A year in images | Flowers
My favourite floral images from 2017
When you take as many photos as I do, the ones that tend to stand out are those that have something a little different about them, those that for some reason or another are out of the ordinary.
Usually, one sees an image in isolation, left to be judged only by what information is contained within the frame. But photos are more than just a moment in time. In most cases the end result is governed by the circumstances presented to the photographer, meaning there’s often an untold story behind them, one that can make them more interesting than just being another nice picture.
While quantity is ubiquitous, quality is elusive, especially when you’re continually raising your own bar. Like many creatives, my focus is habitually on the here and now, rather than the past, so I’m always more excited about the results I’ll see from my next shoot, than the images I’ve already created. Even so, I recognise it’s good to pause and reflect, to look back and take stock.
Photographically, my 2017 could well be summed up by that wonderful quote from Yogi Berra: it was déjà vu, all over again! But whilst I stood in front of much the same things I did the year before, I’d like to think the way I portrayed them has progressed.
The same can be said for this set of retrospectives. Previously, I’ve organised them in various ways: around subject matter, in chronological order by month and I’ve even grouped images by colour. This time I’ve split it across the subjects I photograph the most — art, automotive, floral, music, people and seascapes — and picked just a handful of shoots from each.
Whatever I’m shooting, I always aim to create images that are inventive, that are a little different from the norm. Whether that’s in the content or the execution, for me, it’s all about being out of the ordinary. Since day dot I’ve never been content for my images to be restricted to what can be achieved in camera and have continually experimented with different looks and treatments to find my own individual aesthetic.
My interpretation of what constitutes a good image has also sharpened considerably — manifesting in there being fewer images that I’m genuinely pleased with — as has my desire to push the barriers of what one can achieve within a single still image.
Choosing just a few frames from among thousands was never going to be easy. Deciding which would make the cut meant having to leave out many personal favourites.
These then are the stories behind my favourite floral images from 2017.
Arundel Castle Tulip Festival| Arundel | 28 April 2017
Each year Arundel Castle stages perhaps England’s biggest and best tulip festival. Every year they plant more bulbs than before; some 38,000 in 2017. The challenge with tulips is knowing when to photograph them as they are at their best for just a short time. Exactly when depends on the vagaries of the British weather. By the time I was able to get there, they were some way past their prime.
The sunny day I was anticipating failed to materialise — it was largely overcast. Experience has taught me that tulips are way better to photograph en masse in bright sun as their translucence adds so much visual interest. But that wasn’t I had. Neither did I have much choice. In fact, the only thing I was drawn to was the centrepiece for 2017 — thousands of magenta tulips had been planted in circular swathes on the Labyrinth. Shooting the entire display, however, is what everyone does. For me, it was all about finding interesting compositions, both in camera and afterwards in the edit.
The image above received a 90+ Pulse rating on 500px. As important as light is when photographing flowers, so is timing. As you can see from the image below, a day or two later and most of the blooms would have gone over.
The M&G Garden | RHS Chelsea Flower Show, London | 22 May 2017
This year’s Chelsea Flower Show was the most disappointing I’ve been to and I’ve covered the last six shows. Not only were there significantly fewer show gardens than in previous years (just eight compared to seventeen in 2016) but the ones on Main Avenue were all pretty uninspired. The only garden to stand out was the least like a garden of them all. Inspired — curiously — by an abandoned Maltese quarry, James Basson’s brutally monumental geometric garden was if nothing else photogenic. Despite Basson himself saying it was “not supposed to be pretty, it won a Gold Medal and was awarded Best in Show, although I suspect it may have been more to do with there being no other contenders and M&G being the event sponsor, than for it being a great garden.
Interflora | RHS Chelsea Flower Show, London | 22 May 2017
Always one of my favourite things to shoot at Chelsea, the Interflora installation in the Great Pavilion has some of the most interesting examples of contemporary floristry. I like shooting tight on some of the individual displays Indeed, over the years all of my Interflora images are close-ups of floristry displays which were never intended to be seen in isolation, to be viewed at an extreme angle or with one element out of focus. It was no different with this year’s Stories of Emotion, I was drawn to the single colour displays of some unusual chrysanthemums. Now there is always a lot of greenery at a flower show, but finding actual green flowers is a bit special. When they’re bunched tightly together like this, it’s definitely out of the ordinary! I believe this variety is Green Mist.
See the full set of images from Stories of Emotion here
The Oregon Garden | RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show | 22 May 2017
All too often show gardens can be much more impressive in photographs than they were in person. This was certainly the case with The Oregon Garden which in actuality was far too small to evoke the majesty and scale of one of America’s biggest states. The Beaver State itself spans 98,378.54 square miles, while the garden measured just 7m x 7m. In fact, it’s the planting — especially of flowers — that brings the scale right down. However, isolating elements of the garden, especially in square format, gave the impression it was a small part of something much bigger. The challenge on this one was you couldn’t walk on the garden and could only shoot it from the front. More than anything, what drew me to the garden were the rocks and the almost-naturalistic predominantly pink planting. As a photographer, it’s always satisfying when you believe your images look better than the real thing!
See the full set of images of The Oregon Garden here
Kinetica | RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show | 22 May 2017
Often shooting single blooms can produce more interesting images than a mass of flowers, especially when they’re shot against a coloured background. This was the case on John Warland’s imaginative Kinetica garden which was inspired by particle theory and featured some oversized red perforated planters balancing on yellow dishes. Getting in close to an explosive purple globe thistle (Echinops ritro) made for a really eye-catching contemporary floral image. I can’t help thinkingit would make a great identity for a future RHS event!
Equipment: Olympus OM-D E-M1, Olympus 75mm 1.8 prime lens, all shot handheld with available light only
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