CAPTURING CORNWALL: GARDENS

PUBLISHED: 17:47 05 June 2017 | UPDATED: 14:35 01 September 2017

No other county offers the range of photo ops like Cornwall. Award-winning photographer David Chapman continues his series on getting the best images. This month: gardens ...

We are fortunate in Cornwall to have a plethora of beautiful gardens. Many of them are at their best in spring when camellias, magnolias, azaleas and rhododendrons come into flower along with a range of other varieties both large and small.

Unlike the wider countryside, gardens were designed to be pleasing to the eye so features such as paths, streams and even trees were created to work well together in the environment. Gardeners go to extreme measures to get things just right. In some gardens, such as at Trebah on the Helford, flags were erected in the planning stage to help visualise how and where the various palms, shrubs and trees would appear when they were fully grown.

In many cases, these plants are now fully grown and as photographers or just visitors we can regard ourselves as privileged to be able to take advantage of this careful forward planning! That’s not to say our job as photographers is easy. No indeed! Wandering around an attractive garden with our cameras taking time out for tea and cake every now and again, can be extremely challenging.

Places to go

I love Trebah Garden and have spent a lot of time photographing there - all the photos accompanying this article were taken there. It has great views from the top and bottom of the garden as well as many vignettes. Other classic spring gardens with a multitude of photographic features include Lanhydrock, Trengwainton and Glendurgan (all National Trust).

Top tips

Whichever garden you choose try to visit as early or late in the day as you can because the light has a warmer tone.

For close-ups of flowers visit on cloudy, calm days;

Wider views of gardens tend to be better

on sunny days.

If the sun is out shoot with a wide angle and include the sky, if it is dull and cloudy try to reduce the amount of sky in the photo.

Vary your angle of view: getting down low can give a viewpoint not seen by many, though it can be difficult getting back up again!

Garden special: photography

The technical bit

By their nature gardens have a lot of contrast, particularly on sunny days. The foliage on trees and shrubs is very dark compared to the bright sky and often white paths. Our brains are clever enough to compensate for this contrast and when we look at a scene we can see detail throughout, but cameras are not that clever and they struggle to cope with such extremes of light. Fortunately camera manufacturers are getting smarter so some cameras now have image processing software built in to allow us to show more detail in the dark and light areas. This software is called High Dynamic Range (HDR). Strangely my phone will shoot HDR but my most expensive SLR will not, but increasingly it is a feature of many cameras. Check your camera’s manual and experiment with it if you can.

Be warned: HDR can produce horrible results but with practice it can be very good.

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