Art & Culture

Kriss MacDonald

Wildflower Chronicles: Kriss MacDonald's Journey from Journalism to Botanical Art

June 23, 2024

Kriss MacDonald, an American-British photographer and visual artist, resides with her family in the picturesque Algarve countryside of southern Portugal. Her botanical art photography exquisitely captures the seasonal narratives and inherent beauty of flowers and nature. Each piece features real flowers, either cultivated in her own garden or responsibly foraged from the surrounding fields and meadows. After a distinguished career covering conflicts and breaking news for AP and NBC News, MacDonald sought solace in the tranquil embrace of nature. It was in the heart of a thousand-acre nature reserve in southeast England that she began her journey into floral art. Her work now stands as a testament to the calming and restorative power of the natural world.

ConsiderBeyond: Your transition from journalist to botanical art photographer is fascinating. Can you tell us more about what inspired this shift?

Kriss: When I resigned from the Associated Press, one of the world's largest and oldest news agencies, I was head of news planning and in charge of Middle East and Asia coverage for their global video news division. After seventeen years of covering conflicts and breaking news stories, I found solace in nature. I began teaching my twins about the natural world, taking them on walks from a young age while photographing our adventures. The goal was to help them find balance in our modern, stressful, and technological world. One of my photographs is now part of the permanent collection at the Young Victoria & Albert Museum in London, inspiring children to explore the outdoors. When we moved to a farmhouse in the middle of a thousand-acre nature reserve in southeast England, I began creating and photographing my floral art.

ConsiderBeyond: What techniques or equipment are essential for capturing the details and textures of flowers and plants?

Kriss: I shoot all my work in natural light, usually composing my botanical and nature gatherings on painted canvases or wood backboards. After six years at our country house in the Algarve, I have come to understand the rhythms of the light, not only throughout the day but also as they change with the seasons. To avoid shadows and glare, I choose the perfect time of day – usually morning – and specific locations near my studio to photograph my floral arrangements. I'm a huge fan of the Sony Alpha series of mirrorless cameras, which are perfect for my walks in search of wildflowers or photographing garden blooms. Sometimes I use my Manfrotto tripod with a center column and occasionally my Neewer lighting reflector to deflect and soften the light.

Photos by

Kriss MacDonald

Art & Culture

Kriss MacDonald

Wildflower Chronicles: Kriss MacDonald's Journey from Journalism to Botanical Art

June 23, 2024

Kriss MacDonald, an American-British photographer and visual artist, resides with her family in the picturesque Algarve countryside of southern Portugal. Her botanical art photography exquisitely captures the seasonal narratives and inherent beauty of flowers and nature. Each piece features real flowers, either cultivated in her own garden or responsibly foraged from the surrounding fields and meadows. After a distinguished career covering conflicts and breaking news for AP and NBC News, MacDonald sought solace in the tranquil embrace of nature. It was in the heart of a thousand-acre nature reserve in southeast England that she began her journey into floral art. Her work now stands as a testament to the calming and restorative power of the natural world.

ConsiderBeyond: Is there a project that has left a lasting impact on you personally or artistically, and what aspects of it have stayed with you over time?

Kriss: A turning point for me was when Panasonic Homes, a division of the Japanese multinational electronics company, approached me to create their 2022 calendar featuring exclusively my botanical art photographs. The calendar, titled "In the Garden," along with various accessories showcasing these artworks, was distributed to tens of thousands of their clients. Panasonic Homes is one of the largest building and home developers in Asia, with a strong focus on sustainability. The calendar also won awards in Japan. Many of the photographs featured in the calendar were from my earlier works in the UK. This collaboration made me realize that I was building a library of works that could support me as an artist. Now, in addition to selling prints and soon accessories in my online shop, I have secured numerous licensing agreements. This experience underscored the potential of my art to reach and inspire a global audience.

(Photo above right: Spring Rain featured in Panasonic Homescalendar ‘In the Garden’)

ConsiderBeyond: Do you have any examples of botanical pieces that you initially found unexpectedly beautiful, and what about them captivated you?

Kriss: "Ranunculus Garden" (photo below) is a piece where I experimented with creating floral art inspired by the still-life paintings of the 17th-century Dutch masters. Instead of setting up a floral display in my studio with a dark background, I photographed flowers growing or placed in my garden bed. While editing this artwork, I included elements of the natural world, such as butterflies, bees, insects, and even a snail. I was thrilled by the impact of the dark foliage contrasting with the vibrant garden flowers, while the wildlife blended seamlessly into the botanical melange. This piece captivated me with its dynamic interplay of color, texture, and life.

