Floral Photography – can you go wrong in the Edinburgh Botanics?

Flowers should be easy to photograph, shouldn’t they? I mean, they always have the same expression. They tend to move very slowly (apart from the inevitable breath of wind when you’re about to press the button). It’s not like they’re going anywhere though, is it?

Maybe because of that, I’ve become very hard to please when it comes to plant photography these days. It probably also doesn’t help that the Edinburgh Botanics is within a couple of short bus journeys, so all the world’s plant life (just about) is there waiting for their close up.

If only I could paint them instead! However, a trip last year to a paint and wine class to have a go at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers confirmed what I’d always known – I can’t paint, or draw, to save my ass, as our American cousins put it. Anything past two coats of emulsion is beyond me.

Aldous Huxley, in his book about experimenting with mescalin The Doors of Perception, talks about Van Gogh and how he, and other artists, achieved a different level of understanding of the essence of the thing they were painting. I don’t ever hope to do that, but I would like to get some sort of outstanding image when I start taking photos in the Botanics, preferably without the use of hallucinogens.

I mean, these photos are not bad … they’re just not that original. It kind of feels like any idiot with a half-decent mobile phone camera could hit on photos just as good, especially now we can have as many goes as we like.

Given limitless goes, who couldn’t frame a decent photo of rhododendrons as special as those ones? And those trilliums, above, just needed to catch the spring sunshine for their pic to come alive.

As is so often the case, the best shots came unexpectedly. My second faves are of this duck, shaking its tail feathers in the pond: I never did quite manage to get a combination of the light on the ripples and the duck not being arse upward, but then, I guess, that’s why they say you shouldn’t work with children and animals.

But my absolute favourites came when we walked past the little grove of monkey puzzle trees a little up the slope from the glasshouses (currently closed for refurb).

I’ve always liked monkey puzzles, or Araucaria araucana, to give them their proper names. When I was a kid I seem to remember a lot more of them in domestic gardens than until quite recently: they were quite mature specimens, which I guess must mean they were fashionable some fifty years before. Anyway, Wikipedia tells me they’re now quite endangered, sadly.

My usual technique would’ve been to take a shot of the entire tree, framed against the sky. However, whether by accident or design, the trees are growing close to a wall that’s been painted grey. The perfect backdrop! Close up you can really see how weird, ancient, and alien these magnificent plants are.

And now a word from our sponsors…

As is usual, this is the bit where I try to sell you some music. If you just want to look at the bonny pictures, that’s fine too.

My new EP, Spare Me, consists of two songs which don’t fit particularly with the rest of the mountain of material that I’m working towards releasing later this year: a cover of a Jason Isbell song, ‘Cover Me Up,’ and an original song, ‘Daughter of the Highway,’ which I’m particularly pleased with because it features the vocals on my Isaac Brutal bandmate and pal, Emma Wright. And when you get a vocal that good on tape, all you need to do is swap the guide guitar for some shimmery Telecaster, mix and release!

Proceeds, as ever, to the Red Cross, or something similar.




    • Hi Neil, surprised they don’t grow them in your neck of the woods (pun intended) but it maybe gets too hot for them in summer.

      You are welcome, of course, to supply your own mescalin to the experience!

  1. These are such beautiful photos ๐Ÿ˜Š I’ve been to Edinburgh Botanical Gardens a few times and always found something new and interesting to photograph. Thanks for sharing and have a good day ๐Ÿ˜Š Aiva

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