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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Garden Photography:A Post Scriptum to a Previous Post

When I posted three photographs of flower beds at White Flower Farm, taken by Irene Jeruss, I neglected to pay attention to what made two out of the three photos so powerful. [Please scroll down to the previous post to have another look at them]

Then I read comments to that blog, posted by some readers who mentioned that photographing flower gardens are challenging. That reminded me of a conversation  I once had with a photographer friend. Photos of flower gardens are less satisfying than the real thing, he related, because the brain sees an image in three dimensions but a camera only captures that image in two dimensions. That may explain why many pictures of flower gardens, that we have seen and then photographed, are so disappointing. However, that alone did not explain the pleasurable effect that Ms. Jeruss’ pictures had on me and some of my readers.

I glanced back at the first two of her images and, this time, noticed what, I think, made them great. In each of the shots, she captured flowers in the foreground of the composition, i.e. she created perspective. Is that perspective a substitute for three dimensions and did it contribute to making the pictures so attractive?

To learn more, I contacted my photographer friend. He explained that there is a trick that some photographers use. When we look at pictures of open landscapes, he explained, our eyes fly all over the picture, never settling anywhere. However, when there is an object in the foreground, the eye grabs on and keeps the brain focused on it. Anchored to the foreground, our brain can now begin to explore and appreciate the landscape in the background. I hope I got that right.

The pervasive use of digital cameras among gardeners has made botanical photography an integral part of every day horticulture. In addition to learning how to use garden tools and gardening techniques, perhaps we also need to learn the tricks of the trade for successfully photographing landscapes. It is amazing how the continuous advances in technology touch our lives on so many levels.

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Reader Comments (8)

The technique your friend describes of having something in the foreground to help the eye focus is one that has been used by painters for ages. If you look at the great masters who painted landscapes you will often see people or animals in the foreground or sometimes a plant. It gives you perspective and allows the eye to judge the distance to other things in the picture, returning to the foreground all the time to judge things by.

January 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHelen

Thank you so much for going back to this and passing on this important information. I am very good with close up photography, but have a lot more problems with landscapes. I can take three photos of a plant and get one I am happy with, but I have to keep going back over and over to take more photos of a landscape before I am satisfied. I must have taken 50 shots of my fall garden for a post on keeping it going. I went back to look at what I finally used and, just as you pointed out, I came at it from an unusual angle that put plants in the foreground. However, I didn't know that that was what I did; I just knew it worked better. These two posts are invaluable, to me at least. I hope you will do more like them.

I enjoyed reading this Allan as I am always trying to get better with the photography. The photos I like the most are the ones where I concentrated on the foreground and just let the background fall into place.


January 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEileen

Your comments remind me that too many years have passed since I studied the old masters. Thank you for the mini refresher course.

January 12, 2011 | Registered CommenterAllan

Allan, As someone who learns best when I understand the basic principles, I found these very helpful. Many thanks.

January 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJean

Sometimes the best posts just "happen".

January 12, 2011 | Registered CommenterAllan

And when the background falls into place, I notice it instantly and spend time admiring a part of your garden that you had not intended to feature.

January 12, 2011 | Registered CommenterAllan

Great post. I have a new camera that can do all sorts of wonderful things, if I can master the owners manual! I look forward to improving my photo skills. Thanks for the tip on perspective.

January 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdebsgarden

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