Romancing the Season’s Velvety Nights: Candles Flicker & Darkness Falls …

November 5th, 2011 § 8

Lanterns and Twining Bittersweet Add a Bit of Romance to Long Nights

There’s a chill in the air tonight as I light my fire; woodsmoke curling to the twilight’s blue hour. Darkness falls so early now, and tomorrow it will begin even sooner. At two o’clock in the morning, November 6th, we turn our clocks back an hour and Daylight Savings Time ends. I always mourn the loss of that last golden hour of late afternoon light at the end of my work day, but over the years I’ve learned to embrace the sparkling frost of an early sunrise. So it’s farewell for now to the summer clock and autumn’s lingering sunsets, and hello to a season of long, velvety nights …

A Warm Garden Path on a Chilly Evening

My Beautiful Lanterns are from Verde for Garden & Home in Brattleboro, Vermont

Stone Steps and Terrace by Vermont Artist Dan Snow

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photos, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions) are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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A Little Romance on a Winter’s Night…

January 8th, 2011 § 5

Though the holidays have come and gone, snow-dusted landscapes continue to enchant. Twinkling, candlelit stairs, luminous paths and glowing, snow-capped tabletops greet the frosty evening. Meanwhile inside, a toasty fire crackles, and the scent of red wine & mulling spices warms the air.

A Little Romance on a Winter’s Night…

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Words and Photographs ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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Wishing You An Enchanted Evening & A Magical & Very Happy New Year !

December 31st, 2010 § 4

Cheers !   xo Michaela

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Photography ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Stonework is by Vermont Artist Dan Snow

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Starry, Starry Night: A Festival of Light…

December 3rd, 2010 Comments Off

Fire and Ice

December evenings are often incomparably beautiful; the big, black sky serving as an endless canvas for celestial works of art. Last night, as I stood outside in the frosty quiet, I must have counted fifty shooting stars. The air was so crisp and clear, so still and cold, that every luminous dot in the universe seemed within finger’s reach. From the moment I stepped outdoors, stars began falling like heavenly, glowing raindrops.

December is a great month for star-watching (be sure to bundle up!). The Geminid meteor shower will peak December 13-14th. For more inforamtion, visit: Earth Sky online, and in Europe: Image via IMCCE Observatoire de Paris

Inspired by nights of starry, starry showers, I’ve begun filling heavy, glass bowls with clear, polished chips and tiny candles; bringing the magical glow of December’s sky down to earth. These fire and ice bowls are beautiful grouped on a mantle —surrounded by winterberries and greenery— or simply spaced on a dining table for a festive meal. But my favorite way to enjoy this bit of sparkle is on special nights out in my garden, when I tuck the shimmering bowls within stone walls and scatter them about the walkway…

Fire and Ice in the Stonewall

To create this look, fill glass containers (round, square, or any other shape) with glass chips (often called lustre gems). Choose clear glass bits, as I have, or go bold with imaginative color combinations. You can find all of the inexpensive supplies you need at craft stores, florists shops, and many large department stores (or follow the links in this post for online sources). I used rounded candles for the displays featured here (like these, intended for floating in water) but you can just as easily use tea lights or samplers. I also like to use the glass bowls/chips indoors for floating arrangements, like the ones I featured here in summertime (click back here to check them out – winter arrangements with twigs and berries are equally beautiful). When using fire and ice bowls outside for special occasions, it’s very important to bring them back indoors after the party. If water collects, freezes and thaws inside the glass bowls, you will likely end up with a shattered mess on your hands. So, be sure to place your decorations in protected spots during inclement weather, and enjoy them indoors between parties.

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Article & Photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Welcome December: Season of Sparkling Celebrations and Luminous Landscapes…

December 1st, 2010 § 2

Welcome Glittery Nights…

And Frosty Mornings…

Ice-Laced Branches…

And Sudden Snow Squalls…

Welcome Fizzy Celebrations…

Snow-Capped Mountains…

Sparkling Moments…

And Tiny, Frost-Covered Treasures…

Welcome December !

