In the garden with Felder: A different way to share the garden

August 4, 2018 10:04:53 PM



A marvel of modern inventions is digital photography, which helps us pay closer attention to and share our gardens easily with others.  


Every week I get several photo-attached emails from earnest folks looking for help in identifying plants, bugs or other garden concerns. I also get lots of humorous yard art they think I'd appreciate, which I do. Mostly.  


This wasn't always possible. Until recently, taking photos other than smudged Polaroids meant sending off a cheap disposable camera or schlepping around a delicate boxy contraption and dozens of rolls of film, then waiting days before the film got developed to see if anything worthwhile was captured. Most of us hoped to get at least two or three good ones per roll -- an expensive gamble when a reshoot wasn't possible.  


Affordable, compact digital cameras changed all that; however, early photos were grainy because low-resolution cameras reproduced relatively few of the tiny dots that make up an image. The term for those dots, by the way, is pixels, from the words pix or picture. A limited number of pixels means a photo can't be enlarged without getting impossibly blurred.  


My first digital camera captured only about 1.5 megapixels per image, almost worthless for sharp quality. But now even my pocket phone camera takes crisp, 12 mega-pixel images that are so dense I have to resize them to reduce the pixels so they'll email easily or fit onto a web page.  


Truthfully, lots of confident pros use their already-in-hand phone cameras to produce high-end results. Without in-depth knowledge and skills, few people really need a standalone camera any more than I need a Ferrari while stuck on my 30-mph street!  


Over the years I've picked up tips from editors for getting the most out of my photography. Now, during hands-on workshops at libraries on garden photography and easy editing, I offer a few of their universal though not set-in-stone tips. 


To start with, frame shots by getting up close or zooming in so important stuff is prominent, not lost in a lot of background, and use a variety of vertical and sideways shots, especially the latter for landscapes and movies. Use a tree trunk, fence post, or elbows in your ribs to steady your camera.  


If you have a touchscreen camera phone, you may be able to lightly tap the display to help the camera focus better on a specific item, or to change the lighting. Play around with this a bit.  


Crucial: Keep your back to the sun or reflective surfaces or shade the lens with your hand to cut glare. Try waiting for when a cloud is overhead to reduce sharp shadows. And watch out for strange people and other unwanted background distractions.  


Punch up so-so shots into artsy ooh-and-ah treasures by playing around with your camera's editing program to crop photos and fiddle a little with contrast, shadow reduction and color.  


Finally, be kind, going for quality over quantity. Used to be bad social etiquette to drag out boxes of old prints after dinner; now it's making people squint sideways at phone folders of mostly boring shots of people, flowers, critters and landscape vistas. C'mon -- no need to show every angle of every flower. 


Enough. Main things I'm celebrating today are how simple and powerful our phones have become for getting us outdoors photographing gardens, instantly seeing which need reshooting while we're still on the scene and reviewing the others for deleting or keeping and editing. 


Used well, digital photography is a cool tool. Use yours to share your getting outside, up and close with your garden. 


Felder Rushing is a Mississippi author, columnist, and host of the "Gestalt Gardener" on MPB Think Radio. Email gardening questions to [email protected]