Philip Smith, organiser of International Garden Photographer of the Year, discusses how the weather is an integral part of good garden and plant photography.
For the last few weeks I have been photographing in my garden, inspired by the International Garden Photographer of the Year category ‘Weather eye’. If you like photographing outdoors - plants, gardens, landscapes, animals - then you’ve got to be interested in the weather. Maybe it’s the infinite variety of weather on our little island which is so fascinating. I write this on a day which started as a humid early morning with heavy grey skies, then moved on to a sweltering lunchtime in the garden under an ultramarine sky – and with a prediction of rain this evening.
Raindrops - my garden July 11
Certainly, comments on the weather are a favourite conversational gambit in this country. Where I live in rural Devon it’s a bit more than that – more like an obsession. At least three people in my small village keep meticulous records of daily rainfall – what's that about?
I’m not quite that bad, but I do enjoy the weather and how it works with what I love to photograph. I think the combination of rain and sun is my favourite. Of course, mist is always a good way to create atmosphere in a photograph – and sun through mist – now I’m salivating. I have about three sources for weather forecasts that I regularly look at to try to predict when the conditions will be right to photograph. In Britain I use the Met Office a lot.
But as my wife may tell you, my big problem is wind. I hate the wind. Anything more than about 12 kph stops me, photographically speaking, dead in my tracks.
The other evening everything looked set fair - I went out to photograph a beautiful wildflower garden with swathes of wild carrot and other native species. I got there about 7pm to find the wind had got up, and my carrot blooms were swaying about all over the place. Yes you can use a faster shutter speed to freeze the movement – but tall plants always look ‘wrong’ if they are frozen in unnatural contortions. And yes, I could slow the shutter speed and let the movement happen and get some lovely impressionistic blurs – but that’s not what I was after in this particular garden. I chose a single bloom, set up a rudimentary wind break and held my breath…
Wild Carrot (Queen Anne's lace)
The IGPOTY category ‘Weather Eye’ closes on 31 August as the third of our annual ‘4Seasons’ categories. Take a look at the forecasts and see what you can do to illustrate the relationship between the plant, garden and the sun, snow, rain and fog and yes – if you must – the wind.
- Philip Smith -
- Find out more about IGPOTY's 4Seasons category
- View IGPOTY awards day at Kew
- Better Plant and Garden Photography by Philip Smith
About Philip Smith
Philip Smith is a professional photographer specialising in gardens and plants with 15 years’ experience. His photography has featured in many magazines and books including The English Garden, The Garden (RHS) , and Gardeners’ World. His work has also featured in exhibitions at Kew Gardens and the Royal Horticultural Society at Wisley and London.
As co-founder and Managing Director of the International Garden Photographer of the Year Philip is responsible for the world’s premier competition in the field, which culminates in an annual exhibition at Kew Gardens and other venues. Philip is the author of Better Plant and Garden Photography.
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