Monday, 8 November 2010

'Plants with Personality'

Photographing flowers and other plants should be easy, shouldn't it? After all, they don't move (except when windblown) and so, unlike wildlife, don't require stalking. What's more, they are all around. And yet, if you can't find a plant or composition that stands out in some way, what really is easy is to find yourself accumulating lots of very dull and uninspiring pictures. It may be that you don't have to stalk plants but it is certainly worthwhile spending some time to hunt out really good examples. That very accomplished nature photographer, Niall Benvie coined the perfect phrase to describe what I mean; 'plants with personality'. It is so perfect, I wish I had thought of it first. So, what is a plant with personality?

The photograph above was made during a recent trip to Scotland. I had just spent a very enjoyable hour or so at a large waterfall just outside Callendar and was on my way back to the car when I became distracted the ferns to the side of the path. After searching around for a while I came across a nice specimen which I devoted some time to before seeing this. Of course, what helps this picture is the fact that I was able to almost eliminate the background detail completely but it is the shape of the plant that really makes it stand out; the plant has real character. I never have got round to doing anything with the picture of the first fern that attracted me - it just didn't compare. Come to think of it, I don't even think I have yet got round to processing the waterfall pictures; for me, this became the most important image of the session.

The picture below is another good example. On this occasion, I did set out to photograph plants and had made the short journey to Ness Gardens on the Wirral Peninsula in hope of getting something from the late afternoon light. I was initially attracted by the translucent quality of the bamboo and felt there must be a picture worth making. However, it took me quite some time to find what I was looking for and that turned out to be one of the very few stalks which wasn't perfectly straight - again, the plant that had some 'personality'. All the time I was being savagely attacked by nasty, biting things which had come up from the nearby marshes to find fresh blood: Never let anyone say photographers don't have to suffer for their art!

Of course, just as with people, personality comes in many different forms. I'm gather that the fruit of the Strawberry Tree (below) can get you drunk but I promise I haven't experimented myself.


  1. I really like your plants with personality.
    Often my husband and I see trees like a barren Oak tree and call it poetic. I think its the same meaning.
    I'm here through your wife Julie's site.