About The Light-May

May 18, 2009 056 (2)There are many photos taken of the gardens here. They are all taken with the auto settings on macro. If we knew how to adjust the settings manually, there would not be the need for the hundreds of discarded shots.
Above is Rosa ‘About Face’May 18, 2009 076 (2)One lesson learned about the whole process is to pay heed to the light, the position of the sun in the sky. Cloudy, windless days are ideal but our favorite lighting condition is the earliest possible morning sun. The play of light and shadow intrigues.May 18, 2009 095 (2)The striping of brightness on this white flower of Dianthus ‘Little Boy Blue’ adds interest to the form and texture of a solid white bloom with red interior circle that is difficult to capture.May 18, 2009 092 (2)The user manual for the new camera, the Canon Powershot SX1 IS has detailed information about manual settings to compensate for over and under exposure due to lighting conditions. I am ashamed to admit that I do not want to fiddle with learning how to do that. So the old camera, the Canon Powershot A720 IS is grabbed everytime we happen to notice the lighting to our liking for garden photoshoots.
Above is Chinese Trumpet Lilium ‘Regale’ in bud backed by Nasella tenuissima in the shed bed.May 18, 2009 089 (2)There are classes somewhere out there that could teach me the ins and outs of the new camera. But being a stubborn Taurus and a bit lazy, the mystery of the SX1 will be discovered by the standard method of operation here, trial and error. Time will be spent reading the user manual, we have already done quite a bit of that. More time in the field is needed. But in the meantime, the flowers are budding, blooming and fading. That cycle needs recording now, not later. So the trusty A720, point and shoot will be used for the sake of historical accuracy.
Above is Salvia greggii ‘Wild Thing’, I think, with Erysimum ‘Citron Orange’ smudged in the background.May 18, 2009 045 (2)As in art, we don’t know much about it, but we know what we like. I know that sliver of white should not be in this shot, but I like it anyway. I like the gravel path, the arbor in the background, the copper bowl birdbath on the cylindrical flue tile. The groundcover along the rock edge is Achillea tomentosa ‘King Edward’, Japanese blood grass, Imperata cylindrical is reddening.May 18, 2009 041 (2)Allium christophii, grown from collected seed sown at least five years ago, is now blooming size. The largest seedlings have been placed at the end of the veggie bed for viewing pleasure. Many photos have been taken of these babies, with less than stellar results. Getting the light right is key. Festuca glauca and Sagina subulata ‘Aurea’ are in the background.May 18, 2009 040 (2)In the beginnings of blogging, shots were cropped heavily. No longer. More often than not the photos are shown as taken, with distractions like the garage deck or the chair link fence visible, the big picture, so to speak.
Assorted sedums in the abandoned wheelborrow found on the property above. The metal star came from a shop in Charleston, South Carolina long ago.May 18, 2009 013 (2)The goal is to show the garden as if the reader were right here beside me, getting the tour with notes of interest pointed out. Warts and all, like the fake stone planter with the five new dahlia roots within. The plan is to take this whole planter into the garage after the frost zaps the dahlia foliage to dry out and rest over the winter. No digging required. The next year we will bring it into the greenhouse, topdress with something good, like the worm castings we bought bagged at our favorite local nursery Mouse Creek. After all danger of frost it will be returned to this same location. That is the plan anyway. This is off topic, but thought it worth mentioning here.
Above is Papaver somniferum.May 18, 2009 039 (2)Although our property is smallish, a little less than a quarter of an acre is the latest estimate, it may appear larger in the photos. The elevation allows for much more to be viewed from one spot giving the illusion of a larger space. Looking down from above, we are actually higher than the rooftops on the knot garden level. The sun rises on the side where the tall pine trees tower, the arbor stands guard and the wildflower corner wishes for more shade. Slowly the light reaches the corner where the original property line meets the added two lots of the garage. The multi trunk silver maple straddles the old dividing line. May 18, 2009 003 (2)In our efforts to present the garden as it really exists in the most attractive way possible, different points of view are tried. Like sticking the camera through the rungs of the deck railing to include the Clematis ‘Betty Corning’ now blooming along with the bright spots of Salix integra ‘Hakuro Nishiki’. The steps that used to lead down to the house next door that was demolished to build the garage remain. We love the age they add to the garden, in addition to a way up to the top.May 18, 2009 014 (2)This post will end with a helpful tip that has been learned from experience for taking photos of your own gardens, try to stand in a shadow while aiming at something in the sunlight. A tree trunk far away, a deck post, even crouching to catch the shadow of a shrub or tall perennial will help with the quality of the photo. Don’t ask for an explanation, for we have no idea why it works. The idea is to offer a monthly feature of light conditions with gleanings of photo tips we have stumbled across. We begin with the merry month of May.
Above is Zinnia ‘Magellen Coral’
(All photos were taken with the old camera, the Canon Powershot A720 IS)

