The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Saturday, March 12th at Hills and Dales in LaGrange for the Lee Cathey workshop “Photography in the Garden.” Ellen McEwen and Patti Acheson hosted the monthly meeting. Horticulturist Jo Phillips welcomed the group which included a number not in the garden club itself. Door prizes were given, fruit and breakfast pastries available, and Phillips invited those to come for the elementary and middle school program called CSI in the Garden where children learn to look for clues in nature to solve insect and plant growth problems.
Noted local photographer Lee Cathey took up photography when he worked for the Georgia state archeologist while attending West Georgia University. He often photographs the gardens at Hills and Dales as it is such a beautiful garden with great light. His first tip for the class is to set shooting times when the sun is at an angle that creates interesting shadows. The noon sun coming straight down is bright and less interesting. The human eye focuses and can see depths in the garden that the camera can not see so shadows and depths are important.
Cathey recommended looking for repeated patterns, shadows and structural lines to photograph the beauty and sculptural elements of a place where, “God’s beauty meets man’s creativity.” In deciding how to capture the subject area with the camera he tries to capture form, shape, and design, and patterns working with the horizontal line of the picture. For example, capturing the grill work of an iron fence at an angle adds interest but still allows the major subject of a plant in bloom to shine.
“Use the entire frame,” was Cathey’s tip. The old Kodak adage was focus, aperture, shutter, and think, but today’s auto focused digital cameras makes anyone a photographer because you can take an unlimited numbers of photographs from which one or two shots are bound to be good. Cathey recommend good cameras brands like the Panasonic’s Lumix with its German lenses and Nikon and Canons but said it’s not so much about the cameras as when you pull the trigger or shoot.
Cathey had a number of his photographs for the group to study. A slow shutter speed allows him to let in more light and the blurred background can be used for creative effect. On a shot of a tree looking from the base upwards Cathey adjusted the shutter and kept the subject in focus, showed the details of the bark of the tree as well as the background of the picture and the upper most branches of the tree. An orchid picture shot close-up without a tripod using autofocus shows the details of the plant’s delicate parts with a blurred, fuzzy background.
Another tip he offered was to change the normal perspective of shooting a photo. He regularly carries a ten foot step ladder to Hills and Dales to capture images from an out of the ordinary angle.
Cathey’s creativity was shown in his display of photographs. His printer allows him to print as big as he wants. He may use Photoshop to make his pictures look like a painted canvas, but his display collage of photos was clearly most memorable. A series of photos was folded accordion like so that from one angle the background was one color and another from the other angle. A trip to Washington DC included unique architectural details like the capital on a column, a door handle, a statue’s hand, and small different perspective details from the trip. He created a collage for his parent’s 50th anniversary that included the steeple of the church where they were married, the podium from which his mother taught Sunday School, the sun setting over the lake where they live, the door to where his father always worked, and other important details of their lives together-clearly telling a bigger story than one snapshot can.
Those attending the workshop strolled the gardens at Hills and Dales, took pictures and got constructive tips from Cathey. Camellias, yarrow, tulips, jasmine, spring vegetables, thrift, violets, budding trees and the fresh green of spring made for stunning photo opportunities.
Cathey attributes much of any photographer’s success as being at the right place at the right time. He pointed out that no photo today is un-manipulated. Attendees at the workshop asked if there were another, cheaper app than Photoshop-the industry standard. He said GIMP has a free download but that it was harder to use and Photoshop is the best.
After the workshop members enjoyed lunch at Lemon Tree Restaurant where Mary Ellen Hill joined the group.