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Finding inspiration

Philip Smith
16 September 2013
Blog team: 
As the International Garden Photographer of the Year competition deadline - October 31 - approaches, Philip Smith offers a few tips about photographing autumn

We are coming into the final run-up for the seventh International Garden Photographer of the Year (IGPOTY) competition. There will be a lot of photographers still wondering which photographs to enter – and equally there will be a lot of people planning to create some new material just for the competition. As IGPOTY 2013 draws to a close, there is still plenty of time to produce that award-winning image – all we need is a bit of inspiration!

Autumn in Europe is a fantastic season for photographing plants and gardens – arguably the best. There is still an abundance of colour and texture in the garden. Seedheads add graphic and structural interest. The low autumn sun can glow with a warm richness – at any time of the day.

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Photo of a seedhead
Bound to Prosper by Diane Varner. Second Place 2008

But where to look for inspiration? Obviously, a good place to look for ideas is the International Garden Photographer of the Year website. Here you will find a feast of photography from some of the best photographers in the world – these images can really set the juices running!

Visiting gardens where you know there is good autumn colour is a good idea – Wakehurst Place looks wonderful at this time of year.

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Trees in Utah
Trees in Utah by Micha Pawlitzki. Commended 2009

Autumn colour is not just about trees - late-flowering plants like Crocosmia and Helenium provide vibrant and dramatic colours just waiting to be captured in camera!

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Photo of summer in rain
Summer in rain by Magda Wasiczek

But here are some suggestions to help you find inspiration that may not be too obvious at first:

  • have a look at historical photography - for example Karl Blossfeldt, Robert Mapplethorpe's tulips, Edward Steichen, Edward Weston's bell peppers, or Man Ray's calla lilies – all masters of the photographic arts who found flowers to be stimulating and rewarding subjects
  • don’t forget painters through the centuries – we can learn a lot about composition from the exquisite still-life arrangements of past centuries
  • go on a workshop to meet other photographers, see their work and share experiences
  • make the best of misty autumn mornings – spider webs look magical in early morning dew
  • insects are still around, but they move more slowly in the cooler temperatures – making it easier to frame up that winning shot

- Philip -


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