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37 Responses to About The Light-May

  1. Frances – I tend to think that if one pays a lot for a special camera, it ought to provide the pictures we want without any extra fiddling on our part . . . do the work for us . . . we just have to point and shoot – but it doesn’t seem to work like that! (The opposite, in fact!) Like you, I appreciate some of the ‘blemishes’ which creep into shots – like your little sliver of light. They bring extra atmosphere. This one is like an eye-blink in the sunshine. And I very much enjoy your uncropped approach. It makes the pictures ‘yours’. They are photos of your plants, not any old plants of that variety, however beautiful. I especially like the photo with the star sculpture because my eye goes bouncing around the frame, looking at all the different shapes in relation to, and in contrast with, each other. And the seedhead is certainly stellar and cheerful because of it. (And it’s true what you say about the size of your garden. I, for one, had thought it much bigger than it turns out to be. There you are . . . garden design and photographic art combine in a work of transformation and magic up even more space in the process. Brilliant! Esther

    Hi Esther, that does make sense to me too, but it isn’t working that way with this new camera. Thanks for all the glowing words. I don’t really know what makes a good photo, only if I am pleased with it or not. And I want to honestly portray what the garden really looks like. With the property nearly all garden, the buildings are pretty close to the street and the lawn is tiny, it seems big to the one scampering up and down the paths. πŸ™‚ BTW, I fixed your link, finally.

  2. Randy says:

    Even I look better in morning sun, Frances! πŸ™‚ Fabulous pictures! I thought for sure you had a couple of acres there!

    Hi Randy, HA and thanks. It is the hill that makes it appear so. I look best in……I was going to say dark, but then I am asleep. πŸ™‚

  3. DP says:

    We’re putting a rocky/gravel type walkway in between the new square foot boxes that we’re putting in. It does make for an attractive view!

    Your photos do make your garden look bigger than it is, but the photos are beautiful and seems like a fun place to be!

    Hi DP, thanks. Your paths sound perfect. I am a huge fan of gravel paths, be sure and get pea gravel, it is much easier to walk on. Wish we had done that, instead we got the ‘brown 57’ mixture. Hard to push the wheelbarrow on too.

  4. Dave says:

    You do pay a lot of attention to the lighting when you plant. Like last years photos of the Muhly grass. Is that a Ponytail grass (Stipa)? I just planted one for my parents in a garden remodel I did last week. They look great back lit by the sun!

    Hi Dave, thanks. The muhly is the best example in the garden of backlighting and the spell it can weave. That is sometimes called Ponytail grass I think, also Mexican feather grass. Your parents will love it. They changed the name from Stipa to Nasella for some reason. I like the sound of Stipa so much better, but am trying to use the correct name. The hardest is what they did to Chrysanthemums, Dendrathema? Arghhh.

  5. Darla says:

    Trial and error with photography and gardening, that’s exactly how I do it too. Reading manuals bores me, and I also discard many photos. Great post!

    Hi Darla, thanks. It works for both of us, right?

