Pre­served Flow­ers

How to take the best pic­tures of your gar­den

Canadian Wildlife - - OUTDOORS -

It is right about now, mid­sum­mer, when most Cana­dian gar­dens come into their own. Aside from some weed­ing and wa­ter­ing, the work has been done and it is time for gar­den­ers to re­lax and en­joy the fruits (and veg­eta­bles) of their labours. The sat­is­fac­tion and en­joy­ment is that much sweeter, the po­ets say, be­cause it is fleet­ing. As ex­pe­ri­enced grow­ers know well, blos­soms are ephemeral and sea­sons ever-changing. It is both the joy and the pity of be­ing a home horticulturalist.

Pho­tog­ra­phy is the way to keep your flow­ers bloom­ing and gar­dens ver­dant long af­ter they have withered and died and re­turned to the earth. (Fall, with its de­cay and de­cline, mind you, can also be a very pho­to­genic phase.) To help our read­ers hang on to their suc­cesses well af­ter with­er­ing, Cana­dian Wildlife mag­a­zine reached out to sev­eral of our na­ture pho­tog­ra­phers for ad­vice on cap­tur­ing the im­per­ma­nent beauty of their gar­dens.

The first thing to con­sider, ac­cord­ing to every ex­pert, is light. Con­trary to what many ex­pect, full sun­light is less than ideal in most cases. You lose def­i­ni­tion, and colours get washed out. So while a hot and sunny af­ter­noon may be the best time to sit and re­lax in a gar­den, to get the best pho­tos, con­sider get­ting up early in the morn­ing. Morn­ings in a gar­den can be mag­i­cal, with gen­tle light and dew on the grass, spi­der webs and petals. When shots at dawn are im­prac­ti­cal, evening light also of­fers a gen­tler, warmer tone than at mid­day and is also well suited to au­tum­nal gar­dens. Over­cast days too of­fer nice light to show off flow­ers, par­tic­u­larly pale plants be­cause you can cap­ture more de­tail. When­ever you choose, be sure to study your plot at dif­fer­ent times of day be­fore­hand, get­ting a sense for the light an­gles, shades and shad­ows that can add so much to a photo.

Long­time na­ture photographer and Cana­dian Wildlife con­trib­u­tor Thomas Kitchin in Dart­mouth, N.S., of­fers a handy tip. “Next time you no­tice a sun shower, grab a friend, your um­brella and your cam­era — ide­ally with a zoom lens — and get out to your gar­den quick as you can. You have light danc­ing, re­flect­ing off the droplets. You’ll get some­thing dif­fer­ent and dy­namic.” With your “as­sis­tant” hold­ing the um­brella and pro­tect­ing your equip­ment, move quickly around the gar­den watch­ing for “but­ter­flies tak­ing shel­ter from the rain, and flow­ers gen­tly drip­ping.”

If you are fo­cus­ing on cre­at­ing por­traits of in­di­vid­ual flow­ers, go sim­ple. Home in on your sub­ject, min­i­miz­ing un­con­nected fo­liage around it. An ef­fec­tive way of do­ing this is to in­crease the aper­ture of the lens, put­ting the pe­riph­eral con­tent out of fo­cus, em­pha­siz­ing in crisp def­i­ni­tion the flower it­self.

To cap­ture the over­all ef­fect of your gar­den, think in terms of how you de­signed it, the par­tic­u­lar van­tages and view­points you de­vel­oped as you planted it. Are there bow­ers or en­trance­ways, per­haps a sculp­ture or other fea­tures that can hold the eye and cre­ate an at­mos­phere? Th­ese will help de­fine the space and in larger views give some di­ver­sity to the ef­fect. Again, depth of field can add in­ter­est and in­tent to your im­age.

It is a tru­ism that gar­den­ers live with and em­brace the im­per­ma­nence of their call­ing, but that shouldn’t pre­clude any of us from en­joy­ing our gar­den suc­cesses through­out the year.

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