Eye am a camera: garden closeups

The miracle of digital SLR photography isn’t only that it helps me become a better photographer, through a 1,001 disposable mistakes. It is helping me become a better gardener, acting as a zoom lens for the mind, as well as the eye.

The camera lets you get intimate with flowers and foliage and bark and bugs as you rarely do with the naked eye. Or rarely take time to do. Or as you’ve forgotten how to do since you were a child. How else would you gain such acute awareness of how the pollen develops on a tulip stamen, or how many working parts there are in an iris.

My viewfinder makes me curious again; then, later, the image splayed across my computer screen fills me with awe at the astounding complexity of everything the sensor has captured. When I’m back in the garden, that consciousness never quite leaves me.

Beyond the flowers themselves, the viewfinder puts into sharp relief the importance of foreground and background. Purple is beautiful. Purple placed against a backdrop of yellow and chartreuse takes on a new richness.

The camera also lives on light. It shows me what changes with perspective; with backlighting, sidelighting, silhouette and shadow. On a purely pragmatic level, date- and time-stamped, photographs offer a lasting record of just how much sun that half-sun corner really gets.

Inspired by what I shoot, my garden plans are gaining more integrity. They consider the sum rather than its parts. The best garden pictures you create are the ones that live in the garden.


  1. Your photos are lovely…I can’t wait to get out in the garden again to take a few closeups! I have house painters and they are cramping my style! gail

  2. I enjoyed this. I’ve often thought about how photographing plants changes my relationship with them. I guess I’m naturally childish, because I find I’m using my camera to look at the things I’ve always looked at – plus a few more. It does make you very very aware of light when you photograph.

    Speaking of photos, love the one in the sidebar of your blog.

  3. I realize this post is nearly four years old, but I was hoping that you could tell me the name of this variety of iris. I have some just like it that I dug up from an abandoned house out in the middle of nowhere – probably around the same time that you first posted this – and have been wondering even since what they are. Even if they are extremely common, I love knowing that they survived all those years unattended.


    1. Sorry. This is just an unknown intermediate bearded iris that we inherited with our house 25 years ago. It now lives up and down the street.

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