Lavender Harvest – Photo Shoot

– Posted in: Garden Photography

basket of harvested lavender in basket on garden chairI have just started working on a new herb book and most of the photos need to come from my library, so I began sifting through the inventory.  Look what I found.  What fun I had shooting this lavender harvest.

Lavender is an iconic herb.  There are entire books on the subject, but for this book there would only be space for a few – those pesky writers expect to see words on a page for some reason.  When I shot this, I wanted to leave nothing to chance.  So I planned an afternoon shoot with my friend Mimi at her farm just to get one good shot.  Of course that meant shooting many…

Mimi is one of my favorite people and we have collaborated on several projects over the years. Any excuse to visit her at the Farm is a good one, and we were going to make photos, so it’s a great excuse.

She pulled out some baskets, put on color-coordinated blue-lavender clothes, dusted off the ol’ watering can, scrounged around for snips that weren’t too beat up, and generally outperformed any Big City photo stylist that would have charged  just to make a scene look country casual.  Mimi IS county casual because, well, she works a farm….

harvesting lavender into basket in herb, vegetable garden

The shoot started slow.  A “safe” photo that shows all you ever need to know about harvesting lavender – just cut it off and put it into a basket.  Pretty boring.

So I begin to work different angles.  Get real close to the basket with a wide angle lens so I can still see the harvesting.  OK.

harvesting lavender in herb in basket in vegetable garden

“Hold that pose Mimi !” I adjust my reflectors and scrim, move the basket a little this way, a little that way … “Hands lower, please !” Photo is getting better.

Let’s try a tight shot of putting the lavender into the basket.  We don’t really need to literally see the cutting to convey the idea of harvest, so I have Mimi put the basket in the crook of her arm and twist a bit toward camera so I can still see a bit of the lavender in the background.

harvesting lavender in herb, vegetable garden

I always try to compose in camera, filling the frame, leaving no wasted space.  Working on a tight composition the slightest change can make a big difference so I have Mimi lift the basket toward camera … “put the lavender in slowly please . . . again, please” so I can see what the best composition will be.  I don’t want to simply get the camera motor whirring and shoot every possibility – I want to think about what I am doing.  Mimi is patient. “Hold that pose…”

But Mimi is also actually getting tired of holding these poses.  It is a hot sunny California day and I’m still pushing to get “the shot”, fearing if we stop, the light will fade.  The sun is going down, but I had forgotten Mimi was being a contortionist for me.

“Can I put the basket down on the chair for a moment while I stretch ?”  Oh.  You mean put it on that beautiful rustic, light blue Adirondack chair in the sun ?  That same setting sun which is back-lighting the Mexican feather grass? OK.  Put it down by all means, take a break.

Brilliant.  An accident waiting to happen.  “And could you just put the snips at the end of the arm rest ?”

basket of harvested lavender in basket on garden chair

I think we can stop now.  I do believe we have a keeper that I can use of books for years to come.

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

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michaele anderson July 26, 2014, 4:35 pm

The authenticity of this composition really enhances my viewing experience. Glad Mimi was such a good sport and serendipity did one of its divine interventions!

Thanks Michaele – Good light is divine indeed – Saxon

Donna July 26, 2014, 6:01 pm

I really like the image of which you finally decided. The back lighting and the addition of the snips are just perfect.

Thanks Donna – When I saw that backlight, it made all the other shots pretty blah – Saxon

James Schiller July 28, 2014, 5:55 am

love the smell of lavenders – its a relaxing scent. It has this ability to soothe. I don’t see much lavender fields here in Charleston, South Carolina, but I must say I want to be able to walk along one someday. Nice post!

Hi James Lavender is native to the Mediterranean summer-dry climate so it would be hard to do fields in South Carolina where summer rain and humidity would be tough o them. Individually, gardeners can work with lavender and give them good drainage, etc, but fields would be a lot of work. Make plans for southern France. I’ll meet you there…. – Saxon

James Schiller July 29, 2014, 4:53 am

That is a nice thought. I wouldn’t mind a trip to France myself. If one of us does get there one day, photos should be a required souvenir to be shared.

You got that right James. See ya in Provence – Saxon

Chandru July 30, 2014, 10:59 pm

Great Post worth reading it.. also a good blog for garden architects & Landscaping designers

Caitlin | belong with wildflowers July 31, 2014, 1:13 pm

It was so fun to read/”hear” about the process behind the photos. this whole set is lovely, and i adore all the natural sunlight you captured. i have my first lavender plants this year, and i read to harvest them before they bloom. but i see in these pictures that mimi is harvesting after the bloom — so i’m thinking i should stick with what the experienced farmer is doing + not what ye old internet is saying 😉 thanks for the inspiration + beauty!

Thanks Caitlin. Harvesting anything can be tricky to know the “best” time. Many flowers are harvested just before they are fully open. These lavenders are to make bundles for the farmers market and the sell better when some of the blue flowers are open. -Saxon

Carole West August 1, 2014, 4:34 pm

Taking photos is definitely a process, you captured the process of harvesting heather perfectly. Very restful and the combinations of elements was a joy.
Carole @ gardenup green

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