If you are like me, you are still trying to navigate this landscape of new normal and what that looks like. It’s exciting to be able to get out a visit our favorite places, but there is still a measure of chaos as things change, and that can be stressful. It is more important than ever to take a breath and be calm and in the moment and enjoy where we are.
I like to seek out places of calm and quiet, places I can relax my mind to enjoy (and photograph) the world around me. One of my favorite places of calm 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.
On a recent Saturday morning, I met 3 excited photographers ready to get back out and start visiting favorite places or maybe discovering a new favorite. Yes, it was time for another Aperture Academy workshop! We started with brief introductions to get better acquainted. Then, I talked about the basic plan for the day, what we could expect to see, and what photographic challenges we might encounter.
In addition to finding plants and flowers to photograph, other challenges that photographers are often faced with are changing light and weather. As a coastal town, Santa Cruz is subject to some pretty rapid weather changes. We started out on a cool morning with high, even cloud cover, but I knew we could very soon have bright, sunny skies, so we also discussed how to account for these changing conditions as we moved through the gardens.
Then we were off to explore! The Arboretum landscape constantly changes depending on the season so it is always different and interesting to find out what's currently in bloom. 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 deer, rabbits, quail, big fat bumble bees, hummingbirds zooming overhead, and even a little green grass snake. It was the most wildlife activity I had ever witnessed at the Arboretum.
Throughout the morning, I checked with each of my students to help them fine-tune compositions, explore different camera settings, reinforce some of the concepts we were learning about, and most importantly, make sure everyone was having fun!! I challenged everyone 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 coming to a close, I answered a few more questions, encouraged everyone to stay and enjoy the day. It was a great day and I know my students had as much fun as I did.
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.