ConsiderBeyond: What do you find most rewarding about incorporating natural elements into your artwork?

Working with real flowers, many of which I nurture and grow from seed in my garden, constantly reminds me of the beauty and magic of nature. This connection is both inspiring and grounding.

Art & Culture

Kriss MacDonald

Wildflower Chronicles: Kriss MacDonald's Journey from Journalism to Botanical Art
June 23, 2024
Art & Culture

Kriss MacDonald

Wildflower Chronicles: Kriss MacDonald's Journey from Journalism to Botanical Art
June 23, 2024

Kriss MacDonald

Story origin
process

Kriss MacDonald, an American-British photographer and visual artist, resides with her family in the picturesque Algarve countryside of southern Portugal. Her botanical art photography exquisitely captures the seasonal narratives and inherent beauty of flowers and nature. Each piece features real flowers, either cultivated in her own garden or responsibly foraged from the surrounding fields and meadows. After a distinguished career covering conflicts and breaking news for AP and NBC News, MacDonald sought solace in the tranquil embrace of nature. It was in the heart of a thousand-acre nature reserve in southeast England that she began her journey into floral art. Her work now stands as a testament to the calming and restorative power of the natural world.

Cover Photo by
Kriss MacDonald

ConsiderBeyond: Your transition from journalist to botanical art photographer is fascinating. Can you tell us more about what inspired this shift?

Kriss: When I resigned from the Associated Press, one of the world's largest and oldest news agencies, I was head of news planning and in charge of Middle East and Asia coverage for their global video news division. After seventeen years of covering conflicts and breaking news stories, I found solace in nature. I began teaching my twins about the natural world, taking them on walks from a young age while photographing our adventures. The goal was to help them find balance in our modern, stressful, and technological world. One of my photographs is now part of the permanent collection at the Young Victoria & Albert Museum in London, inspiring children to explore the outdoors. When we moved to a farmhouse in the middle of a thousand-acre nature reserve in southeast England, I began creating and photographing my floral art.

ConsiderBeyond: What techniques or equipment are essential for capturing the details and textures of flowers and plants?

Kriss: I shoot all my work in natural light, usually composing my botanical and nature gatherings on painted canvases or wood backboards. After six years at our country house in the Algarve, I have come to understand the rhythms of the light, not only throughout the day but also as they change with the seasons. To avoid shadows and glare, I choose the perfect time of day – usually morning – and specific locations near my studio to photograph my floral arrangements. I'm a huge fan of the Sony Alpha series of mirrorless cameras, which are perfect for my walks in search of wildflowers or photographing garden blooms. Sometimes I use my Manfrotto tripod with a center column and occasionally my Neewer lighting reflector to deflect and soften the light.

ConsiderBeyond: Is there a project that has left a lasting impact on you personally or artistically, and what aspects of it have stayed with you over time?

Kriss: A turning point for me was when Panasonic Homes, a division of the Japanese multinational electronics company, approached me to create their 2022 calendar featuring exclusively my botanical art photographs. The calendar, titled "In the Garden," along with various accessories showcasing these artworks, was distributed to tens of thousands of their clients. Panasonic Homes is one of the largest building and home developers in Asia, with a strong focus on sustainability. The calendar also won awards in Japan. Many of the photographs featured in the calendar were from my earlier works in the UK. This collaboration made me realize that I was building a library of works that could support me as an artist. Now, in addition to selling prints and soon accessories in my online shop, I have secured numerous licensing agreements. This experience underscored the potential of my art to reach and inspire a global audience.

(Photo above right: Spring Rain featured in Panasonic Homescalendar ‘In the Garden’)

ConsiderBeyond: Do you have any examples of botanical pieces that you initially found unexpectedly beautiful, and what about them captivated you?

Kriss: "Ranunculus Garden" (photo below) is a piece where I experimented with creating floral art inspired by the still-life paintings of the 17th-century Dutch masters. Instead of setting up a floral display in my studio with a dark background, I photographed flowers growing or placed in my garden bed. While editing this artwork, I included elements of the natural world, such as butterflies, bees, insects, and even a snail. I was thrilled by the impact of the dark foliage contrasting with the vibrant garden flowers, while the wildlife blended seamlessly into the botanical melange. This piece captivated me with its dynamic interplay of color, texture, and life.

ConsiderBeyond: What do you find most rewarding about incorporating natural elements into your artwork?

