When Noel Kinsgbury suggested a colleague of his, Andrea Jones , as a possible judge for Picture This, I was ecstatic. I have been a big fan of her work for years. She has that rare ability to capture subtle, evocative moments in gardens and nature that resonate deep within the soul.
Andrea is one of the world’s foremost garden photographers, having built up an international reputation for her photographs of landscape architecture, gardens and plants. The latter was the subject of Andrea’s critically acclaimed solo book Plantworlds (2005). She has collaborated on numerous other book projects since; Bold Plants and Grasses and Bamboos, both by Noel Kingsbury (1999). Andrea’s collection of work forms the stock library Garden Exposures and appears in the international press including Gardens Illustrated, Garden Design (USA), House and Garden and The Daily Telegraph. Based in Scotland, Andrea is a Fellow of the RSA and exhibits her work around the world having had several successful solo exhibitions in both the UK and US. In 2008/9 she was voted Photographer of the Year by her peers in the UK’s Garden Media Guild. Fran Sorin
” It has been said that anyone coming across the village of Barr by accident could be forgiven for wondering if they had stumbled into Brigadoon, the fictional Scottish village said to emerge from the mists only once every 100 years. The village lies buried deep within the Carrick Hills and of the three roads leading across the moors and down into the valley in which it nestles, all are winding and one is so contorted in its twists and turns that it is known locally as ‘The Screws’.*
I was compelled to take this shot across the hills from ‘the Screws’ when I was heading off to a garden shoot last autumn. I caught a glimpse in the wing mirror of my Landrover of the sun shining through the mist that was following behind me. I pulled over into a layby and whisked the camera out of the boot set up my camera and to my surprise also caught a couple of startled sheep in the shot into the bargain. It’s wonderful when sometimes a spur of the moment impulse works. I feel with this photograph I captured the ‘Genius loci’ – or special atmosphere of the landscape around my home.
Before I moved to Scotland I lived in a small terraced house overlooking the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London. It took me far longer to capture the spirit of this location. I remember visiting the gardens early in the morning and waiting for the mists and light for nine consecutive days before capturing this shot on film using my panoramic Fuji 6 x 17 cm camera.
So here I am now in our farmhouse at the edge of that Brigadoon-like village, in my office that was once a cattle byre, in this remote valley in South West Scotland. I’ve been staring at my Mac screen scratching my head asking myself what on earth to set as a task to garden photographers across the USA. (What a privilege!) So, now you have already seen mine – I’d like to see yours!
What is YOUR special place? Please try and capture it with your camera and show me…
It can be the view of your garden out of your bedroom window – or of your favorite garden visited while on vacation. Anywhere that you feel especially drawn to. Just try and capture the ‘spirit’ of the place. It does not have to be and early morning shot – it could be an urban garden heaving with visitors. But just one shot that you feel captures the ‘GENIUS LOCI’ – the ‘special atmosphere of a place’.
Every garden is completely different so there is no right or wrong way. It’s just a question of feel and intuition.
This is the process I go through;
Before I even get my camera out of the case I spend as much time as possible getting to know the space. I talk to the owner and family, to the gardener (if he/she is not the same person) and the same goes for the designer. I walk around the garden and view it from every possible angle. From above if there is a good upstairs window – or from a cherry picker if there is the budget! From a worm’s eye view by laying flat on the ground. I make a plan and sometimes sketch ideas and angles as to how I will capture the whole garden through my lens onto the film of my discontinued Fuji GX 617 panoramic camera or the digital sensor of my Nikon D3x. My intention is to include not just its’ outlines and undulations but it’s spirit and sense of place. Then I wait for the light.
When an image of the whole garden has been captured then I work my way down in scale and photograph slightly narrower areas. After capturing the vistas I look for the characteristics that create the garden’s personality. From the textures of the hard landscaping to combinations of plants and the tiniest details of a flower that catches my eye.
One shot that captures the ‘GENIUS LOCI’ – THE ‘SPECIAL ATMOSPHERE OF A PLACE’.
For me that’s the most important part. I aim to capture the sense of place first and then I work my way down in scale. if I don’t capture that unique spirit of the garden I consider I have not done a good job.
I recently had the honour to work with author Tim Richardson and photograph for the book Great Gardens of America . A special treat for me as I have loved visiting the USA ever since my first trip to New York in 1977. This commission gave me the perfect excuse to continue exploring the USA and Canada looking at and documenting 25 of the most fabulous gardens.
Ranging from contemporary garden festival installations like the Metis Garden Festival:
This is ‘ Reflexions colorees buy Hal Indberg”
Although impossible to capture the whole exhibition space spread over many acres I chose this image to represent the ‘sense of place’ as, to me, it perfectly combines the peaceful setting with a contemporary reflective art installation intensifying the woodland experience.
