Capturing Joy

The new Thompson & Morgan Special Award and the importance of emotion in garden photography

Capturing Joy
© Autumn down on the Allotments by Mark Bolton

A central pillar of the competition is about making photography as accessible as possible. Accessibility engenders engagement and engagement creates the environment needed to bring out a vast potential of creativity. And this creativity has a huge role in highlighting the wonders and importance of the natural world.

Similarly, gardening is also about accessibility, particularly as our lives become ever more sustainably viable and necessary. Just as we all have the ability to engage with nature on a creative level we also have the ability to engage with it on a horticultural level as well.

Finding new ways to celebrate this relationship is central to our mission. That’s why our new special award with Thompson & Morgan is rather important to us. It neatly joins together various strands of gardening and photography which complement each other in so many ways.

The new special award is all about the ‘Joy of Gardening’ and using the products of Thompson & Morgan as a gateway to explore our relationship with plants and gardens. If you’re a keen photographer but have never had green fingers, the special award may inspire you to plant a few seeds and discover the marvellous similarities for yourself. The expectation of planting a seed and envisioning germination has vivid parallels to pressing the shutter release and envisioning the potential of the final processed picture. The origin of that beautiful plant portrait becomes just as vital as its future capture.

We’re also looking to uncover more of those brilliantly personal gardening experiences which can pass us by without full acknowledgement. As is often the case, we are tempted to travel to beautiful gardens with expertly maintained landscapes and borders (rightly so!) but we can forget about those little moments of green success stories we’ve had at home, whether on the windowsill, veg patch or patio and how we can use photography to tell a very compelling, visual story.

This leads on to something that we want to promote as a competition and that is the recognition of positive emotion. It is sometimes the case that a photograph can be technically brilliant, but can fail to convey a real emotional message. This special award, ’The Joy of Gardening’ encourages an exploration of the emotions one feels in gardening and growing your own and how best to capture that within a photograph.

That then is the challenge of this special award - how does one go about capturing emotion? Here are some key points to bear in mind when photographing that prized specimen or garden scene:

-Attention
Focus on the part of the plant or scene, which best corresponds to how you feel about it. What do you want judges to see and why?

-Light
Use light to emphasise your choice of capture. Is it dramatic, uplifting or exciting? Don’t forget to use post-capture processing effectively to emphasise this choice through exposure, contrast and colours.

-Context
What is surrounding the subject? What is in the background? Is the angle and composition original? Does it reinforce a feeling or detract from it? Watch out for unwanted objects in the frame.

-Focus
Experiment with different apertures. Where is the point of focus and why?

-Repetition
Be self-critical and keep taking pictures until you’re happy. If you’re not, change one of the above variables and keep shooting!

And the final key similarity between gardening and photography? Both are reflexive activities which force us to instinctively take account of our own presence, our own actions, and the consequences of what we create.

It doesn’t get more emotionally relevant than that.