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Bountiful Earth exhibition at the Nash Conservatory

Philip Smith
3 October 2013

On 5 October an exhibition of International Garden Photographer of the Year (IGPOTY) competition winners opens at the Nash Conservatory at Kew Gardens on the theme of 'Bountiful Earth'. IGPOTY director Philip Smith looks at the appeal of photographing fruit and vegetables.

Edible plants have always been a very popular category among IGPOTY photographers. Maybe it’s something to do with the light at a time when a lot of fruits and vegetables are at their peak – autumn light is often magical in northern latitudes – especially towards evening.

Gourd tunnel (Photo: Gary Rogers)

Those of us averse to the very early morning starts of midsummer can relax a bit – photographing around 7 or 8 o’clock in the morning will still deliver great low light that can be used to make the most ordinary scene that little bit special. Or maybe it’s something to do with the pure enjoyment of the extraordinary textures and shapes of vegetables and fruit – quite a different challenge from flowers.

Nearly black (Photo: Sylvie Pinsonneault)

In the photograph above, Sylvie has limited her view – photography is often as much about what is left out as what is left in – to create an abstract image that still communicates the character of the vegetable.

Fungi, especially, create very specific challenges for the photographer. They are often low down and often in dark and inaccessible places. And yet they can reward us with the most outlandish and exotic shapes to create some wonderful images.

Velvet shank (Photo: David Maitland)

This is a very individual shot from a very unusual angle. The photographer uses shallow depth of field to make sure the fungus is the main item of interest – but there is enough visual information to tell us about the way the fungus grows. Because the tree is out of focus, however, it doesn’t distract from the main subject.

If you do nothing else with your photography this autumn why not get out in the woods on the hunt for the weird world of the fungus – you can find out more about Fungi at Kew's Fungi pages.

And if you''re still looking for inspiration - then why not come and visit the exhibition in Kew's Nash Conservatory?

- Philip -


Visit the IGPOTY exhibition at Kew Gardens


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