The history of gardens goes as far back as the beginning of the recorded human history. Actually, even before humans were thrown out of the Garden of Eden, if we are to believe in the creation theory. Gardens make our lives livable but still most cannot define them correctly. Most people believe that they recognize a garden when they see one. This is not entirely inaccurate, but the problem is that gardens can also be felt, smelled, touched, heard, and sensed with one’s eyes closed. In Creative Garden Photography, Harold Davis says that gardens figure largely in humanity’s sense of their own history. It is hard to think about gardens without recalling the travails of Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis in the Bible. Whatever else may be said about this biblical episode, the garden represents a delightful and innocent existence.
Davis says that for much of the prehistory of humanity, hunger was a constant companion. Just as the Garden of Eden represents a peaceful and verdant existence without struggle, having the ability to plant and maintain a garden is insurance against hunger, and an important bulwark against starvation. In the Roman and Greek eras, gardens became a status symbol. Moving forward through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to current times, public gardens represented a surplus of wealth and stability. For wealthy individuals gardens were one way to display status, along with many other status symbols, including in no particular order, large tail fins on cars, the height of towers in a Tuscan city, and the ostentation and display of formal dress.
From the viewpoint of the photographer, the elements that trigger going into “garden photographer mode” start with the enclosure and with the botanical element. To learn to be a good garden photographer, Davis says that one must train one’s eye to work with the natural and unnatural landscape in enclosed spaces. If you can combine this with spectacular photography of plants and flowers, then you will be well on your way to becoming an accomplished and creative garden photographer. Gardens are also defined by their national characteristics. You will find French garden distinguishable from German or English gardens and Californian gardens different from most European style gardens. You cannot use the same techniques to photograph all of them. Davis tells you how the photography techniques differ when the garden style differs.
If you are photographing French gardens, Davis says that you should remember that the design of these gardens always involves progressions set in a context of a vista with perspective. Good photography in this context involves capturing the way objects on the path of perspective recede in the distance. This usually means working with the camera on a tripod and increasing the depth of field as much as possible. Davis says that the separation of flower beds into patterns means that it should be possible to capture the specific delineation of a floral pattern into large shapes formed by flowers , colors, and beds, such as a fleur-de-lis, hearts, diamonds, or even a national flag. Davis explains part of the point of the French garden is always to impose geometry on a landscape. This means that the overall pattern can only be fully seen and described from a high vista.
Davis says that, in contrast to the Franco-Italian garden, the English garden is thought to be wild and free and to allow plants to take their natural form and shape. The reality is that classical English gardens are not wild as all that, and the freedom has its limits. In other words, the English garden is closer to a cottage garden than it is to the wilderness. About Japanese gardens, David says that the Japanese gardens have a very developed tradition involving aesthetics and philosophic ideas embedded in the Japanese culture. Generally, Japanese gardens avoid excessive ornamentation and include a focus on the natural landscape. Both plants and materials are generally intended to indicate antiquity to express the ephemerality of life, and to provide fuel for meditation on time’s unstoppable advance. California-style gardens have a very specific look and feel, where gardens are manicured under Monterey pines and run down to a craggy shoreline, occupied by financial surfers.
Creative Garden Photography teaches you whatever you need to know to become an expert garden photographer. Davis teaches you how to distinguish one garden style from the other. Then he teaches you the best techniques for different garden styles. You cannot get the best result by using the same photography techniques for all kinds of gardens. Davis teaches you the new photography techniques with tantalizing photographs. You learn the results of these techniques even before you practice them. The book is well-organized, and Davis explains the techniques in very plain language so that everyone understands. Creative Garden Photography is not just for students of photography and amateur photographers, expert photographers will also hugely benefit from it.