Rake at Rest

– Posted in: Garden Musings, Garden Photography


What is work in the garden ?  For a garden photographer in his own garden, work shifts as the garden speaks.

There are times when the garden cries out for care, and the work is sweaty, grimy, intensely physical.  Then there are times when the garden sings and the work is quiet, aesthetically sensual, even joyful.

The division of labor is often predictable.  In spring I can gloriously plan for camera work.  In autumn I expect to clean up and rake.  But sometimes in autumn when the trees drop their leaves, abstract expressions carpeting the ground, my work changes and I switch tools.  I put my rake to rest.  It is one of those unspoken moments when the garden doesn’t need to say a word.  Capture this fleeting beauty now.


Garden photography is interesting work.  It is far more than having a camera in a pretty garden, and I go into it in depth in my book, The PhotoBotanic Garden Photography Workshop.  One part of the work though, is anticipating how I can sell my pictures in various markets and venues.

When I am working on location, working an assignment, I know exactly who is paying for the work; but in my own garden when it calls out to be photographed, I try to think of every useful angle, every way I might utilize the pictures I make.


As the leaves began to drop on my Pistache tree over the past two weeks I took a few photos.  I love to frame the patterns in my camera, studying lines and repetition of color.  I even tried to make a photo with my gray hose left uncoiled.


But then the leaves began to fall in earnest.  Rain was about to arrive and the leaves needed to be cleared as a garden chore.  I got my rake, and at that moment the garden said “get to work, now; for tomorrow I will change”.  So I switched tools, put the rake at rest and went for the camera, lenses and tripod.


Now working with a deadline, I let every idea become a picture.  I shot through the low branches.


Oh, and I better take a shot of the leaves on the branch.


And maybe one way off center.  You never know if a publisher needs a wide photo with lots of space and soft focus to drop in some type.


Oh, and don’t forget vertical photos:


As I began to realize I really was going to have to rake the leaves, a new idea of how I might actually use the photos bubbled in to my brain.  What if I made a video from a series of time lapse photos as I do the raking ?  Brilliant !  Since the work of a garden photographer, in his own garden, is to garden and to photograph,  I could do both under the guise of creating content for the YouTube channel all my advisors say I need to have.

Little did I know that after all the “work” as a garden photographer, the real work would be figuring out to make a YouTube video of the raking.  Real work is the kind that is no fun.  It has taken me long frustrating days to get the video done, complete with voice over and connected to my new YouTube channel.  Crude perhaps but a rewarding experiment.  See below.


Even more rewarding, as I spent these past few days on the computer and living with the photos, the leaf carpet now composting, I remembered the mood of the garden.  I yearned to transform the photos into vibrant swirls of yellow.

Photos can bring back the past and I wanted photos that could bring back the mood more than the detail.  So I spent time with PhotoShop.


Oh the ways a garden photographer must work.


The video:


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

Latest posts by Saxon Holt (see all)

13 Comments… add one

Leave a Comment

Mona November 26, 2013, 5:09 am

You have a beautiful garden and I simply love autumn.

Thanks Mona. Fall color is actually a very conscious theme to my garden. In California we get little in our native flora (darn it) but there are many ornamentals to choose from – Saxon

Marilyn Cornwell November 26, 2013, 8:29 am

This is a wonderful story, Saxon. Thanks so much for sharing your exquisite work!

Thanks Marilyn – I appreciate it when folks like the story as much as the photos. – Saxon

Joan Carroll, MG retired November 26, 2013, 8:53 am

Thanks for brightening my day with the colored leaves
pictures. Thats rare here in California.

Mary Yee November 26, 2013, 9:59 am

Mr. Holt, thank you for these photos. You made my day! We’ve had a strange season here in Minnesota: a late spring with multiple snowfalls in May and a relatively early frost. Many of our trees were not ready to turn color when the cold took the leaves off the twigs. So, it is wonderful to see the molten gold in your photos. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanks Mary – Every year is different isn’t it ? That particular Pistache tree is normally much more orange. – Saxon

Susan November 26, 2013, 10:16 am

“The work becomes the art” I love this. You can’t have one without the other. There is sweat equity in creativity.

