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International Garden Photographer blog

Find out about the International Garden Photographer of the Year competition and how you can get involved. It’s the world’s premier competition for garden, plant and flower photography and culminates each year, in an outdoor exhibition at Kew Gardens.

In this blog we will be helping you to get the best out of your photography – both at Kew Gardens, Wakehurst and other locations. We will pack it with ideas for creating your own projects, plus give you professional tips on how to improve your picture-taking.

International Garden Photographer of the Year website

Beautiful insects

By: Philip Smith - 12 Jul 2010
Garden ponds are full of inspiration for nature photographers. International Garden Photography competition judge Heather Angel shares her ten top tips for photographing insects in the garden.
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IGPOTY website

In our small garden pond we have five different species of damsel and dragonfly this year. One morning last week we spotted a southern hawker larva that had crawled up a stem and was just beginning to emerge as an adult insect. We sat and watched – fascinated - for a couple of hours with camera in place. What a photo-opportunity!

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Adult dragonfly drying its wings having emerged from the larval case by Heather Angel.

Our summer 4Seasons competition ‘Insect Beauties’ is in full swing at the moment. International Garden Photography competition judge Heather Angel, is well known for her fantastic images of wildlife from all over the world. Here are Heather’s ten top tips for photographing insects in the garden:

  • Insects are more in evidence on fine warm days.
  • Bees are easy to see and photograph in larger single flowers such as poppies, roses, mallows and hollyhocks.
  • Butterflies seek nectar, favouring simple cottage garden flowers such as lavender, teasel, scabious, the butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) and asters.
  • A pond in mid-summer is a rewarding place for damselflies and dragonflies.
  • Use the macro option on a zoom telephoto lens or, better still, a close focusing macro lens.
  • Avoid casting a shadow on the subject.
  • Don't make hurried movements when approaching insects.
  • Try to keep the background simple and uncluttered.
  • Use Shutter Priority mode (S on dial) for capturing active insects and in poor light increase the ISO to gain a faster shutter speed.
  • Use Aperture Priority mode (AV or A on dial) so the depth of field can be speedily changed (smaller lens apertures give greater depth of field).

Heather Angel is now working on an exciting book project for Kew on how floral structure relates to pollination of flowers – from all over the world.
 

- Philip Smith -

 


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The People's Choice

By: Philip Smith - 17 Jun 2010
Find out how you can vote for your favourite photograph and hear thoughts from Jacky Parker, recent winner of the Plant Portraits category.
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This is a year of innovation for International Garden Photographer of the Year and one of the new elements we have created allows anyone to be a Judge for a Day and to vote on their favourite photograph from this years Competition. ‘The People’s Choice’ is just for fun but it also enables us to showcase some of the photographs that were highly commended – rather than the finalists.

We are running ‘The People’s Choice’ through the summer – having a different category to vote on each month. We have just announced the winner of the Plant Portraits category – Jacky Parker.

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Image: Soft tones of Autumn by Jacky Parker. Nikon D200, Nikkor 105 micro VR lens

Jacky tells us: "The IGPOTY competition provides for me, a treasure trove of inspirational ideas and encouragement. My passion is for macro photography, those hidden elements of the garden not always visible to the naked eye. I like to bring out the softness of nature in my images always using a shallow depth of field to capture the beauty and simplicity of flora and fauna. I take a very casual approach to photography and always handhold the camera enabling me to move amongst shrubs and trees in my garden and be at one with nature.

I grew the Echinacea purpurea 'White Lustre’ flowers from seed and planted them amongst the Stipa tenuissima. I liked the way the delicate grasses seemed to wrap themselves around the white coneflowers gently swaying in the breeze, giving an overall softness to the composition.

This year I am enjoying the challenges of the ‘Fours Seasons’ competition bringing me out of my comfort zone to look at new aspects of garden photography.”

This month we are voting on all the images in the Garden Views category - anyone can vote if you have registered on the website at www.igpoty.com – so go on – have your say!