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Article & Photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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The Magical Moment of First Snow…

November 27th, 2010 § 3

The Magical Moment of First Snow

It seems that suddenly the world is all a’swirl with a dizzying array of frozen, white flakes. Just now running out the door with a million things to do, but I simply had to share the magical moment of First Snow…

Cornus alba ‘Siberica’ – First Snow

Cotoneaster and Juniperus horizontalis – First Snow

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Stone Wall with Candle-Niche Detail by Vermont Artist, Dan Snow

Article and Photos are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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Shadows Lengthen & Darkness Falls: Illuminate Autumn’s Velvety Nights…

September 26th, 2010 § 1

Simple Tin Buckets filled with Sand and Tea Lights Line the Stone Steps at Ferncliff

Twilight in the garden: dusky violet skies and long shadows brush the horizon. Night falls, and the silhouettes of flowers and feathery foliage sway dramatically in the fading light. This is my favorite time to walk through the garden, watching as evening’s dark beauty unfolds. Wrapping myself in a sweater, I stroll the dimming paths; stopping to sample the sweet perfume of fairy candles and to admire the unfurling datura beside the Secret Garden door. Barred owl, coyote, moth and bat; I listen and watch as creatures of the night cackle, cry and flutter in the gathering gloom. Finally, it’s time to settle in to my front row seat on the terrace —candles lit on the stone steps— to enjoy nature’s evening show…

Quick, Inexpensive and Lovely. Tin Buckets filled with Tiny, Twinkling Tea Lights (Set of 12 Galvanized Tin Buckets – $18.99 at Amazon)

 

Tiny Tin Lanterns Glow in the Twilight…

Luminous candles, tiny twinkling string-lights and subtle, automatic landscape lighting all add to the beautiful, evening ambience in my garden. When I’m expecting company, or if a romantic mood strikes me, I use tea lights to illuminate inexpensive, sand-filled tin buckets on my stone steps and walkway at night. Perfect for a wedding or party, these impromptu tin lanterns can be used over and over in the garden all season long.

Glass hurricanes, candelabras, iron chandeliers, hanging lanterns, string lights and solar globes can all add subtle light to the nighttime garden with a minimum investment of time and money. This week, I collected a few lovely lanterns and lights, with price points under $100, to share with you here (see images and links below). For more mood-lighting ideas, check back on previous posts by clicking here.

Landscape lighting —particularly in private residences— is an oft-neglected aspect of garden design, and as the daylight hours decrease in autumn, it becomes ever-more important. Not only is garden lighting beautiful, but it’s also a serious safety consideration when navigating stairs and pathways at night. Although I enjoy candlelight, solar lanterns and sparkly string lights, my garden is also hard-wired with low-voltage Malibu landscape lighting —set to a seasonally adjusted timer— and remote-controlled task lighting (floods and spots set up for everyday chores like unloading the car at night). I will be covering more on do-it-yourself, hard-wired lighting features in part-two of this post later on this week. For now, have a look at some of these inspiring ideas. Pick up some inexpensive lights, or make your own lanterns as described above or in this post here.

Terrain Hanging Garden Lantern ($35 – holds a pillar candle or tea light)

Terrain String of Pear Lights ($34 – ten lights per string)

Terrain String of Pear Lights (detail. $34 – ten lights per string)

Terrain Zinc Candelabra ($58 – holds three candles)

San Simeon Lantern from H. Potter ($100 – Copper finish on stainless steel w/brass accent)

Terrain Wood and Glass Lantern ($88 – 20″x 12″ x 7″)

 

 

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Article and photos (excepting product links as noted) are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Inspiration Provence: Romantic Gardens, Casual, Country-Style Furnishings & Candlelit Dinners Beneath the Stars…

July 29th, 2010 Comments Off

Michel Klein’s Garden – Image ⓒ Provence Interiors by Lisa Lovatt-Smith

Provence… What an incredibly evocative word. Even the sound of the letters, rolling sensuously across the tongue, seems to magically slow time. The Mediterranean landscape seduces with golden light; teasing as it flickers through massive plane trees. My memories of southern France are bound by sun-warmed fragrance; lavender, rosemary, ripe olives and red earth. And in this romantic setting — seated at a cloth draped table, surrounded by shadowy gardens at the end of the day— the taste of fruity rosé and peasant bread dipped in tapenade has never been more delightful. A meal shared in a beautiful outdoor room is one of life’s richest pleasures.

Currently, I am working on two projects involving plein air dining spaces. The first is a new garden planned to enhance the outdoor seating area of a lovely local restaurant. This project is in its early stages, and at the moment I am gathering inspirational ideas from favorite books, travel journals, photo albums and scrapbooks.  I absolutely adore enclosed garden spaces, and this particular location —surrounded by brick and stone on three sides— is the perfect spot for festive family gatherings, intimate tête-à-têtes and romantic dinners for two. The second project on my agenda is a private dining terrace; an open space in need of a bit more privacy and transportive mood. Both places are calling out for softening elements — vine clad pergolas and trees to filter light, as well as plants with dramatic foliage to add sensual movement and color.  Both in the courtyard and on the terrace, I long for living canopies —  filter for the sun and frame for the stars.

