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Clive Nichols: Seeking solace in our gardens & outdoor space

2020 has been a challenging year to say the very least – and one that will go down in history for all the wrong reasons. As once again many of us face (or are already in) a further period of ‘lockdown’, we wanted to share a glimmer of positivity and hope.

During this difficult time, one in which many people are facing numerous challenges, our gardens and open spaces have been one area where many of us have sought solace, joy and quiet.

As well as the benefits of being outdoors, gardens can be beautiful and inspiring in every season – helping guide us through the winter, with sparkling frosts and colourful foliage, until the first shoots of spring emerge.

With this in mind, we wanted to share a virtual celebration of colour and positivity, from one of our very own Wilki Ambassadors, Clive Nichols.

The spring and summer of 2020 saw some of the best British weather, pollution free skies and misty mornings ever – and in turn, the UK saw a massive surge in the popularity of gardening, growing our own edibles and generally appreciating the outside space we can access.

Clive (considered Britain’s best garden photographer by PhotoPlus Magazine) talked us through how 2020 has, creatively, been one of his best years and the positive impact his stunning imagery has had for so many people.

‘I’ve been shooting mostly big country gardens on dreamy mornings, or when the evening light drips into them. It’s definitely been a mental release for me and people seem to love the pictures we put on Instagram – it’s pure escapism,’ said Clive.

‘I know I am in a very privileged position because gardens are one of the few photographic genres where you can work totally alone. So during lockdown I was able to continue working and photograph some really gorgeous gardens, which were completely empty of people, save for the odd gardener or owner.

‘You were allowed to go to work if you couldn’t work from home and as I don’t have much of a garden at home, I was able to go out to shoot private locations.

‘The weather was also amazing – day after day of gorgeous sunshine and with few planes and cars around the light was just incredible. I noticed when processing my pictures that I didn’t have to add any colour saturation to my RAW files even in the Raw Converter which was almost never the case in the past with garden scenes. It reminded me of the light you get in Greece or Provence where there is little or no pollution, so I shot some of my best images ever!’

‘People are realising that gardens are a sanctuary where they can get away from all the mainstream media nonsense and get some sanity back in their lives. It’s also a perfectly safe environment because you can potter about on your own and socially distance easily.’

‘Of course some locations remained closed and all of the gardens that I shot during lockdown were country gardens – but these are the gardens I like shooting most anyway.’

In your world it’s almost like Covid hasn’t happened – we’re just transported to a beautiful, peaceful place: perfect escapism. Do you think people have found solace in your images?

‘Instagram is my primary social media platform and I wanted to give people a really positive message during lockdown, so I posted pictures every day that I hoped would show people that they could still have some beauty in their lives – and that it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Since the pandemic started, my Instagram following has almost doubled, now with over 90,000 followers.

‘I must say the response from my followers has been fantastic, with many of them saying that they looked forward everyday to seeing my feed because it cheered them up after all the gloom in the news.

‘I am a half full kind of person and so I tend not to dwell on negativity – if you want to run a successful business then you have to stay positive, especially when economic conditions are difficult.

‘We saw a huge surge in followers – and interest in garden photography generally – with people looking to learn which gardens are good to visit and looking to gain a deeper knowledge of garden photography, gardens, flowers and veg!’

What were your favourite locations from this time and do you have a favourite image that really stands out for you?

‘There is a beautiful garden in my village called Pettifers and the owner, Gina Price, always plants thousands of tulips, which were at their peak during lockdown. I made several visits in April and May and they were some of the best photos of tulips I have ever taken.

‘I also visited a wonderful garden near Redditch called Morton Hall which I have been photographing for the past five years and I took some amazing shots during those beautiful spring days.

‘My favourite image was a shot of blue camassias beneath blossom at Pettifers.

‘I also heard the other day that gardening is now the UK’s most popular hobby – not surprising as people have found such sanctuary in their gardens this year.’

2021 Gardens Calendar

‘We are about to bring out a 2021 Clive Nichols’ Gardens Calendar that will feature some of the gardens featured on my Insta feed – it will be out very soon, more details to follow! Keep an eye on my Instagram (link below) or Wilkinson Cameras’ own social media platforms.’

‘Unfortunately, one of the projects that has been delayed is the launch of my new book which features some of the finest gardens of England – this has now been pushed back until Spring 2021.

‘The current plan is to launch it on Instagram first around next spring – with physical launch events and books signings at some of the garden venues after that – Covid permitting!’

And finally, we’d really like to thank Clive for sharing not only his beautiful photography, but also his positivity in these difficult times and his daily dose of visual joy!

Check out Clive’s inspirational Instagram account.

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