But, like most photography trips, all it took was an interesting change of light to spark just enough inspiration, and the motivation make the most out of a bad situation – and just get the camera out.
In the end, getting out in the garden and going through the motions with my camera was a great exercise in both creativity and mindfulness. It gave me much needed mental relief from the stressful times we’re living in.
So as well as showing you my images, I thought I’d share some tips to help you photograph your garden during the lockdown. I hope they spark some creativity of your own, and inspire you to get out and spend some time photographing your own space.
My garden photography tips
Don’t choose a good subject. Choose the best subject.
It’s easy to miss this step.
I did, at first. And it’s only later, sitting in front of your editing software, do you notice just how dirty, chewed up or messy that leaf was.
So when something draws your eye, spend some time up close and personal with it. Check it for dirt, bugs, broken or chewed up leaves and petals. Spruce it up before the big shoot, by brushing any garden debris off with a paintbrush or something similar.
Plain walls make for great backdrops, and work in both colour and black and white. If you’re shooting in colour, think about how the backdrop could complement those of your subject.
In my small courtyard garden, I used the harsh midday sun against a north facing wall hidden in deep shade. The intense contrast in light meant that exposing for the bright leaves threw the background into complete darkness and created some really abstract scenes.
To do this, think about your focal length and where your subject is in relation the background. Using a slightly longer focal length (around 85mm) and moving your subject away from the background will give you more separation – and bokeh… which is what really matters, of course.
Get creative with light
Your garden is a great place to experiment with the contrast between harsh light and deep shade, or dappled light filtering through nearby hedges, trees and foliage.
But watch your highlights and the brighter areas of your image to avoid overexposing the most reflective parts of your subject.
Capture (or create!) movement
Because I was shooting in the midday sun, I was able to shoot handheld with a quick-enough shutter speed to freeze any motion and keep the image sharp.
But I also experimented with a neutral-density filter and tripod, slowing my shutter speed right down and trying to capture the movement of my subject.
If the wind isn’t co-operating, put your camera on a timer and gently shake the stem of the plant right before the shutter… nobody will know!
Use the weather to your advantage
If it’s raining, freeze it in midair with a high shutter speed or slow it down just enough to capture some of the movement. Too slow, and it’ll blur out completely. Or photograph leaves and flowers covered in reflective water droplets.
In broad daylight, play with the contrast between light and shadow. And consider editing in black and white to emphasise the effect.
My result: abstract, minimal, black and white garden photography
I’m very happy with it. It feels cohesive, artistic and importantly – meaningful.
The Coronavirus pandemic has turned a lot of worlds upside down.
I felt demotivated and depressed. And until now, I didn’t see the point in picking up the camera. But it’s important that we all make the best of the situation we’re in, and summon a little bit of creativity and positivity to help us get through strange times.
Stay safe. And send me any photos you take in your garden, I’d love to see what you create.