How to create a Juxtaposition in your photography; City Green.

City Green photographed by Mick Hales

How to create a Juxtaposition in your photography.

Mick Hales recalls photographing the book City Green: Public Gardens of New York published by Monacelli Press. Written by Jane Garmey.

Battery Park at the Southern tip of Manhattan is filled with memorial gardens and a wonderful place to spend a lunch hour.
The juxtaposition of the trees and the buildings emphasizes the scale of park in the city.

Photographing gardens in New York City means the borrowed landscape is likely to have a variety of buildings in the background. Not a bucolic background, but often thought provoking. This was especially the case when photographing the World Trade Center Memorial Garden, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the High Line and Brooklyn Grange. All of which are surrounded and sometimes overwhelmed by high rise buildings.


The World Trade Center Memorial Garden is so powerfully surrounded by high rises and sunken waterfalls in the center that sometimes realizing that it was a beautifully designed simple garden was hard to capture. When using a juxtaposition of size, ie the huge skyscrapers of the financial district and the relatively low height of the trees, the difference in scale places an emphasis on the fragility of the living trees. This is extended by the design of this memorial by the deep two stage waters falls which exaggerate the height and depth of the memorial, the falling water symbolic of the passing of life.

The World Trade Center Memorial Park.
The trees of the World Trade Center Memorial Park are dwarfed by the PATH building and High Rises.

Another form of juxtaposition I like to utilize is photographing into the light. This can be technically challenging as it can create flair in the image if light goes directly into the lens, however if that can be avoided, it often gives strong form to the subject and as long as there is enough fill in the shadows form an exciting image.

World Trade Center Memorial Garden
New growth in the trees is Juxtaposed with the man made skyscraper.

Similarly, juxtaposition between a fragile natural form and that of a rigid man made form can set up interesting conflicts which emphasize differences within an image. The reason we do this in photography is that although we are capturing something which is in reality normal we are trying to show it or explain it more deeply by contrasting its contents or surrounding. Creating a visual question which the viewer has to take time to evaluate and go deeper into the photograph to fully comprehend. We are holding the viewers attention and giving information which we experienced as the photographer in front of the actual experience or happening so the viewer can receive that it as well. As photographer we are trying to tell a story to some else which we have just seen and experienced. Juxtaposition is a great tool to capture attention.


Get your copy of City Green; Public Gardens of New York, and find out how to use juxtaposition in garden photography.


Mick Hales


City Green:Public Gardens of New York. Mick Hales recalls photographing the book. Part one- Getting in Early.

Wave Hill Aquatic Garden
The Aquatic garden at Wave Hill comes into its fullness later in the season and is a great place to learn about water planting.

Mick Hales recalls photographing the book City Green: Public Gardens of New York published by Monacelli Press. Written by Jane Garmey.

Getting in Early.

Photographing landscapes and gardens for the book City Green: Public Gardens of New York, gave me a chance to really explore the richness of NYC gardens open to the public. New York has a wealth of different gardens as well as parks, which add to the quality of life for New Yorkers and visitors.

When Photographing gardens the most important times are early morning and late afternoon. If it is a day with clear sky and very strong daylight it is much harder to photograph, especially in the middle of the day, the contrast is too high and colors are washed out. Most gardens are a combination of different shades of green which in a soft even light can read as many different hues, but in harsh light plants loose their subtlety and appear very reflective or dark.

Getting into the gardens early in the morning for City Green proved to be more difficult than I had expected. Many of the gardens required extensive clearance to enable me to photograph with a tripod.

Scheduling in advance means you have to deal with whatever weather the day gives you. I had to travel from Columbia County into New York City, which was around 120 mile drive, to arrive before the sun got too high, and too strong to shoot, which meant leaving home around four in the morning.

With some of the locations I would arrive after the long drive, anxious not to miss the early light in the garden only to have to wait hours for a garden’s PR person to come into work.

I have now published around 40 coffee table books and recognize that acquiring access is one of the major issues to it’s success. One of my favorite books which I wrote as well as photographed is called Monastic Gardens. We photographed in monasteries in France, England and America for the book. I spent a long winter writing letters asking permission to photograph inside monasteries. These days e mails help to speed things up but people are still very busy and it can take a long time to arrange a shoot.

Gardens change so quickly that a day or two can make a huge difference in their appearance. A burst of hot weather, which often happens in the spring, can push bulbs and spring flowering trees to cycle through blooms in days rather than two or three weeks.

I remember traveling to photograph the garden of Oca, in Portugal, for House and Garden magazine, the night I arrived there was a sudden freeze and snow fall. The garden was destroyed when I got up to shoot in the morning, it looked the antithesis of a Portuguese garden and I came away with very little exposed film. That is a long way to go to return empty handed.

