If you reside, or are planning a visit to Cape Town, now is the perfect time. “Spring has sprung”, and so have the flowers. It is really a worthwhile treat to venture 45 minutes away to the Swartland for the day. Places that excel in this feast for colour and illusion include the likes of Darling and Riebeek Valley, but only to mention a few. The fields are a patchwork of granola, strikingly yellow to the eye, while the remaining areas are dotted with flora of all shapes and colours. And, for the bird lovers out there, it is a real treat. I’m not an avid bird watcher, but one is unable to miss the colours and the species around this time of the year.

So, charge your camera battery, and fill up the tank, make this a day to explore the country. We live in such a beautiful part of the world, it would be a shame not to experience it when what I am telling you is on your doorstep. Being a professional, or just a hobby photographer, is not what this is about, it is about capturing great images that are meaningful on the day. For those people that want to capture everything beautiful, I am going to provide you with a few tips to follow to ensure very image “pops”.

What is best to use, a DSLR or a smartphone

For the everyday amateur photographer, it is about “having the eye”. I refer to the way you see the subject that you are shooting, the way the light catches it, and of course, your composition and style to make your shot standout from the norm. It is not about settings, it’s about the moment and the colours and the magic around, so don’t think that you need to understand the settings on your DSLR camera to take a good shot. I have seen many images captured on a smartphone that are absolutely amazing that people post on the likes of Instagram, this I’m sure you too have seen.

The difference between the 2 options is the lens. Both quality and range play a large role, depending on what you intend to with your image after that day. Yes, there are many editing apps and great software out here to boost the colours and the quality, but, remember the images captured on the mobile phone are small jpgs, best for online use as opposed to print.

My conclusion over choice is what best suits you, and the convenience of being able to keep the camera in your pocket, as opposed to having to lug around a bag. What I strongly suggest is that if you feel this experience into the country leads you to a “camera shop”, first attend a workshop for beginners in photography before spending that money. This way you can make a choice that is right for your needs and intentions. Again, for those photographers with a DSLR who wish to take their photography to that next level, attend a short photography course for beginners where you will learn all about your camera settings and your lenses.

Shooting at the best time of the day

The secret is the light. Bright sunlight is not good as it creates glare which results in bad compensation between the foreground and the background (either the background is over exposed and the foreground is perfect, or visa-versa). Another issue that often occurs, is that blown out images loose detail and colour. My suggestion is to wake up very early and catch the soft morning light, this is referred to as “the golden hour”. It is a time that most professional photographer choose for outdoor shoots. The light is diffused and the colours are their best. There are also no shadows or dapped light. It is really worth getting on the road early, and, I’m sure that you will agree, that when you are up and out of bed, it is really the best time of the day, especially after a good coffee.

Understanding the light

There are 2 important observations that you need to consider, are the petals fine and delicate like a rose, or are they more like a protea or aloe. The finer the petal, the more the flower needs to be in shade as the sun causes diffusion through the entire flower and you land up with a blur. This is not the case for the latter, where the petals or leaves are denser and the light will not diffuse through them.

How to improve your composition

This is very simple, look carefully through the view finder or the screen on your smart phone, make sure the image is square, I am referring to the left and right of the picture as well as the horizon. Often, if you are too close to your subject, the image distorts. The rule applies to users of both the DSLR and the smartphone, remember that the lens is made in such a way to provide range and depth of field. Again, if you are intending on buying a lens, make sure you make the right choice and have done your research.

Well, that is all you need to know for that first trip, and again not much to remember once you’ve had that first glass of wine over lunch.