It is a great joy to be hunting for photographs in a garden. Having a camera in hand (or on a tripod) is an excuse to look carefully, to find a photo that will do justice to the beauty of plants.
Finding a photo is a deliberate process and I frequently find myself looking for color combinations and carefully lining up blocks of color.
During a recent visit to the great California native plant garden, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Southern California, the native redbud trees were in full bloom and used them quite a bit to add color to many of my photographs.
I am working on a series of photographs on California native shrubs, so when I saw this bright yellow flowering Mahonia (Berberis nevinii) in front of a redbud I knew I had found a picture.
Careful cropping, and using the four outer edges of the camera frame helped me define the composition. This illustrates my number one principal in my PhotoBotanic workshops – fill the frame. Use the entire area of your camera viewfinder to your advantage.
A good photo of this blue flowering Ceanothus shrub was not quite so obvious. Unlike the yellow Mahonia, the Ceanothus is a much smaller plant and the blue recedes into the background.
But I wanted the blue to be in the foreground and with a redbud nearby it was just a matter of carefully looking, finding the photo.
The Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden has a long history of plant introductions and was the first to create the Hybrid Monkey Hand tree, an inter-generic cross between two different genus, called Chiranthomontodendron lenzii. Now that’s a mouthful – let’s just call it the Monkey Hand tree.
This huge specimen is the largest one in cultivation, it was in full bloom, and I was determined to make a special photograph.
There were Ceanothus and Redbuds flowering around it and I finally found an angle to bring them all into one composition.
All it takes really is just a hint of those colors to make the photo.
I spent quite some time on this final composition, loving every minute of it as an excuse to study this extraordinary flower, and lining up the other colors.
After I made the final composition and worked on it in the computer, I took the image one step farther and made a photo painting using a watercolor filter by Topaz in Photoshop.
And I continued to work on these wonderful golden flowers of the Hybrid Monkey Hand Tree. I extracted the flower from its background and made this PhotoBotanic illustration.
I both found the photo – and made the photo. What fun to have the chance to study a plant so carefully.