Tips for Better Backyard Photos

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Even better, backyard photos will never be as exciting as Art Wolfe’s Travels to the Edge. But with a bit of strategic landscaping and gardening, you can still have an enticing destination for stunning photography! Did I mention the travel time is a lot less than Art’s trips?

Art Wolfe is one of my favorite Nature and Fine Art photographers. My wife Bonnie (also an avid photographer) and I loved watching all 26 episodes of Travels to the Edge. But the truth is, we will never travel to some of the amazing locations that Art gets to! We often have to practice our photography passion in nearby locations.  Sometimes that means turning the eye of the camera to our own backyard.

Leptosporangiate fern

Closer to Home

In 2005 Bonnie and I moved from the cornfields of southeast Iowa to Asheville, NC bordering the Blue Ridge Mountains. We wanted to be closer to our roots on the east coast, and our love of mountains, streams and forests. We bought a one-acre property nestled in a quiet wooded neighborhood just 20-minutes from downtown Asheville.

Did you know that Lonely Planet named Asheville Top Tourist Destination for 2017? Our location gives us quick access to the thriving culture, artistry, cuisine and tourism industry.

Trillium grandiflorum (White Trillium)

Yet, we are only 20 minutes drive from entry to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Once on the Parkway it’s just another 40 minutes to Mt. Mitchell at 6,684 feet, the highest peak east of the Mississippi.

However, from late Fall through early Spring the Parkway is often closed. Opportunities to get stunning scenes of cloud or hoarfrost-shrouded peaks become more difficult. Even with all the natural beauty and cultural richness a short drive away, we sometimes want to scratch that photography itch, right in our own backyard!

Lunaria annua (Money Plant)

Not Quite Monet’s Garden

Our solution is to create a photographic destination in our own backyard. Every year we embellish the property with a few more fruit trees, perennials, and wildflowers. These plants brighten our property and make for great backyard photography!

Fresh blueberries (if we get them before the birds!), strawberries, Goumi berries, Serviceberries and a sizable vegetable garden yield their bounty for our dining table. The wildflowers make for beautiful macro and abstract photography. It’s great to be able to take advantage of optimal lighting as soon as you see it happening!

Podophyllum (May Apple)

Our backyard isn’t quite Monet’s Garden, but Spring is a great time to take advantage of our efforts. By getting in close and exploring the mood and inner spirit of the plants, I have a great time!

Tips for Better Backyard Photos

  • Get in close with a macro or close-up capable lens
  • Open up the aperture to narrow the depth of focus and blur distracting backgrounds
  • Take a trial photo and remove debris that creates distracting bright or dark spots
  • Make good use of the natural light and compose to accentuate the main subject
  • Make your hero element sharp, but try blurring secondary elements to create mystery

With tongue in cheek and homage to Art Wolfe, I almost titled this post “Travels to My Backyard”.

These two seemingly contradictory quotes from Art Wolfe sum up my inspiration perfectly:

“It is in the wild places, where the edge of the earth meets the corners of the sky, the human spirit is fed.”
“Never stop looking, no matter where you are, everywhere there are good photographs.”

I hope this post and my images inspire you to begin planting your own favorite wildflowers and edible plants. Turn your camera lens closer to home. Create a readily accessible travel photography destination right in your own backyard!

Leptosporangiate fern


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