How Does That Make You Feel ?

– Posted in: Garden Photography

Today is the first day I have picked up a camera or walked in my garden since I fell from the ladder.  Details for the morbidly curious below.

This is how I feel today.

I don’t want to say much about photography step -by-step in this post.  I want to get something posted and get off the computer.  I will say gardens are a way to heal ourselves.  Any gardener knows this.  Such comfort there is in the wee patches where we attempt to orchestrate some sort of order out of nature….

I so wanted to be outside today, to feel the sun.  My garden has changed in these 10 days.  Autumn light, clean air.

The lesson here at Gardening Gone Wild was supposed to be the wrap up of my chapter about ‘Good Garden Photography’.  This lesson turns out to be about telling a story.  There is no good picture that does not tell a story.  With your work, with your camera, push it to say something.  Break the rules.

Ask yourself what are you seeing and then: how does that make you feel?  Find a way to tell your story.

I broke 6 ribs, separated my shoulder, had a concussion, and fractured an ear bone.  So nice to be out of the bed for a bit…

Saxon Holt
Saxon Holt is the owner of, 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
Saxon Holt

Latest posts by Saxon Holt (see all)

25 Comments… add one

Leave a Comment

Town Mouse September 8, 2012, 9:53 pm

Ouch! Well, I’m very sorry to hear that you fell. I pruned a loquat today and promised myself next year I’ll get professional help – had to think of a friend who fell of a ladder.

Yes, paying attention to what is, that’s the big secret. Really seeing the flowers, the birds, really hearing the cricket – and the neighbor’s darn dog…

Hope you feel better every day

Thanks Town – It will be awhile before I use a ladder. My mistake, now quite painfully obvious, was using an orchard ladder (one of those 3 legged ones) in my studio above a cement floor rather than in the garden. Ugh, talk about paying attention … – Saxon

Pam/Digging September 8, 2012, 10:15 pm

Ladders are scary. I’m glad you’re on the mend, Saxon. Enjoy the garden!

Thanks for dropping by Pam. On the mend – Saxon

ks September 8, 2012, 10:15 pm

In the words of the late great Harry Carey, Holy Cow. And yes indeed, gardens heal. Especially in fall. I’ve seen the light change too, and I love to be out in it. I was going to whine about seeing the info on the class you had at UCBBG , after the fact..but you have whine creds. It seems you are being tested Saxon. So far I think you’ve scored high.

A gardening baseball fan probably fully appreciates that I would so much rather be puttering in my garden with the sweet rhythm on the radio of ballgame banter than watching a tv indoors. But, ahem … it is nice to have the Giants in first place.
Would love to have seen you at the workshop, others are scheduled – Saxon

Theresa Forte September 8, 2012, 10:26 pm

Pretty, sunshine filled shots – lot’s of optimism here. Glad to hear you’re home and on the mend. Take care – enjoy the garden and the sunshine

Thanks Theresa. Glad you “saw” my story – Saxon

Debra Lee Baldwin September 8, 2012, 10:32 pm

Saxon, thank goodness you’re OK. I hope you heal rapidly and totally. Wonderful photos as always. My, how you flirt with light!

Hey DL. THanks. I can always count on you to find my photo lesson. I hope to push this exploration with light when I can actually use my “real” camera. – Saxon

christina schneck September 8, 2012, 11:23 pm

Wow, you really injured yourself, no wonder you were in the hospital so long. I think we need to be a little more conscious as we get older. Sherry jumped off a wall and really hurt her leg, I am going to have second thoughts now about jumping. Take care and enjoy your garden.

Hey Christina – yeah, I really did it. I think we all need to be more conscious about things we think we can do. It doesn’t mean we don’t do them, mind you, but self awareness is a good thing. I will check on Sherry; hope the open garden was a success – Saxon

michelle d. September 9, 2012, 12:15 am

It was a beautiful day in Novato today, wasn’t it !
So glad that you were able to feel the warmth of the sun on your face and the slight cool breeze coming off Mt. Burdell.
Gardens are a healing place. Mine was a sanctuary after my surgery, I suspect your garden will be too.
In friendship,

What a kind comment Michelle. I am going to make a point to share some neighborly time and hear of your travels … maybe over a burrito at the taqueria – Saxon

Candy Suter September 9, 2012, 3:33 am

Oh my goodness Saxon I am so sorry to hear about your accident! What a scary thing to happen. I am glad you are doing better and have ventured out with your camera. You are right about taking risks and I like what you have done. I thought it would hurt my camera to do that.

And yes gardens are so healing. Mine has healed my mind and soul.