Gardens are fickle and photographing them takes a lot of patience. The number of times a gardener has said to me, ‘I wish you had been here a week ago the blooms were terrific, now a lot are over.’ I would wish they had told me two weeks ago that the blooms were coming in and I would have changed my schedule.

Get your copy of City Green; Public Gardens of New York, and find out about the wonderful gardens waiting to be seen the next time you have some time in NYC.

West Side Community Garden from the book City Green.
Springtime is especially beautiful in New York with thousands of bulbs in bloom.

Mick Hales

City Green: Public Gardens of New York. Flower Magazine Preview.

Landscape Photographer Mick Hales, latest book City Green:New York Public Gardens, can be preordered through Amazon Books. Interiors photography in New York City is published in New York Living: Reinventing Home by Rizzoli.
Recently published books of Mick Hales Photography City Green: New York Public Gardens by Monacelli Press and New York Living: Reinventing Home by Rizzoli.

Flower magazine comments on upcoming City Green: Public Gardens Of New York. In the March April Issue. In Bloom Books. Garden Photographer Mick Hales

A new book takes us on a tour
of the lovely green spaces of New York City, from pocket gardens to more expansive ones, and celebrates the ingenuity and spirit of their creators and keepers

THE CAMBRIDGE DICTIONARY defines the phrase urban jungle as “city life, especially the unpleasant parts of it,” such as traffic noise, pollution, and huge concrete buildings. New York City certainly has all of those, and they affect even the casual tourist. But it also possesses wonderful pockets of respite from all that—many more than

the city’s crown jewel—Frederick Law Olmsted’s 843-acre Central Park. City Green, captured by the talented garden photographer Mick Hales, takes us on a tour of 25 verdant spaces in Manhattan and the outer boroughs. It’s a celebration of the ingenuity that urban gardens demand when short on acreage. Consider Paley Park, tucked between two buildings on 53rd Street just o Fifth Avenue, with its wall of water that drowns out Midtown tra c. At no more than one-tenth of an acre, it still makes a statement (and is perfect for an alfresco lunch). Not just creating but also keeping green areas green can be a challenge in a city tight on space. Writer Jane Garmey chronicles the determination of Upper West Side residents to protect their community garden from development, which resulted in a vibrant, self-funded, and well-tended space. The book also takes us to those gardens that are more luxuriant in space and pedigree, such as The Cloisters in Upper Manhattan overlooking the Hudson River, and Wave Hill in the Bronx, which was once a private estate. With this book in hand, even the most ardent naturalist can brave New York City in ne form.

City Green: New York Public Gardens. is now available for preorder through Amazon Books.

Recently Published: Madoo Garden in Flower magazine May 2017

Bob Dash used every opportunity to experiment in the garden, with color, structures, pathways and plants

The first time I met Robert Dash, the painter and gardener, was for a shoot for House and Garden magazine commissioned by editor Babs Simpson nearly 27 years ago. Since then I have photographed the two houses and garden which make up ‘Madoo’ in its various stages of development. Bob Dash has now passed on, but Madoo is now held in a trust under the skilled management of Alejandro Saralegui. Both the houses and gardens require considerable attention to keep the spirit and creative nature that Bob Dash carried. It is truly a jewel in Sagaponak and an important part of the American cultural heritage.

Bob Dash was extraordinarily creative and used his painter’s eye in the garden as much as in his studio. He painted the different structures in the garden strong colors and they would often change each year. He was part of the artistic community in the Hamptons.  There was always social gatherings involving gardeners and artists with the constant flow of ideas and critical thinking on any subject. Bob’s use of color in the garden was always cutting edge and he loved to push the boundary in thinking the garden was another canvas to paint with.

Bob Dash used color in the garden in the many artifacts and structures

He kept two houses on the property, a summer house and a winter house, and both were distinctly different in inside and out, but the use of color was so strong that it was always an adventure returning in a new season to see what he had done.

Bob loved strong colors and everything he touched was a piece of art.
Bob’s summer studio was made out of an old barn with a large latticed window which looked out over a pond.

Madoo is open to the public on certain days and well worth visiting.

Recently Published Newport Garden

A Garden for Strolling: Flower Magazine
April 2017

Bettie Beardon Pardee achieved the impossible- to build a new house and garden in Newport, RI, and have it blend in perfectly with the famous ‘Cottages of Newport’. The garden suits the house in scale and intimacy, it is not too big yet certainly not small, with much to discover; vistas, refined plant combinations and a myriad different shades of green. It is ‘French formal’, with a twist of high American style.
Having worked on two books on the houses of Newport, Living Newport and Private Newport with Bettie, which were published in 2014 and 2004, I was fortunate to photograph her garden several times and get to know it well. It is a very exciting addition to Newport.

Formal garden is centered with fountain.
Roses climb over the garden orangery.
Finely kept topiary garden.
Climbing roses perfume the morning air.

Capture your projects in their prime. Call Mick Hales 518 672 0014.