- Philip Smith -


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Watch the video - International Garden Photographer of the Year 2010 winners

By: Philip Smith - 21 May 2010
See some of the winning photographs from this year's competition and meet the talented people behind them.
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 International Garden Photographer of the Year

Everyone who entered the International Garden Photographer of the Year Competition this year was invited to Kew Gardens in May to meet the judges and to mingle with other photographers. Winner Marianne Majerus was presented with a cheque for £5,000. Other prizes were also awarded to category winners. 

At the event, International Garden Photographer of the Year photographers had a unique opportunity to show and discuss their work with top professional photographers, including Clive Nichols and Clive Boursnell plus Ray Spence from the Royal Photographic Society and Victoria Skeet from the National Trust Photographic Library.

- Philip Smith - 


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Hints and tips for photographing tulips

By: Philip Smith - 07 May 2010
Get tips from the experts on photographing tulips. Find out more about making the most of natural light and using the right camera accessories.
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Tulips are among my favourite subjects to photograph. I like them in all their stages. We have some of the ‘Havran’ variety in the garden for the first time this year. I have been watching them in bud – the softest of greens with a thin line of dark slowly getting bigger day by day.

They make a marvellous graphic subject. Now they are fully out there is spectacular group of dark purple and yellow blooms nodding away merrily. By contrast, our big red ‘Gudoshnik’ blooms that we planted among tall grasses in the autumn are on the wane now. Their vibrant scarlets have mostly faded to a rosy pink – a pale version of their former selves but offering a much wider range of colours and textures for the photographer to record.

Tulip ‘purissima’ by Philip Smith.105mm lens, f/5 at 1/500 sec

Picture caption: Tulip ‘purissima’ by Philip Smith.105mm lens, f/5 at 1/500 sec.

Tulips are great in all lights because their shape is so graceful, but if you can position yourself so that the sun is shining from behind them and towards the camera then the petals take on a marvellous illuminated glow. Make sure you don’t get lens flare spoiling the colour tones; use a deep lens hood. You may also need an extra bit of black card positioned over the end of the hood.

If the flower is lit from behind you can often find that the front of the flower loses detail because it is too dark. You can use a white reflector – they are a standard accessory for pros - or a piece of white card to bounce natural light back into the flower head and create a more balanced exposure.

There is a wonderful bed of China pink lily-flowered tulips near the Palm House at Kew Gardens at the moment. If you get there when the Garden opens on a sunny morning, you will capture the slanting sun illuminating the blooms.

- Philip Smith -

 

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Introducing the International Garden Photographer of the Year competition

By: Philip Smith - 15 Apr 2010
Find out about the International Garden Photographer of the Year competition and how you can get involved. It's the world’s premier competition for garden plant and flower photography.
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International Garden Photographer of the Year logo

Hello, I’m Philip Smith and I organise the International Garden Photographer of the Year exhibition which takes place annually at Kew Gardens.

About the International Garden Photographer of the Year

International Garden Photographer of the Year is the world’s premier competition for garden plant and flower photography. We want everyone who enters the competition to get something out of the experience – whether or not they win a prize.

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Image: Magnolia campbellii by Brian Haslam. Finalist International Garden Photographer of the Year Competition 3.

 

In this blog we will be helping you to get the best out of your photography – both at Kew Gardens, Wakehurst Place and other locations. We will pack it with ideas for creating your own projects, plus give you professional tips on how to improve your picture-taking.

Right now we are printing up the posters and leaflets to promote our exhibition of winners from last years competition. The exhibition opens at Kew Gardens on May 1st. It's all rather hectic!

Get inspired to take your own garden photos

The competition for next year's exhibition is still open. So there is still time to go out and find some fantastic subjects and snap the winning entry in your neighbourhood.

I live in the country and wandered down the lane early this morning to find the hedgerows dotted with wonderful wild native daffodils. And watch out everywhere for magnolias – this is going to be a great year for them. There are some fantastic specimens at Kew Gardens.

One of our exhibition finalists this year is this magnificent shot of a magnolia by Brian Haslam. Brian found just the right soft natural light – probably a bright but overcast day – to keep detail in the delicate pale shades of the leaves. If the sun is too bright then this detail would be lost as the camera – even a really expensive one - can’t adjust to contrast as efficiently as our eyes.

- Philip Smith -

 

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About Philip Smith

Philip Smith with his camera

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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