The Best Garden Photography Advice

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I think so anyway…

Saxon Holt of Gardening Gone Wild and Mental Seeds is going to be putting out an e-book very soon and I commented to his latest post, Get Inside the Garden, that I would most certainly purchase his e-book. He has planned a multi-book format with six lessons in each on garden photography. Sound interesting?

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He is creating a new website, The PhotoBotanic Garden Photography Workshop. It has a section for learning which will be subscription only. The website is in the works currently and should be coming soon.

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I have been following him at GGW for years and Saxon has a great way of teaching his craft. I have a few e-books by professional photographers, some of whom photograph gardens, flowers, and landscapes besides their specialty.

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The e-books lacked something in garden photography. Since I design landscapes, I noticed something very important that was missing. Not the beautiful photography, but the understanding of the gardens being photographed.

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If a photographer is good at a particular subject, I think they must really know that subject. This is where Saxon is heads above the others. He is both a photographer and a gardener.

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He said, ““Get inside the garden”, which means more than physically – mentally too – if not “immersion” in his words.

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Understanding how a design works helps in photographing it. He mentioned this in his recent post.  Conversely, photographing a garden can aid in understanding the design intent and design elements used in creating it.

Well designed gardens work ultimately when they are used. In the images throughout this post, people are engaged in the gardens. Not just casually, but in a deeper way.

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I designed buildings for a long time. That should make me good at photographing them, right? Not necessarily, because it requires practice.

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Even professional photographers are sometimes only adequate at photographing large commercial buildings. We had one here that was spectacular.  I worked with him on projects, but since he took the photos, I never really spent my time learning from him.

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With wildlife and nature, I have become a sponge, taking online courses and learning from some well-known individuals.

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With wildlife, the more you know, the better you anticipate. Learning all you can on wildlife, practicing and learning your camera for this type of photography will help in getting good photos. Be ready to get into the trenches though.

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I am of the belief you cannot do both photography and anything you choose to photograph (gardens included) well without the passion for both. The art, the “eye’, well that comes in time. The passion is something you genuinely have to feel with your very being.

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Unfortunately, my images at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens were taken during bright daylight hours, but in your own garden, you can select the time of the day.

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I am sure when Saxon’s e-books get released, they will be so comprehensive, easily understandable, well illustrated, and just so hard to put down. I am doubly certain that The PhotoBotanic Garden Photography Workshop website will be packed full of useful information and be so much fun.

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I am excited to see where all this goes.

Join me in my series on straight forward gardening advice, coming up. The Best Gardening Advice is not always what you think.

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About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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42 Responses to The Best Garden Photography Advice

  1. HolleyGarden says:

    I look forward to his e-book. Blogging has made me realize how much I enjoy photographing my garden. I also look forward to your posts on garden advice! I know they will be thought provoking.

  2. Marisa says:

    It sounds like really helpful advice from both of you. I am always keen to improve my photography skills. I love that taking photographs of my garden and nature makes me so much more observant, but I am often disappointed especially with the wildlife shots.

  3. We are going to the Garden Bloggers Fling for the first time and will attend the workshop by Saxon Holt. I may just buy the ebook for Judy.

    • I am hoping to go as well, it is based on my health. The e-books, like most of the ones I am familiar on photography, should be quite affordable. They’re are 4 books, 6 lessons each and I think he promised at least some of what he is making available will be by the time of the Fling.

  4. Love the idea of the website and ebook…as I hope to have more time to delve into photography, these will be something I will check out…

  5. I have learned so much from you, Donna, and look forward to your new series. I feel I must benefit from the e-books as I have the passion for gardens and the desire to photograph them well. I find the photography part a bit overwhelming though, so welcome easily understandable advice. P. x

    • My garden series is geared more to beginners, and the second post talks about becoming a Master Gardener, which you are also. It will not be until the fifth in the series where I talk about those with experience and things they overlook in design.

      I think Saxon makes his lessons very understandable. Check out the first link. It has his lessons archived.

  6. I agree with you Donna! I am often amazed at some books that are published about gardening with what I consider poor photos. I look forward to the e-book. I always want to learn more!

  7. Sue says:

    Yes, this sounds very interesting. One of my goals this year is to learn how to use my camera on something other than the “auto” setting. Often when I take pictures I’m happy with composition but dissatisfied with the quality. I’ll be on the lookout for updates.

