Grey Sky Thinking

At the latest workshop at the Beth Chatto Gardens in Essex, the gloomy grey sky and biting wind look unpromising…but…

I went to the gardens the day before to have a look. We were due to focus on photographing snowdrops and I wanted to make sure they were out. I arrived just before the garden closed for the day. Before I got out of the car I put on another layer of fleece, my hat, my gloves, scarf and thickest coat. But the biting wind in from the North Sea still managed to get through. It did take my breath away. I hurried down to the garden to take a look. And this also took my breath away. I hardly had any breath left. The collection of brown and grey tones, mixed with muted dark greens and orange was quite wonderful.

But there was hardly any light. Howcould I run a photography workshop without any light?

The group gathered together the next day and there was barely any improvement in the dull light. As we walked around the garden we noticed the groups of snowdrops looking so very bright against the dark earth, and the subtle pinks of the bergenia leaves. So there is colour here after all.

I chose this clump because so often you can only photograph snowdrops against a background of bare earth. The dead leaf mulch lends the picture much more tona interest. Getting down low is usually a good idea, so gardening kneelers are essential kit!

I chose this clump because so often you can only photograph snowdrops against a background of bare earth. The dead leaf mulch lends the picture much more tona interest. Getting down low is usually a good idea, so gardening kneelers are essential kit!

Some of the guys borrowed my LED light to brighten up their shots a bit. After about an hour I thought it was too cold to stay out – but no, most people wanted to stay longer, especially in the beautiful woods at the end of the garden. Here, the snowdrops sat alongside impossibly vivid yellow winter aconites. The very dull light made us concentrate on texture – tree bark and dead gunnera leaves.

We looked at differential focus and the way that this alters the mood of photographs so dramatically. When the light is so dull, it’s a good idea to look for various ways to liven up the images. Playing with lenses, choosing different viewpoints and angles can all create effective images in unpromising circumstaces.

We looked at differential focus and the way that this alters the mood of photographs so dramatically. When the light is so dull, it’s a good idea to look for various ways to liven up the images. Playing with lenses, choosing different viewpoints and angles can all create effective images in unpromising circumstaces.

Same view...different focus point. 180mm macro lens.

Same view...different focus point. 180mm macro lens.

After an excellent lunch provided by Keith and his team, we looked through the images that everyone had shot. Alot of fun. With help from the plant sales team, we then set up a couple of still lifes under the translucent roof of the seating area. Everybody in the group contributed to the shots with ideas, comments. Could have been horrific- photography by committee – but everyone was so good humoured and positive that it turned out to be a really valuable session for everyone – including me.

Here isone of the ‘group photos’ of hellebores shot on Richard Gregory’s camera.

The next workshop at the Beth Chatto Gardens on March 24th when we will looking at macro photography in particular. Phone the garden – 01206 822007 for details.

 

Congratulations to Tammy Marlar Bascombe for her success in International Garden Photographer of the Year 2016. Tammy attended my workshop at Chelsea Physic Garden last year and found it very inspiring.

Dahlia - New Shoots winner - Tammy Marlar  Bascombe - IGPOTY 10 - 2017.