Matthaei Botanical Garden

Posted: January 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

Each winter I like to make at least one trip to the Matthaei Botanical Garden which is run by the University of Michigan.


Botanical gardens are tough to shoot at because the plant life is packed so close together, making it tough to shoot subjects with nice clean backgrounds. I always talk about positioning the camera so the background is as far away as possible so you end up with that nice sold color background that doesn’t compete with the main subject.

Here is an example of some flowers with the backgrounds subjects to close to easily blur that background even when shooting in the lowest f/stops numbers.


When I’m shooting in a botanical garden and subjects are packed tight, I will find the larger subjects that I can fill the frame with and not have to worry about the background. I will show you subjects that I was able to do this with.

I’m using my Nikon D7000 and the Tamron 90mm macro today. Because the subjects are right next to the walkways, but my Tamron 18-270 would also work well in this situation..

I used these nice large layer of leaves to fill the frame, and used a higher f-stop in the f/32 to bring all the nice details into focus.


They had some pots of large flowers that I could fill the frame with fairly well, and the little bit of open areas around the flower I blacked out in Photoshop.

This first one I shot was at f/22, I wanted most of the flower in focus. I ran the lines of the stamen stems on a diagonal, making the comp a little more interesting then running them straight up and down vertical. I blacked out the background in photoshop

This second image I shot this at f/8 to give a little softer background on the flower and put all the focus on the stamen and pistil.


Lets move on to the Swiss Cheese Plant. Very cool large leaves with holes just like swiss cheese.

As with the others I’m using the higher f/stops to get most of the leaf in focus. Just like the stamens stems, I angled the lines in the leaf on a diagonal.

This time I positioned the camera towards a leaf with the overcast sky in the background causing a white out in the holes of the leaf.

Here is the shoot with the white holes.


Now lets head into the back room which is filled with cool desert plants.

My favorite plant in the desert area is the Century Plant. Lots of cool lines and designs in the plant.

I’m shooting at f/32 as the area I’m shooting is fairly deep and I want it all in focus.

Here is an abstract of the Century Plant. It has this little curly string hanging over the plant, so I included it into the comp.

So as you see, if you fill the frame with the subjects, you don’t have to worry about the cluttered background.

Thanks for stopping in, tomorrow I will show some of my frame filling favorite images that were shot in the last few years at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens.


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  1. Taerie Kelly says:

    Question for you—does the garden normally allow tripods or did you have to pay a special fee to use it? Unless they have changed their policy in the past year, Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, Pa will not allow tripods/monopods unless you pre-arrange and pay a couple hundred dollars for the privilege.

  2. Anita Bower says:

    I especially like posts like this one in which you show us your set up (photo with subject, camera, tripod, etc.) and resulting images. Excellent.

  3. Joe Campbell says:

    It reminds me of Longwood Gardens. I’m not sure of their tripod rules, though. I get some nice shots at Longwood shooting hand held, because they have so much to shoot and just like your shoot here, the plants are so close that you can fill your frame without any problem. There are so many people at Longwood, that I feel like I’m blocking someone’s view or I’m in the way. So, I shoot hand held.

  4. Michael Pierce says:

    If you haven’t been to the Chicago Botanical Gardens, you’re missing one of the great treats in the US. Just don’t go in Winter. But in the summer, they have a great butterfly exhibit housed in a separate structure.

    Michael Pierce Sent from my iPad


    • Mike Moats says:

      Michael, I have been there, very nice indoor gardens and I was there in very early spring, so was only a few flowers out, but sure it’s great in the summer.

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