Winter is Camellia time at San Francisco Botanical Garden.

Camellia reticulata ‘Dolores Hope’ in San Francisco Botanical Garden

The garden is renowned for its flowering magnolias this time of year but any visitor looking for winter flowers cannot miss the Camellias either. These large flowering evergreen shrubs have their own section past the Conifer Lawn and bloom for months.

I am surprised I do not see them more often in home gardens.  I suppose they are considered old-fashioned and most of the flowers have no scent, but I find them very durable, with almost no maintenance and very little water once they are established.

I had great fun photographing the Camellias in the garden and allowed myself to experiment with some photography tricks.  There are so many, and so many large ones in the garden I confess I became a bit bored with the standard flower identification shot.

In fact, some of the shrubs were so big I couldn’t find any flower low enough to get a typical straight on view. Just for fun I stood underneath one towering shrub and shot straight up into the sky, assuming the dynamic range of the light would blow out all detail in the sky.


You don’t know what will really happened if you don’t try, and I have advised every beginning student to break all the “rules” when learning how to use the camera.  That advice applies to every photographer.

I love what happened when I opened up the shadows in post production and discovered the raw file from my camera had detail in the highlights as well.

The beautiful result was not just because I took a chance experimenting with a new technique, the fact I had plenty of time to consider the garden allowed me to conceptualize new ways of seeing.

I have increasingly advised my garden photography students to let the camera be your excuse to study a garden. Today’s tip – use your camera with intention and let it slow you down to see what you can see.

More tips in the e-book Think Like A Camera (link)

More photos in San Francisco Botanical Garden gallery.