How to Take Pictures in Glasshouses: Kew Gardens
Photography in hot and humid glasshouses, such as those at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, presents the added problem of cold camera lenses and viewfinders (not to mention spectacles) steaming up.
Wiping away the condensation with a lens cloth is not the answer, for the glass surfaces simply steam up again. The only solution is to take the cameras and lenses out of the gadget bag as soon as you enter a hot house and wait some fifteen minutes for the condensation gradually to evaporate as the equipment warms up to the ambient temperature. If a picture is taken before the lens clears, it will appear soft, lacking both crispness and contrast — the same effect as if it had been taken with a soft-focus filter (indeed, some portrait photographers breathe on a lens to produce an ephemeral soft-focus filter to help to soften wrinkles in an ageing face).
In spite of this inconvenience, I found myself very much attracted to both the Wet Tropics section of the Princess of Walesand the Palm House at Kew Gardens. I used the time spent waiting for lenses to clear to check which plants were worth photographing.
Other problems associated with working in any glasshouse — heated or not — include shadows cast by glazing bars and white deposits appearing on shiny leaves, notably camellias, from repeated watering. Shadows will disappear when direct sunlight is softened by a cloud; while powdery deposits on leaves in a privately owned glasshouse can be removed by wiping the leaves with a cloth soaked in olive oil.
Occasionally there are distinct bonuses to be gained when working under glass. Take, for example, the evocative misty atmosphere with the tree fern photographed early in the morning after the Wet Tropics section had been doused with hoses on a scorching midsummer’s day.
The steamy atmosphere conveys to perfection a humid rainforest environment. Then, on two separate visits to the Palm House, I was attracted by plants which sparkled with water drops from recent spraying – the velvet banana and Barbados pride .