Interesting you thought about my camera Candy, because I was thinking that too. I can only hold my little G11 point and shoot with one hand, and was determined to push it toward the sun through the various parts of the garden. I recall a garden photography workshop instructor, Allen Rokach, using his camera as a tough tool rather than a delicate instrument, and gave myself permission to try anything to get a photo of sunshine as I thrust the camera into flower and foliage. There are many failures in this series, and none are quite to my liking, but if anything, this blog post has encouraged me to try new things. In the end it is the story, how it makes you feel rather than the perfect technical quality. And I feel better for having tried. In my incapacitated state with pain and pain killers, the brain is not where I want it. I can accept this for a temporary condition but using the camera is as much a part of the healing as the garden itself – Saxon

Lisa at Greenbow September 9, 2012, 5:02 am

You poor dear. I can see that you feel hope-fulll with a light being at the end of the tunnel. Beautiful. I hope you are well, up and at ’em soon as possible.

Thanks Lisa, I am de”lighted” you saw my point. – Saxon

Arthur in the Garden! September 9, 2012, 5:15 am

Tending and mending…

Oh I wish I could do more of the tending – Saxon

Patrick September 9, 2012, 8:51 am

How does it go;
distance makes the heart how fonder. How can I help you put your fall; at least you’re not quadriplegic like me.

Thanks for taking the time to comment Patrick. Each day is a new adjustment, push on. It is daybreak and I shall go enjoy the sun again. – Saxon

Cathy September 9, 2012, 8:53 am

Saxon, I am relieved to hear that you are on the mend after what sounds like no ordinary fall.
And these are no ordinary photographs either.

Aside from the “story”, they are also a reflection of you – your bright spirit, courage in daring to use light in non-traditional ways (wasn’t there a hard and fast rule that the photographer should always keep the sun at his back?), and boundless creativity, and joie de vivre.

I’ve come a long way as a photographer, thanks almost entirely to the lessons you post here, but I still have a long way to go. I’ve also learned to look at photographs differently – others’ as well as my own – and to try to “read” the story the image is telling.

I’m not always good at it (well, to be totally honest here, I’m barely what you’d call scraping the level of “adequate”). In two of your photographs in this post, I was able to immediately see symbolism behind the arrangement of major elements with startling clarity that surprised even me.

In the first, bright light appears to be either rising from or beaming straight into the petal bowl of what looks like either a bright yellow gerbera daisy or possibly a calendula. I’ve stared at this image for a long time and I can’t decide if the “story” is that sunlight feeds the blossoms or that light emanates from the blossoms. Maybe the real beauty is that it’s both.

In the third photograph, I am not entirely sure of the ID of the plants in the foreground, but there are some tall green spikes of what looks to be an ornamental grass (in my garden, those would more likely be weeds) angled up in such a way that it almost looks as though they are an extension of the sun’s rays.

The right lower edge of the image where the grass seems to be growing from is lighter, pale brownish. If you squint, it almost seems like the opposite corners of the photograph are mirror images that morph into one another. The sun shines down from the upper left and the grass reaches up from the lower right,the grass spikes extending and merging with the sun’s rays.

The storyline in photo #3 is a rif on the story told by photo #1. It’s also a story I couldn’t have told a year ago B.SH…… (Before Saxon Holt).

You wrote us a lesson Saxon… but instead of typing with your sore shoulder, you just let the photographs tell it. And I actually think I got at least part of it.

Take care of yourself. I hope you continue to heal both swiftly and completely. And yes, gardens do truly heal the body as well as the spirit.


Cathy – Your comment is so, so very much appreciated. I HAVE been asking my students to look at photos to find the photographer’s intent, and you are doing just that and in this case finding exactly what I was trying to do. Part of this lesson and post is about process not results. Knowing I could not fully develop a lesson, yet wanting to tell a story (and like the ol’ newspaperman – make a deadline), I used whatever camera I could, to pursue the sun as I found it in my garden. The healing is as much about the light, the out of doors, as it is about the garden.

The yellow flowers are gerberas and I am trying to say how the light feeds both the flower and me, in several ways… Most of my readers know I love ornamental grasses. I even have a lecture topic about how they “Harvest the Light” – not as photosynthesis, but they reveal the light when well placed in the garden. This is hard to photograph and the photo here is the best of several wild attempts to connect the grass to the sun, holding the camera low with one hand, hoping something of those elements would be in focus and the exposure would not blow out. In the end, as I said to Candy in another comment, the story is the thing here, not the perfect photo. It makes me feel the sun – and you saw the story – Saxon

John Rusk September 9, 2012, 9:30 am

My heartfelt wishes for a complete recovery are with you. The camera is a great way to take your mind off the realities of injury, if just for a few moments.

Thanks John – and giving myself something to do, even as simple as a blog post is therapy itself. – Saxon

Gayle Madwin September 9, 2012, 2:05 pm

Yikes! It sounds like we came all too close to reading a post here about how garden photographer Saxon Holt died suddenly in a fall from a ladder in his studio. Then we wouldn’t have any more step-by-step photography lessons here at all, nor these photographs either.

It’s amazing how even when you break so many of the rules of photography, your photographs only get more interesting than ever. I think a lot of us, if we have decent cameras, can occasionally manage to take a good photograph of professional quality – but the ability to take such fantastic “bad” photographs as these seems to be a much rarer thing.

