Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Photography Workshop with Saxon Holt -- Fling 2013

Early on Saturday morning of Fling weekend, a group of bloggers who had signed up when we joined the Fling hopped on a bus and were transported to the San Francisco Botanical Garden for a class with Saxon Holt, a professional photographer and gardener who blogs at Mental Seeds, and is also a contributor to Gardening Gone Wild (along with Fran Sorin and Debra Lee Baldwin). I follow all of his posts on garden photography, and have Pinned many of them to my Garden and Landscape Photography board on Pinterest. He gave us an assignment for the day, which was to tell a story with one picture. He also gave us some tips on taking a good picture, tips that focused on composition and framing, such as a reminder to fill our frame. He didn't give any mechanical camera tips, which was good, since I don't know yet how to use my fancy-pants camera as anything other than a point-and-shoot. Some day I'll take the plunge and put the darn thing on manual. I actually took a course in photography many, many years ago, before the age of digital photography, and used to own a Minolta SLR. But my memory of f-stops and such is hazy. For now, using my Nikon D3100 as a point-and-shoot suffices.

Fearless Fling leader Kelly Kilpatrick takes a photo of Saxon Holt as he talks us through how he would take a photo of the sign and the beds behind him. The big frame is set up for us to use as a framing device, and he set up the clipboard on the ground as the spot he would choose to take his photo from.

Kelly confers with Holt on some point of interest.

Holt talks us through another spot in the botanical garden, the Garden of Fragrance. There is another framing device set up (not in the shot). I liked this angle, with Holt in the foreground, and the statue of St Francis in the background. We had just followed him across the meadow from the entrance like a bunch of imprinted goslings. St. Francis is, of course, the patron saint of San Francisco.

Most of the Bloggers had dispersed to explore the garden further. A handful stayed behind and questioned Holt about picture-taking. How would he set up a shot of something like a bench in the garden?

He took his photograph and then turned the camera around for all of us to crowd around and examine it.

Eventually we all faded away and stopped pestering him. There wasn't much time left for me to wander far, so I flitted around the Garden of Fragrance like a butterfly and took some pictures, of the garden and of other bloggers taking pictures.

Helen Battersby, who blogs at Toronto Gardens, takes aim.

Helen again (on the right), and Linda Lehmusvirta, who blogs at Central Texas Gardener

Scott Weber, of Rhone Street Gardens in Portland, where the Fling will take place next year (Check out his blog, his photos are wonderful)

Janet Zargan Ledebuhr of The Queen of Seaford (on the right) eyes another blogger (Edit: Identified as Julie Thompson Adolf of Growing Days) through Holt's frame ("Get out of my shot!")

The walls in the Garden of Fragrance were aged marvels, covered in baby's tears.

I often experiment by taking the same shot with the camera held first vertically and then horizontally, to see which works better. Or I move all around the subject, taking shots from sometimes minutely different angles.



My shot of the bench Saxon Holt got a bead on with his own camera. His was so much better.

The Garden of Fragrance was designed in 1965 for the handicapped – especially the visually impaired – to be able to experience plants through smell and touch. It contains wonderfully smelly herbs and plants such as lavender, rosemary, marigold and scented Pelargonium. For a little more information about the Garden of Fragrance, click here. You can find a video of a walking tour of the Garden of Fragrance here.

Some day I'd love to go back to the San Francisco Botanical Garden to explore it further (preferably on a cloudy day, the sun was merciless). I really enjoyed the class with Holt, and appreciate him taking the time to give us some tips. He's been promising an e-book on garden photography for a while now, and you can bet I will be first in the digital line when it finally comes out. In the first paragraph of my post, there is a link to his blog and his website, but here they are again. Please check them out, website here and blog here.