Photographing the Garden
Kristi the demon camerawoman was just complaining about it yesterday, so I know I’m not alone when I say
closeups are easy.
and mugshots present few problems
while landscapes are difficult
And anything in the middle is just about impossible
Yet the urge to photograph persists, along with the urge to get back to gardening and not be endlessly messing around with the equipment. As far as I can tell, the hardest thing to get into your head is the miracle of human sight. Cameras don’t see what people see.
Where even a persnickety viewer registers mostly ” that’s gorgeous,” in the face of something like a humongous clump of healthy foxgloves, the camera records ragged leaves with holes in them, spent blossoms, teeny tiny weeds at the base where the mulch has been pulled away…
So the less stuff there is in the photograph, the easier it is to avoid inadvertent confessions ( the composition problem is another story).
Digital cameras make it easy to shoot the thing, view it, then clean up as necessary, but they don’t make any extra time to do the cleaning when you’d rather be doing something more productive – like picking raspberries, for instance, or thinning lettuce, or getting the last peonies deadheaded before they waste too much energy making seeds.
So whenever I’m torn between photo improvement and actually gardening, I just remember the time Toshi Otsuki came to shoot the white garden for Victoria magazine.
Before he took a single picture, he spent a full day on giving the place a manicure. I’d come out from time to time see if he needed anything and there he’d be with his tiny scissors, snip, snip, snip.
He deadheaded every single wilted cosmos blossom; gently pulled the spent petals from a whole herd of nicotianas, delicately removed imperfect rose leaves … a tour de force of tidying that still gives me the willies whenever I think of it, even though the results were admittedly a romantic dream.
The inspiring part is what he did NOT do, which was to use any fancy equipment: no big lights, no special reflectors, not even a tripod. He just wandered around with his (smallish) camera, shooting multitudes of pictures for later editing.
Ever since, I’ve taken my cue from that part of his fabulous attention. The most important thing in garden photography is simply Being There, and in that we all have a huge leg up on even the most skillful ( and well-equipped) pro.
That said, I have found a few tips from Garden Photo 101 (the bedrock standard advice) to be especially helpful:
* Best shooting times are morning and evening when light is soft and shadows ditto. The bright sun of mid day bleaches colors, flattens the picture plane and casts harsh shadows.
* Strong contrasts like white flowers on a deep green philadelphus or pale pink blooms on a dark leafed begonia are frequently too much for the autopixies, which tend to choose the dark background and open the lens, thus making mush of the lighter items. Locking the autofocus on a pale part can sometimes help.
* Backlighting makes colors pop and often produces dramatic effects, but the camera can’t adjust for direct brightness elsewhere in the picture. There would be a lot more detail in the canna flower if I had used a fill flash but then there we are with the slaves ( flash attachments that are not part of the camera body) and other stuff I can’t bear to tote around.
Time for another round of ” when in doubt, closeup saves the day.”