Photographing a late summer garden.   

 

I woke up to a wet day.

There was a light shower overnight, not the strong rain everything is dying for here in the southern part of British Columbia, but it did dampen things down the most since those rainy weeks last June. However, any rain is good and if I had better hearing I surely would have heard happy sounds coming from the garden outside my door.

The drizzle ended and as I lazily finished my morning coffee, like any serious photographer, I knew there was an opportunity waiting.

Many photographers that are excited with all the brilliant colours of spring ignore the dry plants at the end of summer. Sure the reds, blues, purples, bright yellows and greens have mostly gone, but there is still an abundance of colours if one just takes a moment to look.

I like photographing the garden. As that well-worn quote attributed to Mark Twain goes, “ I don’t know much about Art, but I know what I like”, I admit that I have no memory for plant names, but I like all the flowers, trees and bushes one finds in a garden.

With me, it’s not really the colour as much as it is the shapes. My approach to a spring, summer, fall and winter garden is much the same. I search for the shapes, differing tones and, of course, the light.

My favourite accessory for rainy days is my ring-flash. As I would with any portrait, person or plant, I always use flash. I usually operate my flash off-camera using light stands and light modifiers. Sometimes just holding my flash at arms length works at the end of the day. But after a rain I like the sparkling direct light a ring flash produces.

The ring flash is a flash that fits around the front of a lens instead of on the camera. I prefer keeping the flash at some distance by employing longer focal length macro lenses. My macro lens, a true macro, is a 200mm. That lens keeps me out of the garden ensuring that I don’t step on other plants.

I photographing the garden, spring, summer, fall and winter, calming. Maybe that’s because I am looking into and at the small details of a landscape ignoring the world around me

When my wife and I photographed the garden together her final images were about space, design and how all the bushes and flowers fit together and how the colours interacted. Linda’s visuals discussed the landscape rather than individual flowers. Mine are more intimate. As I wrote, I am always, “looking into…at the details” when I wander our garden.

As with any portrait, I am rarely satisfied with natural light and almost always add light from a flash. And during those hours of low light as the storm slowly drifts away adding a bit of light to makes a normally flat subject come to life.

That garden just outside my door is always waiting. I never ignore it and am always looking to see what it offers.

I found this quote by the famous Canadian nature photographer and writer Freeman Patterson, “Seeing, in the finest and broadest sense, means using your senses, you intellect, and your emotions. It means encountering your subject matter with your whole being. It means looking beyond the labels of things and discovering the remarkable world around you.”

What Inspired or Inspires you to do Photography     

Inspiring Viewpoint 2

Palouse river canyon 2

 

 

 

A member of a photography site I frequented some time ago posed the question, “What inspired you?”

I took that to mean what inspired you as a photographer?

One would think that a question on a photographer’s website page would be a great opportunity for photographers to talk about those that encouraged, influenced, or affected their development in this exciting medium.

Anticipating discussions on celebrated photographers who had inspired others on that forum to get into photography I looked forward to reading members replies. However, I was surprised and disappointed with how few took the time to respond, and those that did seemed silly by only naming long gone painters like Rembrandt. Rembrandt? Not one member on that photographer’s forum mentioned another photographer.

Unable to contain myself I wrote, “I was inspired to do photography by photographers not painters. Those I admired and inspired me at different times include Man Ray, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Arnold Neuman, Gregory Heisler, Sarah Moon, Sheila Metzner and Annie Leibovitz. I must also mention scenic photographers like Elliott Porter, Ansel Adams, Edward Steichen and Edward Weston.”

Today I sent a friend a picture I had taken of him and several other friends in the early 1970s. I remembered at that time I was rarely without a camera, and how frustrating that was to some that just got tired of my constant picture taking. That’s when I recalled the preceding post on inspiration and my response.

I suppose there are painters and sculptors I like, but do they inspire my photography? No not really – I look to photographers for that. The first photographer and artist that inspired me all those years ago was Man Ray. It was after viewing his fascinating pictures that I began to study photography.