Working with real flowers, many of which I nurture and grow from seed in my garden, constantly reminds me of the beauty and magic of nature. This connection is both inspiring and grounding.

ConsiderBeyond: What lessons have you learned about nature while working on botanical art? Do you have any beautiful perspectives to share?

Kriss: Depending on seasonal flowers for my botanical art, often wildflowers, has led me to develop what I call my "flower memory map." During my almost daily nature walks, I know where and when to find different wildflowers. For example, in February, wild Grape Hyacinths (Muscari neglectum) start appearing at the edges of fields here in the Algarve. In England, wood anemones are among the first spring blooms and serve as indicators of ancient woodlands, as it takes them about 100 years to spread six feet.

Observing these natural cycles and the timings of plant life, known as phenology, helps us understand the impact of the environment and even climate change on flora and fauna. For instance, are certain spring flowers blooming earlier? My art and photographs serve as seasonal records and stories of these recurring natural phenomena.

ConsiderBeyond: What are some of the botanical pieces that you enjoy working with most and why?

Kriss: I particularly love seasons when I can mix wildflowers with garden-grown varieties. One example is "Countryside Spring" (left). In this piece, garden divas such as Dutch Iris, Tulips, Narcissus, and Gerbera are intermingled with wildflowers like Muscari neglectum, Scilla peruviana, and Centaurea pullata. Many of these wildflowers, like Pink Bindweed (Convolvulus althaeoides), are considered "weeds." I was enthralled by how the colors and forms of the cultivated and wild flowers complemented each other. The joyful abundance of spring flowers is highlighted in this work, with 41 different types of flowers used to create it.

ConsiderBeyond: In what ways do you believe your work fosters a greater appreciation for nature and the outdoors?

I aim to share the wonder, beauty, and benefits of nature through my botanical art. Creating these photographs has taught me how essential nature is for our well-being, both physically and mentally. As I wrote about in my blog and taught my twins, being outdoors and engaging with the natural world can make us happier and healthier, reducing stress and anxiety. I experienced these benefits firsthand, which fueled my passion to convey this message through my art.

ConsiderBeyond: Many of the flowers in your art are grown in your garden or foraged from the wild. How do you balance sustainability and conservation in your practice?

One of the most remarkable aspects of living in the Algarve in southern Portugal is the rich diversity of native flora. Our home is in a rural area where the landscape bursts with wildflowers, especially in the spring. As it’s also an agricultural region, with oranges, avocados, and carobs as the main crops, the land is frequently cleared to expand these monocultures, often using pesticides. Almost daily, I take one of our three dogs on long countryside walks and photograph the local flora. I pick wildflowers from fields, lanes, and meadows, often racing to collect them before the farmers plough the fields, spray pesticides, or the local council strims the road verges ahead of the summer season. In contrast, I let the wildflowers in our field go to seed, ensuring wildlife can find refuge and sustenance during the dry, hot months.

However, I never pick native flora from nature reserves, parks, or conservation areas. In these locations, I only take photographs to avoid disturbing the ecosystems. Protecting these sites is crucial.

I'm passionate about wildflowers, and I love studying and identifying them. I've also taken classes with an herbalist to learn more about their healing properties. Apart from plant nurseries, there are no local flower farms in the Algarve, so I’m committed to growing seasonal flowers in my garden for my botanical art. My prints are produced by one of the leading fine art printers in the world, which follows an end-to-end carbon-neutral policy. We have a deep borehole for irrigating the garden in the summer, but I also fill areas of my garden with drought-resistant plants. One of the great pleasures of my garden is seeing it as an oasis for pollinators and birds throughout the year.

ConsiderBeyond: Can you briefly describe your creative process—from finding inspiration to arranging the flowers and capturing the perfect shot?

Each photograph is a seasonal story. My botanical art is inspired by the seasons and my location. They are visual narratives reflecting what is growing or fading, cultivated or wild, and a celebration of nature. Sometimes I gather a random mix of seasonal flowers, while other times I choose specific colors. I let the textures, forms, and colors guide me in capturing their beauty. I take dozens of photographs of one floral artwork, often changing the flower composition during this process. Depending on the light, I might only have a short window to arrange, create, and photograph. Some flowers I keep in a sunny position until the last moment to ensure they are in full bloom. The final phase, integral to creating my botanical art, is editing the photos in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.

ConsiderBeyond: What are some key lessons from your artistic journey you would like to share with others?

