Book Review: Fine Art Flower Photography


Great photography is about depth of feeling, not depth of field.
– Peter Adams

Although Tony Sweet’s book Fine Art Flower Photography: Creative Techniques and the Art of Observation (2012, Stackpole Books) won’t teach you anything about growing plants, it covers a subject near and dear to any gardener’s and garden blogger’s heart: how to make an artistic capture of the beautiful flowers you’ve been cultivating (or find in other people’s gardens).

Like all fine art, the treatments used are intended to elicit an emotional response. From blooms blurred/blown by the wind to Impressionist swirls of drift plantings, to the rippled edge of a bicoloured rose and the perfect round globe of a white tulip framed by hot pink azaleas, the images in this book are absolutely breathtaking. Sweet carefully walks the reader through all of the equipment required to produce his work, and he describes the process he took using both film (ie: setting up for multiple exposures) and digital cameras. Complete explanations are given for working with software programs such as Photoshop to build these digital masterpieces. Armed with this knowledge, the reader should be able to use the techniques described to capture and create their own floral art.

Don’t expect these kinds of beautiful renderings to show up on Flowery Prose anytime soon – photoediting software (and the wherewithal to use it) isn’t on the radar just yet for me! But considering flower photography from an emotional perspective and not merely as a record is something I would like to work more on – and I definitely need to learn how to use my cameras to best advantage! For all of those things, this book is a delightful piece of pure inspiration.

Is photography a passion for you? What are your favourite subjects to capture?  (If you have online folios or a photography blog you’d like to share, please feel free to post a link!).

I’m participating (very belatedly) in Roses and Other Gardening Joys’ Gardening Book Reviews for March! Head on over there to check out all the fabulous reviews!

(You can view some of Tony Sweet’s photo galleries here).

Canada thistle.

Well, we’re digging ourselves out of a “nearly spring” storm here in Calgary – we received approximately 20 cm (8″) of snow yesterday and flakes are still falling as I write this. Just two days earlier, we were basking under +12°C (53.6°F) sunshine, which is pretty typical of the way the weather goes around here at this time of year. I was delighted to get out on Friday morning and take a walk up on Nose Hill, where I ended up sharing the sunrise with five deer and a grumpy porcupine (you can see one of my photos of him here).

While I was up on the hill, I noticed that the City’s war on Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) in the park is ongoing.  I don’t like the fact that herbicides are sprayed annually to control this nasty invasive, but if something wasn’t done about them, the whole park would be covered in thistles. Pulling them simply isn’t a good solution – and it’s not just because they are thorny!


Canada thistle (winter)


  • Canada thistle is not a native of Canada. It actually has its origins in Mediterranean Europe.
  • Another common name for Canada thistle is creeping thistle…as in, it “creeps you out” with its insane root system. 😉
  • Each plant can produce up to 5,000 seeds.
  • Each seed can remain viable in the soil for up to 20 years.
  • Just 8 to 10 days after flowers emerge, plants can already produce viable seed.
  • Canada thistle reproduces by seed AND by vegetative cloning – a double whammy.
  • New plants can form from the tiniest of root segments – just 3-6 mm (1/8 – 1/4″) thick and 8 mm (3/8″) long. This is why pulling and digging don’t do diddly.
  • The tap root of each plant can reach 6 m (20 feet) underground in a single growing season.  Isn’t that incredible?¹

I am sooooo glad I don’t have to battle Canada thistle in my flowerbeds! I have a severe problem with quackgrass (aka couchgrass, Elymus repens), however, which I have struggled with for over a decade. While I have made significant inroads, I cannot ever let my guard down….

What are your worst plant enemies?


Whispering Woods.

Just a few blocks from where I live, the students of a small elementary school called Dr. E.W. Coffin have adopted a park called Whispering Woods.  What makes Whispering Woods so special is that it is an outdoor learning facility, directly tied in to the students’ classroom curriculum. Through interpretive signs and nature walks (there’s even a seating area built for lectures), the children learn science and language skills, and explore concepts such as the stewardship of nature and the interconnectivity of ecosystems.

Whispering Woods is a small gully filled with aspen trees and native prairie grasses, a piece of land calved off of nearby Nose Hill (which you’ll recognize from my many mentions on this blog). The area was long ago isolated by the construction of a major road and it is surrounded by houses, the school, and a baseball diamond. Yet, when you get right down into the heart of this tiny copse of trees, you can actually forget about the rest of the city – you can’t see the buildings or fences, and the noise of the traffic seems to completely disappear.

I love heading over to Whispering Woods in late June, when the wild roses are still blooming – you can find a ton of them there. Apparently, it’s also a good location to spot crocuses, so I’ll have to make a trip in early April to see for myself. I took a walk into the woods early this morning, when everything was quiet (extra-nice-quiet due to the Family Day holiday here in Alberta). It was a chilly, grey morning and the only sounds were a couple of magpies chattering softly at each other in the trees (I think they were half-asleep) and the sizzling of the nearby power lines in the cold humid air. So beautiful!



