Capitol Hill Garden Club In Washington, D.C., Since 1952

Meeting Topic: How to Take Really Good Digital Photographs of Gardens and Flowers

  • February 12, 2013
  • 7:30 PM
  • Church of the Brethren
Featuring Karen Rexrode

At February’s garden club meeting, Karen Rexrode guided participants through the world of garden art photography. She advised us to acquire the best equipment we can afford. Essential to fine nature photography are a digital single lens reflex camera; wide angle, telephoto, zoom and macro or macro zoom lens; ultra violet and neutral density filters, and close-up diopters; tall, sturdy tripod; 77 millimeter adaptor rings to enable all lens to fit the camera; and computer software such as Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop that enable the user to organize images by searchable tags and manipulate images.

One way that Karen has documented her garden is to pick a specimen of each plant at its height of flowering or seasonal growth and place it on a scanner, lid propped open and plant surrounded by black cloth. Once scanned, she labels and manipulates the image with computer software. This artistic herbarium serves as a photographic journal of her garden.

Whether using a DSLR or a phone camera, garden photographers should apply the rule of thirds. If shooting a tree, for example, place the trunk to the right or left third of the frame and the foliage in the upper third of the frame. The image will have more interest than it would if the trunk centered and the foliage covered the top half of the frame. When composing photos, Karen advised photographers to remember the power of shapes, particularly the circle. Knowledge of color theory can be helpful in composing photographsundefined for example, complementary colors will evoke a different feel than oppositional ones. White tends to draw the eye.

To add artistic elements to her images, Karen uses infra-red filters. She sometimes takes pictures of textures, e.g. a light colored stucco wall, which she superimposes on a flower for added interest. Up to nine bracketed photos of the same image each shot at a one stop difference and superimposed can make for an interesting result. Sometimes she moves the camera, swiping or zooming as she shoots. Often the blurring causes interesting and artful results. Karen chooses flowers such as calla lillies, roses, tulips or ranunculus to suspend and freeze in a large container. She then photographs the flower while the semi-frozen water is still clear.

Karen advised participants to take lots of pictures, be ruthless in deleting the ones that do not work, and experiment, experiment, experiment. Resources:, source of filters and, sources of textures to add to photos,, and, sources of discounted products

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