During a recent weekend trip to Grand Rapids, I had my first experience walking around the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.
Yes, I know — I should be ashamed of myself for only now going to the gardens. It was certainly worth the trip, though.
So why am I mentioning and including tons of pictures of my trip in this blog? Well, to encourage you to go of course! The gardens are a fantastic place to exercise your photographic muscles.
The plants and wildlife are exotic and provide interesting subjects to shoot. Even the people joining you on the tour can prove to be interesting to watch and photograph as they experience the same thing you are.
During my trip I had the distinct privilege to take a quick photo of a couple just before their wedding. They chose to share a private moment together before the ceremony and the look on the groom’s face was priceless. If you look to the upper right of the collage above you’ll see their embrace.
An especially unique opportunity is available at the gardens for people who love to get close to nature (like myself)— the animals aren’t as skiddish as ones that can be found locally, you can get within a few feet of birds and the butterflies and bees that adorn the flowers in the garden are easy to shoot because of how many there are.
While I only saw a few of them during my time there, the gardens also feature a large number of sculptures that can provide a means to practice photographing different variations of leading line and other compositional techniques of the like.
While much of the scenery is outdoors, there’s a lot to be found indoors as well — with that change of scenery comes a change in camera settings. The gardens offer you a chance to practice both indoors and out.
When I first learned how to shoot with my Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera, much of my time was spent practicing in places that offered a variety of different lighting situations. If you always practice your photography when it’s bright and sunny out, you’ll run into trouble when you step inside.
Additionally, I always recommend that people who are new to photography seek out places like the gardens because just about everything you point your camera at makes for a good photo.
Shooting in places with a diverse range of subjects is good practice to train your eyes so you know what a good photograph looks like. First hand experience with photography always beats being told the “proper” way to shoot.
Plus, having the opportunity to take a number of really good photos is a great morale boost for you. It’ll help you enjoy photography more if you shoot more good shots than bad. However, shooting in a location where finding subjects is easy also can give you a better chance to take a closer look at how you’re shooting.
For instance, when shooting a butterfly as it moves through the air — if you find that your images are coming out soft or somewhat blurry, you’ll have the time to troubleshoot and to learn how to work around any problems you come across. This can help you to troubleshoot faster in the future.
So, mark out a photo day on your calendar and go to the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. Shooting there is like playing a video game on easy. When it comes to photography, the availability of a variety of different shots can be a rewarding experience.