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Go digital for garden photos

February 14, 2009|By MAUREEN GILMER / Scripps Howard News Service

I've thrown away thousands of color slides because the light wasn't right, the image was crooked or it was simply too far away. That cost me big bucks because I bought expensive film, and sent it out to expensive processing. Often only a few keepers came with each roll, and the rest of them were garbage. Yet I had to pay equally for them all, and if I wanted to duplicate them, it cost even more.

But those days are gone, and the digital camera has revolutionized the way we take pictures. Now anyone with little to no experience in photography can produce world-class pictures. And with spring on the way, there's no better time to leap into this inexpensive and satisfying endeavor. Digital photography is a great hobby for hard times.

Shooting plants and flowers in spring makes your walk in the park or a visit to the wilderness quite similar to shopping. You are on the lookout for exquisite beauty often hidden in the trees and weeds, or perhaps it's that perfect flower in the city rose garden. These locations cost you and your family nothing to visit, and you get to take loads of beautiful pictures in the process. With the help of your home computer, these can be made into scrapbook pages, greeting cards, wall art, iron-on images, decoupage and personal Web sites. Fill your Facebook or MySpace page with your own beautiful work and impress everyone. And if you're a gardener, the images you take of your own plants and flowers record this year's success in living color.

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You don't need a fancy camera to take fabulous photos. Digital cameras for under $100 can produce magazine-quality images. The key to successful photography is more dependent on sunlight, which influences how your camera sees the image.

Above all, you must become aware of shadows. In blazing clear sunshine, the shadows within your picture will become solid black. This creates a very high-contrast photo, which may cause the sunlit sections to become too bright or even to lose their color in the glare.

The reason photography of English gardens is so wonderful is because that country experiences cloud cover a good deal of the time. The high overcast due to ocean influence diffuses the direct sunlight. This illuminates everything evenly and the shadows become light gray or nonexistent.

Under soft diffused lighting that is still bright, the colors become super-saturated. That means there is no glare to blow out the color; therefore, it is seen by the camera at its greatest intensity. Under high overcast, you may find that nearly every photo you take is a keeper. You will enjoy endless shades of green, the blues will make you want to touch them and the hot colors such as red and yellow practically jump out of the picture. Color will even exist in the shadows, adding more information to the overall picture.

Strive to take a wide range of shots. A wide shot gives you a large view of a garden scene. Medium-range shots allow you to crop out unattractive things in the view to focus on the best plants or flowers. The way you frame a medium shot can enhance a composition exactly the way you want it without having to crop later on the computer. Close-up shots are tricky because they require a good deal of light.

The most forgiving thing about digital garden photography is the ability to alter a photo on your computer. With a simple photo-editing program, you can correct and enhance your work in a dozen different ways.

But the best part of all is that you don't print a digital photo unless you want to. And that means it literally doesn't cost a cent.

o Maureen Gilmer is a horticulturist. Her blog, the MoZone, offers great ideas for cash-strapped families to live more richly on less. Read the blog at www.MoPlants.com/blog. E-mail her at mogilmer@yahoo.com.

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