Over the years —since finding them in my favorite book shop— Lisa Lovatt-Smith’s Provence Interiors and Barbara & René Stoeltie’s Country Houses Of France have provided me with more inspiration for outdoor rooms than many of my garden design books. Beautifully photographed and richly detailed, both books are excellent, stylish resources for casual, elegant living. I highly recommend either title for further study and inspiration. Why not take a cue from these authors and blur the boundaries between inside and out in your home and garden? It seems quite natural to me (perhaps it’s just my European roots) to think of the outdoor spaces surrounding a home in much the same way you might think of an open-plan dining room and kitchen inside the house. Potted plants and shade trees help relax outside architecture, of course. But by adding casual cafe-style or flea-market furniture —movable tables and chairs, comfortable weather-proof pillows, twinkling chandeliers, lanterns and/or strings of tiny lights— the space becomes infinitely more inviting. In this way, a garden or back terrace becomes a three or even a four season extension of your home; a part of your living space as opposed to merely your ‘backyard’. Can you envision such an outdoor room in your own garden? A shadowy nook for quiet lunchtime conversation, or later in the evening, a place for candlelit rendezvous; filled with the sounds of music and secrets shared beneath the stars?

Jacques Grange Garden – Image  ⓒ Provence Interiors by Lisa Lovatt-Smith

Christiane &  Serge Cagnolari’s Beautiful Garden Dining Room – Image ⓒ Provence Interiors by Lisa Lovatt-Smith

Antique French Iron Chair with Twisted Metal Detail $298 from Terrain

Antique French Metal Chair with Scrolling Detail $228 from Terrain

Antique French Folding Chair $198 from Terrain

The French Country Garden of Jean-Marie & Jennifer Rocchia – Image ⓒ Provence Interiors by Lisa Lovatt-Smith

Foundry Style Candleholder with Teardrop Shaped Votive Lamps $68.40 via Amazon

Marrakesh Wrought Iron Pillar Candle Chandelier – $155 at HomArt via Amazon

La Buissaie, France – Image ⓒ Country Houses Of France by Barbara & René Stoeltie

3 Piece White Metal Bistro Set, only $79 at Amazon.com

The Garden of Siki de Somalie, Provence, France – Image ⓒ Country Houses Of France by Barbara & René Stoeltie

3 Piece Red Metal Bistro Set – $79 at Amazon.com

The Garden of Siki de Somalie, Provence, France – Image ⓒ Country Houses Of France by Barbara & René Stoeltie

Pretty Metal Bistro Set in Blue – $79 at Amazon.com

Tiered Plant Stand in Blue Metal – $129 from Gardener’s Supply Company

Beautiful Blue 3-Piece Bistro Set – $179 from Gardener’s Supply Company

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Image excerpts from reviewed publications and/or products are copyright as noted and linked. To purchase reviewed books via Amzon.com, click on the image or text link below.

Article © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden.

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Luminous Lanterns & Torches Set Gardens All Aglow…

July 11th, 2010 § 2

Photo ⓒ Ray Main from Elizabeth Wilhide’s Lighting: A Design Source Book

Flickering candles, swaying lanterns, and glowing orbs beneath shadowy, draped vines; an artfully lit garden sets the mood for a memorable gathering or even an everyday evening meal on the deck or terrace. Too often an after-thought —or worse neglected all together in favor of straight-ahead utility— landscape lighting makes all the difference in the creation of an alluring outdoor room. Right now, I am busy designing several landscape lighting plans for clients; all of which include low-voltage architectural wash and pathway illumination as well as more decorative, ambient features. Elizabeth Wilhide’s Lighting: A Design Source Book (image above by the edition’s photographer Ray Main) and Sally Storey’s lovely book, Lighting by Design (Luke White photo excerpts featured below) are providing some brilliant inspiration. I will be covering some easy, do-it-yourself, low-voltage lighting systems in an upcoming post. But for now, I’d like to share some quick and easy ideas using solar lanterns and string lights, as well as torches and handmade tin luminarias. The purpose of ambient lighting is quite different from task lighting. Much like candles on a dining table, solar lamps and glass orbs are intended to flicker like the stars; casting a warm and inviting glow above tables, at the edges of steps and beneath the low branches of trees…
Click here for a closer look at the  Square Solar Shoji Lanterns from Gaiam

 

