Gardening & Grooming

The Difference

Text and photos by Jack Olson

A little while ago I was asked about the control of depth of field for photography in a field of columbine and I explained in a newsletter article. Now I want to get into a discussion conerning Gardening and Grooming. I used to talk about gardening, and if it was ever acceptible. Some of our photographers may disagree in this but, for now, I hold the stage.

yellow wildflower, Golden Banner
Photo 1 – Golden Banner with distracting twig

There are times when you photographers may happen across a flower or group of flowers. In this case it’s some golden banner at Meyer Ranch Open Space Park. At first, they look healthy and happy. But when you get down on hands and knees and look through the viewfinder of your camera, something just doesn’t look right. There’s a distracting twig (photo 1). What to do?

yellow wildflower, Golden Banner
Photo 2 – Golden Banner with twig removed – Gardening part 1

I pluck the twig out and then take my shot (photo 2).

It looks pristine and no one will know the difference. Except me. 

That’s what I call gardening.

Here’s an even more obsessive/compulsive example of gardening. I’m driving up an old bumpy roadbed on the way to Rollins Pass. I spot a nice columbine. I pull off to the side and get out my tripod. I look through the viewfinder and see—a fly on the columbine (photo 3).

blue and white columbine
Photo 3 – Columbine with fly on petal
blue and white columbine
Photo 4 – pristine Columbine after shooing the fly away – Gardening part 2

What to do? I touch the flower and the disgusted fly flits away (photo 4).

So what about grooming? I don’t do grooming so I have no examples. But, in my definition grooming would be rearranging some rocks around a flower or altering the original view in some noticeable way, making it look more perfect than it really is.

I’ve been showing this image (photo 5) for several years and thought it was such a great coincidence of lichen-covered rocks and alpine forget-me-nots. A little TOO great. I now think someone rearranged the whole composition. I think it’s been groomed! I’ve never groomed, but if you find a reason to, I think you should explain the purpose.

blue Alpine forget-me-nots amid lichen-covered rocks
Photo 5 – blue Alpine forget-me-nots amid lichen-covered rocks – Grooming