29 Dec 2016

Botanical photography is a perfect way to spend time outdoors enjoying the elements… but getting a good shot of a flower or plant isn’t always easy!

One person who knows a lot about capturing the perfect picture is world renowned botanical photographer Clive Nichols. He’s photographed many of the world’s best gardens, including HRH The Prince of Wales’s own private garden in Scotland.

This spring, Clive will be capturing some of our beautiful award winning gardens on film and you can join him when he hosts a masterclass as part of our Bloom campaign.

We caught up with Clive ahead of his visit to talk about his passion for plants and to get some top tips on taking the perfect photograph. 

What is it about gardens and flowers that interest you?

“I love being outdoors and I’m very lucky that my job takes me outside most days. I love the tranquility and the beauty of plants and flowers and I’ve been lucky to travel to some stunning places across the globe. The thing you quickly learn when shooting flowers and plants is that you are at the mercy of the elements. It means I spend a lot of time reading the weather, if it’s windy or rainy then the whole shoot can be off. 

“You have to accept that you can’t control anything when shooting in gardens you have to work with the sun and wind and shoot when the outdoor conditions are at a premium. This means I’m always outside when the weather is nice which is brilliant.”

What has been your best photography shoot and why?

“I’ve spent a lot of time shooting in Corfu as I’ve been lucky enough to take shots of Lord Rothchild’s private garden on the island. This has to be one of my favourite places as the weather is pretty much guaranteed and the light is stunning-which makes every day a good day for photographs. Here in the UK my favourite garden is a small private formal garden near my home in Oxfordshire, called Pettifers Gardens. 

“I know the owner so I can get into the gardens when I want. It’s close to my home so in the height of summer I just get up early and stroll down the road to get the best photographs at first light. In the zoo, I have fond memories of the tranquil sunken garden, just behind the otters!”

Pettifers Gardens

What the best time of year to take photographs?

“I actually love autumn and winter, it means you don’t have to get up at 4am to get the best light and on a good sunny day the light can be very flattering. It’s ironic but summer can be the hardest time of year as it means working incredibly long days as the best light is at beginning and end of the day and the harsh light in the middle of the day means that if you shoot anything it ends up looking blown out. Get out there this spring before the long days roll in!”

What’s your favourite flower to shoot?

“Tulips. There elegant goblet shape makes them perfect for a beautiful photograph; they are very photogenic.”

Have you got any top tips for taking the perfect photograph of gardens and plants?

“Firstly, get a tripod. It will automatically slow you down which is always an advantage as you have more time to concentrate on the subject, you can compose the picture correctly and get a sharper photograph. 

“Secondly, take note of the weather- it’s not all about sunshine, even on a sunny day the wind can have a large impact when taking pictures of static objects like plants and flowers so to maximize your chance of success, try and take photo’s when there is little or no wind speed. 

“Finally I would recommend you to work with the light. The best time of day to take a photograph of plants, flowers and gardens is either first thing or last thing. Try and avoid the middle of the day.

Clive’s masterclass will take place on Saturday 22 April at the zoo. For all the details and how to book take a look at the event page here.