Saturday, December 23, 2017

In the Rear View Mirror -A Photo Workshop at Western Hills

 Way back in June (summer seems like such a distant memory) I attended a full day photography workshop at the iconic Western Hills Nursery -now known as Western Hills Gardens. Any visit here is a step back in time to the days when many of the exotics that we commonly grow now were rare, never seen and never sold except for here at Western Hills. I remember my first visit in the early 80's a new transplant  from Southern California. Though I had been in the nursery trade for almost 10 years , I was completely lost in a sea of plants I had never seen or heard of . I was not aware that I was visiting during a period of transition for the garden , that the subtle air of dishevelment  the lack of plant tags and the careworn infrastructure were all a sign that the resources to maintain the garden and nursery were dwindling.

 After years of uncertainty and neglect the garden found new stewards who are mindful of the historic nature of Western Hills and have worked diligently to restore it .You can read a very nice retrospective on the garden in this article from Pacific Horticulture .

 On this Sunday in June horticultural photographer Saxon Holt conducted a class for a small group of photographers. We had the opportunity to get into the garden early and  to spend a day there with our cameras.

  I had hoped for a bit of June gloom but it never seems to show up when you want it to and the day was sunny and cloudless. With Saxon as our guide we were at least able to learn a few strategies for foiling bright contrasty garden light .There were places in the garden where you just had to give up trying to photograph unless you were extremely gifted in the post-processing department.
 In spite of the light conditions Saxons workshops are always fun and informative, and most importantly plant-centric.

 You'll have to trust me when I say this plant-clad building is a classic example of redwood forest bohemian architecture , and the photo below it is the greenhouse.

I feel certain this peice of garden art was there when I visited in the 80's although the hanging may have been different.

I kept to the shade, and zooming in close can exclude the harsh sunlight.

 Still, I wanted to capture full garden views ; I used my exposure compensation but ultimately there was a lot of tweaking in Lightroom.

 Many of the images from that day were overexposed and had to be discarded, nevertheless even those had something to learn from. Bad photos can often be just as instructive as good ones.