The best bit about doing what I do is having the opportunity to arrive really early on the morning of the Monday press day. I usually get there at about 5am. There might be a few builders running around and one or two designers will start arriving to check on their gardens but, basically, I have the whole of Chelsea to myself.
It is such a gift. I know that in a few hours there will be crowds everywhere, but for those precious moments I can just be at one with the gardens and really appreciate all the hard work and effort that goes into making the Chelsea Flower Show so remarkable.
Although even at that time in the morning, high vis jackets are the bane of my life. Someone wearing one in the far distance can ruin a shot for me, so I have learned to just practice patience and wait until they have gone. On the plus side, unlike the gardens that I photograph through the rest of the year, there is never a sense that things might have looked better the week before, or the week afterwards. At Chelsea everything is perfect.
Of course, that puts a lot of pressure on the designers and their teams. You can see the stress on people’s faces in the final build up. Maybe there are problems with a water feature, or a branch has snapped off a specimen tree. But by about 10am everything has calmed down.
That’s my cue to head for the press tent and download all the digital images I have taken. A few years ago I invested in a pop-up mini studio in a case. It’s got visors to keep the light out, a proper workstation with a graphics tablet and everything else I might need. Then it’s a race against the clock. There are people waiting for my pictures so I work at high speed, fuelled by pure adrenalin.
I send my clients a set of low-resolution images in the morning then, once they choose the pictures they want, I have just a few hours to complete all the laborious editing and retouching that are needed to make a really top quality image.
Since I normally work alone, I also love the social side of the show. Given how early my day starts, by the time I’ve filed all my pictures I am usually pretty tired, but I do get second wind once I know my clients are happy. It’s always nice when a designer invites me onto their garden for a chat and a closer look. And sometimes a group of us designers, photographers and journalists will go out for drinks in the evening to celebrate.
The whole experience is wonderfully mad, and I love it.
RHS Chelsea Flower Show takes place 24-28 May 2022
Summer sale! 3 issues for £5
Try 3 issues of Gardens Illustrated today for just £5. Subscribe today and enjoy beautiful places, top planting ideas and expert advice for your garden. *Offer ends 1st July 2022. This offer is only available to UK residents paying by Direct Debit
Container Gardening Special Edition
The Gardens Illustrated Guide to Container Gardening. In this special edition, discover colourful flower combinations and seasonal planting schemes for pots designed by leading plantspeople, and essential know-how for container gardening success. Just £9.99 inc UK p&p
Gardens of the Globe
Discover some of the most glorious gardens from around the world.Find out more