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.

Comments

  1. It's so nice to look back at your summer photos! Goodness, I love that frothy, curly Grevillea flower cluster. I remember the pre-digital age, when I learned to burn in areas of photos when exposing them on paper if they had been under-exposed in contrast to other areas. I have no clue how to do that with a computer program now, and I don't really care enough to learn.

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    1. Alison, I never learned film developing-I only started taking photos in a semi-serious way in the digital age so that I could post photos on an internet gardening forum.I will say I do enjoy the editing process, but there just are some things that can't be fixed with the software I use.

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  2. What a spectacular place to practice your photography skills! I've never heard anything but the highest complements for Western Hills Nursery, which was regrettably already gone by the time I heard of it. I hope to get to Western Hills Gardens one day.

    Best wishes for a merry Christmas, Kathy!

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  3. What a wonderful place. Please let met know the next time you hear of an event there. I've missed several opportunities now through my own dilly-dallying.

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    1. I promise to keep you informed Gerhard. It would be a good combo day trip with other gardens that might be open in Sonoma County. It's really strange that there seems to be no garden conservancy presence in that county. Any one of the gardens we saw at the PHS Summit would be excellent GC candidates.

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  4. I love it all. It feels warm too. I need some lessons on photographing in sunlight. I suppose a better camera would be a help too. I think I'll muddle along though and enjoy the gardening more. I love your work even more since the days you shared with Saxon Holt.

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  5. Your photos are lovely as always... and I am jealous of your history with this place. I do hope to visit someday...

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    1. I wish I had more history with Western Hills ! I was so clueless the first time I went.

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  6. Can't imagine you taking bad photos! Hope your Christmas was merry and bright.

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    1. Ha ha, one of these days I'll do a My Bad Photos post. Happy New Year Hoov !

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  7. All those densely planted textures, dappled light -- aaagh! Makes a photographer want to pull their hair out. You got some great photos. Still get a pang when I see the distinctive green umbel flowers of mathiasella. WH is looking good, which makes my heart glad.

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    1. I want a mathiasella in the worst way .It does get big though , plus it's marginal in my zone ..not that that has ever stopped me. They let us in the garden at 8 so my best shots were before class. The garden looks a little better every time I go. I hope they can continue to support it.

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  8. Wow!!!! Great photos and what a wonderful opportunity. Gorgeous plants! what a garden! TFS

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