Plants of the Hortus Botanicus

To all nature lovers, photo freaks and essentially anyone interested in looking through a different perspective: keep reading. As part of RAW’s first photowalk of the academic year, Quint Verschuren explored one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world: the Hortus Botanicus in De Plantage, Amsterdam. Inspired by Ernst Haas, he challenged his photography with different angles, colors and compositions. Take a look!

Inspired by the technique and style of Ernst Haas, a master and an early innovator of color photography, I challenged myself to capture plants from a refreshing and vivid perspective. To achieve this, I had to focus heavily on the composition and colors within the photograph. I also had to familiarize myself with photographing plants in general, a subject that I have had little experience with.

“Bored with obvious reality, I find my fascination in transforming it into a subjective point of view. Without touching my subject, I want to come to the moment when, through pure concentration of seeing, the composed picture becomes more made than taken.”

– Ernst Haas

For the majority of my life, I have lived in South East Asia, where the continuous tropical climate allows for the growth of rain forests and tropical plants. Because tropical plants were plentiful, I never had the incentive to visit botanical gardens. At the Hortus, we discovered the Three-Climate Greenhouse, which recreates the biome of the desert, jungle, and scrubland. The variety of environments allowed me to experiment with different styles. In each environment, the lighting differs. In the outdoor garden area, for example, the natural light offered hard shadows and highlights, whereas in the greenhouse, the glass diffused the hard light resulting in the soft lighting of the subject.

Lastly, to achieve a photographic style similar to Ernst Haas’, post-processing of the photographs is essential. Vibrant colors and strong contrasts play a key role in creating the abstract, vivid style of Haas. These elements can be amplified by post-processing the photographs to achieve the desired abstract or dramatized effect.

Overall, I had a great time exploring different the botanical garden from different perspectives and photographing all kinds of plants. I’m pretty happy with the outcome and would highly recommend anyone to visit the Hortus Botanicus—with or without your camera. Give it a try!