Glorious gardens

by Marion T. Newman

We speak to the photographers behind our favourite shots from the prestigious and most recent International Garden Photographer of the Year competition

After another successful year, we celebrate the winning images from the 12th International Garden Photographer of the Year competition (IGPOTY).

IGPOTY continues to be the world’s most prestigious global competition for garden and plant photographers of all ages, amateurs and professionals alike. With over 19,000 entries from 50 countries, the results this year are truly stunning. From botanical close-ups to garden wildlife portraiture and wide floral vistas, the competition continues to push the boundaries of this spectacular genre.

Bressingham Gardens in Autumn – Richard Bloom, UK (picture above)

Beautiful Gardens – 1st Place

I took this at The Bressingham Gardens in Norfolk, a location that is local to me, so I am very familiar with it and therefore had a good idea of where I needed to be for sunrise. The image is backlit for drama and atmosphere and shot from a ladder with a wideangle lens. I wanted to capture sufficient foreground-to- background interest. Ornamental grasses are featured with swathes of aster and Rudbeckia.

Richard’s tips

  1. Be prepared. Scout the location first, work out where the sun will rise and where your best position will be, and check the weather forecast. Arrive early, before sunrise, so you have enough time to set up and wait.
  2. If shooting into the sun, it needs to be low in the sky and ideally filtered through trees.
  3. Consider an elevated position to get more of an overview of the garden.

Fireworks – Jill Welham, UK

Overall winner and Abstract Views – 1st Place

I made this image in my garden in North Yorkshire using an analogue technique called wet cyanotype. This is a variation of the Victorian method of cyanotype where blue and white images are created using light-sensitive chemicals without a camera.

The chemical reaction produces interesting fluid patterns and colours that are not normally present in a traditional cyanotype print. The resulting pieces are unique and present botanical prints in a different and painterly manner. Each piece is created with plants and flowers from my own garden and this particular image was exposed for approximately four hours in July last year when we had lovely hot sunshine.

Jill’s tips

  1. Leave your camera in the bag and try an alternative method of creating a photograph. Cyanotype is a simple and inexpensive process. All you need is watercolour paper and the necessary chemicals (or pre-treated paper can be bought), an old picture frame, some bulldog clips, leaves or flowers, and sunshine.
  2. Stay at home – you don’t need to venture to exotic locations to create interesting and unique images. Plants from your garden or flowers purchased from your local florist can all make interesting subjects. Take time to look at what is growing around you and how it changes through the seasons.
  3. Take your time: cyanotype prints require long exposures. In the height of summer when UV levels are high, a normal cyanotype takes a few minutes to expose. Wet cyanotypes need to be exposed for several hours. In winter on sunny days exposures are still possible but sometimes take several days.

Early Cold Morning – Manuela Göhner, Germany

European Garden Photography Award – 2nd Place

During one of the first cold mornings of the winter I went to the garden and found this glowing volatile moment. Light frost emphasised the illuminated tips of Echinops, Anaphalis and Pennisetum. The plants’ different textures impart the beautiful charm of this season.

Manuela’s tips

  1. Compose your picture. Fill your frame with elements that are essential to your picture and try different perspectives. Use the design of the garden and search for shapes and lines to make your composition.
  2. A tripod is necessary to compose your picture carefully and to steady the camera for long exposure in low-light situations.
  3. Garden photography is dependent on the weather. Wind, sun and rain are against you. Be patient and catch the right moment.

Stars Over Conway – Brandon Yoshizawa, USA

Breathing Spaces – Finalist

I love photographing autumn colours and I love astrophotography, so combining them is a dream shot. I came out to Conway Summit in the Eastern Sierras to capture them in a dramatic fashion.

Brandon’s tips

  1. Understand when and where the Milky Way will be visible given your location, time of year, and time of day. I use a free app called Stellarium to help me plan Milky Way alignment and then Google map/earth to help me sync it with my landscape.
  2. Follow the rule of 500 to get a baseline exposure time to avoid trailing stars due to the earth’s rotation. If the landscape is too dark, take a separate foreground shot using a longer exposure and blend them in post-processing, or use a light source to light paint your foreground during exposure.
  3. Invest in a fast lens, preferably one that opens aperture to f/2.8, and a camera body that handles high ISO noise, as you could be shooting from ISO 3200 to 6400.

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