  6. Love all your photos, as usual. Bright light is the worst; photos often look washed out, but when on the road, I can’t wait for a cloud! I plan on reading my camera manual on the bus on the way to Chicago! You don’t have to be a Taurus, by the way, to like trial and error! πŸ™‚

    HA Monica, thanks. Now what sign would come up with a comment like that? :-)))))

  7. Carol says:

    Love the poppy shot Frances but all are lovely! The grass lit up like a waterfall… beautiful light! You are like the Japanese in their plantings to make a smaller space have great depth… brava!

    Hi Carol, thanks. That morning sun just makes it all look so wonderful. My photography really does not begin to show how it really looks though. I appreciate the praise. Japanese gardens are among my favorite styles, even though this hill is far from that. πŸ™‚

  8. Janet says:

    Lovely shots Frances. I keep trying to remember to read the instruction booklet for my camera…one of these days!! Whenever I try to do a macro shot, the wind starts blowing!! Your gardens are lovely.

    Hi Janet, thanks. Very early morning is usually still with little wind. Not today however. Sometimes I have to hold the stem with one hand and click with the other, rather a difficult operation but doable with the old lighter weight camera. Impossible with the heavy new camera.

  9. I think the shots are great. The heck with a class to learn how to use a camera….that takes away from gardening time!!!!

    Hi Princess, thanks. You have hit upon a very important fact, the garden takes priority over all other activities, except family. πŸ™‚

  10. Joanne says:

    Lovely much better than Chelsea. I love especially the roses and the Pink. The way the light and shade highlights the petals of the rose superb! Yes I remember reading years ago that phtos of flowers were often taken best in the early morning when less chance of movement less air movement. But I agree morning light is clearly good too. Thank you you are teaching me each time I visit.

    Wow Joanne, that is the nicest compliment! These photos were taken as soon as the sun hits those parts of the garden. It is not the earliest at this time of year since the trees have leafed out and block the sun until later. It was windy today but sometimes that adds to the ambience of the long shots I think. πŸ™‚

  11. Kathleen says:

    My favorites of these shots are “wild thing” and the gravel path by the AM light. You can see the hairs on wild things upper lip ~ that’s awesome. I think photography is mostly about experimenting anyway Frances. You seem to do that well so you’ll get it figured out. At least it’s as easy as pushing a button to delete the bad shots and not a waste of developing, film, etc., like it used to be. I’ve found to get really phenomenal macro shots, you almost have to do it manually ~ the auto mode doesn’t seem to want to focus exactly where you want it to or get in as tight as you like. I keep playing too. It’s a fascinating hobby and the garden is a willing photogenic subject.

    Hi Kathleen, thanks. You are so right about how easy the digital cameras have made it for total novices like me to be able to get a decent shot. It is sheer luck, of course but would not have even been attempted without computers. I wish I knew how to do it manually, but cannot seem to figure it out. The old camera makes a noise when it refocuses that tips me off to a better shot. At least it eliminates half of the discards. I haven’t figured out how to tell when the new camera likes what it sees. Yet. πŸ™‚

  12. Discovering the ins and outs of a new camera is all part of the fun. I bet you are like me, take dozens of shots and save only one. I was trying to get some photos of the bees on the ajuga but the sun wasn’t right, perhaps I wasn’t close enough, but I had fun trying.
    Lovely photos as always Frances.

    Hi Crafty, thanks. It’s more like hundreds instead of dozens. The bees and butterflies are moving too fast here lately and it has been very windy. We need them to be drunk with nectar to slow them down. Or asleep. πŸ™‚

  13. keewee says:

    Frances, I too am one of those people who do not want to fiddle with the manual settings.I am not sure whether I am too lazy, or is it because I really do not have an understanding of all that technical stuff. Anyhow I do just fine with the camera I have, even though I discard many shots.

    Hi Keewee, your method sounds good to me! It would be nice to have a manual that says what to do for all sorts of conditions. My manual seems to only talk about taking photos of people, not plants! πŸ™‚

  14. tina says:

    You lazy? Uh uh, don’t believe it! Maybe you are just pressed for time and your old camera is easier. I’m right there with you. I do love the long shots. I am one who would rather see the big picture than the stamens on a daisy for example. I’ve learned a few tricks too, with my very old and very non tech camera, but it’s been a long learning curve for me. I like your tip to stand in the shadows for sure. Have a great gardening day today. I’m inside, still consolidating.

