Garden photography – spring vistas and close–ups with Jacqui Hurst

Photography and digital image manipulation Garden courses

Ref: SWE11502

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About this course

Grasp the golden rules of composing vistas, plant portraits and close up images in camera inspired by West Dean Gardens. Suitable for DSLR or compact camera users.

Course Description

This is an ideal opportunity to build on your photographic skills by learning how to take well-composed garden pictures using the backdrop of the drifts of early spring bulbs, the pergola and the walled gardens. This weekend is all about composing pictures in camera. There will be guidance on how to transfer and store images on a computer, but it is not about post-image manipulation. It is suitable for those with a DSLR, a CSC (compact systems camera) or advanced compact digital cameras.

The aim of the course is to gain a greater understanding of how to frame stunning photographs of gardens carpeted with snowdrops and crocuses; and help you to grasp the golden rule of thirds, and to apply it when composing landcapes or close-ups. You will learn to how to make the most of available light due to the weather conditions and how these can enhance an image by adding depth and atmosphere.

Be prepared for one pre-breakfast photography session.

As it is a practical course, most of the time will be spent photographing in West Dean Gardens, drawing on a range of different approaches:

Close-up work

Plant portraits

General vistas through to landscapes

The use of colour

Ways in which light can enhance or detract from an image

Working on given topics

General discussion on the aspects listed, followed by practical sessions out in the Garden to concentrate on taking pictures with the tutor. The course will to a degree be tailored to students’ individual interests.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials

What students need to bring

  • Please bring an inspirational picture from a book or magazine to share with the group. If you have a particular area you wish to improve upon, bring some of your own photographs so that you can get some constructive feedback.
  • Ensure your camera is in good working order and your battery is fully charged. Bring a spare battery if you have one and battery charger. Bring plenty of empty memory cards. You will also need clothing suitable for extensive outdoor sessions (including waterproof trousers).
  • In addition please bring:
  • Camera to computer lead
  • Camera instruction manual
  • Tripod (if available)
  • Cable release – optional
  • Lens cloth
  • Small note pad to fit in your camera case
  • Laptop – if you have one and prefer working on your own computer
  • Your preferred media to save your images to e.g. USB stick
Please note that a lot of walking is involved on this course, carrying heavy camera equipment, and you should come prepared for this. It is essential that you have basic computer skills, and are confident to download images onto a PC. If you wish, you will be able to use Photoshop to edit your images; however, there will be no formal teaching on how to use these programmes during the course. Images can be downloaded onto a memory stick to take home. Each student will be allocated a PC in the College’s PC-based computer suite, however some of the other equipment provided e.g. printers and scanners are shared by the group. Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear i.e. no open-toes or sandals. You may need safety boots, if specified above.


Jacqui Hurst

Jacqui Hurst has been an editorial photographer since the mid 80's working with publishers and magazines, illustrating art, craft and gardening books and features. She is a member of the GMG and the NUJ. Recent books featuring her work are: 'Textile Landscapes' and 'Pat Albeck: Queen of the Tea Towel'. Jacqui started teaching at West Dean twenty years ago and found that she loved sharing her expertise and knowledge. She runs workshops in the UK and Europe.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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