Public gardens are a common feature of most cities. City parks make wonderful photographic subjects if you know how and when to photograph them.
Castlemaine Botanic Gardens Lake
Although early morning can be a great time to photograph parks, there are a few good reasons to avoid them at this time of day.
Public parks can attract the wrong type of people, such as the kind who may want to steal your expensive camera gear. Also there are often homeless folk who make the city parks their bed for the night. You don’t want to be encroaching on their rest, or having them encroach on your shots, by photographing really early in the morning.
For these reasons I find the perfect time to photograph city parks is late afternoon through to dusk. The usual daytime park goers have headed home for the day, but there is still enough activity to make this a safe time to photograph alone.
Ringwood Lake Bridge to Rotunda
Late afternoon brings some really lovely light for photographing gardens in any weather. Sunny days bring long shadows and warm golden light falling on everything. Cloudy or overcast days bring a cool, diffuse light that is perfect for capturing water features.
When the sun is out, late afternoon light is not as contrasty as in the middle of the day. The shadows are less dark and the highlights not so bright. This is important as it creates a dynamic range from light to dark that your camera can more easily capture.
The direction of the sun’s rays being low filters through more dust, atmospheric haze and gases. Therefore the majority of rays are from indirect sunlight, which creates the warm, golden tones, whereas direct sunlight is more bluish in tone.
Tall Tree Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens Daylesford
Plant foliage and tree trunks in particular, take on pleasing tones when cast with the late afternoon golden light.
Landscape gardeners use statues, sculptures and other man made features such as rocks and wood to add focal interest to public parks. These added features are a photographer’s best friend when it comes to creating interesting compositions so look out for these features.
As always, take the time to discover the best viewpoint to capture an interesting scene. Spend time walking around a part of the garden that captured your interest. Take shots from many viewpoints and from different angles.
Fitzroy Gardens Dome
It is extremely important to be aware of how the light and shadows are falling on your scene. Try experimenting with the light in front of, behind you, or to the side of you to see how this affects the composition.
Stay tuned for part 3 where I will explain how best to shoot city gardens on overcast days, including capturing water features.