Pumpkins !

– Posted in: Garden Photography, Garden Photography

Lady Godiva pumpkin poster

The display of winter squash at the National Heirloom Expo is daunting for a photographer – soooo many potential subjects. This year I decided to photograph all the pumpkins.

Grown by Durst Organic Growers, the main exhibit hall was filled with hundreds of fantastical gourds laid out in small groups on large rows of tables.

National Heirloom Expo 2013

 But indoors ?  on white table cloths?  how was I to make interesting photos ?

The easy way to start was the signature display – the massive gourd mountain of winter squash put together by Mac Condill.  It is hard not to take a fun picture of that bejeweled pyramid.

pumpkin winter squash mountain

The only real photo tip I can give here is to be careful in lining up the display between the banners on the wall and filling the frame with as much of the mound as possible. Afterwards, in the computer post production, I darkened the other displays and the people in the background.

But for the long display tables of the individual squash and pumpkins it was a little harder to find the photos.  These guys weren’t exactly staged and styled for the camera. So I found myself composing tight shots and occasionally “adding” a little extra in Photoshop.

In this first shot of the ‘Arikira Knife River’ squash, notice the darks “holes” of the cement floor in the upper left.

Arikira Knife River squash in gourd display - National Heirloom Expo 2013

‘Arikira Knife River’ winter squash on display table at Heirloom Exposition.

I simply could not find an angle that managed to cover that hole in an otherwise strong composition.  So I added a couple squash with Photoshop.

Next, on this ‘Iran’ pumpkin, which was all by itself on the table, I did a lot of “enhancing”.  Can you find four “additions” ?

Squash 'Iran' National Heirloom Expo 2013

Striped winter squash ‘Iran’ with Photoshop enhancements

Did you find all four ?  – the added pumpkin shapes in the upper left and lower right, the enlarged stem, and filled in rib leading the eye toward the stem.

These last two changes are not really important to the photo but since I was already in Photoshop filling in the empty spaces, I decided to play.  I almost never do this sort of manipulation in my photojournalism work; there is simply not enough time, but occasionally an advertising client will want special treatment.  And the camera always lies anyway…

As I went through the pumpkins on the photo shoot I always tried to find an angle that allowed a full composition and did not give away the location as a table at a show.  Sometimes it was as simple as walking around the particular pumpkin, like with this ‘Solor’.

Orange pumpkin 'Solor'; National Heirloom Expo 2013

Two views of ‘Solor’ pumpkin on display table

No Photoshop needed.

Sometimes I moved the pumpkins a bit, building a more interesting composition but even so, most often there was no way to eliminate holes peeking through.

Orange pumpkin, Squash - 'Trois Geants' National Heirloom Expo 2013

Stack of ‘Trois Geants’ pumpkins on display table

I thought I made that white “hole” at the top of the photo small enough so as not to be a distraction, but now when I look at this picture all I see is the telltale white tablecloth.  This is one photo where I may very well go back with Photoshop and “add” more pumpkin, probably picking up the yellowish one.

Let’s go through a few more together and imagine what might be done to “improve” the picture.

Orange squash - 'Golden' Pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima) National Heirloom Expo 2013

‘Golden Pumpkin’ display

The very top of the ‘Golden Pumpkin’ composition has a dark gray hole.  Pretty minor problem though, and not nearly as distracting as a white “hole”.

Next, look at this ‘Golden Hubbard’ pumpkin.  See any distractions ?

Squash 'Golden Hubbard' - Heirloom pumpkin

‘Golden Hubbard’ pumpkin with yellow ‘Navajo Cushaw’ Winter Squash

Given the time I would get rid of the knobby squash in the back left and add more of the yellow ‘Navajo Cushaw’ Winter Squash in its place, and also fill the hole on the right side about 2/3 down.

That same knobby squash is behind the ‘Connecticut Field’ heirloom pumpkin in the next photo.  What would improve this frame?

'Connecticut Field' heirloom winter squash

‘Connecticut Field’ heirloom pumpkin on display table with other winter squash.

I don’t like the confusing shapes in the upper left so I would probably clone that knobby texture and add more of it, simplifying and calming the composition.

Squash (Cucurbita pepo) 'Winter Luxury Pie', orange pumpkin

‘Winter Luxury Pie’ pumpkin display

Would you get rid of the olive skinned squash behind?

And this stack of Heirloom French, Cinderella pumpkins ?

Cinderella pumpkin - 'Rouge Vif d'Etampes'

Heirloom French, Cinderella pumpkin – ‘Rouge Vif d’Etampes’

How about this stack of ‘Lady Godiva’ pumpkins?

Lady Godiva squash in gourd display at National Heirloom Expo 2013

Stack of ‘Lady Godiva’ pumpkins at the Heirloom Exposition

Well this is what I did with it:

photoshop treatment lady godiva pumpkin


The Connecticut Field pumpkin from 5 photos above, reworked overnight.

MG-2135 Connecticut Field Pumpkin at Heirloom Expo.