Shoji lanterns are particularly appealing to me at the moment. A few years back, I received two Asian-style lanterns as a gift, and when they are lit from within by tiny candles, they completely change the night time atmosphere of my Secret Garden. I also like to float candles in water bowls, or set short pillars within handmade tin luminarias when I host a party. But for lower-maintenance (and safer) drama, I love the idea of solar Shoji lanterns like the ones pictured above and below. I’m adding a pergola to the front entrance of my studio next month, and I think a few of these will add a lovely touch beneath the twining vines of wisteria…

Click here to see the circular Solar Shoji Lantern from Gaiam

Sometimes, a combination of lighting features can work in tandem to create beautiful layers of illumination in a garden. For special events, like weddings and summer cocktail parties, low voltage landscape lighting can be easily enhanced by the beauty of glass hurricanes, tiki torches or tin lanterns (like the ones pictured below). Making tin lumniarias is easy, and they are much safer and longer lasting than the paper variety. Click here for a tutorial on how to make tin-punch lanterns, which I posted last winter. Breaking up more mundane task-lighting with strings of soft, solar glass globes (like the cool recycled-glass set from Plow and Hearth and the amber set from Exterior Accents, both pictured below) also works magic, especially when sets are strung through vertical trellising, vine-clad pergolas, tall shrubs or the lower branches of nearby trees…
Photo ⓒ Luke White from Sally Storey’s inspirational Lighting by Design
Photo ⓒ Ray Main from Lighting: A Design Source Book by Elizabeth Wilhide
Click here to see Exterior Accent’s Aurora Glow Solar String Lights (Amber)
Click here to see: Pisa Torches from Plow and Hearth

Click here for: Globe Solar String Lights from Plow and Hearth

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Article and tin luminaria photo copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All other photographs copyright as noted or linked.

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Create A Glowing Garden in Any Season: Handmade Tin Luminarias…

February 7th, 2010 § 2

Tin Luminarias Glowing on the Winter Garden Path

A few years ago, I attended a beautiful winter party at a friend’s house. She took the time to make the night special, and I will always remember the warmth and glow of her house, lit from within by hundreds of candles, as I arrived on that cold evening. It was breathtaking.

I also like to surprise the people I care about with visual treats. Creating a memorable occasion needn’t be expensive or labor intensive, but it does require a bit of planning. When I have a group of friends over for dinner, or even for a more intimate tete-a-tete, I like to set the mood by illuminating the garden walkway as well as the house. In summer, when winds are lighter, it’s easy to simply set out votives or pillar candles for a pretty glow. But in autumn and winter, the wind easily extinguishes candles unless they are protected. Sometimes I will make ice-lanterns or rolled paper bags with sand to create traditional luminarias. But I am always on the lookout for something new.

While cleaning my basement last month, I found a stack of aluminum flashing leftover from the construction of my studio. I love playing around with sheet metal of all kinds, so I brought the stack upstairs and waited for inspiration to strike. Last week, while having dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, I noticed some pretty punched-tin stars hanging from the rafters. They gave me the idea for these easy-to-make tin luminarias. I put together 5 of them in less than an hour, (see directions below), and I think I will make an entire box to decorate the front walkway for my next party. Now I just need to invent an occasion and hope for clear weather! Pushed into the snow or gravel along a path, I think the lanterns are beautiful – glowing and sparkling like a starry sky…

Trio of Tin Luminarias ⓒ Michaela Medina – thegardenerseden.com

Materials list:

Aluminum flashing in 5″ x 7″ strips or a long roll, (available in hardware stores)

Galvanized steel wire (I used 24 gauge)

An awl, hole punch or another sharp, pointed object

Hammer

Scrap wood for work surface

Votive candles

Directions:(click to enlarge any photo)

Gather materials and select two pieces of aluminum flashing, (or one long piece). Punch holes evenly along the sides as shown, (I doubled up pieces for matching, evenly spaced holes. Then, randomly punch holes on the surface, (or in patterns or shapes). Stitch together two pieces of aluminum with steel wire as shown, (or if you are using a single cut piece from a roll, then make a tube shape and stitch together the sides). Roll the tube to connect the ends and stitch together the other side. After you have finished, twist the ends in a loop and tuck to the sides. Set outdoors, pushing the bottom into the soil, gravel or snow,  and fill with lit votive candles…

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Photo ⓒ Michaela Medina – thegardenerseden.com

Article and photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All Rights Reserved.

