Still Learning To See

Garden light


One of the great delights of seeing flowers and leaves is the fact that light can be both reflected by their surfaces while also being transmitted through them. The balance of the two changes quickly with the light, my point of view and the age and type of the plant.  Above, morning light turns a leaf of Snakeroot into a botanical stained glass window.


Or the lovely, inviting contrast between the grapes and the leaves of the vine, backlighted with warm afternoon light.


The petals of most flowers are well adapted to allowing light to pass through them, again creating magic when the it comes from behind, especially strong light, as above with the Hollyhocks. I love the way the edges of many parts of plants, covered in small “hairs,” such as the stems and seed pods here, also burst with brightness in these situations.

Backlighting can also be amazingly subtle. Below is a lily I photographed last week in my brother-in-law’s garden with soft direct light and only a little backlighting.


Another flower from the same plant, photographed inside was backlighted with soft sunshine coming from the lower right which added new dimensions to what I could see.


Many photographers only photograph in early  morning (right) or late afternoon light (left), both of which can be gorgeously illuminating.

Also treasured is bright, diffuse light which tends to uniformly illuminate the surfaces with very little transmission of light through the plant.



I find the most challenging light in which to photograph flowers to be bright sunshine, light that many photographers simply refuse to work in; that said, I’ve learned it is silly to not be out with my camera even if my expectations may be lower. Shadows on leaves, as an example, can be fascinating and working close inside a flower—a “bee’s eye view”—can be great fun and yield wonderful images.


I find there are really no times when the light is not interesting in the garden. And the worst case is, when the light is not conducive to photography, I can just put my camera down and enjoy being among these amazing living plants and animals!


This entry was published on August 18, 2019 at 8:45 am and is filed under Flowers, Garden, John Snell, John Snell Photographer, Leaves, Summer, Vermont, Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

8 thoughts on “Garden light

  1. Julia Strimer on said:

    What a stunning array of the magic of light! The first picture of a snakeroot leaf is so unique. As Thoreau says, “The question is not what you look at, but what you see.” And you see so much, John–thanks for sharing your vision! 🙂

    • Oh you always find the perfect quote and I always appreciate your doing so. What a team we are!

      • It’s an honor to be on your team in terms of a shared sense of awe 🙂 You have your camera(s), and I have quotes–pictures and words to reach for wonder. “Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven’t time, and to see takes time – like to have a friend takes time. ”
        – Georgia O’Keeffe

        Tonight I spend time in my wee garden watching two Monarchs and a Black Swallowtail enjoying the butterfly bushes, butterfly weed, and coneflowers. We’ll need these memories in the days ahead!

  2. Joyce Kahn on said:

    Stunning all, John!

  3. BOBBY LYELL on said:


  4. Veer Frost on said:

    Your Daddy-long-legs looks like a jewel…a brooch the light’s wearing. Lovely, thank you.

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