Thursday, 29 August 2013

Open your eyes !

A gorgeous golden pear at a past
Malvern Autumn Show
In the last of my posts on photography in the garden, I want to encourage you to keep your eyes open! Open to the possibilities that lie all around you. Whether quirky or factual, if it catches your eye, shoot it. Think about why you are taking the shot: as a record, to make a stunning greetings card, for your journal, or to turn it into some creative work of art. It affects the camera settings and background.

Marvellous herbs; pity about the intrusive display fabric
My magazine and online features frequently focus on herbs, so I am always on the lookout for useful images, in my own garden, when out visiting or touring, or at flower shows. Imagine my frustration when seeing a perfect display to have it ruined by the stall surroundings? The drapes destroy the delicacy of the flowers. Hessian would have set them off perfectly.

Finding a natural frame for a scenic shot
Look to create a natural frame – both these next two images are included to demonstrate that you can do so by utilising natural foliage as in the landscape above. It may be a question of moving slightly to get what you want, or using a stepladder – take one with you. We do. There are so many gardens set in hilly landscapes, so it is worth taking advantage of what is given to you, particularly carrying a small step-ladder does not appeal.

Birtsmorton Court, Glos
Archways and gates are a give-away, but why I chopped the top off I cannot think – included to show that I cannot have been thinking. It’s included also to demo that you can play with digital images using software such as Photoshop Elements; in this I gave it a soft frame and must have played with the colours: never used, it was just an experiment on a poor original !

A serene corner at Upton House, Warwickshire
As to in-situ shots, no matter what the subject, take them when you see something you love, particularly if it is of a pleasing planting, or juxtaposition of objects in a garden you are visiting. Gardens change over the years and it’s no use anticipating that what was there this year will still be there in 2014. Hence my disappointment when I went back to look at this serene corner planted with herbs against a block of stone. Gone.

One of the 'nine green gardens' at Aberglasney, Carmarthenshire, Wales
Even more so when this amazing reconstruction of a medieval demesne garden had been grubbed up and the bay trees removed. I was distraught for it had captured my heart and I wanted an updated shot. One of my better images, perfectly positioned – and then I discovered it was my husband who took it!!

Don't forget to  visit the Dobies' website for all your gardening needs and requirements. You may particularly like: vegetable seedsvegetable plants, flower seeds, flower plants, herbs, fruit and equipment. And don't forget their regular mailings and special offers online. Just keep visiting so you don't miss anything special. 

Friday, 23 August 2013

Pretty Flowers or Sumptuous Veg

Sunbathing on a dahlia
In my second post on taking photos in the garden for readers who may like to try a different approach, I am concentrating on decorative aspects the images one might take – at home or beyond the garden gate. Jumping in at the deep end, hardest of all are subjects that move around; taking the peacock butterflies above was a moment of opportunity for my husband – and the quality using his professional Nikon shows.

The sun was a little over-bright, but a single shot sets the scene
I, on the other hand, was casting about for ‘demo’ shots – nothing special, but each illustrates a point. First my usual setting the scene ‘location’ shot which focuses my mind on where we were and why, and helps maybe months ahead when I come to write about a particular garden, or aspects thereof.

Just what I need for my journal
Always on the lookout for images that will translate into the collages, journals and textile books that I create, silhouetted plants – and particularly those of the Umbelliferae family, capture my imagination, and are also easy to replicate in stitch. 

Poor composition, but the image has its uses nevertheless
Whether against the sky, or the dark background of an evergreen shrub, Fennel has that delicate sufficiency that others might pass by.  Whereas I prefer the first photo for its composition, this image better defines the plants structure for painting or embroidering.

This was taken to illustrate various points
Which brings me to architectural plants such as the artichoke, of which I must have taken dozens of images over the years. This ‘Purple Globe’ variety was not the usual giant of a plant, but by kneeling down and shooting upwards, the silhouette of the principle choke stood out against a paler out-of-focus background. A useful trick for something like this.

Good enough to eat!
Focussing on just one plant meant that the rest of the photo was blurred; cropping what I wanted was the answer and I can now use the result in a number of ways, apart from illustrating what an artichoke looks like when I am actually talking about the veg garden and not creativity!
Don't forget to  visit the Dobies' website for all your gardening needs and requirements. You may particularly like: vegetable seedsvegetable plants, flower seeds, flower plants, herbs, fruit and equipment. And don't forget their regular mailings and special offers online. Just keep visiting so you don't miss anything special. 

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Photography on location

The colours on these Honesty seedpods are perfect for a watercolour sketch
Photography in the garden or when out and about has surely never been so easy, whether using an iPhone or iPad or similar, or a simple digital camera. It depends what you want to use the images for – ‘happy snaps’, slide show on your TV, online in blogs or social media, or to obtain prints. How fortunate we gardeners are to HAVE digital facilities – remember the days when you used film and had to wait for the prints to come back from processing, by which time that beautiful flower had faded and you could not capture it again. Now, you can even check your images as you take them; and you don’t have to pay for poor shots to be processed.

I loved the drama of this shot
In this first of two posts offering tips for photography in the garden, I am assuming that you will be happily snapping away whilst on holiday, maybe when visiting National Trust properties. Recording what inspires you allows you to more easily replicate ideas at home, though of course a ‘grand design’ would be impossible. I am not a professional photographer, though I do take images to accompany my magazine features and online work. It isn’t just flowers or produce that interests me, but the unexpected. I walked around the topiary box looking for a dramatic shot that had the house (Canons Ashby, Northants) in the background whilst shooting using background defocus and out of the sun.

Oops! What can I do with this?
As I also use my images to make travels journals and stitched textile booklets, I always like to ‘set the scene’ – always a good idea anyway as a reminder of where you have been. I waited for ages to catch the image of the gates without throngs of people in the background and was in such a hurry to press the shutter whilst no-one was in view that a wonky shot resulted.

Corrected, but pillars part-missing
Luckily, there was sufficient image at either side of the pillars for me to manipulate the shot on the laptop and then crop without losing too much of the stone ‘frame’.

Too fussy; the door detracts from what I wanted to convey
On the hunt for architectural features and backgrounds to the decorative borders, and to fragrant herbs asking to be touched, I decided to experiment with the shapes of the stone steps. I could not manourvre into a position that gave me what I was seeking, and even though I cropped the shot twice when back home, it was fussy and not what I wanted.

Cropped, but in losing the door, I also lose the top of the window frame

Cropped again, but now the attractive angles of the steps are lost.
Too dominant
In circumstances such as these, I deliberately take a number of shots, focussing in this case on the gigantic stone ball. So I zoomed in on just the ball in front of the window, but made the stupid error of placing the ball centrally in the frame. Too static; no tension.

Off-centre, this is more dramatic

So I took it again, moving the camera slightly to the left, which also virtually eliminated the step so the eye is drawn to the incongruity of this giant stone set against a tiny but perfect window. I have used this as an example of pausing before shooting to analyse what one is taking and for what purpose. Next week, I will move onto plants. And for those who are interest, I use a Sony Nex-5 camera with detachable 18-55 zoom (F3.5-5.6) Zeiss lens and a 7.5cm LCD – you can ‘compose’ your image on screen. It goes everywhere with me!

All these images were taken to illustrate some of the thought processes behind shooting on location.