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 thoughts on “Pink Climbing Rose: An Exercise

    • susurrus says:

      I always think in a garden in full flower, the main problem is what to leave out. I did consider a series of pictures from Trentham Gardens that showed me making all the wrong choices. They might have been more entertaining, but I wondered what those who do not pay much attention to the words would have made of them. This post is a kind of half-way house.

  1. Oddment says:

    I love the connection to susurrus. First cousin to Un Suspiro. Yes, I can hear that in the image. You know I love the second photo with the buds in their slow-motion explosion. I also love the contours that show so well in that last photo. Nothing simple about photography in a garden! Thanks for the insights to you and to HeyJude.

    • susurrus says:

      Yes, I did anticipate where your eyes would go, whether I were to lead them there or left to their own sweet will. The plant was liberally covered in buds and they are the bold type, where the colour is much stronger than the open flower will be.

  2. Heyjude says:

    You chose a beautiful subject and I was very interested in how you considered each image. The close up shows the flower’s character and I particularly liked the last photo which draws the viewer into the garden whilst drawing attention to the gorgeous roses. Thank you Susan 🙂 for your lovely images. As Derek says you always have beautifully composed photos.

    • susurrus says:

      I often crop with subject matter too close to the edge of the frame, but that just seems to be the way I like it. That or else I am forced to do it by the need to crop something else out – to correct a ‘bad’ pattern of flowers for example. 🙂

  3. Leya says:

    A stunningly beautiful rose, and interesting to follow your thoughts and guiding! You always have great compositions, but I agree: A lush and flower filled garden is not easy to photograph!

  4. Vicki says:

    Some good lessons there and such a beautiful rose bush.

    I suspect I tend to get in close to any subject because I am extremely short-sighted and like to ‘see’ what I am photographing in a garden or urban landscape.

    If I had the opportunity to get out to the countryside and see a large landscape, I guess my personal approach would be very different.

    • susurrus says:

      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.

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