However, it is the second photographer on my inspiration list, Richard Avedon that I’ll quote here, “I think many photographers create in order to survive, both emotionally as well as financially. For a photographer, taking a photo is just as important as breathing”.

Sometimes when I see a photograph that I like I get excited. I might not be able to go to the location or find the subject of that picture, but it still makes me want to grab my camera and begin searching for something. I could say that photograph inspired me to create one of my own in my own personal way.

In my list to that forum I forgot to include the famous Canadian nature photographer and author, Freeman Patterson. I think any photographer interested in photographing gardens or landscapes will find inspiration in his photographs and his writing. Patterson wrote,  “Seeing, in the finest and broadest sense, means using your senses, your intellect, and your emotions. It means encountering your subject matter with your whole being. It means looking beyond the labels of things and discovering the remarkable world around you.”

There are many things and people that inspire me, too many to write down here, but the original post was on a photographer’s forum, so it’s photographers not painters that I thought about. There are many photographers past and present whose images are worth searching for, looking at, learning from, and of course, gaining inspiration from that will surely affect one’s own photography.

I always enjoy everyone’s comments. Please don’t hesitate if you have a moment.

Thanks, John

Chewy the Marmot and Chase Creek Falls

Chewy the Marmot

Chase creek Falls

Chase Creek April 2015

Path back to town

Spring is here. The weather has slowly warmed up I can see from my porch that the snow on the mountaintops is diminishing, so I decided it was time to visit a waterfall not far from my home.

I usually avoid waterfalls at this time of year because high volumes of murky, spring water rushing over the falls isn’t that photogenic and one never knows if the river’s bank will give away while you position your tripod. However, with the low volumes of water being reported I was sure that at Chase Creek Falls the interesting stream features like rocks and trees would be visible with the reduced water flow.

When I got to Chase Falls and parked my car I noticed a small sign along the trail that said to watch for a local marmot named “Chewy”. And sure enough, as I passed a large pile of very big rocks, there was a big marmot perched on top like some amusement park guard.

Marmots are usually shy when one walks near their burrow, but this rodent didn’t seem to be bothered in the least and readily posed for me as I hopped from rock to rock making portraits of him or maybe her. I did see a couple of immature marmots scurry out of sight; so I might be right thinking Chewy might be her instead him.

When I purchased my first DSLR years ago and began learning how to use Photoshop I remember saying to a friend that what I liked best was how easily one could crop without getting the degradation that came when cropping prints made from film. The problem with 35mm film was that anything shot over 400ISO was always grainy so that shooting wide and cropping later was usually disappointing. That’s why many photographers preferred medium or large format cameras to the tiny 35mm film.

I set my tripod up and focused my 24mm lens on the falls and shot wide.  I knew that when I viewed my images on my computer I would choose a crop that fit the rule-of-thirds without loosing much detail.

Modern DSLR sensors are much better in their ability to capture grainless detail at high ISOs than 35mm film was and even cropping away 50% of the picture doesn’t reduce the quality very much.

The low water level made it easy to scramble among the large rocks along the bank and chose a comfortable location to set my tripod up. I used a couple of neutral density (ND) filters so I could reduce my shutter speed to 3, then 4, 5, and finally 6 seconds to slow the water down and I chose a small aperture for lots of depth of field.

I have always enjoyed photographing that waterfall. I think I made my first photographs of it sometime in 1976, and I cannot recall how many times I have been back there since. I am fortunate to have a place like that so close to home where I can always find something to photograph.

With that I think I should end with a quote by a great Canadian photographer, Freeman Patterson, who says, “Seeing, in the finest and broadest sense, means using your senses, your intellect, and your emotions. It means encountering your subject matter with your whole being. It means looking beyond the labels of things and discovering the remarkable world around you.”

I look forward to comments. Thank you, John