Another morning photographing the garden in March  

Early in the morning I got a text message from my friend Jo that said, “Good morning, it’s snowing down here.” I told her it was up at my place too with big flakes.

Her reply was, “ if I come up when its light can I borrow your macro lens? I want to take some pictures of the snow in the garden”

I said of course, and an hour later when Jo and her daughter showed up it had stopped snowing but there was still some left on the plants.

I got my 70-180mm macro lens out, mounted a flash on a light stand, and gave her my TTL flash trigger so she could use the same High Speed Sync technique I wrote about in my last article. We then set up a video game for her daughter because she said it was “to cold for me” and went out in the snowy morning looking for some interesting subjects for Jo to photograph.

The sky had cleared up and the snow was melting fast.

Whenever Jo found something to photograph I would position the flash to one side. After the first few tests we knew how far away I needed to locate the flash so as not to under or over expose her subjects. Then as the day got brighter all she had to do was decide how bright she wanted the background and increase or decrease the shutterspeed to achieve it.

I had my camera just in case, but Jo had some good ideas and I enjoyed being the “lighting guy” moving the flash around to see what kind of effect she could get so I didn’t bother using it.

The snow was deep and more than once we filled our boots. However, there was lots to photograph and although we both complained we didn’t really care. And for me it is always interesting to watch how and what another photographer does in a location that I have photographed.

I just remembered that I wrote about Jo and I photographing the March garden snow a couple years ago and at that time I said, “I know there are many photographers that only take pictures of plants when they are in bloom and prefer colourful representations. However, spring, summer, fall, winter, snow, rain, sunny, or overcast, my garden is filled with ever changing subjects that always offer something new.”

My advise to photographers was then and still is, if they wait for inspiring weather before that next garden safari they are missing a good opportunity. There’s always something to photograph no matter the weather or the season, just get up close and look for the small stuff.

A Photography Excursion In My Own Yard     

Showtime

Rusty Chain

Painted wheel

Lichen

Wagon wheel

Water tank

Window hinge

C.P.R.

 

It seems as though photographers get so hung up on traveling in search of exotic, or inspiring, locations that they forget about what is right out their own door.

I must admit that unless I have decided to take pictures of a colourful plant, or quickly capture a photo of a feral cat looking for handouts, or a deer that has hopped the fence with hungry designs on the spring buds growing in my wife’s garden, I rarely wander our yard with my camera in hand. The items we pass by every day become so familiar and commonplace that we pay little attention to them.

Last Sunday I wondered if the ten lilac bushes I planted late last fall made it through the winter. So I walked along the fence to check for spring growth and sure enough all of the new shrubs made it and I later told my wife that all the lilacs she had shipped all the way from Quebec are doing just fine. Of course with the unusually warm winter we had here in British Columbia one would expect no less.

As I walked around I spied a pile of old chain rusting on a log and realized I might be missing an opportunity for a few pictures if I didn’t get my camera. I admit I am not the most fastidious person when it comes to keeping tidy the two acres of land we live on, and because bits of things interest me I am forever picking up stuff that is apt to spend lots of time resting wherever I place them when I got home. That chain has only been sitting there for a year or two, but there might come a time when I will need that well-rusted length of chain.

So I got out my camera and mounted my wife’s treasured 70-180mm macro, grabbed my flash, and headed out. The Nikon AF 70-180mm is unique. It is the only true macro zoom lens around which allows precise framing without having to change working distance and refocus. And so, yes, that lens is special to Linda.

This photo hunt was to look for those bits and pieces similar to the chain and that’s why I chose that macro lens, so I could get in close or zero in on just a part of what I wanted to photograph.

One of my favourite photographers, Robert Mapplethorpe wrote, “With photography, you zero in; you put a lot of energy into short moments, and then you go on to the next thing.

Those words were perfect for my walk through my spring-like yard. I’d find an object or feature, focus close with the macro lens, zoom in to crop tight, release the shutter a couple times and move on.

Although I can use my flash wireless off-camera, this time I chose to connect it to the camera with a dedicated TTL cord. I decided it would be easier to hold the flash and aim the light from different angles than it would be if I had to keep moving and adjusting a stand. Instead of fussing with a flash mounted on a stand all I did was put the flash in my pocket till I needed it to photograph flaking paint, rust, moss-covered wood and all sorts of things that have found a home in our yard.

I am of the opinion that those photographers that live in a well-kept, tidy yard are missing out on such an opportunity. Just think of how much fun I had on my safari discovering great things of which to take pictures.

Of course there is the possibility that my wife will come up with an altogether different kind of safari once she sees my pictures, one that will be a lot less fun for me.