Photographer’s Challenge

– Posted in: Garden Photography
pueblo pot mum

Find the Photo - Photographer's Challenge

When I attended the California Spring Trials this past April I ran into fellow photographers Ramon van der Reijden and Ted Langeveld of the Visions Pictures photo agency in Netherlands.  In my previous post about the Trials I mentioned the phototographer’s challenge – each of us would photograph the same flower and see what we come up with.  A flower photographer shoot out.

The Trials are overwhelming, with thousands upon thousands of flowers grown to perfection and on display in beauty pageant fashion to entice growers and wholesalers to try the latest and greatest new developments in flower hybridization. The differences are often subtle and  indistinguishable in a photograph.  Some flowers are bred for different maturation times, different daylight needs,  different heights, and other cultivation requirements that don’t appear in a picture but are important to a grower.

We chose the pot mums (also know as Florist Mums) in the Sygentia display simply because their display table was closest to us when we decided to have some fun.  There is no “best” flower at the Trials and a photographer will go crazy trying to come up with a favorite.  Maybe the folks at Sygenta put the Chrysanthemum display table next to the refreshment area for some ulterior motive, but for we photographers, it was easiest to simply point to the closest beauty.

The Pueblo series of these mums are single flowers in a range of warm  colors and the containers are simply placed on metal tables.  To photograph them we agreed not to to touch or re-arrange the pots but otherwise could find whatever photo we wanted.  The camera always lies so we were free to take our own photos out of context.

I can’t speak for Ted or Ramon but I chose to use a 105mm macro lens to isolate a single flower and get a narrow depth of field.  I picked one of the red flowers and found a point of view to make it feel nestled among the yellow ones.  In my computer processing, I then accented the light as if it were spotlighting my “hero” flower.

Photo by Saxon Holt

Ted chose to show a wider combination of flowers

Ted Langeveld pot mum Pueblo

Photo by Ted Langeveld

And Ramon found some sort of angle to truly isolate a flower.  I wonder if he cheated on our agreement not to move the flowers ?

Pot mum by Ramon van der Reijden

Photo by Ramon van der Reijden

Three photographers, three very different interpretations.  Do you, loyal readers and photographers here at Gardening Gone Wild, have a favorite?

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)

19 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

Darla July 6, 2011, 4:34 am

The photo by Saxon Holt is my favorite.

Aw shucks, you are buttering up the author… – Saxon

Joy July 6, 2011, 8:54 am

Sorry Ted and Saxon – Ramon’s image stands out for me. However – “you’ve all done very well”!!! Great challenge – may we see many more.

I think Ramon must have cheated 🙂 I did not even imagine his camera angle. – Saxon

Wendy July 6, 2011, 8:55 am

To choose a favorite is unfair, Saxon. But let me say that as someone who has no love for the mums, you three have made a compelling case for having a garden full. If I were to choose a photo to frame and hang, I’d still be having a difficult time choosing. I think I’d have to have all three and create a montage in my breakfast room. Beautiful work. I wouldn’t expect anything less from any of you.

Thanks Wendy. I have never liked mums either but these singles do make a compelling case. – Saxon

Cathy July 6, 2011, 9:14 am

Yes, they are all incredible pix, especially when you see the large overview of the plot of flowers that was the chosen subject. But I’m with Darla. Saxon got the widest range of petal color (in crisply photo’d blossoms) and by putting the bloom with the mid tones of color in the middle, the photo has much more balance. And I am one of those neurotic individuals who likes symmetry and balance.

As for Ramon, my guess is he scootched down and maybe leaned on some blooms to free up that blossom (I do that all the time when I’m photoing roses in my garden). We don’t call that cheating – we call that creative staging LOL.

All three would look equally gorgeous on a greeting card, but Saxon’s gets my vote for a gold star.

Thanks Cathy – “creative staging” is at the core of “the camera always lies” and we photographers don ‘t have to be so honest do we ? – Saxon

professorroush July 6, 2011, 10:06 am

I’ll go with yours Saxon….looks like a landing place in the Land of the Lost Fairies.

Love it ! – Saxon

Debra Lee Baldwin July 6, 2011, 10:21 am

Hi, Saxon — All are exquisite, but yours and Ramon’s convey an intangible quality—they make a statement that goes beyond the visual. As to what, exactly, well, that’s like trying to explain what an instrumental piece of music “says.” But to me, his captures the joy a flower feels when it turns toward the sun. There’s a sense that this is a private moment that we’re lucky to observe. Yours is more moody, and I think does a better job of conveying a sense of place. Here’s a flower that’s perfection, in color and form, yet it’s merely one of many.

