Asian Gardens and Composition

The Culberson Asiatic Arboretum is an 18 acre section of Duke Gardens dedicated to flora from East Asia.  It has all the plants you'd expect to see — Japanese maples, azalea, camellia, irises, bamboo, lotus, jasmine, and cherries — and a lot of less familiar ones as well. They've also built several well-done ornamental features of Asian gardens — water features, bridges, pagodas, stone lanterns, etc. It's very beautiful and unexpectedly exotic in the middle of Durham.

One of my favorite features is a tea house that is a great place to work on composition. It presents straightforward ways to experiment with pretty much all the elements of photographic composition — color, tone, texture, lines, shapes, distance, balance, positive/negative space, patterns, etc. I find it a great place to strip away complications and just concentrate on the raw materials of an image in order to develop skills.