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Taking Better Photos of Your Garden: Guest Post by Ted Dillard…

February 1st, 2010 § 4

Photo ⓒ Ted Dillard

Of all the questions and comments I receive via this blog, email and through this site’s Facebook Page, the most common by far are related to photography. I am a new, amateur photographer, (that is a nice way of saying that I have no idea of what I am doing), and when I have questions about how to take better photographs or what equipment to buy, or how to use it, I usually consult with my professional photographer friends. And, I am very lucky, because one of my dearest friends just so happens to be the brilliant photographer Ted Dillard. Accomplished artist, teacher, and author, Ted is also remarkably generous with his time and talents.

Taking a good photograph is not only a pure pleasure, but it is also a valuable skill – and it needn’t be difficult. So, here to provide us with a few expert tips is the multi-talented Ted Dillard. For further reading, I highly recommend Ted’s series of books for the digital photographer.

Thank you Ted Dillard !

Ted’s Top Ten Twelve Tips for better (Garden!) Photographs

It’s funny, for all the times I’ve been asked what the best camera is to buy, I think I can count on one hand the times someone as asked, “How can I take better pictures?”  For one thing, it’s not a simple answer, it depends so much on so many intangible things.  The funny thing is, though, the impact of the photographs ultimately has very little to do with the choice of camera.

That said, there are some pretty universal tips that almost any photographer should keep in mind, and even the most experienced of us occasionally overlook.  Whether you’re taking photographs of your kids, your vacation, or your cherished gardens, or a commercial assignment, these are some basic suggestions you should always keep in mind.  After we cover the basics, I’ve added a few especially for the gardeners.

 

1. It takes light to make a photograph.

Back in the days of film, we were always trying to “push” the ISO- overdeveloping the film to compensate for underexposing it.  It dawned on me one day that you do, in fact, have to have some light hit the film, or the sensor, to make a photograph.  Photograph means, from the Latin, “picture from light” after all…

Add light, wait for light, turn the lights on, whatever you need to do to avoid shooting in the dark.  Even with cameras rated at ISO 3200+, you still need some light to make the photograph.  Without going into the technical details of it, even new cameras with astronomical ISO settings are essentially starting with very little information, or image data, and stretching it out, making “holes” as they go. Think “pizza dough” here.

2. Hold the camera steady.

You can have the best optics ever made, but if the camera is moving then the image is moving on the sensor, even just a little bit.  Get a good tripod, and by that I mean a good BIG tripod.  Tripods need mass to fight vibration and movement, if your tripod is too light and too small it’s just going to blow in the wind.  Literally.  The closer you shoot to your subject, the more important this is, and if you’re shooting blossoms that’s pretty darned close.

3. Put your money into the lens.

For the most part, whatever is catching the image, whether it’s film or a sensor, it is designed to capture what the absolute best lens made for it can produce.  You want to see what your camera can do?  Give it the best lens you can afford, and it will thank you.  A great lens on a cheaper sensor is like running a car at it’s optimum tuning- you won’t be able to see what it can do until you set it up right. A great sensor with a cheap lens is like driving your car dragging a piano.  For shooting close-up, or macro, there’s nothing in the world so sweet as a true “macro” lens- a lens designed to focus at inches away from the subject.

4. Clean your lens.

The biggest enemy of clarity, sharpness and contrast in a photograph is lens flare.  Fingerprints, dirt, dust on a lens is the single best way to make lens flare happen.  Seen the iPhone “Vaseline effect”?  That’s what happens when you try to take a picture through a lens with a big smudgy peanut butter fingerprint, and that’s what I’m talking about. It doesn’t matter if you’re shooting with your phone or the most expensive digital camera.  The lens has to be clean.

5. Shade your lens.

One more time- the biggest enemy of clarity, sharpness and contrast in a photograph is lens flare.  Light hitting the lens glass directly, whether it’s the sun, or just reflections of bright objects nearby, are the second best way to create lens flare.  Almost every technological development in lens design in the past 50 years had been to combat and minimize lens flare, and the single most effective way to eliminate it is to use the most basic tool.  A lens shade.

I can’t overstate this simple point.  I see it constantly, people even shooting with a built-in lens shade and not using it.  For some reason it seems like it doesn’t matter, and people just don’t bother with it.  It does matter.  If the sun is hitting your glass, or even any bright light source- the sky, snow, reflections from other objects- it will degrade the quality of your photograph.  Shade that lens.

