The Camera Always Lies

– Posted in: Miscellaneous

What a frustration it is to be a professional garden photographer that must make the vain attempt to find gardens at their “peak”. I am working on a meadow book and visited Nan’s garden this summer.

Ondra meadow, July 28, 2007
(Ondra meadow July 28, 2007)

Surely her meadow garden is as lovely now as then. A strong argument can be made, looking at her own photos (‘In The Field’ post below), that the garden is showier now than then. In the spirit on Nan’s comment “why bother” about spending so much time and energy in planning and maintaining a garden when the wild meadow astounds her, “why bother” being a garden photographer when you can not possible do any but one’s own garden proper justice ?

Garden publishers may glory in peak moments but gardeners know there is no one best time. Garden photographers, at least those who are gardeners themselves, are caught in a dilemma as what to illustrate. When we travel, we too often fall into the trap of the peak moment knowing we perpetuate a mythical time. When DO gardens look their best???

I will be joining this crew at gardening gone wild and hope to offer a bit of insight on gardens through garden photography. Twenty seven years ago when I apprenticed myself to a master commercial photographer I learned the very first day: “The camera always lies – that truth is how photographer’s make a living”

There is no truth in talking about gardening, only truth in gardening itself. So, knowing that I will allow this blog as a forum to explore and explode garden truths. My new meadow book is co-authored by John Greenlee, “The Grass Man”. John knows more about grasses than anyone I know (even Nan), is a brilliant and creative designer. Want to know the truth about John’s own garden ? Let’s begin here …

Greenlee garden Feb. 1, 2007
Greenlee garden Feb. 1, 2007

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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Pam/Digging September 25, 2007, 11:00 pm

I’m glad you’ve joined the excellent blogging team here, Saxon. We garden bloggers are consumed not just with our gardens but with photographing them, the better to blog about our gardens. I hope to learn more about taking great garden pictures from your posts.

Colleen September 26, 2007, 9:39 am

It will be absolutely wonderful to learn about garden photography from a pro! Photos are such a big part of garden blogs and websites, and I know I would love to improve the images I put up on my website.

Saxon Holt September 26, 2007, 11:56 am

I appreciate this feedback and will try to incorporate into future postings. My hope with this blog is not to be a primer on how to take pictures but rather to show how pictures reveal “truth” . . . or more often, not.

I have literally 200,000 images in my collection and many are unsuitable for traditional media. (Is it pornographic if it shows an unattainable fantasy garden?) This blog is a chance to explore non-traditional interpretations of gardens through the lens. This is gardening gone wild isn’t it ???

Colleen September 26, 2007, 12:50 pm

I look forward to all of your posts, for sure! We’ve had some low key discussion about the “truth” we capture in our gardens in the blogosphere—conversations about how we only show the parts that look good, or about how often we see close-ups of individual blooms rather than views of the whole garden. Some bloggers have expressed frustration at the fact that we so rarely see “the big picture”, for lack of a better term. I’ll definitely be visiting again!

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