Thanks for taking the time for such a thoughtful comment DL. Capturing an intangible is always hard to explain. – Saxon

Randy July 6, 2011, 11:33 am

I have to agree, the red mum photo taken by Saxon. I’m not a professional, I only know it makes me linger longer than the other pictures. And it makes me smile…

Thanks Randy – the greatest compliment of all is the simplest – it makes you smile. – Saxon

Valerie July 6, 2011, 4:54 pm

The photo taken by Ramon is in the style that I like to take. I just love the flower from different angles. V

Thanks V. I’ll be sure to let Ramon know. – Saxon

Masha July 6, 2011, 5:35 pm

My favorite is Ramon’s, his angle is so interesting and unusual. I also wonder which settings he used to get the rest of the picture so blurry. I like your photo too, although it is a bit too busy. I find Ted’s picture the least interesting because it is the kind of picture I would expect to find in a flower catalog…

Masha – Thanks for considering each photo. I, too, want to know how Ramon achieved his “look”. – Saxon

Donna July 6, 2011, 11:13 pm

Saxon wins the challenge in my opinion. But the other two are mighty fine as well.

I love the home town crowd cheering on the local … – Saxon

Fran Sorin July 7, 2011, 4:08 am

The depth of your photo and its lighting….a distinct feeling of dappled shade outside….makes your a hands down winner. Fran

I sure do thank you ‘mam. I am still amazed by Ramon’s, knowing where we worked – Saxon

Donna July 8, 2011, 5:50 am

Was it in the rules that the camera must remain in the photographer’s hands? Could he have just ‘dropped’ his camera in down between vases, balancing it on the edges of them, and never used the view finder? Then his shot was basically, willy nilly, guessing on the outcome, technically, not physically touching the pots with his person? Poor guy is accused of cheating, lol.

I say again, Saxon is the winner because of his fine work. I like your little red ‘hero’.

Thanks – again – Saxon

Greggo July 8, 2011, 1:03 pm


Duly noted – Saxon

Hoover Boo July 8, 2011, 2:39 pm

I must admit I like Ramon’s best. Did he hold the camera down at about knee height and shoot upwards? Maybe he’s extra flexible (or has extra long arms)?

I’m gonna have to e-mail Ramon and get his input. Maybe he used a camera scope or some other weird special effects tool. 🙂 Saxon

Autumn Belle July 8, 2011, 8:23 pm

In my humble opinion, I have a different feeling for each photo:

Saxon – brings out the best in the flower, makes it special and stand out among the rest.

Ted – from now to eternity…

Tamon – of dreams and fantasy.

Thanks Belle – What a diplomat . . . – Saxon

michelle d. July 9, 2011, 1:19 am

I appreciate the artistic vision that Ramon is expressing in his photo and I am excited by the ‘exactness’ that Saxon’s photo reveals.
Ted’s photo has good composition but ( to my unprofessional photo trained eye ) lacks the wowza artistic flare that the other two photos share in common.

“Wowza”. Now that’s a word I like. I know yowza, but wowza is better. Thanks Michelle – Saxon

oogren July 10, 2011, 9:09 pm

In technical thoughtfulness, I’d choose Saxon. As an editor looking for context, I’d choose Ted. But my heart chooses Ramon because I’m a sucker for romance and beautiful bokeh.

Spoken like a judge – nice things to say about all. Thanks – Saxon

Desiree July 17, 2011, 2:15 pm

I would definitely go for Ramon. Excellent photo. Not the standard work. Could there be a difference between Europe and US? I like the artistic way. I’m sure he can show us other stuff as well. Would like to see more of his work!

I‘ld like to see more too, and you can, at the Visions photo agency – Saxon

Ramon van der Reijden July 20, 2011, 1:42 pm

Hi Saxon and all the voters. Just a small note from me. Nice to read all the comments on the blog. And what did I do to take my photo? Well, I did not move the plant but I turned the pot a little bit. Then I sat on my knees and took the photo from that angle. I used a 100 mm macro lens with a diafragme 4.0 (to get a “blurry” look). – Ramon

Thanks Ramon ! I appreciate your telling us your “trick”. Great photo. – Saxon

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