Spring is in the air

expert advice camera header_Spring

Firstly congratulations to Geoffrey Pring for winning April’s ‘Cityscape’ photo challenge competition. Don’t forget this month’s winner will be announced at the start of June, so make sure you submit your entry before the closing date of 31st May to be in with a chance of winning!

For this month’s Expert Advice article our resident photographer, Phil Surbey, set himself the task of capturing the delights of Spring.

So, here goes with another Photo Challenge…

Welcome! This month’s theme is simply entitled ‘Spring is in the air!’ – a great subject for my article and the competition, and one that’s very far-reaching I’m happy to say. So, as the weather improves steadily, pick a particularly spring-like day and get out there with your camera. Remember – you could win a great prize!

The beauty of an outdoor spring-weather theme is that no special techniques are required, just a good understanding of composition and framing, and of the quality and direction of light. And of course we are talking about natural light – it feels like it’s been a long time, but you may remember something called the sun?!

In all my 13 shots that I’ve chosen to use here to illustrate the theme, only the sun’s natural light has been used. As always, these are intended to offer a little inspiration to you, rather than providing any set idea of what you might actually like to shoot. As so often, the possibilities are almost endless, in fact. Be creative, let your imagination loose and please do get out there with your camera!

Quite simply, you just need to have the subject in your brain and to always be looking out for possible shots during your travels. I realise I’ve said this many times, but a golden truth bears endless repetition, so: Never go anywhere without your camera and always remain watchful – ready to grab an opportunity for a great shot whenever it crops up!

All of my shots shown here were taken within a 10-mile radius of my home, during the better weather, to try to get across a sense of the end of winter and the change in seasons. I was shooting specially for this article over a three-week period from the start of the month up until the 20th of April. So everything you see is fresh in every sense!

As you can also see, I am very lucky in that I do live in the rural heart of England, for which I am ever grateful (and not just as a photographer with a ready supply of great subject matter). But please don’t be put off even if your own home is right smack-bang in a city centre – spring has sprung everywhere and I am sure you can find a park or garden even if a trip out to the country is too big an ask.

Now, let’s look through these illustrative shots of mine. Numbers 01 and 02 were actually taken at home: the first in my own garden – in fact, I shot the cherry blossom on my tree from an upstairs window. Then, shot 02 was taken in my kitchen – a close-up like this can be beautifully deceptive! A viewer might well ask: Were these lovely tulips growing, or cut and in a vase?

Spring is in the air _001

Spring is in the air _1

Spring is in the air _002

Spring is in the air _2

From shot 03, me and the LUMIX were getting progressively further from my house on a series of expeditions, which incidentally is great exercise for the body as well as the eye. Out into the countryside we went, in search of new growth on the trees and hedgerows, plus the fields of crops growing locally that also caught my attention. I particularly love shot 07, of willow branches reaching down for the water and sprouting their new spring growth.

Spring is in the air _3 to 7



As you can see in a lot of these nature images, a short depth of field can be good for shooting delicate, intricately textured subjects like blossom and flowers, such as the stunning variant daffs. So, if you want to get a similar effect for something you’ve spotted then set your camera to Aperture Priority and your lens aperture to its lowest number setting. Also, if you have a zoom lens then use it at its most telephoto setting.

Shot 08 is the nearest thing here to a photographer’s setup, unless you count those cut tulips. Arriving back home again after one of my expeditions, I carefully netted some tadpoles from my garden pond, as I knew I had a large jar and some twine in the shed. I’d had a sudden fancy to create a 1950s-style setup! So, we have a sense of childhood discovery and fascination with nature as well as the general spring theme of renewal and growth. (And worry not – they went back into the pond and are doubtless frogs by now.)

Spring is in the air _008

Spring is in the air _8

Shots 09 to 13 were all taken in approximately one hour on the final day of my spring wanderings, 20th April. They were all taken using the LUMIX GX7 with my 45-200mm lens attached. The camera was set to ISO 400 – but never be afraid to experiment and make constant adjustments, of course, as the clouds pass over and the quality of light changes inexorably from dawn to high noon and on towards twilight.

Spring is in the air _9 to 13



Sheep are surprisingly obliging for a photographer, by which I mean that unlike a lot of creatures you may encounter in the country, they are not remotely fazed by the approach of a photographer. (I don’t think it’s vanity, though!) Lastly, I really like the final three shots, which I am calling abstract. For me, shot 011, which is obviously blossom but deliberately undefined and all-pervading in the frame, and shots 12 and 13 of the local farmer’s fields really say ‘Spring!’ but not in such an obvious way.

Spring is in the air _010

Spring is in the air _010

As always all my shots were captured as RAW files while a small amount of post-processing, cropping as well as some minor effects work, has been applied. I hope these have served to whet your appetite as I would dearly love to see a big entry bag this month – even when the weather outside is sunny and inviting, I am always happy to spend some time going through your Photo Challenge entries, sat in my studio.

No excuses for a low turnout this month – let the warming season invigorate you. Think spring, new life, renewal and energy! So come on, get out there, get shooting and be sure to send me your best shot of ‘Spring is in the air’. Thanks.


All best wishes,


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Member Comments

  1. gericom posted a comment on 21 August 2015 at 10:47 pm

    All great shots and good advice. What software are you using for processing the Raw files or is it being done in camera? I have just purchased the GX8 and find that my Lightroom 4.4 does not support it..it appears Lightroom 6 does support it..at an upgrade cost to be sure! I realise Silkypix is supplied with the GX8 for processing Raw files however it does mean more learning required to come to grips with it.

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