Composing a Close-up Photo

– Posted in: Garden Photography

It has been 3 weeks since I posted to my blog. I have the blog blahs. Thank goodness I am not a professional writer who must write, inspired or not. Or maybe if I were a professional writer it would be easier to get into the habit of writing something so simple and unconditional as a blog.

I have something deep inside waiting moderation of my soul. Poetry, gardening, life, joy. It is welling up awaiting permission to annotate. In the meantime a photo lesson.

I do not take as many close-up photos as many garden photographers. I probably should as there is a larger market for them than the wider photos. The wider photos reveal more about a garden and the connection of the plants to the world.

camellia blossom on ground

These camellia blossoms on the garden floor nestled among the forget-me-nots say a lot about a gardening moment to me. The photo connects to a much wider garden we can only imagine but is implicit seeing these plants together. It speaks much more to a gardener than any other viewer, and is why I love garden photography. My viewers are predisposed to like what I like.

This is a good photograph about gardening. It captures a moment in this garden that needs no caption, a caption that might lock the viewer into a single interpretation. I think a good photo asks the viewer to become engaged. Giving it a definition can stop the engagement and curiosity.

A good photograph captures a visual symbol, finds in a fleeting moment, and if successful allows the viewer to pause and get into the moment themselves. A superior photo also has strong compsition, tonal range, fresh insight, and and poses a question. A superlative photo has all this and stands the test of time.

I don’t pretend this photo is superlative or even superior. It was chosen as a good one and one that leads to another photo as the photographer becomes curious himself about why the scene is so interesting. It was also chosen for a lesson about close-up photography.

Whenever we stumble across a garden scene that wants us to frame it up in a camera, before taking the picture, ask yourself what you are trying to say. What to do you see ? How can the camera help communicate it ? In the above picture I saw a lot: a complex story about a winter scene in a zone 9 California garden, a manicured estate garden, Filoli. A fabulous statement about plants growing together, about decay, about winter and spring at the same time, about color, about the transitory nature of gardens.

But you know what else I saw about plants and color as I looked closer ? I saw a close-up photo:

Omphalodes cappadocica(c)
Omphalodes cappadocica in spring garden with Camellia blossom

Just plain pretty. Needs no explanation.

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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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