In Search of a Poppy Field
The Poppy Field is one of those subjects that every Landscape Photographer needs to photograph
As I didn't successfully find a good field last year it was a real priority this year. I tried several places in Dorset but I knew in my heart Wiltshire was the place to go. I eventually found a field, not too far away from where I live but nestled in Wiltshire; the only issue was access. The poppies created a lovely red mist across the distant field which looked impressive. So off I set across the fields with my backpack, flask of tea and some fruit. I knew this would be a bit of a challenge as it was the hottest day of the year so far, at about 28 degrees and there was no clear route to the field.
My first obstacle was a river that I needed to cross, fortunately I was wearing shorts so I just waded in and every so often used my tripod to steady myself. Once across I climbed an embankment and started to notice the increase in really large blood sucking mosquitoes, not a pleasant situation. However, the sight of that red field kept me going. My next problem was barbed wire, I had already had some bad encounters with this evil stuff earlier in the year and ripped open the bottom of my new Mindshift bag on it's first outing. I was going to take care. Once over the fence I had to wade through stinging nettles about a 5 feet high and again the trusty tripod came in useful. I also put my foot down a rabbit or badger hole and went straight over on my back into the nettles. This photo outing was not going well but on the plus side the poppies did look promising and the sunset was shaping up quite nicely.
After a cup of tea and a bit of a rethink I scaled another barbed wire fence and then preceded to head down the side of a field of Barley. I knew this was not public right of way but I couldn't give up now and took care not to damage the crop. A short way along the side of the field I stopped and made a quick lens change to the 50-140 on the XT 2 as I had spotted a young deer in the middle of the field. The head sticking up out of the barley did make me laugh.
By this time I had been bitten on just about every exposed part of my body and blood was running down arms and legs, I knew I was going to suffer for this but the field was now well in sight.
At the base of the field the poppies looked spectacular and the Velvia Vivid film simulation setting was perfect; really bringing out the gorgeous reds and vibrant greens. I walked along the side of the field and up to the top to face back into the setting sun. The mosquitoes were just relentless in attacking me and going for my supply of blood; couldn't give up now. As I moved to the top of the hill I was just amazed as to how dense the poppies were, the best I think I had ever seen. Remarkably, as I was to later learn these were not planted but had just appeared naturally. I think this made it all the more important to get some decent captures. I took my wide angle, low pictures into the sun with the Fuji 10-24 and then one of those special, unique opportunities came about and It's these type of situations that make photography so special. In the distance I saw a Roebuck by the side of the fence and also two people at the end of the field. As they moved further towards me the Roebuck started to move across the field and a bit closer. I had the wide angle zoom on so I needed the quickest lens change on record. Fortunately, I had the matched TC for the 50-140 which just gave me that extra reach, which really helped. I didn't even have chance to set up the camera for continuous autofocus or change ISO so I just went wide open and took as many shots as I could. All this happened in less than a minute and I just preyed I had one decent shot. As luck had it, I managed to get one decent shot and the quality of the 50-140 f2.8 plus the matched TC did not let me down.
The layering of the poppy drifts and bokeh in front and behind the subject really enhanced the perspective and depth of the image. For my landscape work the Fuji 50-140 f2.8 is a must and although it adds extra weight to your pack it is for me an essential item of equipment. The TC also gives that maximum pull of about 300mm in Full Frame focal length. I would have preferred the 100-400 but this was a good compromise. Interestingly, as I was leaving the field at about 9.15pm I met the farmer who owned the land coming up the gravel track in his land rover and I was half expecting a right lecturing. However, as it happened he was really interested in my photography and gave me some useful facts on the field and how the poppies had appeared. I took his business card so that I could e-mail some of the photos.
A nice conclusion to this story of one man's struggle to get that poppy field picture is that I did e-mail the farmer several of the images and he was really impressed and after seeking my permission sent these to the Royal British Legion Society which was nice and we may very well be working together on a professional basis in the future.
This was one of those photo outings I will not forget in a hurry and it was most certainly worth all the itching and scratching (antihistomine tablets did help as did a bottle of whiskey)