Silent Daffodils

– Posted in: Garden Design, Garden Photography

“Photograph silence” he asked ?

OK, I’ll give it a try:


I saw the silence slip away
as the dawn, rushed in
the daffodils mute;
in awe
of the wondering sparrow’s
…eeet ?”
now silent.


I am a still photographer, my photos are silent and final.  Yet gardens are not.  They change with every glance of the eye,  with every breeze, every play of light, with every moment of time.  Our perceptions in gardens change constantly: fragrance wafts in, winds stroke our skin, sounds perk our ears.

A garden is a sensual experience that single images have trouble describing.  When we capture a moment of time, the camera always lies, fossilizing a view-finder’s fantasy. So making a garden silent is an easy, even unconscious assumption.  To make a  photograph say silence is a challenge.

I wasn’t even thinking about making a photo when I made my first morning tour of the garden, but my friend David Perry’s own blog posting about silence must have been working on me.  Suddenly a bird called out and I saw the silence of what remained.  I grabbed my little camera.

But what I got did not sing to me at all, so I began to do a bit of manipulation:

I took away the cold color of an overcast dawn and enriched my initial exposure.  These are easy things to do with any digital image tool and now I had an image that was beginning to be pleasing, but was not giving me any sense of silence.  And the piece of hose I did not see as I was thinking about silence, now shouted at me.

So I cropped the photo a bit to balance the shapes that my pergola provided, retouched the hose, and then darkened and desaturated the color and overall exposure  (while keeping the daffodils the same with a mask).

I now see the silence of the daffodils myself, but perhaps because I was there: I had heard the sparrow, I had seen the daffodils stand in awe. In the silence that remained, I had heard the beauty.  So I added a poem.

I guess I cheated a bit to try and describe that moment.  The camera can be so inadequate.

Silent.  Again.

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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Cameron (Defining Your Home) March 19, 2010, 9:17 am

I learn so much from your descriptions–and your added insight into this photo and capturing a moment.

Thanks Cameron; I genuinely hope folks can learn a bit of how to capture what the mind’s own lens is seeing, not just the camera lens. – Saxon

Lisa at Greenbow March 19, 2010, 10:04 am

I am sorry to tell you Saxon but I think those daffodils are screaming “spring”.

(g) thanks Lisa – you got it …. Saxon

Mr. McGregor's Daughter March 19, 2010, 8:03 pm

The process is fascinating, thanks for sharing. I had nothing speaking in the silence when David proposed this. Now I do, but with Eranthis substituting for daffodils. It’s a fabulous way to look at the garden.

And it is great to have someone urge us to look at garden with all our senses – Saxon

Chen March 19, 2010, 8:52 pm

Such a pleasure to enjoy good garden photography with the compliment of a poem. Indeed I can hear the silent spring song of the daffodils in your picture.

So glad your senses are alert to this. Thanks for the kind words – Saxon

Town Mouse March 20, 2010, 11:16 pm

Very interesting. I would say that you have a much better chance at capturing silence with still photography than with video.

And in this life of twitter, email on the phone, and TV everywhere (bank, doctor’s, you name it), just seeing a photo such as yours says …. silence.

P.S. Where’s the hose?

We all need that peace that our gardens bring. The hose is in the lower right of the original photo.

– S

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