Going Impressionist in Monet's Garden

Monet's Garden -- a little less than an hour by train from Paris -- is a wonderful place to flee from the hustle and bustle of the French capital. Assuming you are off-season of course, because the crowds do descend come summer.

Spring of 2013 in France was very wet, but we chose a relatively sunny day to visit Giverny, the small village where Claude Monet and his garden lived. The gardens are not huge but are quite beautifully laid-out. I began just doing some straight photography of the flowers but quickly realized that a tulip is much the same, whether in France, Holland or the US. (I've photographed flowers in Corsica, Provence, the South Tyrol, the Botanical Gardens of New York, southern Utah, and elsewhere. Without an environmental setting, there is little to distinguish one floral location from another one.)  A more creative approach was called for.

I began by mounting a neutral density filter on my lens. ND filters cut the amount of light coming into a camera's sensor or film. This allows for long exposures in bright sunlight without overexposure. The effects can be quite dreamy with blurred clouds, mist-like surf, and silky-smooth waterfalls. To achieve those effects one must mount the camera on a tripod so that everything else that is not in motion, remains tack sharp. In Monet's Garden I wanted a different look. Instead of mounting the camera on a tripod, I hand-held it for several to many seconds of exposure whilst moving it slowly about. The intent was to create photographic impressionism. I tried many different movement techniques, positions, and of course different flowers and arrangements. 

It was not clear what I would end up with until later that evening when I began processing the files. Many of the images were either too blurry or too boring (or both) but a small handful held promise. With further processing a very small body of images emerged from that shoot. These then are a sampling of my "impressions" of Monet's Garden.

I am pretty certain that were Claude Monet alive today he would be painting, rather than creating "photo impressions." His work was and is very tactile and there is something very physical about using brush and palette knife, canvas and paints. Yes, he would still be a painter. But, I am not, and so this is my photographic nod to his genius.



Travel, Architecture and Landscape are the palettes upon which Jeff Clay, the principal of Clayhaus Photographyphotographs. Travel to Paris, visit his dreamy creative galleries, or stop into Local Colors to see what's hanging. He lives in Salt Lake City, UT with his wife, Bonnie, and their three wild and crazy retrievers.