This shot was taken first thing in the morning. My husband Alasdair was wielding a large reflector so that I got some details in the surrounding trees – not just dark shadows.
We had to take care not to get our own reflection in the mirrored surfaces.
To the historic gardens such as Monticello, the experimental garden of Thomas Jefferson. This was another early morning shot. I had recce’d the view the evening before and returned before daybreak to set up my camera on a tripod. I thought the clouds were simply not going to break but then it all happened. The light streamed though and illuminated the Estate giving it a pinky orange glow. The stillness of the air and glory of the view was breathtaking and made a huge impression on me. I hope I portrayed in this picture a magnificent but tranquil place of historic importance.
I have special memories of the Donnell garden in Sonoma. The iconic kidney shaped pool set in the Thomas Church designed garden merged so thoughtfully into the wider landscape. I was positioned on the roof of the pool house to take this shot. I wanted to capture the shape of the pool but include importantly the way the trees had been included in Church’s design and the way it blends into the landscape beyond.
Urban gardens like The Lurie in Chicago combining the skyscrapers with gentle meadow planting designed by Piet Oudolf. For this shot I wanted the foreground to be in focus was not too worried about the background being 100% sharp. I just wanted an impression of the buildings and urban backdrop, so I used a depth of field of f 6.7. To keep the daisies from swaying in the breeze and blurring in the image I used 125th second shutter speed.
The owner of this private garden in the Hamptons on Long Island was a choreographer so the trees have had their branches pruned and trimmed to represent the movement of dancers. For me it was this view more than any in the garden gave it a sense of place. I walked around the garden the day before this shot to check where the light would roughly fall in the morning so I could be in position. I find it helps to do this with larger gardens particularly.
Dan Hinkleys’ own garden Windcliff aptly provided the drama of the windswept cliff edge whilst his signature plants restlessly glinted in the sunlight.
I enjoy the excitement of photographing again the light. Be careful to have a clean lenses – you’ll soon see specks of dust show up with this technique. When the sun is so harshly bouncing off the optics those specks give tell-tale coloured spots of flare. If you are using a manual camera you will need to open up your aperture a couple of stops to get details in the foreground and avoid getting silhouettes. If you are using auto – click your exposure compensation dial a couple of stops in the + direction.
Longwood was hard to capture and especially in frost – timing from long distance was tricky and it took a couple of trips but I loved the formality of the gardens and represented it by photographing the Love Temple & Caryopteris Allee.
This view from the terrace at Chanticleer Gardens is a very personal interpretation of the sense of place in this special quiet garden in Pennsylvania. The viewpoint may just show one angle of the garden but it portrays the peace and serenity I remember most from my many visits. Alasdair and I have sat in those rocking chairs and enjoyed the view in each season. So there was no question in my mind as to the picture I wanted to take in order to capture the sense of place that is Chanticleer for me.
Each garden I visit presents a very different challenge. It’s not all about early morning mists and mysterious light. Although getting up early and being in a garden alone in a quiet garden is often for me the most precious experience. Try it if you’re not normally an early bird.
Your favourite space may be an urban garden buzzing with people – then try and capture need that buzz. It might be a garden at night so thenphotograph it in the moonlight. If it’s a quiet peaceful private space then I want to hear the silence.
It’s your personal interpretation of one of your favourite oudoor spaces. Your special place photographed in such as way to show what you love most about it.Please keep the view wide as possible to encompass of a view as you can but capture that spirit – that’s what matters. I want to see gardens with soul! I’m so looking forward to seeing the pictures you upload.
RULES FOR ENTERING THE CONTEST
1. You must have an active blog in order to participate. To be eligible for judging, you need to leave us TWO LINKS – a direct link to the image, and a link to your blog post that includes the image (and that says you are entering the Gardening Gone Wild Picture This Photo Contest )– in a comment on this post. Your links need to be correct in order for your photo to be entered into the contest. If need be, look back at past Picture This contests t osee how others have done it.
2. You are allowed one entry per contest; your photo must be able to be copied from your site. That makes it possible for us to collect all the entries in one place for easier judging.
3. Because of the enormous amount of responses we receive, you can’t change your mind once you enter a photo into the contest.
3. The deadline for entries is 11:59 PM Eastern time on Wednesday, February 23, 2011.
Entries that meet the above rules will be added to a separate gallery page. If you enter but your photo does not appear in the gallery within 24 hours, please review your entry to make sure you followed the rules.
All photos courtesy of Andrea Jones