Wild – Getting Started
This year, it seems like my neighbourhood has been left a little bit wilder than usual. Now, I am talking about The Netherlands here – so even the slightest bit wild is noticeable. The Dutch have an undeniable fascination with having everything in its place, neat and tidy. They even wash the road signs twice a year round here! Mowing the verges and strimming around every tree is at least a three-times yearly event. This is why I noticed it was a bit wild this year – they only mowed twice.
The result was that the verges in the spring overflowed out onto the roads, and I delighted at this. When I walked my dog, I noticed it, and when I rode my pony, I got a bird’s eye view down into the grass below me, and that was when I began to notice all the hidden colours and beauty. I’d return from a ride having seen poppies peeping out between the edges of the cornfield and the grass. Golden yellow buttercups, violet purple vetches, and pinky clover are amongst the seeding grass heads. And in the hedges behind the verges, dusky pink dog roses and delicate pink-tipped bramble berry flowers. Of course, they called to me with my camera.
The arrival of the cow parsley, buttercups and daisies among the vibrant green grasses was my first foray into trying to capture the ‘wild’ of my neighbourhood verges. I’ve photographed grasses with ICM movements before and loved the results, so this was the obvious place to start. However, I’d never had a lot of success with flower ICM, so I was a little bit hesitant about how I was going to be able to capture the delicate, colourful element of petals that I was also seeing.
With all ICM I always start by trying to find words about what I am seeing and would like to bring to the image. The above image was made to depict fluffy, soft, waving, messy, busy, colourful, green, yellow and white. By slowing the shutter speed down to between 2 and 3 seconds I was able to slow my movements down and make them slightly larger than I would using my normal ¼ of a second shutter speed (my go to for tree ICM). I just loved how soft the images appeared.
With my new-found knowledge, an idea for a project emerged. I decided to try and capture the beauty, so easily missed right at our feet. The following 5 months were an eye opener as to the how the simplest things can appear beautiful, if you take the time to notice them. Every new appearance and change in the verges and field edges around me resulted in another trip out with my camera all right on my doorstep.
Very soon, the Michaelmas daisies joined the buttercups. At the same time, some of the grasses started to develop their fluffy seed heads. A jumble of individual elements which created a scene of texture, depth and colour was so much fun to try and bring into an image. I learnt also how light can lift an image, single out elements and elevate a flat image into something special.
As I experimented with my flower ICM photography, my understanding of how to work with the longer shutter speeds developed. How I could move the camera to hold just enough detail to show the individual flowers but enough to add the movement that I saw as they bobbed and danced in the wind became second nature. My movements for these images tend to be very organic – bouncing around following the way the grass and flowers were moving in the wind. For more static flowers, I gave the camera a little shake so as not to create one specific direction in my movements. I have included the following three images as examples of three very different images, all made of the same little group of flowers. Just by exploring what happens when you change the size and direction of movement during your exposure, you can learn a lot about what happens, but also what you like in an image. For me, these three were so different I found it tricky to choose between the three.
These are just a few images to entice you into the larger project that you can find in the creative portfolio of my website. Another blog post to follow to share with you the rainbow of the wild verges, check it out here.
– Charlotte Bellamy