A Dehiscence of Light – Lesson 1.3

– Posted in: Garden Photography
Worth garden dehiscence of light

A Dehiscence of Light – Worth Garden

The Wikipedia definition of dehiscence is “the spontaneous opening at maturity of a plant structure, such as a fruit, anther, or sporangium, to release its contents”.  Here I present my own dehiscence – of light as I find it in gardens.

As a mature garden photographer (no smirks please), I release some of my favorites as a way to explore visual poetry, while still furthering the mission to teach garden photography with this ebook.  Lesson 1.3.

Afternoon Light Through Trees

Poolside Morning Light in Habitat Garden

Dawn - Virginia Meadow Garden AHS

Dawn – AHS Virginia Meadow Garden

Sunburst on Path – Michelle Derviss Garden

I am grappling big time with new directions for my work.  The changing landscape of media communication has forced me to rethink my methods, even rethink my intentions.  I gravitate to a world of ideas with a visual toolbox, feeling inadequate to provoke a conversation, to express more than beauty. I throw out these photo sparks of light, hoping to fire some imagination in your own work.  Explanations later.

Today’s post, this dehiscence is inspired by a recent poetry reading by my friend Hazel White an artist exploring new poetry.  Hazel has written 11 garden books, and Peril as Architectural Enrichment is her first one of poetry.  Last Saturday’s reading, in 14 parts, a sonnet work in progress, involves audience participation.  We were asked to write down something about our personal dehiscence.  She gave us 2 minutes.


: the spontaneous opening of light in the garden, such as dawn light, dappled light, hard light, transcluscent light, or foggy light , to release a spirit and reveal the abundance of a garden.


I have been planning this ebook for years.  Timber Press sparked the idea but went nowhere.  Friends encouraged me to do it myself and now I am here at lesson 3 (chapter 1 part 3) Color and Light.  Light was on my mind when I went to the poetry reading.  Light has been on my mind for weeks as I planned this bi-monthly post for Gardening Gone Wild, and for many months as I outlined the books, indeed for many years as a photographer working with and against the light.

Now in the poetry excercise, as Hazel asks us about dehiscence, I ask myself how to communicate the importance of light to others.  How can I possibly narrow it down to a lesson (or two – also see 3.4) in a book ?  Light is everything.  In the beginning God defined Day One: “Light, go forth and dehisce !”  Subtle or bold, light is elemental in all good garden photos.

And it has already been the subject of many posts here at Gardening Gone Wild.  And now I think to encapsulate the capturing of light from all the snippets into a single garden photography lesson?

from Hard Light – Back Light

Some recent ones such as the Feb 24  Hard Light – Back Light were true teasers for the book.

Others just expressed my joy at finding light to photograph, as in the Mt Cuba Garden – Light Kisses May 24, 2010.

from Light Kisses

And grasses have captivated my thinking about light ever since GGW co-founder Nancy Ondra and I did the Grasses book in 2002.

from Backlit Grasses – Click for original post

Well, in conclusion I am simply NOT going to narrow down my lesson on Light and Color to a few photos and a few words.  And I certainly can’t include it all here in the teaser post. This has been your 2 minutes to contemplate what I am doing, and where it might go.  And no, I still don’t know myself.  You here are participating.  Thanks and stay tuned.  Explanations later.

Perhaps this entire post is a cop out since I can’t wrap my head around the enormity of this subject for this book.  So many design considerations have boggled my ability to present the content in blog format.  Much is still being decided.  I just have to keep plugging away, like Hazels’s new sonnet, a work in progress.  I will say the digital medium offers wonderful potential for enriched content and many photos will have flyout descriptions based on keywords and tags.  Light will be everywhere.  Example.


Saxon Holt
Saxon Holt is the owner of PhotoBotanic.com, a garden picture resource for photographs, on-line workshops, and garden photography stories. An award winning photojournalist and Fellow of The Garden Writers Association with more than 25 garden books, he lives and gardens in Northern California. PhotoBotanic - Garden Photography online at www.photobotanic.com. https://photobotanic.com
Saxon Holt

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Debra Lee Baldwin July 25, 2012, 12:30 am

Saxon, this may be my favorite of all your posts. It’s ironic that you grapple with words to express that most ephemeral of things: light. It defies the keyboard and refuses to be captured in sentences. Yet you’ve tamed light and made it your servant in these photos.

