Photographing Gardens

By Amy Horn

Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II, 60mm macro, ISO 400, f/2.8 @ 1/1250 sec.

The Shore Acres State Park Garden is full of photographic opportunities and during my summer trip, I spent a few hours looking for macro and close-up subjects. It was a cloudy day, so I left my diffuser in the car but grabbed my 60 mm macro and 40-150 mm telephoto lenses for my Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II cropped sensor camera. Other gear needed was a tripod, shutter release, and a circular polarizing filter (CPL).

Rose Garden

Known for its spectacular rose garden, I went there first. Several rows of different varietals of roses each with a different scent. I looked for a “perfect” rose. I’m not sure there really is a perfect rose, but I wanted one with new petals, easy to photograph without disturbing other flowers and preferably head height. These rose bushes were very tall, so why kneel on the ground if one was at a comfortable height? I spotted my rose and setup my tripod, shutter release and used the 60 mm macro lens. I tried several compositions and focus points, sometimes focusing on the inside of the rose and on the outer petals too. My favorite image was captured at ISO 200, f/5.6 @ 1/125 sec.

60mm macro, ISO 200, f/5.6 @ 1/125 sec.

Water Droplets

When I left the rose garden, I noticed the sprinklers had run in parts of the garden. And I saw water droplets on many plants and flowers. The only problem was the hedge between the sidewalk and the flowers, so I watched for a break in the hedge to setup my tripod and not disturb other plants. I found one. With Olympus’ in-camera focus stacking and my 60 mm macro lens I captured the following water droplets at ISO 400, f/4.0 @ 1/80 sec.


When I came upon the lily pads, I switched to the 40-150 mm lens since the lilies were further away. After I took one shot, I put on the circular polarizing filter to reduce reflections in the water. Notice the difference between the two images. Next, I looked for a better composition and found this white lily. Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II, 40-150 mm, ISO 400, f/5.0 @ 1/400 sec. and a circular polarizing filter.

Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II, 40-150 mm, ISO 400, f/5.0 @ 1/200 sec., with circular polarizing filter.
Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II, 40-150 mm, ISO 400, f/5.0 @ 1/1000 sec.

As I wondered around the pond area, I came across a spider spinning his web. This was another job for the macro lens. Sometimes, instead of changing lens, I will put the two lenses I will use on two camera bodies and then I don’t have to switch lenses. My other camera body is the Olympus OM-D EM-5 Mark II. If there are strong winds or I am shooting near sea spray, I will use two camera bodies instead of changing lenses.


Shots like these are easy to find at any local garden. Grab your lenses and give it a try. If you would like more information about macro and close-up photography, Bruce Taubert and I wrote a book, The Art of Macro Photography. It is available as a pdf download now and the print version will be available in September.  We are accepting preorders now at

Amy Horn is a Senior Lecturer of photography at Northern Arizona University and an instructor for Arizona Highways PhotoScapes. View her current teaching schedule at or

Amy Horn is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

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