There is no argument that flowers and plants are an integral part of our everyday lives. We send flowers to mark special occasions, plants decorate our homes and offices, and both add brightness and color to the spaces we live in. But, have you ever really looked at those flowers? There are literally thousands of species providing an almost infinite palette of colors, textures, and patterns. Which is why they are a perfect subject matter for photographers.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, we are lucky to have a wide variety of plants and flowers to photograph. One of the best places to see this incredible variety is at the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, located right near the coast in Santa Cruz, Ca. . 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.
On a recent Saturday morning, I met 7 excited photographers to explore what the Arboretum had to offer. 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.
As a coastal town, Santa Cruz is subject to some pretty rapid weather changes. We started our morning off 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 hummingbirds zooming around their favorite flowers, and cottontail rabbits munching on the lush greenery.
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!
Time really does fly when you're having fun, and it was soon approaching the end of our time. We picked a spot to set up for our final group photo, which is always fun! I answered a few final questions, gave a few more bits of information and encouraged everyone to continue practicing what they had learned today. Then I said my final farewells, and closed the book on another very successful Aperture Academy Workshop!
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.