Out of Eden

We are incredibly fortunate when it comes to accessing plants for photography today. This is a series of images from the Eden Project in Cornwall, UK, possibly one of the most remarkable collection of plants anywhere bringing the botanic gardens and palm houses built by Victorian plant hunters well and truly into the 21st century. I’m particularly interested in creating relatively minimalist images of plants that capture their variety of form and the way in which they interact with light. Eden offers scale when it comes to plants that is rarely available even in large botanic gardens and the shear number of plants makes finding photographic subjects much more feasible. The images in this portfolio are all from the rainforest biome with plants from four of the world’s rainforest environments: Tropical Islands, Southeast Asia, West Africa and Tropical South America.

A house in decline

Calke Abbey in Derbyshire has the sense of a place that was once a hive of activity, but that has since diminished almost to the point of being on the verge of collapse in places. What’s more it’s kept that way deliberately by the National Trust, repaired but not restored. As such, it has the feel of a place that has been little touched in over a century and it is a veritable photographic gold mine as you walk from the ground floor to the upper floor moving progressively from dishevelment to decay.

It’s certainly not without a photographic challenge or two, mainly light levels! Even with the high ISO abilities of modern digital cameras finding enough light can be extremely difficult, particularly in some of the long dark corridors in its East wing. Tripods are not an option so fast lenses and image stabilisation are your best friend.

However, find a window in one of the many small rooms and almost inevitably there will be something worth photographing. This really is a place to photograph details, the dilapidated state of the upstairs rooms being particularly photogenic, some piled with items, though the huge collection of taxidermy is probably not to everyone’s taste, but it is a reflection of 19th century values.

The quirkiness of the place is a constant source of inspiration, and occasional humour – I recall the look of disappointment on a fellow visitor’s face who had rather impolitely forced his way past me, presumably thinking I was photographing a particularly interesting object, only to discover all there was to see was a broken glass bottle and rusting lantern. Still, I liked it!

Light, while hard to find at times, does seep through the shuttered windows and every now and then falls on an exquisite piece of furniture or one of the many hundreds of objects that litter the house or something left abandoned many, many years ago.


There is a long tradition of black and white botanical photography, it seems to convey purity, strength and poetry more effectively than colour. It enables the photographer to enhance the graphical aspect of a plant often isolating it in its environment. As we move through autumn, the seed heads from this year’s flowers seem to parallel the emotions we feel as the year draws to and end, yet holding the promise of colour and scent to come.

This is an image that uses focus stacking to enhance the depth of field while keeping the background nicely out of focus. All told, eight images shot at f/4 were used to create the final photograph.

March of the Renewables

Stand on a beach long enough and one thing that really strikes me is the enormous range of textures, particularly on a falling tide. Ripples, water, channels, rusting remains of sea defences, bits of foam, flotsam and jetsam – you name it and it just materialises before your eyes as the tide recedes. Add a bit dramatic light from a clearing weather system and there are countless images to be had. The human element is, at least on the east coast of England, almost always present as well, just to add to the mix. So, this is not a typical minimal long exposure, rather an attempt to capture some of the interplay of natural and human elements along this ever eroding coast. As I’ve been moving from a full-frame Nikon system to the much lighter Fujifilm X-Series, these images are also the first I’ve taken using Lee Filter’s smaller Seven5 system, liking the results.