Monday, July 30

Capturing the Glow


When I arrive home after work every day, I park my car as close to the garage as possible. As I walk back toward the house, I am often struck by the way this corner of the front garden looks in the slanting rays of late afternoon sun. It tempts me with jewel-like colors, inviting me to rush into the house and run back outside with the camera...

But my efforts to take a picture that does this corner justice have all proved futile. Maybe these plants just don't want to look too pretty. Maybe they all know that they were placed here for their toughness so they're afraid to ruin their image. Whatever the reason, it frustrates me.

In the best of these insufficient pictures, you get a mere hint of the rich ruby embers provided by the 'Purple Knockout' salvia lyrata, a taste of the hearty amber glow of the carex buchanii, and a suggestion of the smooth silvery backdrop of sea kale leaves.

What I really want to know is this: Is my camera failing me... or do my eyes see this bed through "gardener's glasses"--similar to rose-colored glasses, but showing the whole garden in a full, lush state of what it was intended to be?

22 comments:

~~ Melissa said...

All I know is, if I was going to name one garden blogger who has an exceptional colour sense, it would be you. While I would love to see your garden in person, I have to say the photos are very enticing and the colour and texture combinations are very inspiring.

Colleen said...

Nah, I can see it too. Or maybe it's that those of us who are truly insane about this whole gardening thing all have the same ability to see what the camera is never quite able to capture. I bet I'm not the only one who read this entry and imagined what these plants must look like in all of their late afternoon, gem-like glory.

I'm loving the sea kale, btw. Every time you show a photo with sea kale in it, I think to myself, "I have GOT to plant sea kale next year!"

Robin (Bumblebee) said...

I also love the reds, greens and textures. I think we are always most critical of our own efforts. Why can't we just relax and enjoy?

--Robin (Bumbelbee)

chuck b. said...

It's really hard to capture that quality of light--I feel your pain! I never get any good pictures of my garden in that light.

You might experiment with holding the camera lower to the ground..?

That Salvia lyrata is what I'm loving.

Marie said...

I've also found that squatting to get even with the plants so the camera is lower helps. I noticed that all good shots of flowers in magazines are like this. THen the colors just gently blend in together.
I wouldn't worry about it, though, I have enough of an imagination to picture it, and I'm sure others do also.

lisa said...

I agree...I can absolutely see the glow you refer to, and I think experimenting with camera angles will help capture what you're seeking. Sometimes though, it seems that we just cannot get the camera to "see"...maybe some moments belong only in our minds. (Or, "Screw that-this camera WILL behave!" ;-)

Annie in Austin said...

We can tell your bed looks good, Kim, and if we've grown the same plants we have a better mental picture, but I also feel your frustration!

Maybe it isn't the colors as much as the dimensional quality that the camera can't give??

In my garden there are places where the plants make a great combination while keeping their individual identity - I can see it in person, but in the photos the spaces don't show - it's a flat mosaic of colors.
Sometimes that helps to make less-than-lush-plantings look full, but steals away the glow.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Blackswamp_Girl said...

As far as holding the camera low, I admit that I was crouching while taking these pictures. The problem is that my front yard slants down toward the road, and I hate showing all of the cars and houses across the street in the background... I think I need a real camera with a zoom and real lens, etc.

Melissa, thank you--especially since I often admire all of the lovely ways you use color yourself! I admit that I only show the good parts of my yard, though. :)

Colleen, good point. If we all look at them through the same gardener's glasses, I suppose you all can see what I mean. lol. (ps. I emailed you about the sea kale.)

robin... I'm working on that. I am definitely enjoying this spot, I just wish that I could be satisfied with the pictures of it.

chuck b., I have seen regular salvia lyrata, and the leaves are not nearly as purple as this striking 'Purple Knockout' cultivar. The flowers are nothing to write home about, but the stems are kind of interesting so I leave them.

marie, thank you for stopping by! Having the plants all blend together is what I would love to have happen. I'm thinking that in two or three more years they might just oblige and do that on their own. :)

lisa, LOL! Maybe I will have to see if my camera will obey my frustrated commands--I talk to lots of inanimate objects, but haven't tried to reason with my camera yet. I'll let you know how it works!

