Stop and smell the roses. Be present in the moment.
Those are phrases we have all heard a million times. Stop and smell the roses, take time to appreciate what you have. Be present in the moment, take a breath, notice what is around you. Both equally important, and sometimes, both equally challenging.
Most days we are challenged by social media, comparing our lives to those around us. Hurrying to work, school, kid’s functions, etc. Most of us don’t think we have time to stop and enjoy anything.
But you do, really. And when it happens, you wonder why you don’t do it more often.
I know, I’m the same way. Fortunately, I have these amazing opportunities where I am forced to stop and smell the roses. And you can have them too. Aperture Academy workshops!! All kidding aside, getting out on a workshop is a great way to take some time and enjoy what nature has to offer. One place I enjoy a lot is the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, on the campus of the University of California, Santa Cruz campus. The arboretum is a 135-acre research and teaching facility maintaining over 300 plant families, some of which are rare and threatened, from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and California. This rich diversity offers a unique opportunity for study, research, and of course, photography. Hundreds of species providing an almost infinite palette of colors, textures, and patterns. Which is why they are a perfect subject matter for photographers. Maybe not roses specifically, but plenty of offerings that are just as spectacular.
On a recent Saturday morning, I was granted such an opportunity when I met with the latest group of students for an Aperture Academy workshop. It was a small group, but that just meant I would be able to spend real quality time with them and make sure their expectations were met. One of the great things about the Arboretum, is that it can change dramatically from visit to visit. Early in the season, there might be plenty of colorful flowers, but later in the season, as it was today, it gets a bit more challenging to find subjects to photograph. You really have to take your time and look for the things that you might otherwise walk right past. Things like the tiny purple flowers blooming close to the ground, or the dew-covered spiderweb just overhead. Be present in the moment and you never know what you will see.
We started with brief introductions to get better acquainted. Then I covered a few of the basic principles of photography that we would be practicing during our workshop. I reviewed the technical aspects of the Exposure Triangle and how Aperture (Depth of Field), Shutter Speed (Motion Blur), and ISO (Noise) work together to create images. Next, I covered some of the more creative aspects of photography and compositional basics like Rule of Thirds, Leading Lines, and awareness of your backgrounds and textures.
Then we were off to explore! We started in the Australian garden with its tall Eucalyptus trees and bottle brush plants, moved through the New Zealand Garden, down into the South African garden and its alien-like Protea. We continued through the California natives section, and ended up in the Aroma garden and the Succulents with their wide variety of textured and patterned plants. All through the morning, we also encountered big fat bumble bees gathering pollen from their favorite flowers, hummingbirds zooming overhead, and cottontail rabbits munching on the lush greenery.
As we moved through the gardens, going through areas of bright sun, and cool shade, I checked in with my students, helping them adjust for changing light conditions, fine-tune compositions, explore different camera settings, reinforce some of the concepts we were learning about, and most importantly, make sure they having fun!! I challenged them to really look at the subject matter, try to see the different angles, move positions to create more interesting compositions, and appreciate the colors, textures, and the setting as a whole. It was awesome to see everyone getting up close and personal with the plants they saw. No one was afraid of getting a little dirty!!
As our time on the workshop was ending, I answered a few more questions, encouraged the students to stay and enjoy the day. Walking back to my car, with a smile on my face, I thought, "we stopped and smelled the roses, we really were present in the moment, and we had a great day!". And then, I wondered why I didn’t do that more often.
Until next time,
DeAnna and the rest of the Aperture Academy Team
P.S. If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.