Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Back to School: Hands, Knees and Bumps-a-daisy

My Garden School logo

I'm 10 days into my online photography masterclass with Clive Nichols and My Garden School and I've had an enjoyable time crawling around my garden in a hands, knees and bumps-a-daisy fashion, in search of photos to illustrate my learning from the first two lessons.

There's been some frustrating technical glitches in getting into the school's classroom, so much so we've been given the option to defer our class until next month, plus an offer of a 25% discount on a further class if it's taken up by the end of the year. I've decided to crack on with things for now, though I may change my mind later if it continues.

In this post I'll look at the first lesson, Lighting for Flower and Plant Photography.

Photography masterclass lighting collage

The collage above shows some of the results which didn't make it into the set I submitted for assessment.

Clive's lesson discussed the main types of light used in photography namely:
  • Soft, diffused light
  • Window light
  • Bright sunlight
  • Back lighting
  • Side lighting

We were then encouraged to explore further by taking some photographs to illustrate the different types of light available. Sunday morning provided perfect conditions, though I left window light for later as I see it'll be discussed further in a future lesson.

I then selected and submitted my 3 photos for assessment, to illustrate at least two of the different types of light. I also had to write a 50-100 word summary of each shot, to include my own critique of whether or not I thought they were successful.

I'd say the half hour lesson + taking photographs in my garden + selection for submission + write-up took me about 4 hours to complete.

I'll leave you with the three photos I submitted for you to see for yourselves without my critique or Clive's remarks. Note, I'm happy with just one of them, which one do you think it is?

1. Rambling Rector - Back lit


Rambling Rector leafs and stem backlit

2. Ivy - Side lit


Ivy side lit

3. Erigeron - Diffuse lit


Erigeron diffuse lit


Coming up next: Lesson 2 - Composition

Previously: Back to School - my introductory post

Update: Happy Mouffetard wrote a great post showing the difference front, side and back lighting can make to the same subject.

Disclosure: I'm taking the course for review purposes as a guest of My Garden School. Views are my own and there are no cookies or affiliate links associated with this series of posts.

Note the discount code shown at the top of this post is only valid until 7th October 2015.

22 comments:

  1. Wow, lovely shots, I'm glad you're enjoying the course. I'd be happy with all of those if I'd taken them, the backlit rambling rector is particularly striking. And I'm very pleased to see the last one, I can put a name to that pretty flower that I've been seeing everywhere this year now! It looks gorgeous growing out of the stone. And I love the pink flower at the bottom right of the collage, lit up so beautifully in the sun. CJ xx

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    1. Thanks CJ and I'm glad I've put a name to a plant for you. It's a fabulous for knitting plantings together as well as softening hardscaping like I'm using it for.

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  2. I like the first one first the most tooI have always considered taking a photography course but I would want to know how to use of the settings etc. the more technical side I'm not too bad on composition etc I think having to write about the photographs is to much like school for me. I spent most of my life in school and have left that behind me now.

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    1. Hi Sue, I still have nightmares about exams at the start of summer, decades later! Luckily the writing up part takes relatively little time. I'd say looking, experimenting and thinking about photographs is the central core to what this course is about. And that means lots of time spent in the garden, which is a good thing in my view :)

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  3. I think I've learnt more than I ever knew just by reading the course summary and requirements so thank you for the link. My favourite of your three photos is the ivy. I like the 3D flower heads against the soft diffused background. I do like the back-lit Rose leaf and thorn too but not as much and you seem to have captured a blob of light too which detracts from the photo I think. Gosh I'm being very critical but just by looking and thinking in these last few minutes I feel I've learnt so much. Erigeron growing out of stone is a match made in heaven in my eyes.

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    1. Hi Sarah and welcome to Veg Plotting! I'm so pleased you've found this post and the link useful. The blob of light is lens flare and shows I need to buy a lens hood for my camera. I had an even better shot compositionally of the rose, but the lens flare was so bad, it became the main subject of the photo! I have no problem with your critique - it's great that you're looking at the photos and thinking about what works and doesn't.