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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16 comments… add one

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Cathy October 11, 2013, 5:50 am

What an exciting array! Last year for the first time, we tried several different eating pumpkins that were grown at our local organic farm….. I used them in soup, mashed, baked, and in pies. Delicious! And oh so fun to decorate with. I wish I could find even more!

I should have mentioned that the ‘Lady Godiva’ is from a group of “naked seed” varieties, so named because the seeds have almost no hulls and easy to eat. – Saxon

Debbie Zonca October 11, 2013, 5:58 am

Pumpkins look smashing…ha, couldn’t resist!

and aren’t they gourdeous ? – Saxon

Jayme B October 11, 2013, 8:09 am

Halloween fun with Photoshop… Thanks for your demonstration… Saxton.

Do you use Lightroom? Jayme

I use Bridge for most post production but for the cloning and “enhancements” I use Photoshop. – Saxon

Flamingo October 11, 2013, 8:43 am

I love choppin’ pumpkins 😀 I give me the feel of great power :))

Ahh – new photoshop inspiration ! adding the choppin and carving – Saxon

ann October 11, 2013, 8:58 am

Wonderful tips that, once pointed out, I should have seen. What a gorgeous, bountiful, and timely display!

I love playing those before-and-after children cartoons in the Sunday comics. Once pointed out they are easy to see. – Saxon

Donna Jones October 11, 2013, 10:33 am

Thanks for the educational posts! Loved seeing through your eyes!

Thanks Donna – This is a learning process for me too – Saxon

Cher Glass October 11, 2013, 12:43 pm

Loved your instructional commentary on getting the best photo possible under any circumstance. This validates my own concerns when taking a picture of things I really like.

Thanks Cher – Whenever you are aware of the concerns you will figure out your best options. – Saxon

Donna October 11, 2013, 1:55 pm

I spotted all your changes. I really like the pumpkin poster on a black background. Each time I do a poster on black, it is the one of three offered that gets picked. I do have to ask though, why did you not clone out, or use the spot healing brush on the gray scar on the front of the the Lady Godiva pumpkin in the triplex, and finally the poster? I know it adds the realism, but I find that distracting. It was the first thing I saw in the opening image, being smack in the center.

Hi Donna – Y’know ? i didn’t even think about the gray scar as a distraction . . . until now. I was originally just going to do the mask on black, then decided to play with ‘content aware’. I was not thinking about it as a commercial fix-it project. But now that I see it, if I’m gonna use it anywhere again, I guess you just gave me something more for the To Do list. Thanks, my friend 😉 Saxon

ks October 11, 2013, 10:05 pm

Great post Saxon, and now I am a little miffed that I didn’t take the time to go to this event.! This summer I took my camera every time I went to the farmers market..took many many images of squash, onions,tomatoes, berries, you name it. These are some of my favorites of all the photos I took this summer , and I took a fair amount on both coasts. They aren’t as good as yours though, as is to be expected . On the other hand my team is still playing in October. Oy, I hate it when my evil twin posts a cheap shot.

Kathy – now that the A’s are done, baseball comments about California teams will be treated as spam … 😉 – Saxon

Janet October 12, 2013, 10:49 am

Saxon, you da Gourdfather! Seriously, thanks for all the great tips. Some of this is second-nature to people who spend their days editing photos, but it is always so instructive to break it down. That, and generous.

Thanks for stopping by Janet. We spend way too much time editing the photos, so sometimes it simply fun to let go of reality – Saxon

Candy Suter October 12, 2013, 4:17 pm

Great Gourds of Fire! Sorry! Great instruction post. Very interesting what you can do with Photoshop. I have not really gotten into that as of yet. I love hearing your thought process! Thanks!

Thanks Candy, this is just the tip of the gourd stem with Photoshop – Saxon

Janet October 12, 2013, 7:38 pm

Hey Saxon – not sure what happened. I left a long post before, but it didn’t seem to make it here, though I did something via email, proved I wasn’t spam, etc etc. Anyway, I’ll try again. I really like the detailed nature of the explanation of your photo editing here. It might be second nature to people who work with photos all the time, but it’s a really good exercise to explain the whys and wherefores of the process.

Saxon Holt October 13, 2013, 6:08 pm

Hi Janet – I’m sorry your other post was lost. Your short one got thru fine. Anyway, I am sure it would have been helpful to others as you always seem to find ways to add to and extend any conversation you join. Thanks – Saxon

Kari Lonning October 18, 2013, 4:40 pm

How fun to see/read about someone else getting nerdy about filling in a pumpkin rib or thinking about “cleaning up” nature’s minor imperfections. It wasn’t so long ago that any tinkering was sorely looked upon. Bottom line though, it’s fun to start with such beauty and work with it.

Carolyn October 22, 2013, 7:40 am

I always enjoy your tutorials, Saxon. And this was a fun one to follow, Who doesn’t enjoy the game of “what’s different in this picture?” I have always appreciated your instruction and advice although I still consider myself just a “picture taker” and not a photographer. As I keep learning from you, maybe someday I’ll make the transition? Thank you for sharing your talents with the multitudes.

John October 23, 2013, 12:55 pm

Wow, so many pumpkins! Great post!

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