This Week's Podcast: A Personal Point of View: Matthew Benson
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Matthew Benson is one of the stars of garden photography. He joined us recently. I was surprised by his answers to my questions on nearly every front. He doesn’t use a tripod much. He doesn’t shoot RAW, but compressed JPEGs at the highest resolution setting. He prefers to shoot early in the morning and late afternoon more than overcast days. He likes to photograph in the direction of the sun or to capture backlit subjects and long shafts of light. He joked about going to the beach in between shooting at sunrise and sunset (below).
Matthew’s new book on the subject takes a rather different approach to the topic than other books, as well. The Photographic Garden: Mastering the Art of Digital Garden Photography isn’t filled with charts showing ratios of f-stops to shutter speeds. It is about the aesthetics and the feelings of being in a garden. And he doesn’t necessarily care to make a document of the spaces. Rather, he tells a story, and often, a story about himself.
“Choose any garden that intrigues or delights you and shoot images to explain what it is about the place that grabs you,” he advises. “Remember that you are always making self-portraits to some degree.”
Matthew edits a garden to communicate a particular point of view. The pictures are often still-lifes with a very limited depth of field – a narrow area of the image that is in focus (right). He also edits the photos from the initial shoot mercilessly – something I admire. When he talked about not wanting to save every image in some cluttered digital cupboard – I saw myself.
Benson on storytelling: “If visual narrative is the goal, work with all of your lenses in order to tell a complete story. Come in close, pull back, drop focus, and shoot deep. For a story to maintain a viewer’s interest, it needs to have multiple points of view. Use as many techniques as you can to convey meaning, or choose a particular story line and stick to it in order to make a singular statement.” (Discover more at matthewbenson.com.)