Monday, March 28, 2011

Lee Cathey "Photography in the Garden" at Hills and Dales

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.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Southeastern Flower Show-February 2011

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Friday, February 25, 2011 and traveled to Cobb Galleria in Atlanta for the Southeastern Flower Show sponsored by the Southeastern Horticultural Society. It was “Garden Club Day” at the show, and the ladies were delighted to be given bags filled with coupons, subscriptions, magazines, seed packets and more.
The show’s theme was “In Tune with Blooms,” and the music theme was evident not only in the arrangements but with live performances by instrumentalists and vocalists during the show. There were five judged divisions in the show: Artistic Floral Design, Garden Design, Discovery, Horticulture and Photography. The photography, as in years past, was excellent.  The horticultural entries fewer in number than in years before but always interesting to see what is blooming in other people’s yards.
The designer showcase was new this year and was beautifully carried out with entries like “Moulin Rouge” featuring rich deep purple/violet in all its drapery, upholstery, tablecloths, and flowers. An Italian Renaissance Wedding, Sax in the City, I Love Paris, Georgia on my Mind, Rock Lobster by the B-52s, and Yesterday by the Beatles were other splendid creations by event designers. The club’s favorite was a romantic and elegant table setting featuring pristine white damask linens, sparkling crystal, gleaming silver and silver vases filled with white and blush roses.
Members always enjoy walking through the landscaped gardens that followed the music theme with “Moonlight Sonata,” ‘Round Midnight,” “Midsummer Night’s Dream” that feature forced bulbs, shrubs, and blooming trees, pebble or stone walkways, the latest outdoor furniture and fireplace and grill scenarios, and water features.
Always popular are the discovery gardens featuring perennials, inspiring designs in vegetable gardening, container gardens with themes like “Laissez Les bon Temps Rouler” and The Secret Life of Trees.
The marketplace vendors featured everything from needlepoint shoes and designer clothing with music or gardening themes to water hoses, nozzles and gardening tools to olive oils for dipping. Gutter salespeople were juxtaposed with artists, homemade soap vendors, and outdoor lighting specialists.  Club members enjoyed the shopping. The garden bookstore and raffle tables also inspired the imagination.
Undoubtedly one of the most popular aspects of the show was the speakers.  Twenty nine guest speakers were slated for the three day event and garden clubbers enjoyed three especially popular ones on Friday: Vince Dooley, Walter Reeves, and P. Allen Smith.
UGA Coach Vince Dooley, Honorary Chairman of the event, delivered a delightful talk to the standing room only crowd.  His adventure with gardening had the best of roots as he took advantage of being in a university town and sat in on many horticulture classes, took notes, and then told the students “Good luck” when it was exam time. The classes paid off as proved to be adept with botanical names and never faltered with varieties and species of plants, their planting and care. Over the last few years he has transformed his garden, hosted garden tours, traveled around the world to visit gardens, and is the author of a book about his gardening experiences. He has truly been bitten by the gardening bug.
Ever popular Walter Reeves spoke on Cool Tools and Funky Fertilizers.  The tools he displayed are ones he is given but often are not distributed nor sold through the large gardening chains.  His website,, features the new tricks of the trade: better mousetraps that don’t snap the finger of the human installing them; several weeding tools, cobra heads or leveraged designed items for digging up dandelions; water weeders made for wild onions; pine cone picker uppers and devices for voles.  Moles, Reeves pointed out, do not disturb plant life and recommended simply stomping down their tunnels, but voles are critters that ruin plants and he showed how to catch them. New plant cameras made for watching the sequential growing, blooming, and blossoming life of plants in the garden were a new item for the devoted gardener.
Reeves held lengthy questions and answer moments that targeted the problems we face from fertilizers, diatomaceous earth, and pre-emergents to pruning.  Foremost was “Crape Murder” which he discusses at length on his web site.  Letting the myrtles grow into tree form was preferred but he blasted the common yardman who leaves the horrid misshapen knuckles that distort the trunk lines of the tree.
Popular nationally syndicated gardener, P. Allen Smith, was the clear entertainer and, like Martha Stewart, showed what having a crew of professional helpers and millions of dollars can create.  His farm in Arkansas was a showplace.  He planted 250,000 daffodil bulbs which sweep the pasture entrances in color in the spring and then local schoolchildren sell bouquets of 10 stems for $5 as their fundraiser.
Smith’s landscape around his home is divided into “rooms” featuring vegetable gardens, roses, trellises, herbs and more.  His container gardens were overflowing and lush but he also showed slides of the garden in winter when you could see the “bones” of the layout. His talk was interspersed with questions and prizes where Mary Anne Rasmussen and Sally Neal both won flats from Bonnie Plant Farm for naming the plants correctly.
The next meeting of the Merry Weather Garden Club will be on March 19th at Hills and Dales in LaGrange for Lee Cathey’s work shop on Photography in the Garden. Call Ellen McEwen for more information.