The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic GardenI am always wary about the light when I travel to Los Angeles.  The classic sunny California day that Hollywood has made famous is really tough for a garden photographer.

On a clear morning, such as the day I visited the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, the sun is bright and the shadows deep within 90 minutes of sun up.  I worked at dawn in the water-wise, drought tolerant garden and by the time I wandered in to the Kallam Perennial Garden I began to think the shooting day might be done.

I saw the stone urn next to the ‘Forest Pansy’ Redbud tree and had a feeling that maybe the backlight coming though the leaves could be interesting.

The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden

This view is looking right back toward where I shot the sunny, boring photo at the top of this page.

I realized that I would need to open the aperture on the camera, essentially over-exposing the meter reading to make the leaves become red rather than purple.  The light shining through the leaves makes then somewhat iridescent, the way a stained glass window glows with light shiny through.

Once I overexposed the leaves I realized I also brightened the urn.  The dark shadow was now opened up and it became a wonderful focal point.

The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden

After I worked this this photo I wanted to move on, rushing away to see what else I might find before the light became truly unworkable.

I walked out through a hedge and turned back to see the urn perfectly framed by the hedge, with a hint of the garden beyond.

The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden

This will be a calendar shot.  Good framing, good point of view, nice light, a focal point, all the key elements every good composition needs to have. And the lesson learned is not simply to use backlight, but take advantage of every possible angle once a good photo is found.  Don’t turn your back completely from a good photo. It might get better.

Light in the Garden is its own Category in the Learning Center.  Free to Members.

Finding the Light is a lesson in the Workshop also available as its own iBook for $1.99.ibook-03 finding the light