6. Look at the light.  Wait for the light.  Control the light.

A good photographer sees and controls the light, many novice photographers seem to think they’re at the mercy of “available” light.  Even if it means waiting an hour for the sun to go down, moving a reflector in to open up some shadows, or bringing in an entire studio of artificial lighting equipment, you’re always either in control if the light, or at the mercy of it.  “Photographers are painters who paint with light.” (Richard Brautigan)

Learning to work with available light, and control artificial light is probably one of the most challenging yet rewarding things you can work with to improve your photographs…  and it’s a lifelong challenge, but one of the most rewarding in all of photography.

7. Background.  It’s all about the background.

When you’re taking pictures you often see your subject with tunnel vision.  You focus on, and just see what you’re looking at and not what’s behind it.  Slow down and look for a few of the typical big distractions- strong shapes, bright colors, things that don’t separate from the subject.  (Hint: using a large aperture -lens wide open, f2.0 for example- makes things in the background go out of focus, blurring backgrounds and diminishing distractions, but more on that later.)  Once you have your subject framed, and you’re ready to snap the picture, stop yourself and look at the background.

8. Compose the photograph.

Again, with the tunnel vision.  When most people look through a viewfinder they’re seeing what they want to take pictures of.  You need to see the picture, instead of what you’re taking the picture of.  The whole picture.  You know how you always see shots of the baby, the dog, Grammy, and they’re smack in the middle of the picture, I mean dead center?  That’s what I’m talking about.

Look at the whole frame, look at what you can include and what you can eliminate to make an interesting composition.  Control the viewer’s eye.

9. If in doubt, take more pictures.

My Dad used to say, out of all the money you’ve spent on everything, film is cheap. There’s no excuse for not shooting enough film.  Now that we’re shooting pixels, there’s even more truth to that.  Try different angles, different distances, even just try shots that you don’t think work.  If you think you have the shot, that’s the time to force out a few more frames.  I can’t tell you how many times the best shots were in those last few, after you think you’ve got the shot, but just want to try some options to “see what happens”.

10. Take more pictures anyway.

See above.

My Grandfather was speaking once, showing his photographs to a Boston Camera Club group.  He got the question, “How did you know that would make a great photograph, and how did you know how to shoot it so you’d capture it so beautifully?”  His answer- from taking shot after shot after shot, for years and years… experience.  Nothing can make up for taking the pictures.  And he was shooting with a big old view camera with film that came in sheets.  One shot at a time.

Take more pictures.  If nothing more than to give yourself more experience, more of a foundation to work with.

That’s the basic list, but here are a few more tips just for you gardeners…

One of the secrets to making great photographs of blossoms and blooms is in controlling your “depth of field”.  This is a photography term simply referring to how much of your image is in focus.  Typically, flower and plant close-up shots have a shallow depth of field, or, simply, not much other than the subject itself is in crisp focus.  This is something that you control with your lens opening, (also called f-stop or aperture).  The smaller the lens opening, f22, for example, the more depth of field, and most of the frame will be in focus.  The larger the opening, f3.5, for example, (and yes, bigger openings are smaller f numbers), the shallower the focus. Take a look at this post, linking to a great Wikipedia explanation and demonstration of the effects of different lens openings.

It’s a great start to beginning to visualize what happens when you control the aperture.  Keep in mind, you have to balance the lens opening and the shutter speed to get a perfect exposure.  Open up the lens, you have to shorten the shutter speed, and vice-versa.  Using the Auto Exposure setting “A”, for aperture priority, you can select a large aperture and let the camera adjust the shutter speed accordingly.   Probably the simplest way to start to understand this is simply to put the camera on a tripod, focus on your favorite blossom, and switch the camera to “A” mode.  Set the aperture from one extreme (wide open, probably f2 or 3.5) to the other (full stop, f16 or 22) and look at the results on your computer.  It’ll be pretty obvious what’s happening.

The other bit of advice- use a camera that has these controls.  I know I said that the camera doesn’t matter so much, and that’s true, but if you are running a camera that allows you this kind of control- selection of exposure modes, and even manual focus and exposure, then it makes things a lot easier.  I’d recommend almost any Digital SLR, or “DSLR”.  The good news is, you can get into a system like that for little over $500, and we have several reviews of cameras like this at our Head-2-Head Reviews site. One of my favorite matchups is the Nikon D5000 and the Canon T1i- (I ended up with the Nikon for myself…  LOVE that camera, and it uses all my old Nikon lenses.)

A little side note, and a step down the notorious (digital) primrose path…  If you do go with a camera like any of these DSLRs, chances are you’ll have the option to shoot “RAW” files instead of JPEG format.  If you’re interested in getting the absolute most out of your camera, RAW files take you to the next level of image quality.  You need to use a program like Adobe’s Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, or Lightroom to take full advantage of the RAW file, but it will make a world of difference it the end result.  My book RAW Pipeline is a great overview of getting started with shooting and processing RAW.