    Hi Tina, thanks. Maybe looking for shortcuts is a better explanation. And there never seems to be enough time to learn those settings, etc. Not during prime gardening season anyway. I also like seeing the whole picture and have been trying to show that in addition to the stamens. πŸ™‚ Hope your streamlining is going well. We all need to do more of that.

  15. Hi Frances

    I had no idea that your photos are trial and error. They’re so good.

    I fully understand not reading the manual. There are too many better things to do, like gardening for example. First the gardener, second the photographer I guess.

    So I enjoy a warts and all tour of one of the nicer quarter acres on the web.


    Hi Rob, thanks. You are too sweet. For me, the garden is the true love, the blog and its photography comes second, like you say. I could stop blogging, reluctantly, but never stop gardening.

  16. Zoe says:

    Couldn’t agree more, what is a photograph if it isn’t about light?

    I indulged in a Macro Lens for my camera today, now I have to learn to use it!

    My favorite today was the Opium Poppy, the light through it, and its fragility juxtaposed to the blue-grey; just lovely.

    Hi Zoe, thanks for visiting. When I started photographing the garden, it was about the flowers. Now I know better. I look forward to seeing you try out your new lens, or was that gorgeous honeysuckle shot an example?

  17. Catherine says:

    Lighting is one thing that is really hard to work with. Yesterday was bright and sunny, it looked beautiful in the garden, but every picture I took looked washed out. It’s fun trying out new angles. I’ve laughed to myself before while crouching down and thinking how nice the garden looks, but then realize no one will ever see it from that angle. Oh well, it’s fun trying.

    Hi Catherine, isn’t it funny how the light that makes the garden beautiful to our eyes is not the same that results in a great photo? The washed out look is mentioned in the user manual for the new camera. But they lost me on the explanation of the settings. One of these days we will try to do what they are talking about, if we can figure it out. I love the on the surface shots, a bug’s eye view. πŸ™‚

  18. Brenda Kula says:

    I can read what the camera manual tells me. But I learn much better just doing it. If a flower is in the sun, sometimes I cast my shadow over it, then take the photo. I delete many photos. When I take them, I may think, oh, this one will be great. Only to upload and see that it is not that at all. And the one I think is the least candidate, turns out to be the best. I don’t crop or anything either. Warts and all. Your warts are beautiful, Frances. If you can actually call them warts! And I would have thought you had a much larger space than that!

    Hi Brenda, thanks. I need to be holding the camera and taking the picture at the same time as reading the manual. That will be tough since I have to see it on the computer screen. I also make a shadow with my body on the bright days to get an individual flower shot. It is the long shots that I am working on. If only to get closer to how pretty it looks in real life. I don’t even look at the shots as they are taken. Seeing them on the computer is when the cuts are made. Funny that most readers think the property is larger, it is nearly all garden though.

  19. Kim says:

    Frances, I’m so with you on learning the ins and outs of a new camera. How comforting it is to reach for the camera that seems almost an extension of the hand . . . . . And thank you for the tip on light!

    Hi Kim, so nice to see you here, thanks for visiting. Comfort is the key word here, knowing how to get the picture without adjusting anything, just point and click. Must be more disciplined and learn to use the new camera too. Maybe after the heavy duty gardening is done later in the warm months.

  20. VW says:

    Thanks for the great tips. I think your photos are wonderful, as always. I’m a bit lazy with the camera, too. My new hoity-toity SLR camera is a pain to deal with on my aging computer, so I have been reverting to the old Powershot Elf point-and-shoot. Whatever works, I guess!

