and if handled gently can be set exactly where you want them. I’ve seen plenty of very good illustrative moth photos but no art so here’s a niche going begging.