In Praise of Plants
I have never given myself a photographic project before, but after thirty-plus years of being a nature photographer, I have decided to give myself something to focus upon and do just that. For as long as I can remember, I have been a lover of plants and plant photography and have always admired the plant-related imagery displayed in the top photographic competitions. Over the years, I have even been fortunate to have had images displayed in some of them, including the British Wildlife Photography Awards and The Royal Horticultural Society photographic competition, both with images of plants. The Wildlife Photographer of the Year (WPOTY) competition, held each autumn in London, is very close to my heart, as for me it’s probably my greatest photographic achievement; back in 1998 I won an award (3rd place) in the British Wildlife category with an image of a green hairstreak butterfly. This, I know, is not a plant-related image, but at least I know what an amazing feeling it is to be part of the WPOTY family. But, an award in the plant category has always eluded me, and I don’t intend on letting that lie. The category title back then was ‘In Praise of Plants’, and to me it was a very fitting title, and not quite so heavy handed as the new category title of ‘The Botanical Realm’, which they changed it to. I do prefer more subtle titles.
With that in mind, I am going to give myself the goal of focusing a little more on plants whilst on my photographic outings. My intention is that this will be a long term project, not necessarily focusing solely on the goal of winning an award in the WPOTY, because that would be foolish, but in the hope of one day, in my retirement, I can publish a book celebrating our wonderful plants in the best way I possibly can. I don’t intend the images to be basic life studies of plants, or stock shots you might say, but images that speak volumes about their beauty, secretive nature and interrelationships with landscape. I will utilise complementary lighting, atmosphere and creative photographic techniques where appropriate. I firmly believe that beauty is everywhere in nature with each and every step that you take…if you just take the time to look properly. And by look properly, I don’t mean walking slowly and looking more than you would on a brisk walk. I mean the sort of looking that you only get when you can feel nature glowing from within, like it’s part of your beating heart. For me this is when I feel calm and relaxed inside and my head is clear from daily clutter and time pressures. When I get into this place, it’s like a blindfold has been removed and I suddenly see through the eyes of how I imagine an artist would see (It sounds cliché, but it’s true). But getting into this headspace is difficult for much of the time, and I struggle on a normal day to day; so it’s about maximising the days when I am feeling good and doing all that I can to make life less complicated so that those day are more and more commonplace.
The image below was taken for one of my YouTube productions titled Hidden Gems, and it’s one of those images that you really have to be in a creative place to not only find and take, but also to appreciate as a viewer. In fact, when I posted the video containing this image, and showing me finding and taking it, I cringed and awaited the hail of rotten tomatoes that I thought may have been heading my way…but they didn’t come! The image was very well received. and in a way that I could have only hoped for! But I did have a trick up my sleeve, and I used it to its maximum. What I did I consider to be very clever indeed was to show the image slowly revealing itself, whist playing some meditative background music along with the occasional gentle rumble of thunder. This is the sort of music that I often listen to when I need to relax, clear my head, and transcend into my creative place, far away from all life’s hassles. You are literally presented with the image as seen through my mind’s eyes; and yet, to view the image as below without audio, you might not give it a second look, and perhaps might even dismiss it as dross. The plant kingdom is vast, and I have much material to work with, but it all starts here in this image, deep underground where the life giving arteries of the plant can often be found.
There is one thing I can be sure of, this image will never win me any awards, not unless perhaps, they allow me to entice them in with my mind games.