Monday, August 5, 2013

Other People's Gardens

Apparently I don't look it, but I'm shy.  And big parties can make me especially nervous. So when we were invited to a barbeque where I'd only know two people, I figured having a prop might be a good idea. When people noticed I was hauling (OK, it's not THAT big, but definitely more noticeable than any P & S or iPhone) my Canon 60D, they'd say, "Oh, you've got your camera." And with a smile I'd reply, "Yes I do." Then I'd quickly put it up to my eye and shoot something, anything, and thus I would seem both friendly and occupied. A winning combination. Much better than the Scotch neat I used to carry years ago to get me through a house-full of relative strangers (or strange relatives--but that's a whole different story). And, in my experience, one's hosts appreciate the attention one is paying to their gardening efforts far more than they would the chattering of a formerly quiet but now alarmingly outgoing guest.

However, it turns out there are more advantages than just giving a tongue-tied person something socially acceptable to do. As I've said too many times here before, I'm lousy at landscapes. Yet it appears that when I'm driven to take a wider view of an unfamiliar place, and when that wider view is as beautiful as the one in this particular garden, I'm not as bad as I'd thought.

This is one of those places where you drive several miles along a gently winding road so thickly lined with tall trees that you can't see the properties that might or might not lie just behind them. There are glimpses of the mountains further away, but that's about it. However, once you take the turn off the road and drive the long gravel path to the house, the sky opens up, and you're somewhere else entirely. A beautiful somewhere else.

And while there is a difference between shooting your own flower beds (over and over again) and shooting in an unfamiliar space, there is a special joy in photographing a private garden.  Most public grounds have views so consciously created and so identified with the place itself  that they're practically labeled "photograph this from here, no, two inches to your right." This is known as "the postcard shot" for its guaranteed, generic beauty at almost any time of year. Nice, but one feels compelled rather than inspired to take the shot. 

Private gardens have views too, but usually they've been designed by the people who live there every day, who walk the grounds at all hours, and have no board of directors to please.  There is no one, special place to stand, so the views are, in a sense, created each time by the viewer.



I am still a macro photographer at heart, and, even with my walk-around lens, flowers and butterflies on a lovely summer's day are almost impossible to overlook.  And, of course, there's the added bonus that a crouching person who's holding her breath as well as a heavy camera is best left alone.

Other people's gardens can inspire the photographer as well as the gardener. And though I'm not at my best photographing people, my lovely friend, Louise, seemed so much a part of the experience of this beautiful view, that I had no trouble taking the shot.