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Finding inspiration

Philip Smith
16 September 2013

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.

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.

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!

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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