Thanks to the Virginia Society of Landscape Designers - the certifying body for landscape professionals in Virginia with the longest track record - for hosting Cville photog Ben Greenberg yesterday at Maymont for a truly educational winter meeting. Ben gave the designers in the room a quick class on basics of landscape photography for those of us who shoot most of our own portfolio pics while dodging heavy equipment and trip hazards like tools, cords and rubble. http://vsld.org/photogallery.php?reg=ch#
Then the professional photographer, whose book was recently published by UVA Press, http://www.naturalvirginiabook.com, gently and kindly coached us in improving our own photos. Reminding us early on in the talk, and often, that he had never seen a photograph that could not be improved, he led us through our own designers' photo gallery that we publish to you, our prospective clients, hoping that they will elicit a phone call, text or email for landscape design services.
A fun discussion of many images ensued, including on one of my photos, which is on houzz.com. It was even more fun when I compared the pro's recommendations with what I notice using all those houzz and google analytics tools: what people click on, and spend more time on, is an image that does NOT tell them exactly everything, does NOT tell them what to think and where to look. Here's a snippet of what I heard :
"Why are we looking at the back of the chairs?"
"What would you see if you sat in the chairs? Why is the photo not of THAT?"
"What are the chairs facing out of frame? I'd like to see that too."
"I can see myself in one of those chairs."
"The tree is in the way."
"No it makes it more interesting. I like the mystery."
"We want our clients to see themselves in our landscapes."
"I like that there is no house dominating the landscape."
by the Narragansett and/or Pequot tribes in what is today Rhode Island.
So here are a few more views of the same space, less mystery, more directed, more informational. But when I am shooting - well, snapping - photos early in the morning or late in the evening 'golden hour', what I am really sharing is my favorite landscape experience:
I am alone, early or late in the day, in the quiet, when the birds and the sound of the waves breaking on the barrier beach are the only thing I hear. What I want to create for you in the photo, and for #landscapedesign clients, is that incredibly joyful and peaceful mix of serenity and excitement, of gratitude and humility, for being alive in this moment in this beautiful place.
On some level, all professional landscape designers are in the business of soul conservation.