Picture This Photo Contest – February 2011

– Posted in: Garden Photography

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.

'Reflexions colorees' by Hal Ingberg, Quebec. An installation using semi reflective coloured glass panels surrounding a small stand of  Poplar trees within the forest. International Garden Festival, Jardin de Metis/Reford Gardens, Quebec, Canada.

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.


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

Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book."  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, CBS radio news gardening correspondent, and Huffington Post Contributor.

Learn more about Fran and get free resources that will help you improve your life at www.fransorin.com.

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Fran Sorin
34 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

Janet February 2, 2011, 8:40 am

I really like these photos, what an interesting theme. You can really see how the feeling of the place is captured in the shot. Now to figure out my garden’s shot. Excellent challenge.

John Classick February 4, 2011, 2:33 am

This blog is a goldmine!

Thanks for the kind words Jon …and for joining us…come back and visit soon! Fran

Saxon February 5, 2011, 10:59 pm

What a wonderful, wonderful gift we have been given. I feel like we have been given a special insight into how this master works. Yes garden photographers must study the garden, wait for the light, and hope to find that Genius Loci, but by giving us so many specific examples, Andrea has written this in a way to inspire us all.

Judy February 6, 2011, 3:33 pm

How incredible and inspiring Andrea’s photos are! While not of my own personal gardens, I offer this photo of a magical place to me, hopefully capturing the ‘genius loci.’

Link to the blog post: http://www.justthegardener.com/blog/2011/genius-loci

Link to the photo: http://www.justthegardener.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Mirror-Lake-morning.jpg

Angelyn February 6, 2011, 9:23 pm

Here’s my entry. Quite a challenge given this is winter-time and I usually prefer to share my garden when something really interesting (and green) is growing in it.

My blog post:

The photo’s direct link:

Landscapelover February 10, 2011, 6:39 am

What a great choice of topic. The essence or character of gardens is something that much interests me, and this competition has encouraged me to write a post on the subject, and to try to find a photo that captures the atmosphere of a special place.
Here’s the image: http://landscapelover.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/madama-essence.jpg
Here’s the post: http://landscapelover.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/the-essence-of-gardens/

Donna February 11, 2011, 5:07 pm

Thank you for the opportunity to enter the contest.

Blog : http://greenapplesgarden.com/
Image: http://greenapplesgarden.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/nf4.jpg

Lynn February 13, 2011, 9:20 am

This was a really tough theme! In the end it wasn’t so tough after all. One place just kept coming back into my mind as my special place over the others that I thought about.
My blog entry:

and my direct link to the photo:

Craig @ Ellis Hollow February 13, 2011, 9:21 am

To clarify, my frustration is that I like to use these contest themes to improve my photography, and the timing of this one isn’t good for me in the snowy Northeast. Don’t get me wrong, I love the theme. I’d just rather be shooting fresh images on the theme instead of sorting through old images.

Not a problem, although we’ll miss your entry this month! Fran

Garden Walk Garden Talk February 13, 2011, 12:27 pm

I am submitting my image of Cold and Alone. It is a place you are only alone if it is cold. A place where the norm is maybe hundreds of thousands, but a time where it can be almost just one. I can be talking leaves on trees or people here, both apply.

This image is a microcosm of Niagara Falls, the much large picture. From a tree within a few hundred feet of the Falls itself. I know this may not be quite the spirit of the contest, but a feeling itself. It shows solitude and a sense of one. My relationship to sense of place is shown in the details not the overall. It is an inward feeling I have about a place never really thought of in this way unless you visit all the time. You find beauty of intricacies not expected in a place that is nothing but beautiful and full of magic other times of the year. I hope you will include it just for the feeling it emits. Thank you.

Here is the link to the post: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com/2011/02/13/breathtaking-sense-of-place/

And the image: http://orchardparkway.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/oakleaf11.jpg

Rosie February 13, 2011, 10:44 pm

Oops, in my excitement I clicked the submit button before adding the essential links :

Blog : http://mygardenhaven1.blogspot.com/

Image :

HA February 15, 2011, 2:05 pm

I have to give this a try!
My picture is a genuine winter shot and it’s quite different from what the garden ordinary looks like. Since it feels as if winter has been going on forever, this view has really taken over as what feels like the soul of my garden. Unfortunately, as -22° C isn’t quite my thing..

My blog: http://www.cameragardening.com/

My blog post: http://www.cameragardening.com/?p=288

A direct link to the picture: http://i1183.photobucket.com/albums/x476/Cameragardening/mittvhusBabe.jpg

professorroush February 15, 2011, 7:20 pm

I’m choosing to enter the view from my house, to the North, over the Kansas Flint Hills in late November; the rust-colored prairie hills, the gray sky, and the road to the far horizon all add up to stepping into my life on the prairie, as seen each morning as I drive to work.

Link to My Blog Post: http://kansasgardenmusings.blogspot.com/2011/02/eden-photographed.html

Direct link to the picture: http://s935.photobucket.com/albums/ad195/professorroush/?action=view&current=RoushNorth1127056.jpg

Les February 16, 2011, 7:17 pm

Thank you for another challenging contest. My entry was taken earlier in the month at The Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia. I had not planned to stop, but as I was near a fog bank rolled in from the Atlantic, and I knew there may be a few photo ops.

