The most poignant photos from my summer garden are those of the irises in my front yard. They show the before and after of the first and most violent of the two hail storms that mashed my plant neighbors. Because I was thinking “photo book,” I still remembered to document what I saw with images before I set to work, designing a system of emergency plant first aid using bamboo stakes, twine and masking tape.
When I think of my garden, I think of its progression through conception, events like the hail storms, to harvest and clean up. So I would present my garden's story chronologically. Photo books can also be organize by a theme, like color or mood, or by categories, like flowers and vegetables. Those decisions influence what to present, when and where in a book.
I like an 8.5 x 11 book. It's easy to hold in my lap as I read and would look great on a bookshelf nestled next to volumes for 2011 and 2012, or a retrospective of the past five years. A twenty page 8.5 x11 book can use as many as 77 photos. A 40 page book can use up to 140. So choosing the size of your book, gives you a heads up on how many images you might need.
Not all of images you use need to be of your garden. Scan the best of your vegie and fruit-oriented recipes, original and revised garden maps, and pages from a garden journal. Gather photos of family members gardening together, of produce used for a holiday picnic or included in the cooler for a camping trip and the folks who shared those meals. Include images of canning jars, neatly lined out in the pantry, filled with the bounty of your loving labor.
Your project can evoke a feeling or the flavor of an experience. It can document an event. The photos of my front yard's irises vividly illustrate what July's hailstorm meant to my garden. I don't need to add much written description, but I have the option to add text wherever I like in my book.
Other organizational tips include:
Sketch out plans for your project then consider whether the left and right pages work together, do they “read?”
How much description do you want? Think about what you want to say and write that out now.
What title do you want? What image will you use on the book's title page? On the dust jacket?
Organize your images and written text by page, then save your images to a portable drive or a CD in that order.
Creating you book at an on-location kiosk can save you from the frustration of navigating the ins and outs of web-based services and their slow upload of images.
Ready to sit down and create your book? Set aside enough time to complete your project. I’ve found that the kiosks at F-11 Photographic Supplies in Bozeman allow me to comfortably create a great-looking layout in 30 minutes. Images can be easily rotated and resized. Take it from me, you don't want to experience the frustration of having a horizontal image chopped up in a vertical box with no way to fix it except to use a different image. Nor do you want to dig through countless page layouts to find something that fits all of your images.
There’s something surprisingly satisfying about holding a completed project. Its a harvest of experience, served up for your pleasure. It documents the real perseverance and skill it takes to garden in Zone 4.
The relationship I have with my garden is one of the most intimate I have each summer. Sometimes richly satisfying and others (as in after a hail storm) so very discouraging. That's what comes together in a book: the tangible experience itself, along with the caring, the shared tasks and pleasures, the celebration of growth and harvest -- the things that make all the effort worthwhile.
Jenna Caplette is employed by F-11 Photographic Supplies, Bozeman, Montana.