Soft Summer Flowers. Canon 100-400mm + 1.4x extender

Don’t Forget the Flowers While out on a Bird Photography Walk

When you are out on a bird photography walk, keep an eye out for flower photo opportunities. Your long telephoto lens could provide some flower photo ops that you wouldn’t be able to get with a standard zoom or macro lens.

The long focal length works really well in instances where you need that extra reach for a flower composition.  The longer telephoto lens shot at wider apertures (f/4 to f/6.3) will also give you a nice blurred bokeh for the backgrounds of your flower photographs.

When is a Long Telephoto Lens a Good Choice for Flower Photographs

  • When out hiking for bird or wildlife photography where you want to stay on the trail so you do not damage the environment.  With a longer lens, you can take photographs of flowers that are off the trail and also get a blurry background.
  • The long telephoto also works well for compositions of blooming trees where the blooms are higher from the ground.
  • A long focal length lens also works good for blooming lily pads or other blooming water plants that you can’t reach with a normal lens.
  • It’s also nice to not have to switch lenses to get that flower photograph while out photographing birds or wildlife
Soft Pink Flower. Canon 100-400mm + 1.4x Extender
Soft Pink Flower. Canon 100-400mm + 1.4x Extender
Topaz Labs

Camera Settings for Taking Flower Photographs with a Long Telephoto Lens

Flower photographs can also be taken with almost the same settings that you use for birds and wildlife.  Here are a couple changes that you might want to make when moving from shooting birds / wildlife to flowers:

  • Focus limiter.  Your flower subject may be closer than you typically get with birds and wildlife.  So you may need to change the focus limiter switch on the lens to focus closer (for example: 1.4 to 4m) depending on the distance to your subject.  Don’t forget to change it back for your next bird photograph or the lens will have difficulty focusing on the more distant subject.
  • Single Shot Mode.  If you are shooting in a mode with faster Frames per Second) (Sequential Low or High Mode on my Olympus), you may want to switch to Single Shot Mode so you don’t have so many photos to cull through.
  • Exposure Compensation.  You may want to increase or decrease exposure compensation depending on the lighting conditions.  A lot of times flowers will be in the sun and you will need to dial down exposure compensation so you don’t blow out the highlights.
  • Aperture.  Try different shots at different apertures to obtain a blurry backgrounds while keeping most of the subject in sharp focus.
  • Shutter Speed.  Depending on the amount of wind, you may need to increase the ISO to get faster shutter speeds.
Wild Rose. Olympus 300mm f/4 + 1.4x teleconverter
Wild Rose. Olympus 300mm f/4 + 1.4x teleconverter

Flower Photography Composition Tips

Align your composition so that it has a clean background behind the subject.  Backgrounds that are farther away from the subject will produce a softer background.  A clean background coupled with the shallow depth of field of the telephoto lens should produce a nice creamy Bokeh.

So, the next time you are out on a bird or wildlife photography hike with your long telephoto lens, take a few flower shots.  If it’s a slow day for birds or wildlife, you’ll still come home with some keeper flower photographs as a bonus.

Written by Martin Belan

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