Ted Dillard – RAW Pipeline

There you have it. It’s a start, and hopefully these little tips will help you make better photographs.  Don’t for a second think that almost every pro photographer who’s reading this isn’t, at one point or another saying to themselves, jeesh, I know, I should try harder to do that all the time…

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Article and Photographs in this feature are © Ted Dillard, all rights reserved.

For further information about photographer and teacher Ted Dillard, please visit his website:

Ted Dillard – Support for the Digital Photographer

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Thank you Ted, for all of your generous help, support and advice !

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is © The Gardener’s Eden. All rights reserved.

All Site Photography Is Taken With Canon Powershot G Series Cameras from Amazon.com

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Lush Foliage for Low-Light Rooms : Terrarium Bowls Continued …

January 14th, 2010 § 7

A pedestal-bowl terrarium filled with Adiantum, (Maidenhair fern), Calathea lanceolata and Selanginella kraussiana, (Club moss), warms up a modern metallic vanity in the powder room…

Grey. Grey. Grey. Today the sky is one big, dull, expanse of monochromatic ash. On days like this, with thick, low clouds and no sunshine to be found, low-light rooms inside the house can seem particularly dark. Even the sunniest of homes usually have a few shadowy spaces, and although the hard metal finishes in modern bathrooms, and cool-colored interior walls may sparkle on sunny days, in the dead-of winter, this kind of decor can leave you cold. These gloomy spots always seem to benefit from a splash of lush, verdant color.

Houseplants can add natural warmth to indoor spaces, particularly those with modern, minimalist designs. Sleek materials, like stainless steel and glass, are easily enlivened with a touch of green foliage. True, dark rooms can be a challenge for indoor gardening – cactus, herbs and succulents will wither in dank spaces. But filtered light will support many beautiful foliage plants, such as ferns and moss, and a few blooming tropicals, (including African violets, begonias and orchids).

Terrariums are a great way to display rainforest tropicals and shade loving plants of all kinds. Humidity tends to be higher in bathrooms, making this room the perfect place for moisture-seeking plants. My tiny first-floor powder room was looking particularly gloomy last week, so I put together an open terrarium in a glass-pedestal bowl. This wasn’t an expensive project, in fact the total cost, including both plants and glass bowl, came to $16. This terrarium, (pictured in my bathroom in the photo at top), includes maidenhair fern, (Adiantum), calathea, (C. lanceolata), and club moss, (Selanginella kraussiana), all purchased from The Old Schoolhouse Plantery, just down the road. I love how this tiny bowl completely changes the mood of my metallic little space.

Over the holidays, I made a low-light terrarium gift for my sister, (pictured below). This large, thick-glass bowl is filled with an African violet, (Saintpaulia), club moss, (Selanginella kraussiana), and a beautiful begonia called ‘Kit Kat’. I added a clear glitter ball, (from Michael’s craft store), for a bit of sparkle. My sister lives in an old New England home, with many dark, interior rooms. Low-light plants like begonias thrive in these conditions. However, wood-stoves and dry heating-systems can make for a challenging house-plant environment. This is where terrariums come in particularly handy. Glass-houses, even tiny ones, hold moisture and increase the humidity in the terrarium’s micro-climate. Although open-bowl planters require more attention than closed, cloche-style or Wardian case terrariums, they have a few advantages. Begonias, and certain other plants, can sometimes suffer from mold in an excessively moist, closed terrarium. Since my sister has a new baby to care for, I wanted to give her a relatively easy-to-care for gift. We’ll check in to see how she rates it in a few more weeks.

When designing indoor containers for dimly-lit room, it helps to pay attention to foliage texture and pattern. Try to select a few different textures; combining smooth, lacey, velvety, and/or hairy leaves for contrast. Also have a look at leaf-pattern. To my eye, leaves can be even more spectacular than bloom. Colored veining, bold stripes and splotches, and tonal variation are all things to look for in plants. Begonia, viola, peperomia, calathea and pilea are all easy to come by in greenhouses, and offer a wide range of foliage color and texture. I like to use ferns to lighten-up the look of a terrarium, (particularly the maidenhair ferns), and mosses of all kinds add a velvety touch to a glass container. Glass balls, mirrors, prisms and other sparkly details can also help to catch light and reflect color in a dark space.

