If you think green spaces are hard to come by in the big city, you’d be very wrong. Tucked away in South-West London is one of the most incredible green spaces you could ever want, steeped in history and richly diverse in plant life. Kew Gardens has been attracting attention since its inception in 1759, and it’s not hard to see why…
Housing over 50,000 living plants in 300 acres, photographers can get lost here for days and days. Whilst it’s possible to see all of the gardens in a day, it’s especially fulfilling to be able to visit season after season and observe first hand how the gardens, wildlife and landscape changes with time. If you’re serious about nature photography, consider getting yourself a Kew membership – you get unlimited visits and a companion gets in with you for free.
Over the last year I’ve visited Kew countless times (really, I’ve lost count) and pick and choose which bits of photographic kit to take with me on the day, weather dependant. If it’s raining, pack the macro lens and shoot inside the three large conservatories (the Princess of Wales Conservatory is especially ideal for this as you can get up close to the plants and they’re on a much smaller scale), if you have brilliant blue sky, stroll through the arboretum, take a walk on the treetop walkway, and marvel at all the ancient trees. If you have some cloud, or it’s slightly overcast, fold up the tripod and get some long exposures over the water. Whatever the weather, you’ll always find something to shoot.
Sometimes you’ll approach a location with a clear idea of what you want to shoot and you pack your kit bag accordingly, other times you’ve no idea and seem to bring everything but the kitchen sink…I’m guilty of both. If you visit often, a great idea is to challenge yourself to capture a particular aspect of the gardens; take a look at the site map and don’t try to cover too much ground in a day. Of course weekdays are always quieter, and those days where it’s not super sunny will rid you of some crowds, without being of detriment to your images.
MY KEW HIGHLIGHTS
Redwood Grove & Lake
this area of the arboretum, over toward the lake and Sackler Crossing, are filled with the most incredible trees that turn vivid shades in autumn
Palm House & Rose Garden
somewhere to get lost in no matter what the weather throws at you, climb the stairs in the Palm House for a different view of the treetops; in summer the rose garden entices you with its gorgeous smell and rich colour
Oak Collection & Rhododendron Dell
if you park at Brentford Gate, take the first path that diverts to the right, and walk alongside ancient trees. Nip into the Rhododendron Dell to experience a part of the gardens always bustling with wildlife. Stay still long enough, and you’ll find it comes to you.
DON’T FORGET TO LOOK UP
There are so many birds nesting in the grounds of Kew; Parakeets will constantly fill the air with shrill squarks and flashes of green as they dart from tree to tree. Take a moment to stand still and see what they’re up to, watching their behaviour is fascinating and you’ll get some great shots.
Lately I’ve taken to changing up my kit so much, that sometimes I even visit without my camera (Nikon D7100) and just shoot on my phone. The Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s 40 megapixels and RAW capability mean that you can travel light, and get great shots. Remember not every visit to Kew Gardens needs to be a major photoshoot, but always have something small with you so you know you’ll never miss an important moment. After a hard day’s shooting (or just admiring all the plants!) you have four places to choose from to stop for coffee, and believe me you’ll need one…