A Contemporary Garden Photo-shoot.

Read how our photographer Laura Burt approached this project & her analysis of her three favourite shots.

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Image 1


There is always a bit of a thrill and tension when I set off to photograph one of Angus’ gardens. Will the light be right will the grass be cut, crisp and clean and the plants be at their best and will I do the design justice. The Old Barn didn’t disappoint. It is certainly thrilling, but also beautiful calm and strong. The name Old Barn belies what lies within the rural setting of Oxfordshire and I have selected three images from the Old Barn series to highlight why I photographed them in a particular way. They aren’t necessarily my favorite images but they show different approaches and moods. Lighting was key and I did a visit at sunset to give warm tones and softer hues using a smaller aperture when I could to give a good depth of field. Beautiful as it was I couldn’t help myself but go back the next morning to experience the dawn light. 

The first image is a 6am dawn shot of the mist, pool and the deck. Although it shows less of the garden and planting than the images that Angus chose and is quite low key and serene I have chosen it because it demonstrates some of the elements that inspire me when I am behind the lens. The newly cut intensely green lawn is in the foreground. The image is then divided in two by the clean mellow stone and grey wooden sliding deck. In the middle ground is the point of the swimming pool with drifting mist and the wild Red Orach (Atriplex hortensis) meadow and neat hedge before the lake sky and tree line as the background. The composition interested me as a structure dividing the image into thirds, on the horizontal plane but also it mirrors the design with the manmade textures and materials in the foreground. Beyond that and in contrast is the manmade meadow and swimming pool. The meadow is wilder and freer and further beyond that is the natural landscape. I wanted to photograph the dialogue between these three elements. This is what I am drawn to visually and find exciting when I am looking through the lens. The final ingredient is the time of day so the shooting at dawn gives the landscape a private peaceful quality as yet undisturbed by man. This for me, the fourth dimension of the landscape, is what I am trying to capture.  


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Image 2


For the second image I have chosen an entirely different viewpoint. My camera is the same, a Nikon D700 and the lens that I use most is an AF Nikkor 28 -300mm. With this shot the evening light suggests conviviality. The colours are vibrant with depth and warmth. The yew ball with a warm halo and clean lines of the hedge are a deliberate contrast to the meadow and the path and warm stone patio. The planting with the intense purple is the foreground with a diagonal of grass drawing the eye into the shot where the yew ball sits center stage. At the rear the hedge provides the backdrop to the scene. The seating and lighting in the shot appear to be waiting for the evenings of fun to begin so that garden becomes a place of social activity, inviting and energetic. When I take a photograph like this I am thinking how do I frame this moment in time, what am I trying to convey, would I like to go and sit there and drink a glass of wine and unwind or chat. The image is supposed to take you on a journey and possible narrative. The shot was 1/50th sec at F16 and the focal length was 68mm and the ISO was 900.


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Image 3


The last image is with a sunburst of evening light looking from the wild annual meadow back towards the house across the deck. I was trying to capture the chaos of the tumbling meadow with the lush greens and last dots of colour in contrast with the shining deck, modern loungers and sleek glass of the house beyond. The formal yew and pot and the repeated planting blocks of colour near the house the echo the meadow’s yellow and pinky hues and the outlined hedge. The sunburst adds drama through the center of the picture and freezes a moment in time for that particular day but also for the plants themselves. The thistle on the right has gone to seed and the meadow is having its last hurrah. Trying to capture the ephemeral moment is something that I am drawn to. I took this photograph towards the end of the evening so I was using tripod positioned low and a shutter speed of 1/60th sec at F16 and the focal point of the lens was 28mm. I wanted a good depth of field and needed the tripod because the sun was about to disappear behind the house. The ISO was 1400. I like the image with its soft hues and tactile qualities.

In each garden image the key elements that I look to achieve is an interesting composition, emotive lighting and a visual dialogue.   I would love to return in winter on a frosty day and tell another story.