"Being at the right place at the right time" with Andrew Lawson
|Andrew Lawson in the garden at Great Dixter|
Last week I spent a day at Great Dixter with Andrew Lawson, the celebrated English garden photographer. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn from a man who has captured more different gardens on film than I will ever have the chance to see and to hear a little of his story, as well as having the chance to listen to his advice on taking better photographs. Andrew knew and worked with Christopher Lloyd (who created the garden at Dixter) on numerous occasions, and had many anecdotes about both the man and his garden.
|Light shining through the trees early in the morning in Cienfuegos, Cuba|
Andrew says that "garden photography is all about being at the right place at the right time", and that a successful photograph depends on the quality of light. I'm sure that all of us who try to capture gardens as images will agree with him. There are days when it's impossible to get good photographs of gardens, however spectacular they may be, because a dull, overcast sky will bleach out any contrast, and the resulting pictures will be flat and uninteresting. And I'm certainly not sufficiently skilled to 'Photoshop' my way out of trouble!
|Rain showers give plants a whole new perspective, especially if you can catch them on camera|
Interestingly, Andrew Lawson did not start out as a photographer. He studied medicine at university and then went on to art school. He's an accomplished painter to this day. His foray into the world of garden photography began with a magazine commission when he was 40 and he hasn't looked back. He's captured hundreds of gardens on film, but is the first to admit that he never thought he could earn a living from his lenses. Now, nearly quarter of a million images later, he knows he was wrong.
|"Being in the right place at the right time" - fallen rhododendron petals in late May|
Quality of light is essential in garden photography, claims Lawson, and he is also a strong advocate of "atmosphere being determined by depth of focus". Time of day has a huge impact on the end result and he's the first to tell pupils that photographs taken at midday in the summer will not produce good pictures. First morning light and soft evening tones produce the best images. It's just a shame that so many gardens don't open till after 10.00 in the summer, because by then it's almost too late to get good photographs.
|Gardens provide subject matter throughout the year - winter colours at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Hampshire|
Andrew is a keen gardener himself and is very enthusiastic about the concept of community and "Guerilla" gardening, or as he says, projects that bring everyone together. He spends a lot of time in his own garden, which opens every year for the NGS and if you want to see it for yourself, it's open as part of the Charlbury Open Gardens group next weekend - Sunday, 29th April from 2.00 - 5.30.