For instructions on how to create a terrarium, and for helpful resources and more ideas, you can travel back to my earlier posts, “Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: Terrariums Part One…“, and “…Part Two“. Stay tuned for more indoor gardening projects to make your winter a bit more lush…

A terrarium-bowl filled with Begonia ‘Kit Kat’, Saintpaulia, (African violet), Selaginella kraussiana, (Club moss), and a sparkle-ball accent

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Article and photographs ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Beautiful Pre-Planted Terraria, Containers and Supplies are Available at…

VivaTerra - Eco Living With Style

shopterrain.com

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Peace on Earth…

December 24th, 2009 § 3

Wishing you all things Merry and Bright !

Happy Holidays !

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*Bright red cranberries and candles make a lovely, quick and natural centerpiece for the holiday table. To make one like mine, (I snapped the top photo last night while wrapping presents):  fill a shallow glass bowl, (midway to the top), with water. Add fresh cranberries to cover the surface, and float a few candles here and there. The cranberries can be rinsed and re-used later, (you can also scatter them outside for hungry birds…). Please be sure to keep an eye on candles, and never leave them in an unattended room. Have a warm, safe holiday !

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All photos copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express, written permission. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: Creating a Festive Mood at the Holiday Dinner Table with Candles and Natural Treasures…

November 25th, 2009 § 6

Bittersweet and floating votive candles…

As we begin celebrating the holidays this season, our attentions turn toward the table, where we gather to celebrate and give thanks. Now that I have finished shopping for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving feast, I am beginning to play with some seasonal arrangements to greet my guests and illuminate the dining area. With so much stark inspiration in the forest surrounding my home, I tend to reflect nature’s minimalism by keeping my decorations simple.

As seasonal darkness returns, candles provide a warm welcome at dinnertime. This year I am drawn to beeswax pillars glowing behind glass, and floating votives flickering in bittersweet-laced water bowls. Placing candles behind glass, or floating them in water provides additional sparkle and reflection. Beyond the added luminosity, thick glass and water also add safety to candle displays, particularly when they are combined with natural and often combustible materials…

Pine cones and crabapples, safely piled around a glass-hurricane lantern…

Of course, we all know that open flames are very dangerous, especially in households with children and pets. Candles should never be left untended, even when protected by glass. But when handled with care in occupied rooms, candles enclosed in glass jars, water bowls or hurricane lanterns can provide a safe focal point for beautiful holiday centerpieces.

A few years ago I received several hurricane shades, (pictured above, and linked below), and beeswax candles as a holiday gift. What a great present for a gardener! I use these glass cylinders in many ways, throughout the seasons. The stockier jar-type containers with glass bottoms work great for holding water, stone or gravel in addition to votive candles or short pillars. I also like to wrap vines like bittersweet all around these jars. The taller glass hurricane shades provide higher flame protection, and I love using these on the terrace where they prevent candles from extinguishing in the wind. The taller, heavy glass shades also work well when piling up pine cones, berries, evergreen boughs or branches on the table, as the glass provides a barrier to open flame. Particularly rambunctious households may wish to replace real candles with battery-powered fakes for added peace of mind. Your table will benefit from the natural elements and illumination either way…

Hurricane Glass Shade

Glass Hurricane Shade, (11.5″), by Libbey Glass, $29.49

Libbey 9861112 11.5

Glass Hurricane clearClear Glass Hurricane from Target, $20.49

Glass Hurricane – Clear

When choosing candles, I usually prefer beeswax candles to other types because they tend to burn longer and cleaner, (without the black smoke), than paraffin candles. Although candle wax is often colored and scented, I like the natural, unscented kind best. Scented candles can be lovely for setting a mood when bathing or for adding fragrance to a room, but at the dinner table, I find them very distracting when I want to focus on the smells and tastes of a special meal.

More decorating ideas inspired by the garden will be coming soon. In the meantime, I hope you will continue to look toward the natural world for beautiful, recyclable materials as you begin decorating for the holidays this year…

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone – Safe Travels

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6" beeswax pillar candle

Beeswax Pillar Candle, 6″ tall, $24.00

Six Inch Tall Pure Beeswax Pillar Candle – Unscented

1 natural floating votive candleFloating votive candle for suspending in water-bowls…

Tapered Floater Votive Candle – Medium – 2

Hurricane Glass BowlHurricane Glass Bowl from Target, $29.99

Hurricane Glass Bowl

Beeswax votivesBeeswax votive candles,(image and product from Blue Corn naturals), 4 for $9.00

Raw Beeswax Votives: 4 Pack

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Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Please do not take, use or reproduce my photographs or my words, for any purpose, without first contacting me for permission.

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the copyrighted property of Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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