Pink Climbing Rose: An Exercise

HeyJude is running a photo challenge during 2020 on her Travel Words blog designed to get us thinking about the techniques of taking pictures. You can find out the details and monthly topics here. January’s topic is Composition and Framing. These crops are inspired by some of Jude’s instructions – I’ve added them in italics, so you know the intention.

Pink climbing rose at Harlow Carr

Clearly identify your subject. Not as easy as it might seem. The rose is my main interest, but the setting is worthy of attention too (around an oval opening on the curved outside fence of Diarmuid Gavin’s garden at RHS Harlow Carr), so I was slightly torn, wanting to give a glimpse of the inside.

It was an overcast summer evening. The curve of the wall and habit of the rose meant shooting into the light, creating a bright glare. The original picture has a few more inches of haze at the top, and bright light always draws the eye away from the subject. I’ve removed some of it with the effect that the crop is neither landscape, portrait or square. I like to keep the traditional proportions if I can, but throwing aside the rules and cropping any way the subject demands is often the difference between a poor picture and a decent one.

Move in closer to your subject, but not too close. While the flowers in the first picture were blobs, more of their character comes out here. These roses have a traditional form, with very loose petals, and a nodding habit which is good for a climbing rose – the roses look down on us as we look up.  We get a good feel for the trailing habit of the rose – some of us might itch to tie up this year’s stems, emboldened because they are thornless. (It’s Rosa ‘Mortimer Sackler’, if you were wondering).

Cluster of three pink roses

Get in closer still. This close up shot has the benefit of cropping out those distracting lines from the wooden fence in the picture above. Roses are so atmospheric. In dull, almost gloomy light, and with fading outer petals, the tumbling flowers each have a sigh within them, reminding me of the susurrus to come when they fall in a few weeks or days.

Mortimer Sackler climbing rose overhangs a path

Simplify your image so the viewer focuses their attention. What do you want the viewer to focus on? A strolling through roses effect. What I wanted to do was to capture not the blooms, which are relatively easy, but the whole of the climbing rose in flower and its garden setting, which is more of a challenge. I was not satisfied with the opening shot but this one is better, even though the same constraints apply. I could have cropped out more of the overhead glare but only by slicing off the top of the rose, which would have lessened its glory and, weirdly, created a more claustrophobic effect.

I’ve largely ignored the oval opening – you can make it out, but it doesn’t distract the eye. The path leads the eye towards a second rose on the opposite wall, unusually painted a deep blue. Even a pale blue sky would have been the icing on the cake, but I remind myself that cake can still be tasty without icing.

All the 2020 Photo Challenge assignments are here.

44 Replies to “Pink Climbing Rose: An Exercise”

    1. The first one was testing the possibilities. I always get excited when I see a climbing rose fresh with a full covering of flowers. They are not as common as you might think.

    1. I would say it passed muster, although it isn’t one of the best for fragrance. However a light, fruity fragrance isn’t to be sniffed at… or rather it is 🙂

    1. I’m still recovering from a few too many slices of Christmas cake and the words ‘marzipan’ and ‘icing’ in close proximity are giving me a relapse.

  1. This was very interesting to me. I have gotten in the habit of cropping many of Judy’s photos before I finalize a post. How close to get I always find a bit puzzling, but the answer often comes when the picture starts going from sharp to fuzzy. Also struggle with getting to the point where the flowers are distinct but there is still a sense of the larger bed or border. I also end up cropping out a lot of cars, garden tools, hoses, and bits of thumb.

    1. Plant labels are a menace too… although not if you want to know the variety. Experts say we should crop with our feet by walking closer and I tried that approach yesterday, although it meant climbing a stile and picking my way through quite a lot of mud.

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