Annie, it makes perfect sense when you say it that way. I have often noticed the same thing you mentioned about how the camera flattens the whole scene and you lose some of the magic of the dimensionality of a garden. It would therefore make sense that it flattens out the color, too.

It also makes sense now that edgings and borders that are meant to be viewed from one direction (in other words, meant to show up as flat as you look at them in person) show more true to form than an island bed or some garden feature meant to be walked around. That light you just set off in my head is clicking around to illuminate other issues in the area of garden photography frustration!

Me said...

beautiful - my perennial bed just outside the back garage door gives me a similar feel of golden light - I think good grass choices make a huge difference...I love yours...

Pam/Digging said...

What if you lie on your stomach (forget the neighbors!) and try shooting a little closer and up at an angle? That quality of light you describe is so difficult to capture. I don't know how professionals pull it off so frequently. I suspect fancy cameras and, yes, Photoshopping helps, but maybe it's also just a matter of taking many, many photos at different angles and in differing light conditions. Sooner or later you'll strike gold!

Yolanda Elizabet said...

Kim I share your frustration as I cannot capture how my garden really looks on camera either, nobody can I think. ;-)

Having said that, I look at your pics of a lovely garden, read your words and then in my mind's eye I see your garden as it truly is.

Lovely post Kim!

Anthony said...

Looks amazing to me! I'd probably park closer to the bed and further away from the garage to enjoy it every evening.

Stuart said...

Yep. I agree with Colleen - it's those carex-coloured glasses we all wear, Kim.

It's a fantastically diverse little corner.

Rosemarie said...

I feel the same way; I think it looks beautiful but then I take a photo and it doesn't look the same; other times it looks even better. But then I thin the same thing about my own pictures (do i really look like that?!)

Ki said...

The slanting rays of the morning and evening sun sure does bring out the best colors and form of the plants and flowers. Backlighting or spotlighting plants, it's almost like stage lighting but better because it's ever changing.

Photographs are a mixed bag of results - some times they capture more than I see and most of the time not nearly as it appears to the eye. But what to do?

Alice said...

I have the same problems when I try to capture the light in a photo. Sometimes, especially in the Spring or Autumn, the glow through the trees is so rich, and I try so hard to capture it in a photo but it's never quite the same.

I can see that with all the different textures in your little garden that it must look lovely in early morning and evening.

Rurality said...

That kind of thing happens to me ALL THE TIME! The pictures turn out ok but... never the way I really see something. Then again sometimes the pic turns out better than real life. :)

Karen said...

Hi Kim, your camera is reading this as a dark scene and letting too much light into the camera, overexposing the shot.

If you are up to exploring the programmable settings in your camera, you could try setting the EV compensation to darken the photo. (I think it's explained fairly well here.)

You could also try "fooling" the camera by composing a scene with more sky (thus more light) and locking the exposure (this is usually done by clicking the camera button halfway). Without releasing the button, recompose the scene to include just the plants (less sky). The camera will use the exposure that it calculated for the brighter scene, which should give you richer colour in the resulting photo.

I too have been very frustrated trying to capture that glow, and the pursuit of "the perfect exposure" is a big thing with me in taking photos of my garden.

healingmagichands said...

The Glow. the elusive, challenging, frustrating glow. I frequently get the glow but then the picture is not in focus, or

You understand. Keep trying.

Matron said...

Hi there! I loved reading your blog. I note you have a garden 'assistant' - I am collecting pictures of canine gardening assistants, If you could take a picture of Coco, I will be doing a special blog listing lots of doggie gardeners. Come visit my blog for details. Thanks.

Kati said...

I think you did a pretty good job, actually, but I know very well the frustration. However, I admit to being too bored by learning the technical aspects of photography to ever capture what I want through anything other than happy accidents.

Jane M. said...

I'm late in commenting, but i can see the glow too. you might want to experiment with moving around so the plants are frontlit, sidelit, backlit, etc. 'til you know how the light acts at that time of day in that spot. i also agree with the others who mentioned bringing the camera down low. I'm always laying on my belly in my yard!

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