Winners for Picture This Contest – October 2011

– Posted in: Garden Photography

Why oh why do we put our dear readers through this ?!  It is hard enough to judge the wonderful entries but is seems like agony to many of you who enter.  I read all your posts and more than one seem to wonder about winning and the judges’ criteria.

from Grandmother's Eden

How can This Grandmother’s Garden fantastic photo not be a winner ?  She clearly understands the contest theme “Fill the Frame” – the photo is carefully cropped, using the entire canvas to achieve a nice balance of meadow and woods.  The focal point is nicely off center and I really get a sense of a vibrant, verdant mountain meadow.  I want to be there.

So then, why is this not a winner?  I think when you see the others you will realize the competition is very stiff and if you want to get the real inside story go to each of the bloggers’s original post where I have posted constructive criticism.  There are 14 entries I have singled out for direct feedback on their blog, and will do nothing but lavish praise on them here.

For instance, Macgardens beautifully composed flower close up:

macgardens entry

This macro view completely fills the frame with the flower petals and the off-center pistil.  There is no wasted space.

Another macro photo, this one a spider in it’s web was sent in by Tropical Nature Photos:


Again, notice how the focal point is off center and the entire frame is filled with the story of this spider’s web.  Also note how the lines of the web lead the eye to the spider.  Great use of leading lines.

And as long as I am showing macros views, let’s look at this Epiphyllum oxypetalum from Queen’s Garden.

It is hard to use two flowers in one full frame but Janet worked these two until she found a clever angle that allows the stems and petals to intertwine in a sensuous embrace, where all parts of the photo contribute to one story.

One of the best ways to fill a frame is to find a scene with great texture. Use as much of the texture as possible until you have a tapestry bounded by the edge of your camera frame.  Outside Clyde did this with a fine view of three trees and leaves:

The frame barely contains this autumn texture and I love the careful composition that keeps the trees strong and parallel with just the right amount of leaves, like brushstrokes filling the frame.

Sometimes you can fill the frame with mood and atmosphere as Garden Walk Garden Talk has done with this wonderful photo of asters at sunset.

The frame becomes a vessel to hold the light while the flowers bask in the warmth.

I also get a great sense of mood from Malinda’s entry from The Potager Page.

The warm colors of the fall foliage in the distance make this finely composed poppy photograph something special.  The flower, with just the right accompanying leaves and buds, fills the frame in the foreground and the color fills the background.

Let’s look at some landscape photos to see some other ways our KapliPRO photographers fill the frame.  A landscape scene can be difficult to photograph.  Often they are complex with many elements contributing to the feeling we have while admiring them.  It is important to frame only what contributes to the story you tell, and frame out what is peripheral.

Sometimes that means cropping the photo in our mind knowing the camera will take the photo in its own pre-defined frame.  This picture from Gardening with Greggo, a strong horizontal, was cropped so that we see only those flowers that contribute to filling the frame.

I love the way it is cropped at the bottom as the Rudbeckias bleed off.  We know there are more but the composition wants us to see the intermingling with the others.

I have great respect for landscape photos of gardens that seem simple yet tell a big story such as this photo of the Bloedel Preserve submitted by Jean at Dig, Grow, Compost:

I absolutely love the stream coming in, using only 3/4 of the bottom of the frame, while the dark foliage and rocks edge the lower right side.  We see just enough of the trees to get a sense of their scale and how they define the woodland and the sheltered stream from the house beyond.

We now come to the Honorable Mentions and Silver and Gold awards.  All of the above deserve honorable mentions too and indeed there are a good number of great photos that I did not even call out in this post.  The ones above served to illustrate some of the lessons I want to emphasize but I am mightily impressed by all the submissions – you guys thoughtfully considered the theme and I am so pleased you rose to the challenge.

There are three honorable mentions.  This wonderfully moody dusk shot sent in by Donna at  Green Apples is suffused with warm light.  Every part of the frame has been used to reinforce the story of these strong solid trees receiving the meadow and the light.

Pam at Digging once again gets called out for some GGW recognition with a carefully composed yet marvelously complex photo.

This photo has been carefully cropped from the original so that the yucca sits squarely in the sweet spot.  The focus is razor sharp at that point and all the other colors and shapes swirl around.  Yet the yucca is the solid anchor nestled among the transient flowers.

Another great shot that was carefully cropped to fill the frame came in from Olivia Garden.

I just love these gray mounds and red flowers and the feeling that the edges of the frame provide just the view that Olivia wanted us to see.  Since I can not post a comment on her blog I will add a bit of constructive criticism here.  If you cropped a bit in from the right, to get rid of that top dark “hole” I think you will further emphasize those  strong lines of red flowing to a powerful focal point.

Our Silver Medal Award goes to Experiments With Plants for this deciduous tree filling the frame with its branch pattern.


Classic subject that I have tried many times myself, seldom so well.   It’s a great choice of tree as this particular one has a branch pattern that offers dynamism and anthropomorphic character.  I really like the partner tree filling the frame in the lower right and the fact the composition allowed for just a wee bit of space in the bottom right edge.  That trick really allows the right side of the tree to become an arch and leading line.

The Gold Medal Award goes to Hoover Boo at Piece of Eden


The nearly square, perfectly cropped photo is filled at every corner with details that tell a story of a garden.  That, you must know, is my bias in all judging – to see a garden in a landscape view, a garden photograph that tells me its story in every inch.

The tree is wonderfully positioned, its branches reaching out to the sides as well as the top; the pair of dark, nearly silhouetted shapes in the upper right not only fill that corner but offer the dark contrast to the strong light we know exists outside this garden.  I see lushness in the lower plants and know that must be the story, in what must be an arid climate.  Everything in the frame contributes.

Thank you all once again for your thoughtful and beautiful submissions.  I hope you will gain a bit more insight from comments I have given on the 14 posts mentioned.  What a great group you are.



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Saxon Holt

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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