Do you know, I’ve started shooting into the sun because of you, hoping to get a flare?

I don’t know why, but I like the philodendron photo best. Can’t stop looking at it. Maybe because it makes me want to paint it.

Anyway, your photos speak for themselves. But if your secret is getting up before dawn to get that sparkling, golden light, I’m afraid I’ll never be a photographer!

Thanks DL – As I develop the Explanations of the photos, the how-to “secrets” for the book, getting up early will be one of the top ways to get good light. So glad you liked the Philodendron shot. It is part of a series in that garden that has great painterly potential. – Saxon

Fran Sorin July 25, 2012, 12:59 am

Saxon….As a teacher, you inspire us to experiment with new and exciting ways of photographing the landscape.

This post is not only thought provoking and inspirational but the photos are breathtaking….actually beyond words. Initially I thought that the one of Michelle’s garden was my favorite. But after a 2nd and 3rd go through,there are at least 3 that are at the top of my list. You are a true artist Saxon. 🙂 Fran

Thanks Fran – You are a true cheerleader, always generous in your praise. – S

Jan LeCocq July 25, 2012, 9:26 am

Gorgeous images, as always. I really look forward to seeing your work!

Thank you Jan. One of the odd feelings I have about doing this book project is that I am depending on old work for examples when I much prefer looking for new photos. – Saxon

Joy July 25, 2012, 6:14 pm

Gardening Gone Wild has long been one of my favourite sites for inspiration and sheer good feeling when I see what you all are sharing. My two minutes to contemplate are sure to be a lot longer as I take on board your teaching Saxon. Thanks!

Thanks Joy – We are grateful to our loyal readers for your kind words and encouragement. – Saxon

Candy Suter July 26, 2012, 3:09 am

I love your inability to describe how to shoot light. It is definitely a tricky subject. I can’t write instructions. Now if I have someone with me I can take them with me and show them. How to hold the camera, frame the shot, shooting different angles and then there is light. How do you describe what you and you only see through the camera.

I loved Debra’s comment about getting up to catch the morning light. But does she know about the other golden hour. I love it the best. The hour before sunset when everything is golden and the shadows are luscious!

Great post Saxon!

Thanks Candy – As I develope the ebook I think I can write about light on a case by case basis, but to figure a global way to talk about it is so hard. And you are right, that if you are in the moment and someone is with you light is easier to explain.

As to the golden hour at the end of the day, it certainly can be wonderful, but too often, especially here in the West, late in the day many gardens start to look tired, there is no morning moisture, and dust and pollution in the air can change the quality of light. – Saxon

Susan Ferguson July 28, 2012, 2:19 pm

Given the luminous quality a high resolution tablet screen can bring to photographs, an ebook sounds like the perfect format for your topic. Interesting!

Ahhh Susan – you get it …Saxon

Jack Holloway July 29, 2012, 10:22 am

Saxon! You give teaser a whole new meaning – As most of my photos are of my own garden, I become more and more aware that light makes the difference – and that it must control the photographer, for the photographer cannot control it… this is all truly inspirational and I am circulating it to a group of friends with whom I will soon be attending a photography course. Thanks! Jack

Jack – So glad you can put the lesson to use and spread the word. Once the book comes out I hope you will see these really are just the teaser and each photo will have more explanation – Saxon

Donna July 30, 2012, 6:00 am

I so look forward to your book. I see you are speaking out in Tucsan, AZ. and would love to attend just to hear your talk. I think you discussing light on a case by case basis will make it truly understandable for the reader. I find that I learn so much when you analyze your image. I see more than if I just casually pass it by in a post. As for light in general, I find that I photograph the light, not the subject when I am taking more than just a snapshot, ie. making a real effort to capture something good. I look to where the light is good and go there to find something interesting. What I read of professionals is that they scout out a location and calculate when the light will hit just right, like in big scenic shots. I wish I had that passion and patience.

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