Seen at the Festival of the Tree

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

Friday, 18 September 2015

Back to School: Throwing Some Shapes

Back to School - My Garden School logo
This week's photography lesson was all about composition. I regularly run round VP Gardens with my camera to see what's of interest, so this was an enjoyable lesson and assignment. Again, it took me about 4 hours to complete.

Here's my collage of some of the pictures I rejected for assessment. Let's just say that smaller pictures hide a multitude of sins. Most of my learning on this course so far is centred around the simple art of looking (during the lesson, whilst taking the pictures and afterwards), plus the self-critique I go through during my picture selection.


 I kept the following in mind for my compositions:

  • Shapes and repeating shapes
  • Patterns
  • Mirroring
  • Vertical and diagonal lines
  • Rule of thirds
  • Abstracts 

Here are the three photos I submitted for assessment. I thought some of them could possibly fit into more than one category - do you agree?

1. Vertical and diagonal lines - Salvia 'Amistad'


Stems of Salvia 'Amistad' on a hoar frost morning


2. Shapes and repeating shapes - Eryngium mislabelledanthicus



Repeating shapes of Eryngium flowers


3. Abstract - Horse chestnut and Cameraria ohridella (aka horse chestnut leaf miner)


Horse chestnut leaf with leaf miner moth


You'll see I cheated slightly by including a photo from earlier this year when I took advantage of a hoar frost one morning. I was keen to get some feedback on the composition choices I'd made with two versions of this photograph.

Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post. Your assessment of my photographs was great and is the kind of invaluable discussion I was hoping would develop in the course's classroom. Sadly my two fellow students are rather quiet so far, so please keep your comments coming.

Coming up next: Lesson 3 - Working Indoors and Outdoors

Previously: Back to School - my introductory post, and Lesson 1 - Lighting

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.

19 comments:

  1. I find that sometimes it's good to tweak my composition once I've taken the photograph so I use quite a bit of cramping which works for me . I don't know whether this would be considered to be cheating. I can often get more than one image from one photograph by cropping in different ways.

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    1. Hi Sue, I rarely crop my photos but the horse chestnut one was in this case as there was a tiny tear in the leaf in the bottom left hand corner. I've just been discussing cropping the Salvia photo with Clive, so there might be a separate post on that to come :)

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  2. Shapes and repeating shapes - Beautiful!

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    1. Thanks Lea - have a great weekend!

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  3. I'm loving your photos, close ups show parts that usually go unnoticed.

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    1. Thanks Pauline. I'm also finding that all kinds of wildlife are creeping in unnoticed too. In the cornflower picture I showed in lesson one, there are 2 ants posing for their picture!

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  4. The three photos you've chosen are lovely, and the horse chestnut leaf miner is really unusual. I particularly like the frosty stalks as well, and in the collage the dahlia and the lupin leaf, I always like water droplets. I think what I love about the horse chestnut photo is the leaf veins dividing the sections. Beautifully photographed, I'm glad you're doing so well with the course. CJ xx

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    1. Thanks CJ - the dahlia picture almost made the cut as a rule of thirds effort, but there were quite a few dahlia pictures shown in the lesson, so I wanted to show something a bit different. If the water droplets had been more evenly distributed on the lupin leaf I would have been happier with that effort. This course I making me more picky with my photos!

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  5. Oh it's interesting to see that wretched chestnut leaf miner close up VP. How did you achieve the black background to the eryngium? It's most effective and helps the eye to concentrate on the finer details.

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    1. Hi Anna - thanks, it was a bit of luck. It was in front of a very dark part of the garden, so by blurring the background it's made the flower stand out.

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  6. Another lovely set of photos, Michelle. My eye was drawn instantly to the rudbeckia in your collage although the eryngium is stunning. And, yes, how did you get that dark background! (Is this the famous black card in action?) I'm beginning to feel that I need to go on this course now - my photos are beginning to feel very sub-standard!

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    1. See my reply to Anna, Caro. No it's not the black card we were discussing over at yours but I now know that's how I can achieve the effect consistently in the future, especially if there isn't a dark part of the garden available ;)

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  7. Great photos. I would never have thought of taking an abstract photo of a pest! Love the Eryngiums especially.

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    1. Thanks Sharon - I was messing around with a small lightbox which was fun.

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  8. I am with Lea and Caro on the Shapes and Repeating Shapes the Eryngium look stunning particularly against the darker background.

    I know how you feel about the lack of classroom discussion, when I did my veg course I did everything I could to get people engaged via the online classroom - it was what disappointed me most although I thoroughly enjoyed the course. I think as a blogger we probably find it easy to discuss via an online platform - something others on the course may not be so comfortable with.

    Looking forward to hearing all about your next lesson and homework :)

    Angela - Garden Tea Cakes and Me

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    1. Thanks Angela - I think my fellow classmates have taken up the offer to defer to the next session (as there's been quite a few technical hitches behind the scenes), so it's feeling a bit lonely in the classroom. Thank goodness for blogs and blogging buddies who don't mind having a good chinwag in the comments!

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  9. Hah! You'll get plenty of discussion here... Your final three could all be filed under vertical and diagonal lines. And repeating patterns, for that matter. I love the eryngium shot too, I suspect it would be even stronger were the star bloom off-center. Something I always find difficult to achieve and still maintain focus. Is it weird that my favourite is the 'Amistad' shot? Though I am grateful that you added that it was taken earlier in the year, that had be a little baffled!

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    1. I love the discussion these posts are having Janet, it's one of the real bonuses of blogging. No it's not weird, the 'Amistad' photo is one of my absolute favourites of all the photos I've taken this year. That's one of te reasons why I was keen to submit it for assessment in addition to it fitting the brief so well.

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  10. Looking back on Clive's comments for this assignment and yours and my liking of the Eryngium shot... Clive thought the lighting was too harsh. I've been having a look at some of his books this week and I've found he originally liked more contrasty shots, but his work has softened over the years. In my black & white print days, I used to dial the contrast up to the max, so I guess that's still my preference.

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