Welcome back spring

– Posted in: Garden Design, Garden Photography

With no apologies I welcome spring.  I welcome the chance to post new photos.  I welcome the challenge of simply taking new photos.  I welcome  the chance to get back to work.  Welcome back Gardening Gone Wild.

Camellia sasanqua ‘Kanjiro’

I have not posted new photos for a couple months now, and Fran let me slip through January without any post at all.  There were some pretty major complications with my eye surgery but now’s time to get back into shape for the new garden season.  Welcome spring.  I will step gently.

Camellia sasanqua ‘Kanjiro’ is still blooming.  It had just started blooming in early November, back when I first explored the new vision, recovering then from the first battle with the detached retina.  Some of you may remember the Camellias in the What I See post.  That Kanjiro is still there,  so silently offering and inevitably shedding her flowers, nearly brings me to tears. The photo needs to be just right.

Let me treat it with a very light touch, open up the exposure that the camera caught.  Open my heart to the riveting pink, let me breath the bright light my soul sought.

The flower opening this post did not really look quite so bright in real life.  It is a rich pink and the day was dull.  But the camera always lies, whether you want it to or not.  The truth must be in what you really see, not in what is really in front of the camera.  The truth is in how a photo makes you feel, no matter what the photographer intended. If the photographer can make the viewer feel some sort of essence of what s/he felt, then the photo is a success.

Back at the computer, as I studied what to do with the original raw capture in order to bring out the inspiration the flower had giving me, I needed to crop to horizontal.  I had thought the vertical would give me the uplifting feeling of hope and gratitude I felt being in the garden with my camera, but the horizontal seems to be more succinct.  And making everything brighter than “reality” is the lie I want to feel.

These are simply photos.  Flower  close-ups really.  I didn’t travel.  I used my G11.  They are tight, hand held with a fairly high ISO so I can keep them sharp as I bend and twist to find an angle.  They fulfill a simple need.

Flowering Quince, Chaenomeles

I need the quick hit of proof that spring is coming on, that its promise of the fresh start is more than hope.  I walked out of the studio to get away from the frustration of work.  Complications seemed everywhere.

I didn’t even realize the quince were blooming.  The sasanqua Camellias are winter shrubs but Chaenomeles certainly mean spring. Their blossoms seem to swell up and burst open overnight.

Part of the challenge of macro work for a garden photographer is to show a sense of place.  My G11, and most modern point-and-shoot cameras, has the capacity to do wide angle macro, so I could show both bud and flower of the quince.  Even so, being right on top of the flower still showed more of the bare garden than I wanted.  And the raw capture was blue and washed out.  Repair in Photoshop….

Cropping and color control are easy fixes in post production, especially if you have pre-visualized what you want to do.  It is easy to get lost in the magic of digital tools, but they are essential and relatively quick if you know what you want to say.

If you have something to say with your photos, the post production can be an economic application of a tool.  If you only have an interesting photo and hope to use the tools to make it say something, you may get lost.

I include this last photo of daffodils simply because it can not be spring without them.  More proof that spring is upon us here in California.  I grabbed this photo one morning last week when an editor in New England showed me a photo of their offices under 19″ of snow.

I need any excuse to use the camera and this was a simple exercise.  This is a tiny patch of meadow by my driveway and the only way to show this in relation to my studio was to let the flowers hide my truck.   I probably could have spent the 45 seconds it would have taken to move it, but hey, gas is expensive.  This is not an expense account shoot . . .

It is really just a welcome opportunity to see what I can see.  Slowly getting back to speed.  Nice to be back.

More back to work photos on my Mental Seeds blog.

Saxon Holt

Saxon Holt is the owner of PhotoBotanic, a garden picture resource for photographs, workshops, and garden photography stories. A landscape photographer and award winning photojournalist with more than 20 garden books, he lives and gardens in Northern California.

Saxon Holt

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Debra Lee Baldwin February 20, 2011, 12:45 pm

Yay, you’re back! And with characteristically great insights, both visual and verbal. “The truth is in how a photo makes you feel, no matter what the photographer intended…making everything brighter than ‘reality’ is the lie I want to feel.” I now realize that the photos I like best do this. Thank you, Saxon, for a great post. Welcome back, and may you enjoy your Northern CA spring fully!

Thanks DL. can’t exactly enjoy spring at the moment as I am on Amtrak, now in the Rockies, headed to Virginia. Pretty amazing that my iPhone can be a mobile hotspot and I can login, though the rollicking train is making me retype this 4 times …. – Saxon

Henrietta February 20, 2011, 2:02 pm

Welcome back and happy to learn that your eyes are fine.
Thanks for sharing your lovely photos When I have daffodils in IN I shall try to try a photo like your daffodil.
After reading your post I believe that I shall take photos of endive in various stages of growth that I wintered over. After the snow melted I checked it out and it is a healthy green (I recovered it as it is still winter here

Thanks for dropping in Henrietta. Eyes still have a ways to go before blurriness is gone but it is simply time to get back to work. I bet your endive photos will be an evocative memory of winter. – Saxon

Donna February 20, 2011, 8:16 pm

I too am so glad you are back posting on GGW. I learn so much from your posts here and I do follow you at Mental Seeds. I hope the blurriness is gone soon. I too have a profession that requires good sight and all the detail work has taken its toll on my sight too, but lucky for me, glasses are my cure.

I too use PS, mostly for painting images, but thought your raw images would hit Lightroom. Is that an app you use?

Thanks Donna; still some bluriness but back to work. I use Lightroom sometimes, mostly for great webgalleries, but I find Bridge so easy to use for most of my workflow. Hope to learn more about painting with PS – just got a Wacom tablet- Saxon

Donna February 21, 2011, 3:41 am

Saxon, thanks for the reply. I use the tablet too and could not do any of my architecture CAD or PS art without it. You will never believe you ever worked without it. Once you are use to it that is. I never got the Cintiq which would be a more natural way of drawing because once you use the tablet, it becomes second nature. I try to keep my photography sans PS until I get better at photographing. I am learning more each day how to handle the camera better and be more technically proficient. Plus I am getting a little more confidence to enter the GGW Picture This contest. Glad to hear the blurriness is subsiding.

Donna – go ahead and enter. Don’t worry about winning and certainly don’t worry about embarrassing yourself. You know you won’t. Part of the fun is to have a theme and see what other come up with. – Saxon

Janet/Plantaliscious February 21, 2011, 5:10 am

What a great post. It really is amazing how much difference a little cropping or tweaking of raw files can change a photograph. Its nice to hear someone else describe a process that feels similar to my own, though I am a rank amateur in comparison.

Amateur or not, you need some purpose to your tweaking – Saxon

Mr. McGregor's Daughter February 21, 2011, 10:34 pm

Thanks for the reminder to make the photos show what I saw, not what the camera thought I saw. I appreciate the permission to deviate from the slavish reproduction of the camera’s image, and not feel like it’s a cheat. You’ve also shown how great photos can be created on a point & shoot camera, once again demonstrating it’s the photographer, not the camera.

Thanks MMD – I confess having to use the point and shoot the past few months has forced me to deviate from being faithful to the camera. Being spoiled by my fancy one I find playing with the point & shoot in PS gives me more satisfaction. Who knows what will happen as I get back to using a “real” camera – Saxon

Tovah February 23, 2011, 8:29 pm

You are spring, Saxon. You are our eyes and our heart. Never will the lens be just a tool for me again — it will be wings. The way I figure it — spring couldn’t come without Saxon leading the way. We’re right behind you…

Well, spring is coming your way real soon and your words alone will be all we need to “see” – Saxon