    Hi VW, thanks. Hoity-toity is a good word for my new camera too. Way more features than I need, especially all that movie making stuff. But The Financier keeps asking how it is working out! Still learning to use it is the answer. πŸ™‚

  21. Jean says:

    You do have a way with light in your photos, i.e. you’ve learned how to nail it. I must say, I laughed to hear how you go back to your old camera. And how you don’t want to learn how to work all that new stuff. I laughed because I’m exactly the same way. Ah well, on to your flowers – most lovely. Today I found the remains of an old flower on top of my compost pile and it looks exactly like your allium. Strange, since I don’t grow them (although I wouldn’t mind that). You’re not secretly sending them down here, are you? πŸ˜‰

    Hi Jean, thanks. That is so strange about the flower on your compost! Is someone giving you free compost gifts? Squirrels perhaps, who don’t like alliums? HA It isn’t me though. πŸ™‚

  22. Racquel says:

    I love the shots you captured here Frances. Thanks for sharing some of your tips and showing us your garden warts and all. Of course I didn’t see any warts, but then we gardeners tend to be more critical. Don’t you think? πŸ™‚ I’ve been considering getting a new camera & was actually looking at the Cannon Powershot SX1 IS. I’m no pro with a camera, just play around with the settings till I like what I see.

    Hi Racquel, thanks. Plenty of warts here, but the camera kind of washes over them thankfully. I have to say that the camera I was looking at, the Canon SX 10 IS is a good one too. For some reason The Financier decided to buy the brother to that one for its movie making capabilities, something I will never ever use. (Good thing he doesn’t read my blog!)

  23. Gail says:

    A wonderful post Frances…and the photos are lovely….I love the poppy, fantastic color, did you grow it from seed?
    I have been trying out other setting on the camera and find that lighting is still a big issue. I shoot a few with aperture priority then the same one with auto! Trial and error is fun. good night! gail

    Hi Gail, thanks. Those poppies, grown from seeds Mae gave me the first year here self sow. I try to plant them myself and have a few that were started in the greenhouse, but they are not as far along as the self sowns, naturally. What was the result with the manual setting versus the auto, she asked inquisitively? πŸ™‚

  24. gittan says:

    Lovely pictures (as allways). The light and sometimes the colours I’ve problem to catch. Finaly (after a year) I’ve been taking some evening time to read the manual for my Canon. So now I’m also playing in the garden trying different settings and so on.. Found one usefull one that they called leaf-foliage. A new canera is a bit of trial and arror. Have a nice day / Kram gittan

    Hi Gittan, thanks. I believe the cameras should be easier for gardeners to use. Canon should make one just for gardens and gardeners who don’t want to fiddle with a bunch of settings that takes fabulous photos of plants and landscapes. Just an idea. πŸ™‚ Kram.

  25. gittan says:

    Do you know what a canera is? It’s must be a combination of canon and camera don’t you think so? “LOL” / gittan

    HA, I love it!

  26. ourfriendben says:

    Oh, I do love that ‘About Face’ and your star in the planter, Frances! But I’m shocked to hear that you have just 1/4 acre! You’re right, your photos make the property seem so extensive. How delightful to have so many different levels to give it so much depth and variety!

    Hi OFB, thanks. About Face is about to be pulled out though, it has that badness that Nan wrote about that roses get with the contorted red foliage, etc. This is its last hurrah. That badness has spread to the beloved Moonlight and I believe it came from About Face too, a grafted rose planted in poor soil. It was a bad idea, but the blooms are so darn pretty.

  27. That photo of Roses made my day! Your planning makes your garden looks huge. You’re great, Frances!

    Oh Chandramouli, you make my day with those nice words. So glad you enjoyed the roses and the rest of the garden. πŸ™‚

  28. Rose says:

    You may not have read the entire manual yet, Frances, but your photography is excellent nonetheless! As beautiful as your supermacros are, I do enjoy the longshots, seeing the whole garden with the different combinations of plantings. I would have guessed this was over an acre, too! You’ve certainly made the most of every square inch you have here. I like the early morning light best, too, for taking pictures, but with the sun coming up earlier and earlier, I don’t always get out there in time:)

    Hi Rose, thanks. Sadly, I have read the whole manual several times. So much of it is about making movies, something I do skip over. But the rest is just over my head. You are right about the sun coming up earlier. Since I am an early riser, no longer do I have to wait for the sun for hours like in winter. That was when the blogging was done however, so that time has been greatly diminished. Rainy days do let me catch up some though. πŸ™‚

