May 26, 2023  •  Leave a Comment


This week I'd like to take you on a quick tour of Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, one of Portland's crown jewels but a little off the usual tourist routes. Old friends are visiting this week, and the rhodies are near their peak, so off we went to walk through paradise. Even if you are not a rhodie groupie, Crystal Springs is a world apart. I am personally not a big fan of rhododendron bushes,but you have to understand that these specimens are so old and large that they are not bushes but trees, unlike the rhododendrons in your typical residential garden.

                                  FLORAL PORTRAIT IN WHITE AND PURPLE

On the photographic front, I'd like to discuss the "problem" of making new images in a place that you are very familiar with and have photographed over and over again. Of course you can take advantage of new weather conditions, but let's face it, you are probably going to visit on a nice sunny day in the Spring just like the times you have visited the garden before. Unless you're business or passion is floral portraits, at a certain point you will be hard-pressed to find something new to capture.

                                  FLORAL PORTRAIT IN PURPLE AND YELLOW

There are really only three answers to this problem. One is to deliberately experiment by not taking anything anywhere near the type of image you, or anyone else for that matter, would ordinarily capture in the garden. This might be interesting, but chances are that no one has tried this because it just doesn't work. The second choice is to admit that you are probably going to duplicate previous efforts, but to hope that something new might emerge. I recommend the third path which is to bring along the camera, but to seriously lighten up - in other words, use the camera as the excuse to have a wonderful walk with friends in a beautiful place, with no expectations at all of coming back with an image that will change even your world. These images I will show today are in that third category. As usual a little bout of post-processing goes a long way towards illustrating a nice day without threatening to make a new entry in photographic history.

                                   BUDS AND PETALS

In a place like Crystal Springs I've found that my best efforts are versions of floral portraits. I make no effort to show much context, because the blossoms are the draw. I am not a good enough garden photographer to get a useful image out of a whole plant, but I think it is fairly easy to produce a compelling image of one blossom. The key is to get closer, and then get closer still. The best lighting is in the shade; sometimes backlighting, carefully controlled, can also produce a dramatic image. The object is to ensure a great degree of separation between the blossom and the background in any way you can -  through exposure, saturation or a subtle vignette. once you do that, everything else falls into place.

                                   VEGETATIVE LINES AND PATTERNS

After you tire of taking floral portraits, you can move on to other aspects of the garden. Concentrating on vegetation, either leaves or trees, can sometimes yield interesting results, especially if you treat the garden as a landscape and try to forget that humans carefully produced the scenery. Water goes a long way to supplying another subject beyond flower studies.

                                                              AT THE EDGE OF THE LAKE

           YIN AND YANG

Black and white can be refreshing in garden imagery even if most viewers might find it perverse to leave out the color in some of the most colorful subjects we can come across. But if you include enough contrast, a garden silhouette can be a very nice change of pace in a series of color portraits.

                                                              FIR SILHOUETTES

I hope you have enjoyed this small collection of images I captured in the garden. I would encourage you to use photography as an excuse to get out of the house, even if you have very low expectations of the art you will create that day. Sometimes memories are more than enough.