Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.

 –May Sarton

Sometimes when we photograph, we are inspired in a particular way – by color and tones, curves and shapes, by the light that catches our attention, and even by something that reminds us of another artist whose work we admire. Other times we might photograph with a purpose – to use a certain lens, practice a new technique or photograph a specific subject at the “right” time or place.

Our emotions and mindsets also influence our direction and focus. Perhaps, we head out feeling happy and upbeat. It’s likely that our images – what we choose to shoot, and how – will reflect those emotions. If we’re in a lower emotional state of mind, we may not go out at all or our images and subjects will reflect a moodier tone – even if we are photographing something we love.

When I photograph, I try to quiet the voices in my head and stop thinking about “to do” lists. I choose subjects that are interesting to me and photograph them the way I feel led. I don’t worry about what others might think or like. Sometimes I have to work harder to get in a head space where I am open and responsive to what is before me. I have to kick out the “just not feelin’ it” attitude. (When I am scouting for workshops, that is harder for me to do. I really have to make a solid, conscious effort. It can take a while.) What often helps is when I listen to my own little voice that says, “Slow down, be patient, be still. It will come.”

LIGHT, AIRY, FRESH, INTRICATE – Just a few words that come to mind with these ferns


Last week I was reminded by a social media “memory” that: “LISTEN & SILENT are spelled with the same letters.” It was a good reminder, and it helped me during my week in Longwood Gardens. It helped me before the workshop, when Cheryl Belczak and I were scouting; and it helped e during our time with the group. The words were helpful in reminding our group to slow down and encouraging them to put on their “noticers.” So often we can miss the beautiful and unique by rushing through any place. We go too fast and move with expectations that become set-ups for us to be disappointed on a variety of levels.

When our time with any subject or place is limited, there’s a part of us that wants to go and be everywhere. FOMO – fear of missing out – can take over and take us away from opportunities to focus on one area or subject. If we give in to that self-imposed pressure, we are absolutely guaranteed to miss out. Sometimes the pressure is real in terms of time, and when that happens, we often “hit and run” with subjects. We know we are doing it. We know we should stop, but we do it anyway. Then, we wonder why we can’t find anything we like in a day’s worth of shooting. We all do it (I’m guilty of it, too.). Let’s be real: not all of our single-subject frames are “sketches” to find what we like. Many times, they are simply missed opportunities because we couldn’t let go of the FOMO. Instead, we occasionally “get lucky.”


Sometimes it helps to enter a place with a few words in your head – not as an objective, but as a reminder and as an undercurrent of inspiration. Last week I had a collection of words for myself: Listen, Silent, Open and Peaceful. As I moved through the gardens, these words served as a calming touch point for what and how I photographed. As I spent more time with different subjects, I saw more possibilities. I was not on a mission, but I was more tuned in to subjects and led in part, by the words above. Probably, in this case, the most important one was “open.”

My “noticers” were on, and I listened. I photographed some subjects in ways I wouldn’t have normally done without having the words that kept my pace a touch slower. I returned to subjects with different lenses that were able to help me capture particular subjects in a way that more closely represented how they made me feel. Of course, it was easier during the two days we were scouting on our own. However, if you practice slowing down and noticing, it’s easier to get where you want to go with your subjects, especially when you’re not able to plant yourself in front of a bloom for an hour. The longer you stay, the easier it is to choose your approach and settings to match how you “feel” or how the subject taps into how you feel.




For the Longwood Gardens workshop, I had my words tucked neatly in the back of my mind from the first day. However, I didn’t walk into the garden with the intention of target shooting for those words. I found subjects that needed to be photographed in certain ways for teaching multiple exposures, motion (ICM), shoot throughs, soft & selective focus, as well as for intimate landscapes. An important part of the workshop experience was to be able to point out those opportunities to our group. The plants and flowers I chose were good matches for the techniques, but also ones that I liked.

In terms of “word responses” to my images, meaning that I look at an image and a word or words come to mind, they were naturally varied. Among the words were playful, dreamy, restful, bold, simple, to name a few. Sometimes the words came first in response to the subject, and I responded by spending time photographing. Other times, the words came to me afterwards while reviewing the images and processing. The images shared in this post are ones that either inspired the words in the field or as I quickly reviewed them. The captions will offer the word(s) and some insight.


For example, the fading white and pink ranunculus reminded me of a ballerina swirling in her tutu. My macro lens did not capture the feeling I wanted. Thankfully, when I returned a day later, the flower was still there. In this case, the Helios 44-2 was a perfect match for how the flower made me feel and inspired a number of words … dance, play, happy.

The white trillium presented a similar but different scenario. Part of me wished I had brought my telephoto lens with me so that I could capture the details as well as the abundance. I did not have it with me. Instead, I had my Helios 44-2, which generated images that for me simply said “beauty.” I was not able to reach into the patch in the way I had wanted, but being “open” helped me embrace what was before me in a way I would not have considered. And, guess what? I did not miss out, nor do I regret what I was not able to capture.


There were many moments like this in the gardens where I was not able to match the subject with a specific lens that I might have preferred. This happened because I chose not to haul in everything I have in my bags. I rejected FOMO. Sometimes we can get overwhelmed with too many choices. Correction: being overwhelmed with too many choices can happen often. We may carry too many lenses, accessories and, even cameras. Soooo many subjects (though can there ever be too many flowers?) to choose from. My view: there is value in slimming down your gear choices – from a physical carry and creative focus perspective. Use what you have without regrets. Whether you achieve your vision in a frame or not, enjoy the moments.