Stacy Bass shoots architecture, interiors and lifestyle images, but she really has a knack for capturing the light in outdoor gardens. In 2007, Gallerie Je Reviens in Westport, Connecticut presenter her botanical images, and sales from the show benefited Bridgeport, Connecticut’s Discover Museum. Her first book, In the Garden (Melcher Media, 2013), is a 224-page collection of images showcasing contemporary American gardens. She recently published her second book, Gardens at First Light (Moffly Media, 2015). PDN asked her about her technique, how she gains access to private gardens, and about her new book.
Photo District News: Where did your interest in gardens and/or garden photography come from? And when?
Stacy Bass: When I decided to re-launch my photography career when my youngest daughter was headed to kindergarten, I created a website with images that were then 15 years old and I sent it out into the world.
Art director Amy Vischio [of athome Magazine] sent me a note that she saw something special in my images and hoped she would one day have an assignment for me. About six months later, I was hired to shoot a garden for the magazine. I had never shot a garden before and didn’t really know what to expect. On that very first day, I was hooked. I had a very strong visceral reaction to being out in a beautiful space, alone with my camera and having the chance to explore and discover.
PDN: This is your second book…and gardens featured in this one are private. How did you get access?
SB: The gardens were sourced in two ways: Either an assignment for a magazine and/or I was hired by a landscape designer or a homeowner who had seen my work previously. The 12 gardens in this book were the ones selected from an archive of over 100. [They] were chosen of course because they were beautiful, but also because as a group they represented a great cross section of different kinds of gardens with varying personalities.
PDN: I see you’ve been on a book tour, and speaking at a number of garden clubs. What do people usually like to know, what kinds of questions do you get asked?
SB: I have been speaking to different kinds of groups for years about “The Fine Art of Garden Photography.” I show images and give tips about how to best approach shooting this subject matter. People ask questions that range from the more technical or technique-based (Use of tripod? Type of lenses used?) to broader inquires about how to get your work published. And they always ask about my garden, which is one reason why I decided to include my garden in the book.
PDN: What kind of equipment do you use for your shoots?
SB: A Nikon D4, a Nikkor 60mm macro lens, a 50-200 zoom lens, and a very sturdy Bogen tripod with a trigger/ball head. That’s it!
PDN: Do you also know a lot about plants and flowers now that you’ve photographed so many?
SB: Actually, no. It’s a fair question and I always laugh to myself when it’s asked—I have learned a lot over the past 10-plus years but truly my interest and focus is on the visual—and how to convey and capture what is before me to share with others. It’s great if it happens to be a hydrangea or a peony, but I’d be hard pressed to tell you much more about them beyond their names!
PDN: What do you look for when composing images?
SB: I sometimes scout before I shoot but in many ways, I prefer not to. I like the surprise of seeing what is there as the sun comes up and how the changing light interacts with the landscape. I do work methodically around a property to be sure I have captured all it has to offer.
PDN: Do you have a favorite image from the book?
SB: You know the expression about favorite children of course…really hard to pick just one. I love so many—not just as images that depict a spectacular place but also as memories of the experience I had shooting them.