Vicki's Frequently Asked Questions

To my surprise and delight, I receive quite a few emails from visitors to my website. There are a few questions I am asked repeatedly by many different people, and so I thought it might be helpful if I attempted to answer some of these questions and posted them on my website. So here it is. My FAQ page.

What USDA zone do you live in?
My gardens are located just SW of Houston, Texas which is zone 9a on the 1990 version of the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. We have mild Winters in which it rarely freezes, and when it does freeze, the freezing temperatures usually last only a few hours in the middle of the night. Our Summers are very hot and humid. The humidity is, by far, the most difficult aspect of gardening I face in my area as many plants cannot grow well in such a humid environment (powdery mildew can be a big problem sometimes). Our Spring and Fall seasons are a gardener's dream! You can plant almost anything during these seasons, and the plants just flourish! We have flowers blooming year round with many annuals doing wonderfully during the cooler Winter months.

If you are not sure what USDA zone you live in, you can look it up on the internet: USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

May I use your photographs?
This is one of the most common questions I am asked. And the answer is simple. Maybe. :-)

If you are a student and would like to use my photos for a school project, you may do so with my blessing. Just please make a good grade!

If you are a fellow gardener and would like to download a copy of my photos for your own personal pleasure or gardening information, you may do so with my blessing as well. I hope you have great success in your own gardens.

If you wish to use my photos on your own personal website, you must first send me email to request permission. Please explain why you want my photos on your website. You will be required to download the photos to your own servers and include links back to my website, showing clearly where you obtained the pictures.

If you wish to use my photos in any professional/commercial manner, you must first send me email to request permission and to discuss whether any fees may be involved. I have high resolution copies of most of my photos which I have allowed to be used professionally. I also have a large library of photos that are not published on my website. Please remember, however, that I will always retain full ownership and copyrights to my photos. My high resolution photos are usually 2048 x 1536 pixels, 72 dpi, and approximately 1.5 to 2 MB in size.

What camera do you use?
I use an Olympus 3030-Zoom camera. I bought it when it first came out, and have been very pleased with it. This is my first attempt at photography (other than the typical snapshot pictures everyone takes). All of my knowledge comes from reading books, the internet, observation, and experimentation. I use no special lenses on my camera; although, I would like to get a telescopic and macro lens one day.

How do you take and process your photographs?
I use the highest resolution my camera will allow in jpg form. The pictures are taken at a resolution of 2048 x 1536, 72 dpi. They are then processed using Photoshop on my Macintosh computer.

I generally find that taking high resolution pictures brings about the cleanest final pictures for the internet. This captures the greatest amount of detail which I can then work with when processing my pictures with Photoshop. Any slight graininess in the photos usually disappears when the pictures are scaled down and sharpened. This cleaner picture also assists in creating small file size photos for displaying on the internet.

When taking the photos, I use a wide variety of settings. I suggest to anyone who's interested in taking photos that they experiment with all of the settings and features of their camera.

The main key to photography is the lighting, and natural light will almost always result in a better photo than one taken with a flash. Flashes on cameras tend to create very harsh looking pictures. But using natural lighting can sometimes be difficult, especially if the lighting is too bright or too dark.

Natural light does not mean direct sunlight. It is better to take photos using bright shade. Direct sunlight is much too harsh, washing out the colors and details of your subject. Morning and evening sunlight is better (especially an hour before sunset). If I must take a picture of something that is in direct sunlight, I will use my body or piece of cardboard to block the direct sunlight from my subject. If you're just starting out with photography, experiment with taking the same picture at different times of the day so you can see how the different strengths of the sunlight affects the pictures.

By far, the easiest and fastest setting I use on my camera is the bracket setting. When using the bracket setting, the camera takes a series of 5 pictures very quickly, each with a different light exposure. I find this very helpful for an ameture like myself because it allows me to point and shoot without fussing over the exposure. If the natural light is very bright, I'll use one of the darker exposures. If the lighting is dark, I can use one of the higher exposures. Generally, one of the 5 exposure settings will come out very nicely.

Once I have taken my photographs, I copy them onto my Macintosh computer, and process them using Photoshop. The photos are cropped, scaled, and sharpened. I adjust the color balance, brightness, contrast, levels, and saturation. All of this is simply done to what my eye sees is best; there are no set rules in processing my photos. Most of the pictures are reduced around 33% to 25% of the original.

If you are interested in learning how to photograph the plants and flowers in your own garden, I recommend that you start off by buying the best digital camera you can afford, and then spend time on the internet reading about how light affects photography.