holt_622_519.CR2Our workshop last Saturday at Quarryhill Botanical Garden was Composition and Balance.  The garden is having a contest to feature the current sculpture installation by Bruce Johnson, so naturally, I wanted to use his sculpture as part of the teaching method.

The only time the students had to work in the garden was a mid afternoon time slot when the sunny light does garden photography no favors, so I wanted to be sure we worked on shapes within a composition.  Even so, the strong light actually helped this opening photo of the sculpture “Uprising”.

The winter sun is still fairly low in the sky and gives a nice broad, side light.  Finding a point of view from the hill below, I was able to look into the sky, isolate various elements into a pleasing composition and get a wonderful blue – with the help of a polarizing filter.  The key to the photo is being able to use the shapes a silhouettes agains the broad blue background, a composition that would not be nearly as strong in soft light, where the shapes would not have been as distinct.

In this next photo, taken early in the morning before the workshop began, there is only a hint of blue sky.


This photo doesn’t need the individual shapes to do the work of creating the composition, but depends on the rule of thirds where a key element, Johnson’s sculpture “Olaz de Paz”, is in a sweet spot of the frame.  The rule of thirds is an artistic tool where any rectangle can be divided into thirds both horizontally and vertically.  Where those lines intersect creates four sweet spots within the frame, that nearly always satisfy something in our human eye for balance.

In this composition the light streaming in, with shadows directed upper right to lower left, reinforces the flow of the photo and directs the eye toward the sculpture, while the darker shadow area on the far right helps to anchor that side, keeping the eye from wandering off.

I had a harder time finding a nice composition of the sculpture “Void”.  I walked around and around looking at various angles that might encorporate other elements in the garden and tell a story of its setting.  Nothing seemed to click until I noticed the beautiful Rhododendron obtusum v. kaempferi beginning to bloom, somewhat lost in the overall garden, certainly insignificant compared to the size of the sculpture.

Before and After Slider

But once I realized its small size juxtaposed nicely with the large sculpture, a photo fell into place.

All the students at the workshop get a free copy of “Good Garden Photography“, the first ebook in the PhotoBotanic Garden Photography Workshop series, and the individual lessons are available as $1.99 mini books from iBooks or Google Play.