I had a play day today at Cornerstone Gardens in Sonoma.

Sunset Demonstration garden - Cornerstone Gardens, Sonoma
Sunset Demonstration garden – Cornerstone Gardens, Sonoma

But the light was bright and sunny, and even though I was only there as a scouting trip in the middle of the day, I still wanted to take pictures and find a way to play with the light.

The first thing I learned as a garden photographer was to avoid bright midday light. Gardens look their best when the light is soft without hotspots and dark shadows.

So when the light is bright sunshine like today, the photographer has to use that and not wish for something he cannot have. Strong light is great for architecture, shadows, and strong colors so that is what I had to work with.

The iconic huge Adirondack chair that is at the entrance to Cornerstone Gardens is currently painted bright orange, a color that benefits from bright light.

Orange Adirondack chair with pumpkins as entry display to Cornerstone Gardens, Sonoma
Orange Adirondack chair with pumpkins as entry display to Cornerstone Gardens, Sonoma

Orange pumpkins on orange chair with the clear blue sky? Just plain fun.

Sunset Magazine has moved its demonstration gardens to Cornerstone which was the main reason I went to look around today. Don’t you just love the Muhly grass, Muhlenbergia reverchonii, in full autumn glory ? The strong light can make it can glow.

Pathway with Muhly Grass - Sunset Demonstration garden - Cornerstone Gardens, Sonoma
Pathway with Purple Muhly – Sunset Demonstration garden – Cornerstone Gardens, Sonoma

The gardens are beautifully designed by Homestead Design Collective and use these wonderful circular trellis from Terra Trellis.  The trellis had just been cut back replanted with fave beans, but that made them stand out as architectural sculptures.

Knowing that I wanted the shadow patterns to stand out, taking advantage of the strong light, I actually added contrast in my post-production which had the great advantage of intensifying the gold color of the decomposed granite.

Before and After Slider

And then I do admit that I played around a bit more with the image, adding a bit of a glow to help soften the increased contrast.

Tough light can certainly be a challenge, but isn’t that just an excuse to look a little harder or rethink what it is we want to see ?

And being In a playful mood, I used some more filters on another display garden at Cornerstone, designed by Planet Horticulture, Roger Raiche and David McCrory.

Garden installation 'Rise' by Planet Horticultureat Cornerstone Gardens, Sonoma
Garden installation ‘Rise’ by Planet Horticulture, Cornerstone Gardens, Sonoma

The installation is  entitled Rise: a “fantasy landscape of transition and change stirs a range of emotional response. These spaces open and close . . . (with) the capacity to refresh and renew the soul.”

It sure renewed my willingness to play, maybe just because I knew the light was a challenge.

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