First Light: Garden Photography Lessons from Stacy Bass

I am so excited to introduce you to Stacy Bass.  Stacy’s garden photography is inspiring, emotional and beautiful….all the things you could ever want from a picture that captures the hard won rewards of gardening and design.   Serendipity recently stepped in when Stacy and I re-connected about a month ago.  I have been pondering the idea of inviting a few interesting people to participate in studio ‘g’ with some regular columns.  I have a number of ideas that I am still working on but one was to invite a great garden photographer to share some secrets and helpful hints for capturing beautiful garden images. Almost oddly — the stars aligned and Stacy (who is a great garden photographer) and I reconnected and she asked me if I had ever considered such as thing….and she was interested…and well, I guess some things are meant to be.

I admire Stacy’s work and I am as excited as anyone to read her posts and learn a few things. So, happily, I am now turning over a new series, called First Light, to Stacy:

moss chairs by stacy bass garden photography

I am really pleased at Rochelle’s invitation to speak to you on her blog which, as we all now know, is not only award winning but warm and wonderfully presented– just the right mix and tone to keep you coming back for more!

Though I cannot promise to be as adept as all things Studio G, I wanted to share some insights about garden photography that might be of interest to anyone who has been motivated to try to photograph nature, gardens or something beautiful growing right outside your door. And with sometimes frustrating results.
I have been working, quite feverishly, for about 5 years now photographing gardens and botanica for magazines, landscape architects and designers and . .. garden lovers and fans. I have been fortunate to have established quite a following and very consistent and sought after work, which is very gratifying. So, I thought it might be interesting to try to impart some wisdom or even just a little inspiration in a regular column here at Studio G.

So, first off…let’s talk about light.

Light, as we all know, is the core of photography. It is so important but also, in some ways, so obvious, that it is taken for granted or overlooked. A common misconception about taking pictures is that the brighter the sun and the “prettier” the day, the better the pictures will be. In my mind. . nothing could be further from reality.
how to take garden photography hillside fog garden image by stacy bass

I like to tell a story about a shoot that I had very early in my career. It’s amusing but also instructive too. I’m not sure it will translate to the written word as I usually deliver it aloud to an audience (or a friend. .or a fellow photographer just starting out). I was given an assignment to photograph a garden in a beautiful neighborhood in Connecticut for a regional home & garden magazine. This assignment, unlike some others, had very strict time constraints and no scheduled rain date or back up plan. I got up, as I typically do, well before dawn to find the rain pouring down, relentless. Anxious to accomplish the assignment in the time frame allowed, I drove over to the property hoping that the rain would let up. Nothing. I sat in the driveway and waited. And after about 30 minutes, I started to cry. It just came over me. A combination of dread and panic. How could I possibly get this done? My equipment would be ruined. The images would be grey and dreary and I might never get hired again. It was one of those moments I will never forget.

And then. . .I decided I had no choice. I had to try. I got out of the car; figured out a ridiculous but functional way to balance an umbrella on my head as I carried my gear into the landscape and I just started shooting. Soon, I forgot about the rain. It slowed a bit, turned to a light mist and, I continued shooting.

When I went back to my studio to look at my images, I couldn’t help but smile. And then I laughed. The pictures were breathtaking. Peaceful and poignant. Serene and spectacular. The mist had created an almost invisible aura over the property which was not as apparent to the eye but nothing short of magical on film. The colors were intense and saturated. The light was beautiful.
how to take great garden photos hillside fog garden image by stacy bass rose path

I am fortunate to have had that experience early in my work. A “blessing of the skinned knee” where something that seemed destined to failure actually turned out quite the opposite. To this day, I have lost all fear of weather. Rain or fog or mist don’t bother me; I even find myself secretly hoping for that kind of day again.
There is nothing quite so calming to me as light that is consistent and even. Though a bright sunny day is wonderful to enjoy, you won’t find me with my camera in a garden. The shadows are harsh. The colors shift and change. No matter how dark it may seem, take a chance. With proper exposure and a sturdy tripod, the light is a trusted friend. Perhaps you will have to experience this for yourself but, if you allow yourself to take this advice, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Stacy

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rochelle greayer

Hi, I'm Rochelle and for 18 years I have worked as a landscape designer, author/writer, and design teacher. I've designed residential and hospitality (for hotels, restaurants, and spas) gardens across the USA and in the UK, Europe and the Middle East. After many years of teaching garden design topics in person, I launched the PITH + VIGOR Boot Camp series in early 2018. Through my blog, social media, and online courses (Garden Design Bootcamp and Planting Design Boot Camp) I aim to help homeowners learn how to confidently design and create home gardens that reflect their own personal and unique style.

3 Comments

  1. private on June 17, 2010 at 6:31 am

    gorgeous shots, of course. I seldom take pictures of my garden – the camera is buried under the Christmas cards I haven’t finished. But I must think of compositions framed by windows, through dawn and evening light, as we plan the addition. Truth is, I’m often away or busy in the high noon hours. Walking the dogs happens in the lower light too.

  2. Pam/Digging on June 17, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Stacy. What a great story.

  3. landdesignmn on July 22, 2010 at 6:56 am

    As a landscape design related blog, it is beautiful. Using garden images looks like heaven. Many many thanks for sharing.

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