Texture is normally associated with the sense of touch; for photographers the challenge is to capture the feeling of surface texture in a two dimensional image.
You’ll find a whole array of natural and man-made textures in a garden. Before picking up your camera however, your first objective will be to define what we mean by ‘texture’ and think up some adjectives to describe it. The word texture implies a certain roughness, but in reality texture can be smooth, shiny, waxy, woody, sandy, coarse, hairy…when you’ve come up with a list that will get your creative juices flowing it’s time to head out into the garden.
Before attempting to capture the various textures it’s also worth considering light and the effect that different lighting conditions will have on your subject. Soft, diffused light is generally best for capturing subtle details and delicate textures…
Cross-lighting on the other hand – directional light that strikes the surface of your subject at an oblique angle – can be used to emphasise coarse textures and rough surfaces by creating a series of bright highlights and dark shadows. This gives a 3-D effect to your photograph.
The example below shows the same tree photographed from two different angles in bright sunlight. The image on the left was flatly lit with the sun directly behind the photographer, whilst the cross-lit image on the right had the sun raking across the rough bark at 90 degrees. The cross-lighting has created deep shadows that give the impression of a range of high mountains and deep valleys, such is the contrast created.
In this photograph of a magnificent Metasequoia at Ness Gardens, taken on an overcast day, the lighting is much softer, revealing the beautiful colours, flaky texture…and a wood nymph perhaps? Strong sunlight on this occasion would have been too much, leading to possible burnout of the subtle colours.
TEXTURE IN FLOWERS
Whilst strong, directional sunlight is OK for emphasising texture in solid objects, it’s best avoided for flower photography. The subtle textures of petals and delicate blooms benefit from much softer lighting in order to pick out their delicate beauty.
In the photograph of the Pasque Flower I’ve deliberately kept the contrast low to emphasise the downy softness of the foliage.
TEXTURES IN MACRO AND ABSTRACT PHOTOGRAPHY
Throughout the garden there are a myriad of micro-textures to be found, from tiny seed heads to raindrops. Let your imagination run free…
A SEASON OF TEXTURE
Late summer is a fabulous time to photograph texture in the flower border, especially early or late in the day. The rustic colours, low angle of the sun and the varied textures of dessicated grasses and flowers make a great combination…
TEXTURE IN BLACK AND WHITE
For some photographs, removing the colour helps to focus attention on the texture and structure in the photograph rather than the colour. Black and white is suited to any subject where patterns, shapes, textures or dramatic light are the main subject of the photograph.
Architectural plants such as succulents and cacti are ideally suited to black and white photography…
There are lots of ways to add a layer of texture to a straight image, and in this digital age it is easier than ever. Adding a layer of texture is no substitute for photographing a heavily textured object in the first place of course; the technique does, however, open up a variety of creative possibilities.
The two images above were manipulated in the DistressedFX app on an iPhone.
In this introduction to photographing texture in the garden I’ve covered a few of the basic elements; I’ll be developing the textures theme and sharing more examples in future blog posts.
What other textures can you find to photograph in the garden? What kind of lighting or camera angle gives the best effect?