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In this article, I would like to share some etiquette guidelines for photographing in a public place such as a botanic garden. Nature photography as a hobby is more popular and more accessible than ever before. As photographers, we have the privilege of capturing some of the most beautiful locations in the world, including some spectacular botanic gardens. We also have the responsibility to help protect and respect the places we photograph. The news stories are abundant. Nature photographers overrunning sunflower farms. Crowds trampling the super bloom of wildflowers in the West for a photograph. Farmers of lavender fields in Provence hanging banners saying “Respect Our Work”. These signs are in response to photographers trespassing, damaging fields, and picking crops. Do these same issues apply to botanic gardens where many nature photographers come to photograph the beauty of nature? You bet they do!
Global tourism has reached an all time high and nature photography in botanic gardens has also grown tremendously over the years. This is wonderful for the gardens, as it brings increased revenue to support the gardens and helps further educate the public about the importance of nature and the environment. Many botanic gardens do important scientific research aimed at understanding and protecting the plants so important to us. The green space gives us all a place to de-stress, unwind and be in nature. The beauty and inspiration of a garden is there for everyone that visits to enjoy, making it important that we all do our part to preserve that beauty and do no harm.
Most photographers I have worked with and most visitors to gardens show great respect for the gardens. I have on occasions; however, witnessed behavior that dumbfounded me. As gardens have more visitors, the incidents have grown.
For example, people will walk into the middle of densely planted garden beds to get a closer shot of flowers in the back, damaging flowers in the process. Similarly, I have witnessed people laying down or sitting in a bed of flowers to get an image of themselves surrounded by flowers. I have watched parents put their baby in the a bed of flowers for a photo, while the baby innocently pulls up all the flowers around her. Likewise, I have watched photographers remove flowers from a scene because he or she didn’t want them in the composition. I have witnessed photographers risking their safety and pushing aside construction barricades, ignoring signs, all to capture a single flower in bloom in a closed garden area.
As someone who has done much of my nature photography in a botanic garden, I have come to know the staff and horticulturists that work at the garden where I photograph most often, Chicago Botanic Garden. I am fortunate to live very close to this garden. The close proximity makes it a wonderful place for me to capture the beauty of nature. By taking the time to develop those relationships and learn from the staff, my respect for their dedicated work has grown deeply through the years and led me to understand that no photograph is worth damaging the careful work they do. Horticulturists are passionate about what they do and are eager to share that passion with visitors. Learning more about the subjects we photograph only serves to deepen our relationship with and respect for our subjects and, I believe, is reflected in our work.
I have had many discussions with garden staff and horticulturists about what we can do as nature photographers to be respected and seen as an asset to the garden, rather than a nuisance. With those discussions and some research into various garden guidelines for nature photography, I have compiled the following list:
By following these simple nature photography guidelines, we improve the relationship photographers have with the gardens they visit. In addition, we alleviate the need for tigher guidelines which would limit our access to opportunities to photograph. Gardens compose these guidelines with the nature photographer in mind. Portrait and wedding photographers observe other guidelines while doing photoshoots within botanic gardens.
Get out and enjoy the beauty gardens bring to our lives. However, always remember and respect the hard work by both the staff and mother nature.
As a nature photographer specializing in flower photography, Anne’s passion lies in capturing the beauty of flowers and other botanical subjects up-close. It is the small, often unnoticed details that draw Anne to her subjects. It is her belief that if we slow down and look at nature in a more contemplative way, we will find subjects that convey impact and emotion, causing the eye to linger a little longer. A life-long involvement in the arts and a first career as an art therapist have shaped the way that she views art and the creative process and have reinforced her belief in the healing power of both art and nature in our lives.