Thanks Susan – This little phrase applies to so, so many types of art. Gardeners understand this but my dentist makes amazing crowns himself, my wife has mastered the art of teaching, even politics (though sadly) has become an art form. – Saxon

Karen Chapman November 26, 2013, 10:32 am

So timely as I am always forgetting this! I constantly find I have shot too tight with no room left for possible cropping to say a square or I’ve only taken landscape shots which will never make a cover.

Hi Karen – These are the lessons we learn, eh ? It does become a trade off though when we try to shoot as much as possible. Each shot must be considered, not just for its potential use, but how much post product time it all takes to make it to the market. A well considered photo on the tripod at the time of capture must have its own individual story, or we find ourselves lost in editing later. – Saxon

Karen Dyck November 26, 2013, 11:05 am

Just lovely. This elevates both the work and the art.

Thanks Karen – Simply said, deeply appreciated. – Saxon

Steve Mullany November 26, 2013, 6:02 pm

Thanks for another insightful piece, Saxon. It expressed something about time in a garden with a camera that I think I have felt but didn’t know it till now.

The use of an ordinary rake, autumn leaves, camera and computer told much more than “how I made this photograph”. But on another level it told pretty much exactly how you “made this photograph”. You reminded me that the work, art and pleasure of photography and gardening can blend like the oil painting effect that you apply so well to elicit the mood of the moment.

Thanks a lot Steve. I am so glad you picked up on the filter effect as the path I took to combine the mood, neither simpy garden work, nor photography work. – Saxon

Donna November 26, 2013, 6:41 pm

I really enjoyed the story of ‘work’ in your garden, both stories – photos and text. I did learn something here today that I have not been doing in my photos, but should. “Anticipating how I can sell my pictures in various markets and venues”. Even though selling is not something I do often, it is wise to take photos that way. I am doing a poster now and had to reshoot my subject (studio work) after I found I could not make a pleasing composition from how I chose to set up the photograph. The second take worked out from learning from the first.

Hi Donna – You are always so kind to point out ways you learn from my posts. As I noted to Karen, one must be careful in how many extra photos we take in trying to anticipate other ways to use and market our pictures. Sure we need to do it, but if we are not decisive why we are doing it it simply leads to too many “similars” later that we have to deal with in post production. – Saxon

Theresa Forte November 26, 2013, 11:31 pm

Nice work – I too love to explore patterns in the autumn leaves. Lots of food for thought here…thanks for sharing!

And thank you Theresa for stopping by – Saxon

Anne Wareham November 27, 2013, 7:27 pm

Great piece and love the photoshopped pic – but why on earth are you raking in the first place? if you leave the leaves to blow they will lodge themselves in your borders as a mulch. Or on the lawn you could mow them up and pile them straight on to the beds.

But a RAKE?!


Anne – Yeah, I should probably use a blower… Actually, this lazy gardener has tried to leave them in place, hoping they might compost in place or blow to the border but once the rain starts, the leaves stay put and if I leave them too long the meadow suffers greatly. I do compost them along the borders of my property though… – Saxon

Emily December 1, 2013, 6:50 pm

Thank you so much for your gentle inspiration. After too lengthy a lull and too much frustration, it has been difficult to pick up my camera. Your posts (words as well as images) help me back into the photographic world again. Who could resist running outside with a rake and the (as yet unraked and already quite wet) fallen leaves after watching your video? Tuesday promises drier weather, and I’ll be there with my tripod and camera. Thank you, Saxon.

Charles Hawes December 10, 2013, 6:29 am

Yeah, Love that beautiful clean yellow – and especially the PS’opped pic. Reminds me that I should always be on the lookout for those stock shots at home!

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