    • It might be the time of day you are shooting. Quality issues, like in my images in post today, are often about lighting on the scene. Rarely can one get into public gardens early morning or late afternoon when the lighting is generally better – avoiding blowout and harsh shadows. But, the key to being a good photographer, is making due with all lighting situations. There are ways to deal with strong light in camera that help quality, like neutral density filters, and light modifiers like umbrellas and reflectors. Also, you can use your flash to balance light values in a scene, like if taking a photo of a person for instance. I have learned a lot of tricks that someday I may talk about. Many can happen in post too. I should have done that in my images today. It tones down the contrast and softens the colors.

  8. The photography tips are really great. I look forward to the release of the eBook.

  9. Gorgeous photos as usual. I will never be the photographer you are, but the gardens you capture are always breathtaking and inspiring.

  10. A.M.B. says:

    I wish I had more skills both as a photographer and as a gardener! I’m looking forward to your gardening advice series. I love the photos, as always, even the ones in bright daylight. The frogs are my favorites. I have a soft corner for frogs.

  11. Helen Johnstone says:

    Are the photography tips for people like me with a bridge camera? I get very fustrated that all the books etc I come across are for DSLRs

    • Helen, the e-book, like all his posts on GGW, are very design principally oriented. They are more about ‘seeing’ the landscapes in a meaningful way. You can see how Saxon teaches by going to the links for his sites in my post. His photography instruction makes one experiment and explore, not get familiar with any type of particular camera. Check out his archives. http://www.gardeninggonewild.com/?cat=32, the archives have lessons from the book. In the book, the lessons will be more comprehensive and have more photographic example.

      I have done some work with my bridge camera, the Nikon P510 in all my photos from St. Lucia. My most ‘tip like’ article was Hummingbird Closeups with the Nikon P510. All the garden and scenery shots came out very nice with this camera.

      https://gardenwalkgardentalk.com/2013/02/02/hummingbird-closeups-with-the-nikon-p510/

  12. Oh, I can’t wait, Donna!!!
    Happy [blossoming] April!
    🙂

  13. Alistair says:

    Donna, I have the passion for the gardening, the photography is still at the stage of enjoyment. I am reasonably happy with my close ups, long shots seem to look a bit grainy though. Enjoyed all those lovely shots you had to show us today.

  14. Please keep us posted!

  15. Karen says:

    Hello Donna, I hope you’re feeling better. I enjoyed all of the photos, so lush and green. I’m tired of seeing the dirty snow. There is always so much to learn about in gardening and photography. I will be looking forward to your next posts, too.

  16. That is good news. I think it is important to focus on what brings you joy and learn from there. I have always liked Saxon’s photos, too.

  17. Very well-said and photographed (and passion conveyed)! I especially agree about the “going beyond” part and the “passion.” These two elements can turn an average photograph or post into something very special. Thanks for sharing your talents and passion for gardening with us, Donna.

    • I have been lax at sharing gardening advice and ideas, mainly because I have such a varied readership here. Plus, older posts have had so much emphasis on garden. Garden and landscape design is what I do along with my architecture – but every now and then I take the design principles and apply them to photography and art. That is how the readership expanded and why the blog is diverse. I am glad to still have readers from gardening blogging too. My next series is things we often take for granted (like passion for instance) or don’t think about (practical, like drainage). So many are plant oriented and there is much more to gardening than what plants to select.

  18. Another thoughtful and beautifully illustrated post, Donna. I have learned so much since following you!

  19. Donna I admire Holt’s body of work and also his skills in “educating” and teaching photography. But you are really great at inspiring readers to take action and “do” things. If I may, I would add one very important (for me attribute): intuition. A photographer needs to guess “the image” and be prepared for the shot. One of my favorite photographers is Cartier-Bresson, he did not talk about gardens but his teachings could apply just as well. I believe one have to find the image almost just like a hunter, and that indeed, needs real passion. Great post!

  20. dabbie says:

    Hi, my first visit to your blog….and I love your garden photos!…..and thanks for the photography tips!

  21. I have seen many posts from Saxon Holt too, very instructional. Your photos are inspirational and I try to figure out what it is that I like about certain photos…why they stand out to me.

  22. catmint says:

    I’m going to follow GGW, and I’ll definitely get the ebook. Passion for nature and photography – I feel mine is on a slow simmer. As i learn photography and take time to adjust the camera for the perfect shot, I wish birds and wildlife would wait for me! At least plants are considerate.

  23. Loved reliving our visit to the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden.

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