Poppy field season is upon us and after a very damp May, it is noticeable that many plants and flowers are delayed in making their appearance by around 2 to 3 weeks. The recent bout of sunshine has had a dramatic effect on everything, stimulating the countryside into life. It is lovely to see all the flowers in full bloom. But back to poppies, each year one finds it increasingly difficult to find these elusive flowers. Farmers appear reluctant to let their fields turn into a sea of red for fear of the unwelcome attraction it brings. For photographers such red carpets are a heavenly delight designed by the supreme being to bring joy to anybody who loves taking a picture. Keeping to the sides of the field and not trampling the delicate flowers into the ground is part of our photographic code. We too are horrified by the poor regard some members of the public have for poppy fields which in turn make it difficult for others. Therefore if visiting such places then respect the countryside.
I got the call (via Facebook) from my Photo Buddy, John Bray, informing me that a Poppy Field had been sighted just north of Leamington Spa. It had already been announced on the local Facebook pages. The field is not that accessible being surrounded on two sides by a country road that is better described as speed test track for the locals. The partially hidden gate leads into the field which has a gentle westerly elevation. Taking care not to trample more vegetation than is absolutely necessary, we slowly navigate ourselves to the top of the field taking pictures along the way. We arrived at the field at 7.30pm and then by 8.45pm we had filled up our photocards with red poppies. There will be some serious editing of the numbers of pictures taken when I get back home.
When you are in a poppy field there is the intense red of the flower petals and then there is the gentle swaying of the stems in the breeze. It is most restful and soothing to gaze over the red rippling petals of the flowers.
Taking pictures of poppies is one of personal taste. I like the distant telephoto shots where the flowers are compressed, and you are able to convey the carpet of red. For many of the pictures. I placed my polariser filter on the lens so as to pick out the reds. Also concentration is needed so that the horizon does not go wonky or there are any unnecessary distractions inadvertently included in the picture.
There was strong sunlight, so I was able to use it to my advantage to back light the stems of the poppies. This makes for an attractive look and highlights the spikey hairs on the stems.
There is also the “kitchen sink factor” where I wish I had brought all my lenses including my wide angled lens. I should also have brought my graduated filters. What I did bring that still surprises me with its quality, is my Fujifilm x100v and of course I did have my iPhone. But the workhorse of the evening was my Canon 5D mark IV with both 24-105mm and the 70-200mm lens. And the all-important tripod.
I also brought my lens ball. I never know when it is going to be a good picture when I use it. I was happy with the result of this picture with the poppies even though it was hand held.
Decision time! Where is the best picture for that sunset view? There is a hint that we may get a colourful sunset, so we had to find the ideal place. This is where you get an adrenaline rush and we pushed to the back of the field. There was dense overgrowth but luckily there was a path on the perimeter that allowed us to get a view of the sunset radiating over the field. We were happy with the position of our cameras on for the photographs. Taking pictures of the sunset can be tricky and without my graduated filter (mental note must remember to bring this in future trips), I took several bracketed shots with the intention of building up a HDR picture later. As the light dropped it was possible to compensate for the exposure.
Then the sunset came into its own and the sky turned a pinky red. Remember earlier that I said that there is someone up there who enjoys seeing a good photograph. Well he or she decided to turn on the light show, and it was very much appreciated. I just retreated into a happy world of taking pictures. Surfacing around 10 o’clock it was dark, and we had filled our cameras with enough poppy pictures for the evening.
Walking back to the car I turned back for one last look and there was the crescent moon in the sky with the embers of the sunset still illuminating the red poppies. I reflected positively on the evening and John said it had been “A perfect antidote to a crazy life”.
Thank you, Poppies.