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.

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