Is your garden looking its absolute best at the moment? An award-winning photographer gives advice on how to take a greatpicture of it, rather than just a good one
Andrea Jones photographing the gardens at Ballyfin House, Co Laois. Photograph: Richard Johnston
Flick through the pages of any glossy British or American gardening magazine and you’ll almost certainly come across the work of award-winning photographer Andrea Jones.
Her sumptuous shots illustrate a spread on June Blake’s Wicklow garden in this month’s issue of The English Garden for example, while last month’s cover of the American periodical Organic Gardening featured her exquisite close-up of the coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, its rose-pink florets and spiny, fiery-red central cone captured in such remarkable detail that you want to reach out and stroke it.
Jones came to garden photography from a fine arts background (she studied at Bournemouth and then at Salisbury), her interest in plants sparked by a chance meeting with the British primatologist, Jane Goodall, when they struck up a conversation on an airplane. “One of those random events that forever changes the pattern of things.”
By then she had tried advertising photography and discovered she didn’t much like it. So when Goodall invited her to Burundi to photograph chimpanzees, she quickly agreed.
Jones discovered that, while she also didn’t like photographing “chimps hurling through the forest”, she very much liked photographing the native eastern African flora, prompting National Geographic magazine to commission a shoot in Sierre Leone. And so a successful career in garden photography was born.
Over the ensuing 20 years, her work has taken her to almost every corner of the world and to many of its greatest gardens.
She has photographed Roberto Burle Marx’s masterpiece at Monteiro in Brazil, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Virginia, Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens’ Hestercombe in Somerset as well as a host of other landmark gardens in Europe, America, West Africa, Thailand and Japan.
Along with running an image library and publishing several books, recent commissions include photography for an upcoming book by Noel Kingsbury that will take her to the US, China, Singapore, Morocco and around Europe.
Last week she came to Ireland, and I met her in the gardens of Ballyfin House (the five-star hotel in Co Laois, ballyfin.com) where I asked her to share her top photography tips.
By the time we met, Jones had already put in a long day’s work, having been up since before dawn to capture the lush beauty of Ballyfin’s restored walled kitchen garden as well as the wild meadows, lake and woodlands in this 610-acre demesne.
So her first piece of advice will come as little surprise. “It’s all about the quality of the light, which is infinitely variable.
“Beginners often think that gardens should be photographed in bright midday sun but by then the light is too hard, too intense, and any colours are burnt out.