  29. Frances, I don’t know everything about my camera either, so don’t worry. Your photos are great, and you’ll keep learning. I grow ‘About Face’ and it’s one of my favorite roses ever. I took photo after photo of it last year, along with ‘Mardi Gras.’~~Dee

    Hi Dee, thanks. Keep learning, a good motto to live by. πŸ™‚ About Face is so pretty, too bad it has so many issues in my garden. I think offspring Semi might have Mardi Gras. Also I wanted to let you know the rain chain was attempted to be delivered but needed a signature and I wasn’t home. I signed the fedex slip so they will leave it tomorrow I hope. I am so excited to see it and put it on the shed, thanks again!

  30. Zoe says:

    Hi Frances, nope, took the Honeysuckle with my Nikon P1 Coolpix compact.

    There’s a couple if images of Green Alkanet on the blog today which I used my DSLR and the new macro lens for, if you are interested in the difference. I have a long way to go to learn how to use it though!

    Hi Zoe, thanks for letting me know. It looks as though you have mastered the new lens already, the Alkanet is ready for the beauty parlor with that hair! πŸ™‚

  31. RobinL says:

    We have much in common. Both stubborn Taurus, trying to learn to use our new Powershots! I attempted to read my manual, but it was over my head, so I am starting at the beginning, and reading Digital Photography for Dummies. Next, I’ll read the new book I bought, Canon Powershot Field Guide. Perhaps then I’ll know what I am doing!

    Hi Robin, uh oh, another Taurus! HA Wow, I did not know about the Field Guide, that sounds like just what I need! Thanks for letting me know there was such an animal. πŸ™‚

  32. Jenny B says:

    Oh so lovely. I do feel like I went for a stroll with you through your garden. I especially liked the Poppy, and the Zinnia looked as though it was lit from within. Thanks for the pics tip–I will give it a try.

    Hi Jenny, thanks. That is exactly what I am trying to convey, thanks for getting it. The sun low in the sky, morning or evening is so good at the magicaly backlighting. I find the morning is usually less windy and that is a big help. πŸ™‚

  33. ‘Wild Thing’ is a great photo, I also loved the gravel-path one; it looks like a stream. When light bounces around, I go for a smaller aperture and a slower shutter speed (of course if it’s windy, that won’t work). I learned some of my camera simply by reading just ONE portion of the manual, applying it, reading that part of the manual, and so on. However there’s lots about my camera I still don’t know. I love the morning light and also the last light at evening and how it lights up the plants.

    Hi Pomona, thanks so much. Those red Salvias are difficult to capture, the side view seems easier to focus. Changing those settings is what I don’t want to do, although at some point I might. I have tried to concentrate on the portion of the manual that tells about the macro, but still cannot get the setting they call supermacro to function. It sounds so perfect, supermacro, doesn’t it? I have tried and tried to do what they are saying but it never shows that symbol. Maybe the book mentioned by Robinl will help me find the elusive S in a diamond! πŸ™‚

  34. Kanak says:

    Frances, thank you for all the tips you shared. Again, a pleasure to see the images. I recently started standing in the shade while clicking away at a sunlit area…it took me so long to find this out. Your garden does appear to be bigger in photos. Being on an elevation is an advantage. Will surely remember the play of light and shadow, as you say. Beautiful plants, features…very inviting.

    Hi Kanak, thanks. Light and shadow is so interesting to me, fun to experiment with. πŸ™‚

  35. Jen says:

    Beautiful shots! I’ve been very shy about showing the “warts and all” of my property. Lots of my garden shots include an unsightly woodpile, swingset and summertime-only above ground pool. But you’re right – a shot that clearly shows the background gives a much better sense of what’s going on.

    Thanks Jen. Sometimes we are more sensitive to things in the background than need be. The readers don’t even notice that stuff. Like a hose in the shot that we forgot to move. No one even sees it but we ourselves. πŸ™‚

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