IGPOTY workshop in the Dordogne

Well it was an adventure. Set up by Wilf of World Photo Adventure it was an early start but worth the fluster of stuffing a croissant in the camera bag to have later on. At dawn we were driving through an avenue of oak trees at the entrance to the wonderful Jardins du Manoir d'Eyrignac deep in the heart of Dordogne-Perigord.  The secret sign that Wilf had organised to gain access to the garden turned out to be a gentle nod of the head to the gardener walking through the gate carrying his topiary shears, lunch and smiling to himself - and us.

The first set up of the day. photo Philip Smith

The garden is very formal and very French. Topiary topiary everywhere - the task of keeping everything clipped and tidy must be a massive one - but only six gardeners we were told???

The workshop students were a jolly lot. We had discovered the previous evening over a glass or three that tripods are, well, an issue. Cumbersome, heavy, get in the way, 'yes I've got one but I don't use it' - one woman had rushed out to buy one the day before the workshop.

 Yes, tripods are fun really  photo Wilf James

Yes, tripods are fun really photo Wilf James

The thing about tripods is that they do extend your creative range. Low light, long exposures, low ISO numbers, all come within your scope. And with plants, especially closeup work, you line up the shot very precisely. You often/always need to adjust the framing after the first shot. If you're on a tripod you have a lot more control, as you are adjusting from a fixed position, rather than having to re-establish the composition after each shutter press.


The honey coloured stone of the Manoir. photo by Philip Smith

OK nice pic - - but there is a dirty great 'keep off the grass' sign at the front of the lawn. I can't get down any lower so I'll have to rely on Lightroom to help me take this out. I wish I had brought my steps to get up higher - that may have helped reveal the pattern of the hedging as well.
I am going round the students as well as doing my own shots. Everyone seems very happy. C. really gets enthused about the water pools around the garden and spends hours on that - getting some great stuff.
R. is thoughtful and methodical. We discuss the issues about 'getting your head round' a formal garden like this where everything is designed to be seen as a complete pattern  - there aren't many 'nooks and crannies' that we often like. She perseveres and after an hour or so the garden slowly reveals its patterns to her and she begins to get 'in the zone'.

AS the sun gets stronger exposures become more tricky with pale woodwork and deepening shadows in the topiary. Yet another good reason to photograph at the ends of the day in summer with the sun lower in the sky.  photo Philip Smith.

With so much topiary around - already monochrome - it was an invitation fo black and white. Here is the original raw file...

...and one I made later. For me, the greys take it into a more imaginative feel - you decide. photo Philip Smith.

Hey...more topiary...photo by Philip Smith

So we stayed until lunchtime - exhausted after nearly five hours of hugely enjoyable photography, chat, and more chat. Can't wait for a return visit to Eyrignac but I guess we got this garden at exactly the right moment, plenty of sun to create interesting shapes with the hedges, and lots of white roses to lift the spirits.

Next time...the gardens at Cadiot