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Photographing an Old Friend

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Each year at my mom’s house we have a bit of a tradition: photographing the pink lotus. Because lotus blooms don’t tend to last very long, we have a limited window with each bloom that comes up. It’s a pale pink flower that contrasts strongly with the dark rocks and ivy that back it in her pond, making it a particularly photogenic specimen. I’m not going to say that things can get ugly in the limited time we have to photograph these blooms, but some mocking emails have certainly been received by family photographers who happened to be out of town during the best part of the show.

lotusA lot of gardeners tend to get a bit bored with perennials. This is worse among garden photographers. How many pictures, after all, can you possibly need of the same Lantana, year after year? I know that I have certainly fallen into this trap. Lilies are the hardest for me to control myself with. I constantly want to pull up some of the existing, long-loved water lilies to make room for new colors, new forms, new pads. Or, arguably worse, I find that temptation to think in the off-season oh come on, just one more plant won’t possibly overcrowd this space, will it? There are, though, a few reasons why these old friends of the garden are more of a photography opportunity than you might think.

I am not, by my nature, a photography gear nut. Or, at least, I work very, very hard to resist that urge (although I swear that that f1.4 50mm lens actually knows my name and whispers it to me across the internet when I’m vulnerable). However, it is almost inevitable that there be some new gear in my bag from spring to spring. I relish the chance to photograph the same subject to see how my updated arsenal takes it on. Even more pronounced each year is the change in technical skills. Photographing perennials year after year allows for a fantastic chance to evaluate how you’ve changed (and hopefully improved) as a photographer.

lotusSpeaking of improving as a photographer, photographing the same plant year after year can actually help you to do so. Many photography classes and instructors have their students repeatedly photograph the same subject throughout the course. Limiting the content of the subject forces the student (and we are all students) to photograph more creatively. Given very similar blooms in very similar setting year after year, you’ll find yourself experimenting more with framing, lighting, settings, and post-processing. I find that every year I try new angles and approaches to this same pink lotus, and that gives a jolt to my creativity, not just in garden photography, but in both my photography as a whole and, a bit unexpectedly, in my gardening.

I’ve put a quick, small set of photos from this year’s Lotus bloom up on our Flickr so that you can see a little bit of what I’m talking about here, how being forced to experiment has led to some shots that are much more interesting (I think, anyway) than just capturing the bloom. You can check out the set here, and check out our free garden wallpapers to download desktop wallpapers made from some of these images.


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