Photographing Grasses: Saxon Holt guest post and giveaway

– Posted in: How-to

Long time readers of this blog may remember when Saxon Holt wrote about hardy succulents way back in 2009. In that post, he talked about the challenges of choosing photos for a gardening book that will have a national audience. Today he shares some tips about photographing ornamental grasses. It’s part of a blog tour to promote his series of photograpy eBooks. Comment at the end of this post for a chance to win a free copy of Think Like A Gardener.

Think Like A Gardener by Saxon Holt

Two commenters will get a free copy of this eBook.

So read on and then comment to enter the giveaway. Good luck!

Tips for Photographing Grasses

By Saxon Holt
It’s almost autumn and grasses are ready to be photographed. They are in full bloom by now, carrying the load of garden showstoppers from late summer into autumn, until heavy snows beat them down.

Photographing Grasses tip by Saxon Holt

Seed heads of Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ ) (back-lit) in grass garden

For this photographer, grasses are a favorite thing to photograph. They harvest the light, by revealing it. They blend into any style of garden, weaving plants together. They make me think about meadows and native landscapes.

But photographing these wispy things can be a challenge, unless you think like a gardener and show them in exactly the way you appreciate them yourself.

In the late summer garden our native switchgrass, Panicum virgatum, gets fall color, so show it. Show it as a mass of wispy color.

Photographing Grasses tip from Saxon Holt

Switch grass (Panicum virgatum) flowering with fall foliage color, Southwest grass meadow garden in autumn, Santa Fe New Mexico

Fill the frame of your camera like a canvas. Don’t waste any space.

Because they are so wispy, they can disappear against the background.

Photographing Grasses tip from Saxon Holt

Wallace fescue (Festuca valesiaca), first try.

I tried isolating this fescue against a path but it simply blended in. Ah, but if I get down to a lower point of view, it sets itself off from the dark border beyond, and the path disappears.
Photographing Grasses tip from Saxon Holt

When the photographer stoops to a lower point of view, the Wallis Fescue grass (Festuca valesiaca) is more easily viewed.

Grasses often look most dramatic when they catch the light coming through the garden, especially when you find those dark backgrounds. Use the light coming from behind, backlight, and shoot toward the sun to get the grass to glow.
Photographing Grasses tip from Saxon Holt

Backlit flower head of Miscanthus sinensis ‘Malepartus’ in Chicago Botanic Garden ©Saxon Holt

If you are not careful with backlight the sun will flare into the lens, so a lens shade can be really helpful.
Photographing Grasses tip from Saxon Holt

Backlit flower head of Miscanthus sinensis ‘Malepartus’ in Chicago Botanic Garden, evening sun

Though the mood of the sun flare can be a nice look too, don’t you think ?

It’s a great time of year for grasses, a great time to go play with your camera. Go out into the garden and play. Be thinking about what you really see.

So who wants to win a copy of Think Like A Gardener?

I was given a review copy of Think Like A Gardener, and I’m impressed.

If you want to be a garden photographer you need to think like a gardener. You are not just taking a picture of a landscape, you are photographing a garden.–Saxon Holt

Think Like A Gardener helps you to understand the difference and let it inform your photography. There are six lessons in the ninety-page book:

  • Design and Space
  • Hardscape
  • Weather, Moods, and Seasons
  • Using the Light
  • Finding a Theme
  • Photographing Garden Plants

The concepts for each lesson are thoroughly explained and generously illustrated. At the end of each lesson you are given an assignment to complete.

Two commenters will be chosen using the random number generator. You need to include a valid email address (check for typos!) because not only will winners be notified by email, but they will be sent a special code via email to enable them to download the book for free. Giveaway closes on September 22, 2015 at 11:59pm Eastern time. I’ll let you all know who won the following day.

But wait! There’s more!

We have a whole week of photo tips written just for you! Visit the other blogs on the blog tour for more how-to’s and a chance to win one of Saxon Holt’s photography ebooks from PhotoBotanic.

Here’s the schedule:

Wednesday, 9/9 Red Dirt Ramblings(Hurry! Her giveaway ends tonight!)
Thursday, 9/10 Digging(Hurry! Her giveaway ends tonight!)
Friday, 9/11 J Peterson Garden Design(Hurry! Her giveaway ends tonight!)
Monday, 9/14 North Coast Gardening
Tuesday, 9/15 Cold Climate Gardening(Right here!)
Wednesday, 9/16 Garden Rant

Saxon is also hosting an end of summer photography contest where tour visitors can put their newly found skills to work. Visit Gardening Gone Wild on September 25 to submit your photo entry.

Ginger and Monira were randomly selected to win copies of Saxon Holt’s Think Like A Gardener. Thank you to everyone who took time to comment. This giveaway is over, but there’s still time to enter the photo contest at Gardening Gone Wild.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.

~Albert Camus in Albert Camus quotations

Comments on this entry are closed.

