Photographing Public Gardens

Here are a few tips on how photographers can make the most of public gardens.

19/04/2013 - 00:00

The UK is full of large gardens, parks and historic homes which have vast gardens within their grounds that give photographers the chance to shoot colourful, floral imagery throughout the year.

It doesn't matter if you're a macro fan or prefer to shoot wider, landscape scenes, these locations have something for everyone, plus they are an enjoyable day out for those who aren't so interested in taking photos, too.

Garden
Photo by David Clapp

Where To Go?

If you're looking for somewhere to visit, the National Trust have a section of their website dedicated to Gardens & Parks. The National Gardens Scheme website is also worth a look as it's packed with news on garden open days, plus they have a search feature that allows you to find gardens within specific locations.

The UK's lucky to have a vast number of public gardens which range from smaller kitchen gardens to famous gardens which have vast acres of land. Some places attract photographers because they are home to a particular species of flower or have a rather impressive display of a more common type.

Either way, photographers really are spoilt for choice which means it's quite easy to produce a portfolio of varied flower shots.

When To Visit?

As we mentioned in the intro, there's something worth capturing all year round in different gardens around the UK, you just need to do your research so you know where to head and when.

At the start of the year many sites open their doors for the Snowdrop season with carpets of small white flowers decorating flowerbeds and woodland areas. Crocuses follow in February / March and Daffodils are just starting to show their heads now. Later in the month and into May Bluebells take centre-stage before Tulips and Roses begin to decorate gardens. During Autumn, it's more about berries and conkers but as the trees will be decorated in golden, warm shades, gardens and parks are most definitely worth a visit. When the crisp winter weather returns there are still plenty of gardens open to the public and the touch of frost the cooler nights bring will add an extra level of interest to your winter shots. Don't forget topiary can be captured all year round and there also decorative pieces such as fountains and statues that are worth turning your attention to.

What To Photograph

There are two ways for you to photograph this subject, the first is to focus on the wider garden shot, capturing everything in one frame. The second, is to look at individual flowers and capture close-ups of them.

With wider shots, it's still important to have some foreground interest so your frame doesn't look empty, plus it can help lead the eye through the frame. You'll need to use a small aperture (f /16 or higher) to maximise your depth of field and use a tripod to minimise shake as you could end up using slow shutter speeds. If you don't want to use manual options, switch your camera to its landscape mode as this will let it know that you want plenty of your shot to be in focus.

Public gardens, particularly in summer, can get busy but there will be opportunities to shoot people-free scenes, you just have to be patient and work quickly when your opportunity does emerge. You could also time your visit for when the garden first opens or towards the end of the day as there tends to be less visitors at this time, plus you'll get the opportunity to shoot in the 'golden hours' too when the light tends to be better.

If you're a DSLR user and have one of the Pentax macro lenses in your collection public gardens are a great opportunity to shoot some frame-filling close-up work of flower heads. If you don't own a macro lens but do have a zoom lens you should still be able to get close enough to larger flower heads to produce interesting shots. The Pentax range of compact cameras also features a macro mode, which will get users within a close focusing distance. Again, use a small aperture as depth of field will be limited.

Try and find a specimen that has distinctive features or you just like the look of that doesn't have anything in the background or foreground and shoot a shot that's completely isolated. You can also focus on just the head, cutting out the stem, or try and use a selection of flowers that sit closer to the lens to create an out of focus frame for one or two flowers in the middle of a flowerbed. If you find the back of your shots look a little empty try using a second flower to fill the space. You don't want this flower to pull attention away from your main subject, though, so you'll need to adjust your aperture to add blur to the second flower.

Windy And Sunny Days

The Slightest of breezes can cause problems for flower photographers as it can cause your shots to appear blurry. To help combat this, always use a tripod and use your camera's self-timer if you don't own a remote release to fire the shutter so you're not touching the camera when the exposure begins. Taking something along to shield the plant is a good idea, although you don't want the item to be colourful as this can create a colour cast in your shot. A reflector works well as a shield, plus it can be used to bounce light into areas of shade, too. You could try using a quicker shutter speed but to do this you may need to increase your ISO. This is fine on most DSLRs but noise can begin to creep in at higher ISO levels when working with some compacts. If you do increase the ISO, stick to ISO200 or ISO400.

You may enjoy sunny days but they can cause too many exposure problems for photographers so a slightly overcast, bright day is the best option for shooting in. The clouds act like a giant softbox, diffusing the light and making it more even.

Do you have shots taken in a public garden? If you do, why not share them in your Pentax user portfolio?



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Link Posted 05/06/2018 - 15:45
Wow, that is really nice article, thanks a lot for submitting this information/ I think, it will help many photographers on their work. But, as I see, there are only UK parks, yes? Or am I mistaken? It will be really interesting to know where in the USA or Canada there are such parks or places for photo. That is really important, as for beginners that is pretty hard to find great place for photography and create their portfolio in the right way. I remember that time, when I was making my first photos and it was so hard to get the coolest shot. I was looking in every corner of my native town , asked other photographers, even my freinds from and finally I had my first portfolio) So, I know how hard it is, maybe, any of you can suggest such places. Thanks again for this incredible article.

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