Entrance sign (John Laurie Boulevard side, southwest of Nose Hill).



The interpretive signs incorporate the letters of the alphabet.



I’m thinking these belonged to a magpie….



And here I thought I was alone!  🙂

Where are your favourite places to go walking?

Find out more about Whispering Woods at NatureGround.

Snowshoe trek.

The weather has been absolutely beautiful these past few days, with above freezing temperatures and lots of bright sun. It won’t last, but we’ll take it while we can get it! 🙂

On Friday, my hubby and I made a day trip out to the mountains to enjoy the scenery and do a little snowshoeing. The Elkwood Trail in Kananaskis Country was our first destination (we later did a short trek near Lower Kananaskis Lake as well). This well-marked track runs through a large campground in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, and encompasses an interpretive loop around Marl Lake. Stands of white spruce and lodgepole pine predominate, and we had to imagine what the trail will look like once the wildflowers awaken from their slumber. But, in the meantime, there were plenty of other interesting sights to enjoy….


(Photo credit:  R. Normandeau)


(Photo credit:  R. Normandeau)



(Photo credit:  R. Normandeau)





Happy Monday! I hope you are enjoying the sunshine wherever you are!

Related posts:

Elkwood Snowshoe Loop – Kananaskis – Hiking Alberta (Hiking With Barry – Wilderness Adventure)

Winter interest. (

Winter interest.

There’s not much winter interest going on in my flowerbeds right now…there’s a nice homogenous blanket of snow, though! Ah, when will spring ever arrive? 🙂

A few days before we received another massive dump of the white stuff, my hubby and I managed to get out for a hike at the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area, located southwest of the Calgary city limits. Donated by Sandy Cross (son of A.E. Cross, one of the founding members of the world-famous Calgary Stampede) and his wife Ann to the Province of Alberta in 1987 and 1996, this wildlife preserve consists of 4,800 acres of prairie land in the foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.


View from one of the outlooks at the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area. (Photo credit:  R. Normandeau)

The Area is carefully managed to minimize the impact of its users on the land and on the animals that inhabit it – it is necessary to prebook hikes online in advance and pay a small day use fee upon arrival.  You cannot cross-country ski and no dogs are allowed on the property.  (You also have to park your vehicle in a separate lot and walk in).

As always, what strikes me about hiking in the winter is the way everything stands out against the snow. Animal tracks and leavings, moss and lichens, the stubble of fescue, tufts of hair caught on a barbed wire fence…these are all things you might miss in the green riot of spring and summer.



(Photo credit:  R. Normandeau)




We believe this patch of hair belongs to one of the many head of cattle that are currently winter grazing on the property.  (Photo credit:  R. Normandeau)


(Photo credit:  R. Normandeau)

Do you like the term “winter interest” (with or without snow) in regards to landscape design? Is it something you consider in your own garden?

Mountain walk.

I hope everyone is enjoying the festive season! Have you had a chance to get out and do some gardening? (Weather permitting, of course!). Or perhaps you’ve gone on a nature walk?

My hubby and I attempted to work off some of the holiday cookies on Christmas Day and did a bit of wandering around Canmore and Kananaskis Country. We live less than an hour’s drive from the Rocky Mountains and it is always such a treat to head out there! No matter what time of the year, there’s always something new to see…while I’m especially fond of going on wildflower hunts in the late spring and early summer, you simply cannot beat wintry scenes like this:






One of my goals for 2013 is to spend even more time outdoors!  Have you made any resolutions yet?

Have the happiest of New Years!  Make every moment count!  🙂



Winter magic!

My hubby and I finally hauled our ice skates out of the closet yesterday and headed over to the Olympic Oval, the speed skating venue built for the 1988 Winter Olympics, held here in Calgary.  The Oval opens up to the public for skating on the ice track nearly every day from August through March or April.  If you live here (or are visiting) and have never skated at the Oval, definitely don’t pass up the opportunity – the ice is like no other surface you’ve ever skated on.  It’s pristine, smooth as glass and hard as diamond, far superior than any ice in any hockey rink or outdoor pond.  I love skating at the Oval, even if the three year old children toddling along on their bobskates around me can stay on their feet better than I can!  🙂

After a few runs around the track, we headed out onto the grounds of the University of Calgary campus, where the Oval is located.  I am an alumna of the University and while I attended classes there, I always loved walking along the heavily-treed pathways – it’s really one of the most beautiful spots in the city.   Over the years, groundskeepers have been carefully planting and cultivating a huge range of different types of trees and shrubs, so you’ll find abundant diversity on the grounds.  With the soft, powdery snow that fell overnight, the landscape was pure winter magic!



Magpie FP



This is my 150th post on Flowery Prose – I am so grateful to all of you for reading and commenting!  I am having such fun writing!  🙂