I have finished working on my second herb book in two years and can reflect a bit on how I set up and find the photos. Sometimes ya’ just get lucky – like this one.
Lavender is an iconic herb. There are entire books on the subject, but for my book there would only be space for a few – those pesky writers expect to see words on a page. I wanted to leave nothing to chance. So I planned an afternoon shoot with my friend Mimi at her farm just to get one decent shot.
Mimi is one of my favorite people and we have collaborated on several projects and scheme to do more. Any excuse to visit her at the Farm is a good one, and we were going to make a photo.
She pulled out some baskets, put on color-coordinated blue-lavender clothes, dusted off the ol’ watering can, scrounged around for snips that weren’t too beat up, and generally outperformed any Big City photo stylist that would have charged me more than I make myself, just to make a scene look country casual. Mimi IS county casual, ’cause, well, she works a farm….
The shoot started slow. A “safe” photo that shows all you ever need to know about harvesting lavender – just cut it off and put it into a basket. Pretty boring.
So I begin to work different angles. Get real close to the basket with a wide angle lens so I can still see the harvesting. OK. “Hold that pose Mimi !” I adjust my reflectors and scrim, move the basket a little this way, a little that way … “Hands lower, please !” Photo is getting better.
Let’s try a tight shot of putting the lavender into the basket. We don’t really need to literally see the cutting to convey the idea of harvest, so I have Mimi put the basket in the crook of her arm and twist a bit toward camera so I can still see a bit of the crop in the background.
I always try to compose in camera, filling the frame, leaving no wasted space. Working in tight composition the slightest change can make a big difference so I have Mimi lift the basket toward camera … “put the lavender in slowly please . . . again, please” so I can see what the best composition will be. I don’t want to simply get the camera motor whirring and shoot every possibility – I want to think about what I am doing. Mimi is patient. “Hold that pose…”
But Mimi is also actually getting tired of holding these poses. It is a hot sunny California day and I’m still pushing to get “the shot”, fearing if we stop, the light will fade. The sun is going down but I had forgotten Mimi was being a contortionist for me.
“Can I put the basket down on the chair for a moment while I stretch ?” Oh. You mean that beautiful rustic, light blue Adirondack chair in the sun ? The setting sun which is back-lighting the Mexican feather grass? OK. Put it down by all means, take a break.
Brilliant. An accident waiting to happen. “And could you just put the snips at the end of the arm rest ?”
It’s a wrap.