Crystal Ball Captures More than the Beauty of Flowers

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Class Attendees

Class Attendees

Photography for me is about capturing data at times.  I take photos at clients’ properties during my onsite evaluations for landscape and garden designs.  Sometimes, I will take at least 100 photos of a site while walking around, looking over their desired planting areas.  It is important to me to get every angle, and to record any problem areas – or potential design features spotted on the property or in the space. I also take photos of plants when visiting wholesale and retail nurseries for my plant research.  You can ask the garden center staff.  They will tell you I always have a camera in hand.

But I also enjoy photography as a “non-serious” hobby – what I mean is, I like to take photos of plants because I love them so much, especially up close to see the botanical aspects, from the stamen (male parts) to stigma (female parts) of the flower’s reproductive aspects. And of course, I like to take photos of butterflies, insects, and birds.  Sometimes, I’ll get a comment from a real photographer, a pro, saying a shot is good, but my photos are never anywhere near those taken by pro’s.  Again – I do it for fun – and like to keep it that way, but I should learn the techniques to improve.


So when I met my class group for a guest speaker on photography yesterday, they found it a bit comical when I mentioned I had not yet taken out the components (like filters and cleaners) for my new camera out of the packages. I’ve owned the camera for a couple years now.  It is not a super fancy camera, but it is a good one.  I’ve played around with it more than taken the time to learn it.

However, yesterday, I got the chance, and what fun did we have.  We had a small group of attendees because the class, called “Capturing the Beauty of Flowers,”  was held in the morning of a weekday at a local garden center, where there were flowers a plenty.  And by the way, I heard loud and clear from my friends and past class attendees – they want a session held in the evenings so they can attend – so we will do that – on May 29th, Wednesday, 5:30 to 7:30 pm (flyer to be posted soon).  Note the date now.

Catherine Cella of Joyful Reflections Photography was my guest speaker.  It was an honor for me to have her show us her tips on how to maximize taking photos of flowers. There were some techniques I had never considered, demonstrated by Catherine, and we practiced as a group.  She then offered us advise on how to improve the shot.  But one of the best parts of the whole day is she taught us how to use a crystal ball to capture photos.  Any my favorite photo of the day is this one, I took, where the greenhouse roof is reflected in the ball.  Later I thought, is the Crystal Ball revealing my future?  I hope so (you know, I’m a dreamer).

My shot - love the greenhouse in it!

My shot – love the greenhouse in it!

Well, let me restate favorite, actually my favorite photos of the day, were those posted by Catherine Cella after class.  You can see them here on her blog at Joyful Reflections Photography Blog.

But before we got to the crystal ball photography part of the class, we practiced on flowers.  This is a shrimp plant, Justicia brandegeana.  A tropical plant I just adore, and so did another attendee in our class with a horticulture background. It is a little too early still to put out tropical types requiring heat and warmth – think of them like summer vegetable gardening — wait until Memorial Day to put them outside, but they can be enjoyed inside in the meantime as a gorgeous house plant.  This one was trained as a topiary – a real beauty and find, I must say.  Hummingbirds truly enjoy this flower on this shrub.  The flower is the white part extending out of the pink bracts.  This would be stunning in an urn with the style of this one being trained as a topiary.


Trained as a Topiary - Shrimp Plant

Trained as a Topiary – Shrimp Plant

We also took close-ups of water droplets on plants, and here is one I took on a bleeding heart.  It actually worked out the day was cloudy and just a tad bit rainy.  Gosh don’t we all love this plant in the springtime when it flushes out in our gardens?  Whether you love the Old Fashioned Bleeding Hearts or newer types with golden foliage, you can’t disagree with nature’s ability to capture our hearts with the rose-pink flowers on fern-like foliage dangling like charms from its stems in May.  This perennial looks amazing alone in a garden or mixed with other shade candidates like Astilbe, Pulmonaria, Hostas, and ferns – just to name a few.  However, I don’t recommend them in container gardens because they go dormant later in the season and kind of fade away.

Droplet on Bleeding Heart Leaves

Droplet on Bleeding Heart Leaves

The other two attendees had way more background on the camera’s technical aspects that moi, and they were practicing the tips reviewed by Catherine Cella.  My suggestion was to take photos of the flowering trees at our class location – The Garden Barn Nursery and Landscape in Vernon, CT.  There were many breathtaking blooms of magnolias, redbuds, dogwoods, and others in bloom now.

Here’s a photo I had to take of a Redbud tree, Cercis reniformis ‘Oklahoma’.  Talk about an intense purple wine color.  The coloring is more intense than the species on this small ornamental tree, great for smaller spaces.  It blooms in the spring, April to May timeframe, and the buds line the stems before the leaves expand.  It looks Asian to me, and has the most welcoming feeling in a garden space.

Redbud Tree Buds

Redbud Tree Buds

And I had to try to get a cool picture of one of my favorite ornamental grasses called Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’.  It can take partial shade and has a bright yellow color with a green stripes on the blades, and it cascades downward, versus growing upright. It is a beautiful plant to use in the front of a border, along pathways or by a terrace situation, or even in a container garden as a spiller to filler type plant.  The plant is a long-season ornamental grass, and won the 2009 Perennial Plant of the Year award. Looks great near Weeping Japanse Maples too – why? because the gold of the grass shows up against the burgundy color of the maple.

Hakon grass 'Aureola'

Hakon grass ‘Aureola’

Early in the day, Catherine joked around with a tiny toy camera hanging from her neck – it even flashes.  But rest assured, her professional camera is quite impressive – and so are her talents –  which you will see and learn from when you sign up for the next session on May 29th, Wednesday, 5:30 to 7:30 pm.  Bring your camera and your dreams – so you too can Capture the Beauty of Flowers and the images you desire in your crystal ball of the future.  The next class is only 2.5 weeks away.

Catherine holding a toy camera - as a joke of course, with attendee Jo-Anne.

Catherine holding a toy camera – as a joke of course, with attendee Jo-Anne.

Looking forward to seeing you there,

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy Cathy T

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