Snap and see

One of my many learnings these past 3 years is that a camera is an invaluable sustainability tool. Its two-dimensional photos are truth-tellers even more than the naked eye. Whether produced via smartphone or sophisticated camera, whether striking or just so-so, they show attributes with great clarity that we otherwise miss, downplay, or ignore.

Consider the selfie. We think we know what we look like and then – boom – poor posture, smile lines, love handles, or other unknown feature appears. Positive aspects such as twinkling eyes and joie de vie do too.

The same principle applies to garden photos that capture the essence of the target without distractions or bias. They can reinforce delight or highlight shortcomings. I find distinct water wise value in big-picture shots rather than single specimens or blossoms. Taken throughout the garden and over time, these photos offer telling realities of:

1) Composition – Are plant choices and placements pleasing?

Despite thorough research, plants’ growth patterns and colorations may turn out differently than expected. As I observe disappointments, I ponder, procrastinate, and hope. When a photo finally makes the misfit explicit, I say goodbye so water can be used for something better.

2) Worthiness – Are plantings and their consumption in synch with importance to you?

Photos led me to replace a low-priority area’s lush plantings that needed twice-weekly irrigation. Now cacti, euphorbia, agaves, and aloes get hand-watered there once monthly. In another high-priority area, a mass of one particular plant type matured to be ugly so I replaced it with a beauty.

3) Progress – Have plantings performed well?

Some may do poorly even with constant care. Photos, unlike gardeners, are dispassionate. Images of non-performers motivate me to cut my losses and move on. And images of what have become gorgeous areas where plants thrive motivate me to keep on keeping on.

As the pre-photo-editor adage goes, “The camera doesn’t lie.” Or as Rod Stewart sang, “Every Picture Tells a Story.” So snap and take action based on what you see to improve your garden’s beauty and consumption.