Weather, Mood, and Seasons

roses in sunny summer garden

An enduring motif of garden photography is the seasons.  The season, its weather and mood is, often unconsciously, part of every story and in every photo.

When we are within a garden, excited by what we see, it is easy to forget the multi-sensory experiences that create the mood we feel.  Sounds, fragrance, light, the weather, all contribute to the physical experience, to how we absorb the garden and how we feel.

It is a challenge to capture these sensory impressions in a photograph, but by working with the season we can challenge ourselves toward telling better stories.

leaves on frosty lawn

When I saw this pattern of frosty leaves, I was cold, the ground was crunchy.  So I let the photos stay bluish and tried to capture a bit of the brittleness of the grass.  It’s winter (in Zone 9…).

In telling the garden’s story, we have talked here about the space it occupies, the hardscape that defines that space, and now something less tangible – mood, and how the season and weather create mood.  More often than we realize, the very season of the garden contributes to how we see it.

To a gardener it may seem obvious that roses mean summer, daffodils spring, apples must mean autumn, bare trees are winter, etc.  This is obvious to you but perhaps not to the viewer.  And it may be so obvious to you, it is easy to overlook the potential for garden photography.

In spring, for instance, you might look for signs of rebirth.  There is energy in the air, in the mood.

 lily sprouting in spring

Looking for spring, I found this lily sprouting out of the ground, something not quickly seen.  But once the eye is attuned to the mood, it begins to see possibilities.

So, for this next lesson for the PhotoBotanic Garden Photography Workshop, we look at capturing mood and seasons, how it makes you feel – and why.

The garden exists in time, it changes every day, all day.  You know this as a gardener; so, think like a gardener with the camera.  Think about what is special in the moment in the garden in front of you.  How does it relate to time and season ?  Remember that taking a picture is capturing a moment, a slice of time.  That slice exists in the season.

 yarrow in summer sunny flower bed

Of course it is hard to always capture the seasonal moment in a photo but simply being aware that our visual sensations are affected by all the sensory input around the garden will help us see more fully.  When we compose our pictures, we will be more mindful of the larger story.

The moment of clicking the shutter is transitory, it is unique, and it exists in a mood.  For this exercise acknowledge that the season is affecting the mood in the garden. Allow yourself to see the moments in context of a larger story.

There is no real ‘how-to’ I can teach about this concept, no rules or technique, which is why this lesson is in the form of an assignment. Give yourself the challenge of making photos while conscious of the mood and season.  Be aware of your own mood.

 Young leaf bud unfolding of Ginkgo Tree in spring garden

When I first published the Gingko leave bud in a Gardening Gone Wild Post “Capturing Spring” the mood of exploding pubescent energy was exhilaration.  “I can almost imagine the leaf petioles drawn down through the bud, linked by delicate synapses through the branch into the tree’s trunk and down into the roots – sucked into, connected to the earth itself, their expression of birth being the earth in bloom.”

Spring made it possible to tell that story, to see that picture.

In California, autumn brings rain.  I went out one rainy day to make some pictures.

 rindrops in autumn with red leaf

The raindrops on the grape vine reveals the weather, the red leaf reminds of the season.

Fog is often a blessing for a garden photographer but I remember thinking to myself “Be aware of what you ask for” on this morning of pea soup fog.

foggy morning in grass garden

But by making the fog be the story rather than fighting it, I was able to capture the mood of that garden in that moment.

Wind can also create problems for garden photography.  But on this day in this next garden photo I used the wind in context of the solid garden gate to reveal the wind, to show the weather.

garden gate with windy trees

Wind was the story, “Wending and Wind“, and forced me to think about how I was going to tell it.

Most of the time the weather does not force you see it.  The season simply permeates the senses while the eyes see the beauty.  But the story of the beauty is inextricably part of the season.

Summer is a languid time, of being outdoors, of harvest – of taking a break from that harvest.

gardeners bike in summer garden

This is an ‘only in summer’ photo, yes ?  It seems obvious, but I found the photo only after feeling the mood and fully seeing what was going on.

As you go out to take photos, and put into practice the lessons here, Think Like a Gardener, put yourself in the mood to accept the season, to look for those photos that the gardener in you knows could only be taken that day.  Whether it is summer, fall, winter, or spring; whether a rainy day, crisp, or foggy; no matter the day, there will be something unique about the garden that day.

winter trees blush - Filoli

On this late winter day in Filoli gardens the trees are still bare, still obviously winter.  But there is the faintest blush of green on some of the trees.  On some of the cherry trees there is a faint blush of pink blossom.  On this day the seasons are changing.  That is the mood.  That is the story the garden gave me.

