This will be my second year helping out with the photography for the spring native garden tour of the San Diego CNPS chapter. Last year I supplied a few of the images, but I mostly helped editing photos that others had taken, sharpening, cropping, and color-matching everything from cellphone snapshots to nearly-perfect finished photos. This year I actually had a chance to go out a couple days during peak bloom to get some source material myself, and there’ll be a few more of my photos in the mix.
9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day
In taking the photos I did a certain amount of randomly wandering around gardens, looking for pretty pictures. But in the end I tried to select for images that showed gardens as intentionally-created arrangements of collections of plants. Although native gardeners often aim to recreate slices of nature on their properties, I tried not to include too many photos of plants that could be indistinguishable from photos that could have been taken out on a hike. These are gardens, after all.
Also, I tried to get a few photos that might appeal to readers of aspirational shelter mags like Sunset, Dwell or Martha Stewart Living. (Five years ago I might have added “viewers of HGTV” to this sentence, but that network has long distanced itself from the “G” in its name. Pity.) A certain part of the public is immune to the siren call of the consumerist lifestyles highlighted in the pages of these magazines, and a large portion of the native plant community is even actively working against lifestyles that tax the earth’s resources unnecessarily. Still, good intentions are no excuse for bad design, and the gardens scheduled for the tour show had plenty of intelligent and beautiful design details that made for good photos. A garden-tour audience is broader than the core native-plant community, and many have some shelter-mag aspirations. What would be a better goal for an event than to show that you can have compelling design that treads lightly on the earth, and at the same time gives back by providing food and shelter for wildlife?
The tour will highlight work by accomplished local designers as well as homeowners, and runs the stylistic gamut from the orderly, decidedly gardenesque spaces of Greg Rubin (as in the one in the tour’s signature image above) to near-wild spaces designed by Wes Hudson. And in between those poles you’ll see lots of other approaches to garden-making.
For those of you not in San Diego County, you have almost four months to make your travel arrangements. (Really, it’s not such a stretch. Last spring I ran into a couple from Portland that had read about the event on this blog. Pretty wild!) It’s going to be another great garden tour, and I hope to see you there!
I was looking at some of the work of the six finalists who’ve been invited to submit book proposals as part of the Critical Mass photography competition. One of them, Beth Dow, has a beautiful body of work based on formal gardens, many of them landmarks like Sissinghurst or the grounds of Blenheim Palace.
Beth Dow: Standard, Little Moreton Hall, platinum palladium print, 8.5×16″ image, image copyright Beth Dow [ source ]
The images acknowledge the geometries of the gardens, and there’s no doubt that these are human-organized landscapes. My favorite images play with that geometry, not just presenting it, but using the four edges of the photograph to both contain and animate the forms before the lens.
I’d submitted some work to the competition that I did in the late 90s while I was Artist-in-Residence at Yosemite National Park. Although I wasn’t one of the book finalists I was selected as one of the “Top 50,” with the portfolio to be feature online. I’ll link to it once it’s up.