1. Hi Rachel. Can you tell me, do people need a good camera to take good photographs?
I think it’s a combination of a competent camera and having a ‘good eye’. Composition is key as well as a well-exposed (not too light or dark) picture. I’ve never had really expensive cameras. I use a Nikon SLR D5500 which does what I want it to; clear focus, large images for reproduction (A1 size) and it’s lightweight, because of my disability.Ultimately, the vision you have for the scene in front of you is the most important thing.
2. If someone was thinking of taking the next step up from using say a phone camera, can you recommend a few entry level cameras that would enable people to take better photographs?
I would recommend a good quality compact camera (pocket sized) from a well-known manufacturer. Here are three good cameras;
Canon PowerShot SX620
Nikon COOLPIX S7000
All of these have around 16 megapixels and are around the £160 price mark.
3. Is there a good time of day to photograph outdoors?
The classic time is said to be the ‘golden hour’ when light is glowing at, or just after, dawn and before dusk, but I don’t adhere to that! Sun obviously is good for garden plants, or after rain with raindrops, also a stormy sky can create atmosphere and mood. A flat cloudy day is good for macro close-ups of plants and flowers.
4. Do I need a special lens to take close-up shots?
A close-up macro lens on an SLR is considered to be what’s required although I don’t have one and I use the kit lens on my SLR (the 18-55mm lens that comes with the camera).
The cameras that I mentioned above all have zooms so you can zoom in for close-up shots on them.
5. You take stunning shots of animals, particularly the ponies that roam around Dartmoor. Do you have any hints or tricks to capture good shots of wildlife or animals?
You will need a fast shutter speed in order to catch any movement without a blur. Most cameras will have a ‘wildlife or sports mode’ which will do this for you. Wildlife photography is about being patient so if you can set up a camera pointing from your window onto a bird feeder for example, this is a good place to start.
6. Can I take photographs of my garden at night? How can I make sure I get a successful shot?
As above, most cameras have a night mode which will allow you to take photos without a flash. Flashes tend to create a harsh image, so I’d recommend turning the flash off. A tripod could be helpful and if you haven’t got an easy night mode for your camera then use a high 1SO e.g. 800 -1000 and a wide aperture, e.g. f4 - f5.6.
7. I’d like to take a shot of my garden that takes in for example some sky, a border and some of the lawn. Do you have any tips on good composition for such a photograph?
I would tend to compose the image with something in the foreground and equal thirds of sky, border and ground. This method is called the ‘rule of thirds’ and can apply to horizontal compositions and vertical alike. Make sure there are points of interest in the foreground of the photo e.g. plants in flower, water drops, gossamer or berries.
8. Do you have any other tips for people hoping to take some good photos of their plants or the wider landscape?
I think the general rule is to follow what spurs your interest, for example if you love a certain type of plant, start with that. Look for weather that shows the plant off, for instance, water drops on flowers, cobwebs or mist for Autumn, frost for winter.
That rule also applies to landscapes. I tend to take quite close up landscapes rather than sweeping vistas, look for leading lines (pathways), individual trees, patterns and texture, hedge lines and detail. In general, follow what draws your attention, and ask what attracts you to the subject and try to capture or focus on a detail that draws you in.
Thanks Rachel for your practical and easy to follow tips!
If you’d like to discover more of Rachel’s work, including her online gallery where you can see examples of stunning landscapes and the aforementioned gorgeous Dartmoor ponies, you can find her online in the following places;