Saxon Holt photographing Susan Harris's Takoma Park, Maryland gardenBig doings in my garden! California garden photographer Saxon Holt came to capture in pixels the lawn alternatives growing here, as only he can do. Wonder if he can make them look as good as the meadows in his meadow book or the grasses in his grass book. I had the usual gardener doubts but he declared my garden “photogenic” (Whew!) and, to my surprise, “small.”  (I’ll tell that to my aching back.) 

Saxon’s oh-so interested in solutions like better lawns than turfgrasses, and more sustainable gardens of all sorts, especially ones that don’t require much water (Californians are like that).  In fact, that’s the point of the work for him.

Now you may not think a left-coaster like Saxon would know much about my Mid-Atlantic plants but actually, he’s a Virginian just like me, having grown up in the Newport News area. Plus, he’s learned a lot photographing gardens throughout the East. So we did some poring over my photos of carexes, and some friendly arguing about whether it’s ever worth it to use herbicides. (Hey, Saxon, what about if the goal is to create a five-acre meadow like the one at the AHS headquarters that I found in your portfolio? Not even for that?)

Of course I’m eager to improve my photography skills and watching Saxon at work did teach me a thing or two. About slowing way down and just looking before taking the first photo, then coming back the second day to capture the same garden. Saxon says his bests shots usually come after hours in the garden, so he’s in no hurry – nothing like my usual running around snap-snap-snapping like a frantic tourist.

Also, he has no faith in his own steady hand and keeps that tripod close at hand. And he demonstrated some mean cleaning techniques in the prep phase, wielding a whisk broom on the walkways and rags for removing bird crap. Pruning skills, too, like removing dead leaves and flowers.

And after all the cleaning and prepping is done, his long looks through the viewfinder seem meditative.  Then at long last the snapping begins. Don’t know if there’s a term for what he does – maybe Slow Photography, or Inner Photography – but it’s sure as hell not what I do.

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So readers, do you have any tips you can share with us?  Or just tell us what you think of Saxon’s methods – can they really work for us amateurs?