Words Nigel Atherton

< Look for graphic shapes and patterns

Nature is filled with shapes and patterns, if you look for them, but there is a skill to making these the subject of your picture. Isolate patterns by focusing on them and excluding all else from the frame, as Sarah-Fiona Helme has done here. Telephoto lenses help emphasise pattern by flattening perspective.


Summer stripes. Kingfisher Cottage, Stonehouse, South Lanarkshire

Canon EOS 40D, 180mm macro lens, f/4.5 'I was drawn by the bright, bold colours and stripes of both the Gazania and the hoverfly. I took some shots at ground level but I wanted to show the full complement of stripes, so I decided to take the shot from directly above.'

A Public gardens

If you don't have a garden, or have an unimpressive one, why not visit one of the many public parks, botanical gardens, arboretums and National Trust properties? You're sure to find lots of great subject matter though do check on the rules regarding photography. Some places may not allow tripods, for example.


Morning walk, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Surrey, England

Olympus E-500, Olympus 14-45mm lens at 25mm setting, f/6.3

'The silhouettes of two figures are captured walking through the gardens at Kew in the misty sunshine, early one morning. The misty atmosphere, full of sunshine and beautiful autumnal colours, amazed me.'

The International Garden Photographer of the Year Award winners have been announced for 2009. Here's a selection of our favourites, with some tips and advice

Igpoty Scotland

A Look for unusual angles

Flowers are an obvious subject to focus on in the garden but most pictures are taken from above or to the side. Here, Olga Jones chose a very low angle to capture these tulips from below, creating a shot with much more impact.


Romantic tulips, Keukenhof Gardens, Lisse, Holland Nikon Coolpix 8800, ISO 50, 1/30sec at f/7.9 'Early one morning in the Keukenhof Gardens, I was attracted to the soft colours of this group of Tulipa "Shirley" which reminded me of ancient silks.'

Capture the wildlife>

Summer gardens are teeming with butterflies and creepy-crawlies, which make great subjects. You'll need a macro lens or close-up attachment to get close enough, but you don't need to fill the frame with the subject. Try stepping back a bit to include some of the environment.


Summer shower, Poland

Nikon D80, 50mm, macro ring, ISO 125, l/200sec f/5.6 'This June day started off sunny, but a summer shower caught me out while I was photographing. I managed a few shots before my "model" escaped to find a safe place.'

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Use a white background

One way to focus the viewer's attention on a single subject is to shoot it against a white background. You can do this by taking your subject into a home studio, as Liz Every did here, or take your sheet of white background into the garden and fix it behind your subject. The latter option has the advantage that you don't need to pick the plant, but make sure it's lit well and out of focus. Canon EOS 40D, 60mm macro lens, f!6.3

Igpoty Entry

A Shallow depth-of-field

Nothing focuses the viewer's eye on a precise point within a busy scene like using a wide aperture to throw everything bar your focal point into a blur. The longer the focal length of your lens, the closer you are to your subject, and the wider your aperture, the shallower your depth of field will be. So Jacky Parker's choice of a 105mm macro lens set to f/4 ticked all the boxes for this shot.

JACKY PARKER, FINALIST A splash of spring colour, Iver, Bucks Nikon 0200, Nikkor 105mm micro VR lens, f/4

'I wanted to focus on the delicate stamens of this single red Anemone de Caen flower while blurring the colourful background. I set the camera to Aperture Priority and used natural light.'

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<i Isolate details

Create a simple composition by isolating a single subject and excluding everything else from the frame. You can do this either by your choice of viewpoint or by selecting a telephoto lens, as Deborah Casso did here.


Lone lily pad, Washington Park Arboretum, Seattle Nikon D200, Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8 lens, f/5

The simplicity of the subject, the interesting colours, and the grace of the lines in the image all inspired me. I used a circular polarising filter with a modest degree of polarisation to cut down on the glare, but still leave a silvery sheen on the water.'

gives you the time to get really creative, and give free rein to your imagination. Johanna Parkin made this wine glass shape out of rosemary, dill, chervil, white and purple lavender and strawberries -the bouquet of flavours found in certain white wines.

Home studio

A home studio offers several benefits, including the ability to shoot 365 days of the year, come rain or shine, and to exercise total control over the lighting and composition. This

Single colour compositions >

Monochromatic colour images can have great impact, especially when you can bring a set of them together, as we've done here. Sometimes it can also pay to have the smallest splash of a contrasting colour, like the gulls' feet in John Penberthy's shot.


Jacaranda (top)

'I was photographing a wild White-headed pigeon in my backyard and when it flew away, this was the image in the viewfinder.'


Gulls on glasshouse roof (right), The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Surrey Panasonic FZ20, ieica lOxzoom, 1/l25secatf/4 'My seven-year-old nephew spotted these gulls and thought it was hilarious to see their bottoms. I laid the camera on its back, using the balustrade to steady it.'


Tropical Glasshouse (third from top). Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, Scotland

Canon EOS 5D, Canon 180mm Macro f/3.5 lens, ISO 200, 1/50secatf/9 'I wanted to explore the wonderful symmetries and slightly abstract nature of the capillaries in this giant Victoria Amazonica as the sun filtered through them.'


Aubergines 'Farmer's Long' with borlotto bean 'Firetongue' (bottom)

Nikon D200, 105mm macro lens, f/5.6

The strips of vibrant colour, broken up by the speckled bean, create an almost abstract image.'

Don't miss the chance to enter the International Garden Photographer of the Year summer Early Bird competition! This year's theme is 'In Full Bloom'; deadline 30 June 2009. All entries go forward automatically to the main competition - closing date for submissions is 30 November 2009. Visitwww.igpoty.com


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  • clara
    Which lens Magdalena Wasiczek uses?
    8 years ago

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