holt_1129_109.CR2At most of my workshops I give a lecture covering the theme that the students will be working with when we get out into the garden.  I will select images that show various ways to interpret the lesson and hope the students see the successful application of the lesson.

A student at my recent workshop in Santa Barbara made a great suggestion.  He appreciated the final compositions, presented in the lecture, but said it would be helpful to see the “before” photo.  I explained I don’t take those photos, so I can’t show them. Indeed, it takes years of practice to find the photo within a larger landscape, and I find myself eliminating many photos before I ever take them.

However, I almost always work my way through a series of compositions of a scene, to get to a favorite, one I might use in a lecture.  That process of working the scene is very deliberate and perhaps the most fun part of creating a composition that gets to the heart of a garden.

In the habitat garden surrounding the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History, yellow flowering Mexican Palo Verde trees (Parkinsonia aculeata) sit atop the Living Walls.  Contrasted with the Agave americana I was sure a wonderful composition was to be had.

The opening photo was taken just after dawn as the light glowed through the leaves, but created some lens flare. I worked to a tighter composition so the light would not wash out the photo.


Then I realized I could come up close, the wall allowing me to get a ground level vantage point.  I could fill the frame with the Palo Verde and still have the Agave to help tell the story of the garden.


Final photo – to be used in a future lecture about “Composition and Balance” or “Space and Shapes“.

[Links are to the iBook lessons.  Workshop subscribers get these with Premium membership.]