In the coffee table book Gardens at First Light, award-winning artist Stacy Bass takes us inside twelve gardens, capturing stunning images of these natural scenes using the natural light of daybreak. Here Stacy shares a few favorites, comments on her subjects and offers helpful tips on how to best capture the beauty of the garden through photography.
“It’s a common misconception that it is best to photograph gardens and flowers in bright sun, but actually the opposite is true. Dawn is my preferred time to shoot. There is nothing quite like being in a garden as the sun is coming up!” says Bass.
“This image is a great example of the importance of anchoring your photograph with an object, in this case the stone urn to the left.” says Bass. “The combination of that element and the branch overhead draws the eye into the frame.”
“When photographing gardens, try to make images from varying focal lengths. An image like this one, which is shot at a distance, helps give overall perspective about the landscape, especially important in the context of a magazine or book,” observes Bass.
Says Bass, “The star of this image is the glow created by the sun cresting over the flower bed. Harnessing that light helps accentuate the color and details of this garden.”
“The challenge of an image like this is one of exposure,” notes Bass. “In order to shoot properly exposed pictures when the sun is still very low, one needs to use a tripod. The tripod allows you to shoot a longer exposure without having movement from camera shake. This works wonderfully when the subject is stationary but was much tougher here. I had a shoot a lot of frames to catch one where the chickens were not blurry!”
“This is one of my favorites. I love how the rustic structure of the garden creates order and focus for the picture and that the hat and the orange flowers provide punctuation in the composition,” says Bass.
“This shot of the same garden gives more context to the overall landscape,” notes Bass. “I’d call it a mid-range focal length.”
“This image is a great example of the very fine line that exists when shooting at dawn. Only a minute or two later, this shot would have been too “hot” and significant shadows and inconsistent light would impact the image. Always look for even light as a starting point and then, if the light allows, play with it just the right amount as seen here.”
“When shooting flowers and botanics closer up, I recommend a macro lens” observes Bass. “This will let you get very close and capture fine details. Juxtaposition of colors or pattern play are two things to keep in mind when shooting at such close range.”
“Sometimes if you are at the right place at the right time, this can happen. This image is of my home garden and I can tell you, I’ve waited to see that moment again and I am still waiting….”
“This image is a great example of leading the eye into the image,” says Bass. “The pink in the foreground, combined with the shape of the stonework gently guides the eye to the pavilion in the rear.”
“This stone outcropping, called Mole Mountain by its owner, is the centerpiece of an amazing collection of conifers. The lingering mist and dew at dawn casts a peaceful and serene lens on the landscape,” says Bass.
“Images shot from this distance are not always successful as they can contain a lot of information and elements for the viewer to see. I think this one works I because it relies on the large trees at either side of the frame to encourage you to explore further and keep you on track.”
“Echinacea are always a lot of fun to photograph—great color and astounding shape make them a very photogenic subject,” says Bass.
“This image was the front-runner for the book’s cover for several reasons—photographically and emotionally. It offers wonderful symmetry, rich color, a perfect example of misty morning at first light and it draws you in to the scene and invites you to stay a while” observes Bass.
“Interestingly, this image was the runner up for the book’s cover—I was so transfixed by the shape of this tree, and the stool below it. It felt sophisticated and elegant. The even light allows you to explore all of the elements without being distracted by shadows.”
“This last image shows the perimeter of a vegetable garden,” says Bass. “I had photographed it even earlier that morning but went back again as the sun got higher in the sky, with great results. It’s important to try photographing your subject in varying light and from varying perspectives to see what works best!”
Originally: Gardens at First Light Gardens Tour