Mary Word September 22, 2015, 2:41 pm

Transillumination was one of the earliest things I discovered and learned and loved about photography. The sun through the spring green leaves of a mesquite tree, lighting it up against a rain-blackened trunk – so lovely.

Cathy Fruhauf September 22, 2015, 11:42 am

looks like I book I would love to have – I am very amateur when comes to photographing y plants.

Maxine Clifton September 19, 2015, 6:51 pm

In my feeble photography attempts, I’ve used grasses as a background. This is about to change! Thanks

Monira Kitmitto September 19, 2015, 4:32 am

Stunning pictures. Thank you for sharing!

Tante Mali September 17, 2015, 2:35 pm

Hi Dear, I’m not coming for the giveaway, I’m coming for the pictures. Fantastic and absolutely stunning. Grasses are one of my favorite plants. So I realy love your post. Thank you for sharing and all my best from Austria

Pat Webster September 17, 2015, 8:42 am

A few days ago I was photographing grasses at the Scampston Walled Garden near York, England. Designed by Piet Oudolf, the combinations of grasses and perennials was superb.

Zara Smith September 17, 2015, 6:41 am

All the pictures are lovely!

Lori September 16, 2015, 11:50 pm

Photographing backlit grasses is one of my favorite things. I am gonna need to get a lens shade, though. But sometimes it’s kinda fun to experimenet with lens flare!

Gwen Rose September 16, 2015, 6:47 pm

Love the photo tips and will be cold climate gardening this fall.

michaele anderson September 16, 2015, 4:32 pm

I can’t wait for another couple of weeks when my swaths of pink muhly grass are in their full glory. I am going to keep Saxon’s tips in mind.

Ginger Dalde September 16, 2015, 9:51 am

Grass photos of any kind remind me of running in fields of tall wild grass as a child. I can hardly wait to add some native of Utah to my landscape!

Heather O September 16, 2015, 9:12 am

I recently listened to a podcast with Saxon Holt speaking about garden photography, and now I see these tips and this giveaway for his book! This would be wonderful resource.

Mick Martin September 16, 2015, 3:41 am

Phenomenal photography. Who’d have guessed that such spectacular photographs could be taken either in your own garden or in nearby locations?

Justine September 15, 2015, 10:40 pm

Great tips! Thanks for sharing them!!

Dianne September 15, 2015, 10:10 pm

Early morning with dew covered grasses along my paths:…a delight to photograph

Susan Krzywicki September 15, 2015, 6:56 pm

Saxon Holt is just the BEST!

I loved the lesson around the change in perspective on the Wallace fescue that gave him such a nice image.

Alana September 15, 2015, 6:42 pm

I have rarely photographed grasses – and now I know that is a mistake. I will try some experiments.

Joanna September 15, 2015, 4:16 pm

The grasses are beautiful at this time of year and I love to photograph them with the sun shining through them.

Jennie Brooks September 15, 2015, 3:54 pm

oh those beautiful plumes.

Gail September 15, 2015, 2:13 pm

Grasses are really delightful to see back lit by the sun. I am going to try your tips Saxon, especially the one about getting a lower point of view.

Katie September 15, 2015, 1:03 pm

Kathy, thank you for hosting! I was really looking forward to this tip 🙂

Saxon September 15, 2015, 12:25 pm

Hi Kathy – I’m delighted to be back at CCG. You have a long memory to reach back to the Hardy Succuents book. And I well remember you were one of my early consultants on blogging. You’re great. Thank you !

Mary September 15, 2015, 9:25 am

I am going to try to capture the beauty of the purple fountain grass I have in my garden. thanks for the tips and to leading us on a tour of garden blogs that we might not have otherwise found.

Kathy Sturr of the Violet Fern September 15, 2015, 8:18 am

I love that purple fountain grass. I will plant it each year. I love grasses in the landscape, too. My favorite native is Indian Grass – when that blooms its panicles are electric yellow. I need to move some of mine, Miscanthus and Bluestem, so they have more space to get large. Switchgrass Dallas Blues doesn’t need any help and is putting on a show. If I read this wonderful book perhaps I can take a photo that reveals its most inner beauty! I enjoyed Red Dirt’s post and am off to visit some of the others. Thank you Kathy!

Donna@Gardens Eye View September 15, 2015, 8:11 am

I adore photographing grasses especially in backlight. They are one of the most photogenic plants. And the light just dances off grasses making it such an amazing sight. Thanks for having the giveaway!

Joanne Toft September 15, 2015, 7:41 am

This looks beautiful. I love taking photos in the garden but it is so hit and miss. This looks like a great resource.

Martie Brown September 15, 2015, 6:48 am

Wonderful information. I have and love ornamental grasses. Thank you.

Marie Christensen September 15, 2015, 1:04 am

Grasses are so tantalizing at this time of year, but also SO difficult to catch with one´s lens so I really would love to win a copy of Think Like a Gardener.