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  4. In the group that didn't make it, the first one is beauty! And I like the side-lit tomatoes (or maybe I just love tomatoes!). Of the three you submitted for the class, I like the first one best. At first I just noticed the leaves. Then I noticed each thorn is lit up, too! The round bit of light in the background doesn't bother me. The last one seems to me to be more of an example of combining (for lack of technical terms) hard and soft elements in a photo.
    Thanks for sharing your lessons with us
    Hope you are having a wonderful day!
    Lea

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    1. Smaller pictures hide a multitude of sins, Lea! That first photo would have been a favourite of mine too, except I can see it's not sharp enough when I look at a much larger version of it. I need to play around with my aperture settings more, and also try manual focus for these shots.

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  5. Oh that sounds a fabulous course to be taking VP and you could not really ask for a better teacher! I hope that the technical issues are soon sorted. Not quite the same but I've just signed up for a photography interest group with our local newly formed U3A which I'm looking forward to starting soon. Mmmmmm - I'm not sure which photo you were happy with so will wait to find out in due course.

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    1. I love the sound of your U3A group Anna. I must see if there's something similar locally...

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  6. I am going to guess the Ivy. Photography is a wonderful complimentary hobby to gardening.

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    1. I got into photography well before gardening, Brian. I'm pleased I can combine the two, and blogging helps with that as well as it's the perfect excuse to go into the garden and see what's happening :)

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  7. Oooh interesting! I am a sucker for backlit subjects and rather enjoy the flare effect, but the ivy photo captured the texture of the flower heads beautifully, so I am going for #2... What a lovely course to be taking, I will enjoy reading about your experience, maybe one day I'll get down to tackling something like that too, though I know it will mean getting up early all too often...

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    1. Getting up early isn't so much of a problem at the moment Janet as dawn is around half past seven. I went out into the garden at 8.30am to start taking this set of photos. I'd say September is a good time for this course - not to early a start for photographs, still plenty of interesting plant material around, even in my smallish urban garden, and a good chance of some good weather and varied lighting conditions.

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  8. I'm guessing the backlit rambling rector. For me, the background of the ivy is just a bit too busy to let the shapes shine. This is great fun. Not surprising, though, how much time it takes - I always find a fierce wind gets up the moment the camera comes out!

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    1. I thought the ivy's background was borderline distracting and it's interesting to see how its divided opinion. The strength of the background is it has lots of echoes of the shapes of the main subject. I need to experiment with aperture to soften them more to get the effect I had in my mind's eye.

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  9. Confession time - my favourite is the Erigeron. This is a picture I've been wanting to take for ages as I have a post on 'softening corners' in the garden on my To Do list. I love the composition of the Rambling Rector, but the lens flare lets it down badly - if I could have got a bokeh effect instead (those tiny bubbles of light you get in some photographs), then I think that would have worked well. Also, the thorns aren't quite in focus - if I'd got that right (as I did in the unseen photo with the even bigger lens flare), the backlighting would have added lots of drama to those thorns. I like the ivy too, for the reasons those of you who've said you like it best have outlined. However, I need to make the main subject jump out from the background more.

    Thanks so much for your comments, it's been a great discussion :)

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  10. I'm happy for further thoughts, so please keep them coming. There's no right or wrong answer and there's already a lot of variety in our opinions and preferences.

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  11. I'm rather late in catching up with this post and the comments so there's no surprise for me! However, and I know it's a cliché, but I would have voted for the Erigeron. For me, the first photo was too hazy and needed more depth of field to bring the stem as well as the leaves into focus. I agree with you about the ivy; the background detracts focus from the main subject - a shame as the side lighting on the ivy globes is excellent and gives a good 3D effect to the subject. I've enjoyed reading this post and comments - sounds like a good course that you're getting a lot out of. What a pity that discount isn't extended to your readers as well!

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    1. Hi Caro, thanks and your thoughts match mine :) There is a discount code for readers - that's what the badge is all about at the top. 15% until Oct 7th, though you might want to have a chat to me about it first (broad hint and wink)!

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  12. I would be happy with all of them although I do like the side lit Ivy. Off to catch up on your next post!

    Angela - Garden Tea Cakes and Me

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    1. I need to tot up, but I think there's a pretty even split on which photo is favourite. That's rather good to know and suggests I selected the right 3 for the assessment :)

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