Recently I took some after photographs of a garden wall installation for a local Rochester landscape design firm. I arrived early in the afternoon to take the photos, which isn’t typically the most ideal time of day. Midday lighting can create harsh shadows or a washed-out image. I figured that it wouldn’t matter too much because these were just meant to show of the installation, not be a work of art.
Photographing the Garden by Day
Somewhere between lighting my camera to my eye and pressing the shutter I realized that I needed to come back in the evening. It turns out a photo of the job was to be submitted to a local design magazine. A simple snapshot would not suffice. Below is the unsatisfactory result of my first visit:
Photographing the Garden in the Evening
Later in the evening I returned to the house, just as the sun was setting over the horizon. I had with me a tripod, my Canon 580EX flash (which I used detached), and 3 utility lamps with 120W equivalent CFL bulbs. Oh yeah, and I a few extension cords. Here is the end result after many experimental shots:
I mounted my camera on a tripod and set for a long exposure. I set the 3 utility lamps on the ground, facing the garden wall to illuminate it evenly. An assistant adjusted the lights and released the shutter for each picture.
While the shutter was open I stood to the side, just outside of the frame and painted the patio with light using my Canon flash. I think I triggered it to go off at least 4 or 5 times during the exposure. The flash helped to make sure that the second step behind the front garden wall wasn’t in a dark shadow.
What I Like About the Result
Note how excellent the color of the sky is in this photo compared to the first. Shooting just after sunset gave me the ability to control the amount of light on each part of the house and draw attention to the most important elements of the landscape.
I was also able to better hide elements of the garden that were not doing as well after the drought we had this summer.
Finally, I did some dodging and burning in Apple Aperture 3, as well as compensation for the different color temperatures lighting. In the RAW image the front bricks (lit primarily with the CFLs) were a different color than the house and house pillars, which were lit by permanent fixtures. The result is a beautiful, warmly lit image that shows off the home in a way that’s more true to life than the photo taken at midday.