On Wednesday, June 10 the St. Albert Photography Club welcomed Paul Swanson, staff photographer at the Devonian Botanical Garden, as our guest speaker. Paul has worked at the Garden during the summers for the past six years while attending Ryerson University in Toronto where he has just completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography.
At the Garden, Paul provides photography for educational materials for the programs that are offered as well as promotional material for other events and for research. In addition to his work at the garden, Paul does commercial photography, covering a wide range of genres including portraits, sports and aerial. One of his commercial clients is Red Bull.
Paul emphasized that composition is key when planning his work for the garden and he must keep in mind how the photo is to be used. For example if it’s going to be used in a brochure, he must ensure there is empty space where text can be added. One of his challenges is to be able to photograph the same plants year after year with a different approach to keep it new. Some tips Paul offered during his presentation include:
- Get down low when shooting plants and shoot up to get the appearance of being surrounded by the plants and to get a different perspective.
- Use a fisheye lens to get up really close.
- Insects add a personal touch.
- Blurring the foreground at the bottom of the frame gives the viewer the impression of looking through a window and draws the viewer into the picture.
- Never photograph from the same viewpoint over and over. Look for new perspectives.
- When photographing action, shoot for the peak of performance (e.g.: A high jumper at his maximum height just as he goes over the bar. A shot on goal just as the puck leaves the hockey player’s stick). This creates stress in the image and draws your attention.
- Butterflies are shipped to the garden from around the world every two weeks so if you’re planning a visit to the butterfly house, call ahead to confirm when a new shipment will be arriving.
Paul finished off with a Google Earth tour of the garden and then invited questions from the group.