Here is the blog link:

… and here is the original photo:

Thanks again!

Deb Wiley February 18, 2011, 2:53 pm

A love song to my home state. Sense of place resonates deeply with me. Thanks!

The blog post:

The image:

TufaGirl February 20, 2011, 5:54 pm
Malinda February 20, 2011, 11:29 pm

Thank you for this amazing opportunity. I had a wonderful time with this project.
The blog post:http://www.thepotagerpage.com/2011/02/reflections-at-the-bloedel-reserve.html

The picture:http://thepotagerpage.typepad.com/.a/6a012876998603970c014e86333dde970d-pi

Jack Holloway February 21, 2011, 1:30 am

I love the subject, and although happy with my post and choice of pic, I feel I could spend a lifetime refining both my photography (have recently acquired a Canon 1000D which is yet to photograph the bridge…) as well as my writing on the subject..
Here is the link to the blog post:

and here is the link to my entry:


Jack – Sequoia Gardens

Donna February 21, 2011, 7:26 am

thank you for the opportunity to share Bandelier National Monument in NM …NM in general is one of the most beautiful places on Earth and this is one of her jewels
blog post-http://gardenseyeview.com/2011/02/21/mystery/


Alexa B. Johnson February 21, 2011, 12:01 pm

I’m reading Michael Pollan’s A Place of My Own right now. The contest timing couldn’t be more serendipitous. Thank you for the opportunity to share my work with the gardening and photo community!

My submission in post

And the photo itself

Malinda February 21, 2011, 12:30 pm
Donna February 21, 2011, 2:49 pm

resending properly this time Fran…
thank you for the opportunity to share Bandelier National Monument in NM …NM in general is one of the most beautiful places on Earth and this is one of her jewels…

blog post:


picture link:


Katrin February 22, 2011, 5:53 pm

I really like the idea of this contest 🙂

Here is the link to the post:


And here the Link to the picture:


Craig @ Ellis Hollow February 22, 2011, 7:56 pm

Blog post is here: http://remarc.com/craig/?p=1180

Image is here: http://ellishollow.remarc.com/images/20100627flowers_verbascum_patiox1200.jpg

And now I’ll spend a whole season trying to capture a better genius loci image for this place.

Carolyn @ Carolyn's Shade Gardens February 23, 2011, 10:04 am

I am entering your contest for the first time because Andrea’s discussion above explained to me why I kept coming back to this photo over and over. For me it captures the spirit of my garden and my home, which is the gardener’s cottage built in the early 1800s for an old suburban Philadelphia estate. It even has an historic name, Wayside Cottage, because the main house was a wayside inn from the 1600s.

Link to blog: http://carolynsshadegardens.com/2011/02/03/the-joys-and-sorrows-of-snow/

Link to photo: http://carolynsshadegardensdotcom.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/dscn0779.jpg

Maggie February 23, 2011, 2:18 pm

An excellent topic, with as many possibilities as there are loci.

Link to my blog = http://slotharium.blogspot.com/

Link to my submission post = http://slotharium.blogspot.com/2011/02/genius-loci.html

Town Mouse February 23, 2011, 10:41 pm

Ah, better late than never, I hope. Here is the photo:

And here’s the post that goes with it:

Thanks so much for putting this on!

Mr. McGregor's Daughter February 23, 2011, 10:46 pm

I loved the photos in “Great Gardens of America,” particularly those of the garden festival installations. Just magical.
It was difficult to choose an image for the Genius loci of my garden. I get where Craig’s coming from. My garden is on a small, oddly shaped suburban lot, no grand vistas here, but it is my favorite place in the world.
Blog post here: http://mcgregorsdaughter.blogspot.com/2011/02/genius-loci.html
Image here: https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/3TI8YrmitiyiORbbAPBAszQXwM6H7QoS2M4vBJNXosQ?feat=directlink
Thanks, Andrea for this challenging theme. I can’t wait for spring to try to get a better image.

Teresa February 23, 2011, 11:04 pm

Wish it was the weather (not snowy,icy and cold)to go and take photos of such places but it made me go through some of my photographs that I have taken in the past and enjoy them again.

Here is my blog post:

Here is the picture only:

John February 23, 2011, 11:43 pm

Well, coming at the very last moment here is my submission for this intriguing challenge. So many possibilities…

Here is the Blog Post

And here is the actual image

Caroline @ The Shovel-Ready Garden February 24, 2011, 12:40 am

My entry isn’t a photo of a garden, but it is of a special and wild outdoor place that I am particularly and emotionally drawn toward, precisely because of its Genius Loci.

Blog post:


Hi Caroline,
As much as I love your photo, it can’t be entered into the contest because it was sent after the contest was closed. I’ve left your link up though so that everyone can get on and check out your photo. Fran

One February 24, 2011, 1:03 am

Hi! Here is my submission.



Hi One,
I can’t accept your entry. It came in after the contest closed. I’m leaving the link up though so that folks can still get onto your site and look at how you captured the sunflowers, with the one up close, so magnificently. Fran

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