 

About 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.

If you enjoyed this article, get email updates (it's free).


, , , , ,

12 Responses to Weather, Mood, and Seasons

  1. Donna July 11, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

    I have to admit, summer is the season I like the least with my camera. I get in a funk in the heat and bright light. The other three seasons the light is more forgiving at a day’s beginning, middle and end. The air is fresher too which affects how I feel about taking photos. You really noted how I feel when you said how the sensory input affects mood. I feel the happiness in spring and the reflection in fall. Winter is a resting season and that comes through in my photos I think. Summer is hectic, fast moving and too colorful. I am always on the go in my work, but free time is spent poorly photographing garden walks, I need a new way to experience it I think….

    Hi Donna – I know you have said you don’t often get up early to take photos – so the summer has GOT to be tough on your mood for garden photography – the light is so unforgiving and uninspiring even by mid morning. The summer light is fine, early. Late, the heat of the day slows everything down and plants start looking tired too. The good thing about summer can be the color that you say is too much. Look for some backlight through strong colors and feel the glow… best – Saxon

  2. Carole July 11, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

    Inspiring!

    Simple comment – thanks Saxon

  3. City Girl July 11, 2013 at 10:58 pm #

    Such gorgeous pictures of beautiful blooms! Makes me want to upgrade my camera and hone my photography skills. The picture of the bare trees in the Filoli gardens makes it almost look as though it is a picture taken from another world. Such strange beauty and unusual colors. Well done Saxon!

    Thanks City Girl – well you are at the right place to hone your photography. Follow “The Camera Always Lies” Category here and watch for my e-book. And to really hone your skill – just go do it. Almost any camera will do. – Saxon

  4. Lonnie Thaler July 12, 2013 at 12:42 am #

    Hi Saxon,

    I love this post. I feel like I just attended a photography workshop. I’ve learned a lot from your article. Thanks! :-D

    Lonnie

    Thanks Lonnie – “attending a photography workshop” is exactly the intention. Hope you take on the assignment. – Saxon

  5. Bonnie Wagner July 12, 2013 at 7:49 am #

    This makes me want to get serious about taking photos again. I haven’t done anything since I moved to CA from FL three years ago. I think the marine weather we get on the coast would make some very interesting shots. Love this website. BW

    Bonnie – such different climates for gardens, Fl and CA; but indeed the marine weather and fog that comes with it makes for classic photo conditions so long as you get up early enough to take advantage of it…. -Saxon

  6. Tina Fiore July 12, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

    Wish I was able to aim and shoot as well as you do! Luv all pics and stories you give us. Thanx so much!!!!!!!!!!! Tina Life Long Gardener!

    Tina – Much appreciated. It is you gardeners who are my audience, who most appreciate the photos. THanks – Saxon

  7. Linda Lehmusvirta July 14, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    Saxon, you are a wonderful photo story teller! You’ve given me another perspective–my next personal assignment will be the “story of drought!”

  8. Evelina Micall July 14, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    It’s so easy to get amazing photos but to capture seasonal moment is a different story. This post is what I really needed to improve my photography skills. As a blogger, posting great photos is a must. :-)

    Thanks Evelina – always think about your story as you consider a photo. It makes the writing all the easier. – Saxon

  9. Ann July 14, 2013 at 6:16 pm #

    I want to say thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve just become intrigued with learning about garden photography, as a preparation to starting a blog about my little Hill Country ranch-ette. Not only are your photos seriously beautiful, you are a master teacher. As former professor, I have the deepest admiration and gratitude for someone who knows how to teach. I am learning so much from you. Now I’m gonna go out and shoot the red camellia petals scattered on the ground by the lorikeets. (I’m in Sydney at the moment, not Texas.)

  10. kate July 17, 2013 at 5:56 am #

    hey, just want to tell you that your pictures look great and really brightened up my day!

    Well hey back. you brightened my day with your comment. – Saxon

  11. Saxon Holt July 25, 2013 at 2:09 am #

    Thanks Ann. Sorry to be slow to reply, but I love to hear kind words about my teaching skills. Fortunately I have the photos and start my writing after I decide which to use; and even more fortunately, folks like pictures more than words on the ‘net. – Saxon

  12. Saxon Holt July 25, 2013 at 2:14 am #

    Thanks for dropping by Linda. Sorry to be slow to reply (now that I have put up a new post …) “story of drought” does not sound like it will lead to many pretty pictures and a sad story. Good to finally meet you in SF. – Saxon