Thanks Gayle – I will stick around to finish the book…

It can be liberating to break the rules. In fact, that is almost the first thing anyone learning to use a camera should do, just to learn what “rules” are, and begin to learn some discipline with their own rules. Every so often we should all break the rules when conditions challenge us, or we start feeling stuck in telling a story the same ‘ol way. – Saxon

Susan September 9, 2012, 2:29 pm

Saxon, I feel that your first photo told your healing story best. I remember reading somewhere that yellow is the color of healing. In your first photo light seems to emanate from the yellow blossom. You have in that photo light, yellow and an opening flower. Healing has begun may it continue. I especially enjoyed Cathy’s insights. Thanks Cathy and thanks Saxon. It’s a great lesson. Side note – my Nikon is in repair 🙁 so I am taking shots with my IPhone. Interesting and fun because they are “don’t fuss” photos.

Susan – That first photo was in fact the last one I took in the series, late in the afternoon. The others were interesting but none I think captured the emanating light you defined. Nice that you observed in needed to be yellow. It worked.

The phones are pretty amazing but, for myself, I never seem to take the work very seriously and don’t think a lot about what story I tell. – Saxon

Country Mouse September 9, 2012, 4:16 pm

I love the rule breaking – not so much the part about the bones. Feeling for you! – healing waves of wellness wafting your way….

Thanks Country – I’m feelin’ your (and Town’s) good wishes. – Saxon

ann September 9, 2012, 6:12 pm

Best wishes for recovery. Pictures are great and yes, gardening is great therapy.

Thanks Ann – Hearing such great comments helps the healing. – Saxon

Les September 9, 2012, 7:00 pm

I hope you continue to heal, especially in the garden. If it is any consolation, you probably didn’t miss much in August.

Les – My accident was Aug. 30 when it was still summer. Now it is clearly almost suddenly autumn. I know I missed something … 😉 – Saxon

Nicole September 9, 2012, 9:46 pm

Lovely shots, get well soon. I was sick for 6 weeks this summer so I know how it feels.

Thanks Nicole. It’s a drag not being able to get things done. I hope your garden provided for you. – Saxon

Donna September 9, 2012, 10:11 pm

I am so so sad to hear you took a bad fall. Glad you are on the mend, but I can imagine with your injuries that you are still hurting. I am surprised that you said, “There is no good picture that does not tell a story.” That really gives me something to think about. It makes for less good pictures when put that way. At least you are in your garden, time the think, time to heal. No better place for both.

Hi Donna. You will have noticed I never did a Mental Seeds posy last month I bet…

All pictures tell stories if we give them credit. We do not always take the time to figure what the story is, or even what the photographer intended (or not), but they are stories – usually chosen, edited, or composed so we get a message. – Saxon

David Perry September 10, 2012, 9:18 am

My Dear Friend,

The happiest, most interesting people I know define themselves much more by exploring and paying homage to what they love, rather than what they hate. I’ve come to expect that sort of thing from you, as a matter of course. But here, you drive home the point. I see no resentment, or anger . . . Only hope, curiosity, gratitude.

Love ya’ buddy. And so grateful for your choices within the complexities of life’s journey.

Strong work!

Thank you my friend. Your deep warm bubbles well up inside me. Next time we share a late night rye you may hear a sob story… 😉 Onward

Donna September 10, 2012, 8:38 pm

I did notice no Mental Seeds posy last month. Thanks for explaining what you meant. I thought not all photos tell a story, so I was a bit confused. It is just the story they tell if we are engaged enough to look, right?

Yes Donna; and some photos tell stories the photographer didn’t intend, but being engaged always adds depth to out understanding. – Saxon

Cheryl September 14, 2012, 7:41 am

So, I have loved the gift of the lessons you have given me on this site, I struggle to understand my camera but really, I just struggle to capture or share the incredible beauty I see every day with a this small piece of equipment. This post helps me the most and makes it all relevant – “Find a way to tell a story”. I love taking pictures of the story I see (or feel) and I can chew on that with ease and joy! Thank you for every post and here’s to healing yourself !

Thanks Cheryl. Comments like yours bring healing, knowing I can get my message out even with a few obstacles in my way. For anyone wanting to capture and communicate what they see, any camera will do if you have a story to tell. – Saxon

Wedding Flowers Ireland September 15, 2012, 7:44 am

It makes me feel great and fresh. Your post is nice and pictures are really very beautiful. Thanks for sharing this nice post here with us.

Ambius September 18, 2012, 10:40 am

Best wishes for a speedy recovery – and I am sure getting out into the garden has helped with this. You’re right about the air changing in the last couple of weeks, I can almost pinpoint the day that it became autumn.

Samantha @Ambius

Thanks Samantha. It is wonderful to be able to recognize the seasons changing. I think I notice the quality of light (lower, cleaner) more than anything. – Saxon

Previous Post:

[shareaholic app=”recommendations” id=”13070491″]