By Helen Battersby
You can’t always get what you want – especially if you’re a photographer in a garden packed with people. If it’s a GWA garden tour, it’s likely those people are other garden writers who want the same shots as you. But don’t fret. Defuse those photo bombs, and you might just get what you need.
Be First off the Bus – To be first in a garden, be first on the bus before it leaves the hotel. Arrive early and claim a front seat when it loads. Queuing to exit is good etiquette, so ensure you’re near the front of the line.
…Or Be Last On – When it’s time to reload, I confess I’m a straggler, taking advantage of the thinning crowds. Being a fast walker helps so I don’t get left behind. But mind your manners and don’t keep people waiting, or worse. One of my photo files is called, “Missed-the-bus garden.” Not a good idea, as I learned the hard way.
When They Zig, You Zag – Don’t go with the flow. If the crowd heads east, go west. If they’re all looking ahead, turn and look behind. Return to the main attraction after everyone has moved on.
Look Up – Sometimes you just gotta go over people’s heads. Try an establishing shot of rooftops and trees, or the leafy top of an arbor. A bee’s-eye view of flowers framed against the sky can also bee a great focus in a people-filled space.
Look Down – When people are all around, what’s interesting underfoot? Almost every photo shoot of mine has an artsy close-up of paving or groundcover that I can use in a story later. Don’t always go for the eye’s-eye view.
Focus on Details – In crowded spaces, zoom in. Go for flowers, foliage, pollinators in action, or architectural details. Open your aperture to blur backgrounds with depth of field. Close-ups add context to illustrate stories.
Focus on the People – If you can’t beat ’em, take their portraits. When you’re stacked up near a money shot like aircraft awaiting takeoff, or hiding behind hedges to stay out of someone’s way, use that time to take pictures of each other. We’re all darned good looking, right?
Use People for Scale – Capture people experiencing the garden for perspective, depth or scale. A finger on the shutter with camera set in burst mode (for continuous shooting) gives you a number of shots – in case someone blinks.
Use People to Tell Stories – You don’t always want pretty pictures of empty gardens. If there’s a story going on, why not document it? Or put someone wearing a contrasting color right in the sweet spot.
Be Patient – Line up your shot and take it. It may be all you’ll get. Then wait patiently in position for a second chance, when feet or hands or head disappear from the frame. Or keep your eyes on the prize as you move around shooting other things. Then rush in to grab your moment.
Finally, always remember if you choose a larger image size, you have pixel-space to crop out that itinerant elbow or zoom in a little closer “in post.” You can get what you need – if you try sometime.
Meet the Author
Toronto garden writer and photographer Helen Battersby blogs with her sister Sarah at Toronto Gardens.