It’s never too late to change careers or become an artist. I studied art history and practiced studio art in university, and I was an avid photographer, collecting second-hand cameras and lenses. After my career as an international journalist, I returned to my passion for art and photography. My journey has taught me that nature and flowers can bring peace and beauty into our lives, and it's a message I hope to share through my work.

Photos by

Kriss MacDonald

Art & Culture

Kriss MacDonald

Wildflower Chronicles: Kriss MacDonald's Journey from Journalism to Botanical Art

Cover Photo by

Kriss MacDonald

June 23, 2024
Art & Culture

Kriss MacDonald

Wildflower Chronicles: Kriss MacDonald's Journey from Journalism to Botanical Art
June 23, 2024

Kriss MacDonald

Story origin
process

Kriss MacDonald, an American-British photographer and visual artist, resides with her family in the picturesque Algarve countryside of southern Portugal. Her botanical art photography exquisitely captures the seasonal narratives and inherent beauty of flowers and nature. Each piece features real flowers, either cultivated in her own garden or responsibly foraged from the surrounding fields and meadows. After a distinguished career covering conflicts and breaking news for AP and NBC News, MacDonald sought solace in the tranquil embrace of nature. It was in the heart of a thousand-acre nature reserve in southeast England that she began her journey into floral art. Her work now stands as a testament to the calming and restorative power of the natural world.

ConsiderBeyond: Your transition from journalist to botanical art photographer is fascinating. Can you tell us more about what inspired this shift?

Kriss: When I resigned from the Associated Press, one of the world's largest and oldest news agencies, I was head of news planning and in charge of Middle East and Asia coverage for their global video news division. After seventeen years of covering conflicts and breaking news stories, I found solace in nature. I began teaching my twins about the natural world, taking them on walks from a young age while photographing our adventures. The goal was to help them find balance in our modern, stressful, and technological world. One of my photographs is now part of the permanent collection at the Young Victoria & Albert Museum in London, inspiring children to explore the outdoors. When we moved to a farmhouse in the middle of a thousand-acre nature reserve in southeast England, I began creating and photographing my floral art.

ConsiderBeyond: What techniques or equipment are essential for capturing the details and textures of flowers and plants?

Kriss: I shoot all my work in natural light, usually composing my botanical and nature gatherings on painted canvases or wood backboards. After six years at our country house in the Algarve, I have come to understand the rhythms of the light, not only throughout the day but also as they change with the seasons. To avoid shadows and glare, I choose the perfect time of day – usually morning – and specific locations near my studio to photograph my floral arrangements. I'm a huge fan of the Sony Alpha series of mirrorless cameras, which are perfect for my walks in search of wildflowers or photographing garden blooms. Sometimes I use my Manfrotto tripod with a center column and occasionally my Neewer lighting reflector to deflect and soften the light.

ConsiderBeyond: Is there a project that has left a lasting impact on you personally or artistically, and what aspects of it have stayed with you over time?

Kriss: A turning point for me was when Panasonic Homes, a division of the Japanese multinational electronics company, approached me to create their 2022 calendar featuring exclusively my botanical art photographs. The calendar, titled "In the Garden," along with various accessories showcasing these artworks, was distributed to tens of thousands of their clients. Panasonic Homes is one of the largest building and home developers in Asia, with a strong focus on sustainability. The calendar also won awards in Japan. Many of the photographs featured in the calendar were from my earlier works in the UK. This collaboration made me realize that I was building a library of works that could support me as an artist. Now, in addition to selling prints and soon accessories in my online shop, I have secured numerous licensing agreements. This experience underscored the potential of my art to reach and inspire a global audience.

(Photo above right: Spring Rain featured in Panasonic Homescalendar ‘In the Garden’)

ConsiderBeyond: Do you have any examples of botanical pieces that you initially found unexpectedly beautiful, and what about them captivated you?

Kriss: "Ranunculus Garden" (photo below) is a piece where I experimented with creating floral art inspired by the still-life paintings of the 17th-century Dutch masters. Instead of setting up a floral display in my studio with a dark background, I photographed flowers growing or placed in my garden bed. While editing this artwork, I included elements of the natural world, such as butterflies, bees, insects, and even a snail. I was thrilled by the impact of the dark foliage contrasting with the vibrant garden flowers, while the wildlife blended seamlessly into the botanical melange. This piece captivated me with its dynamic interplay of color, texture, and life.

ConsiderBeyond: What do you find most rewarding about incorporating natural elements into your artwork?

Working with real flowers, many of which I nurture and grow from seed in my garden, constantly reminds me of the beauty and magic of nature. This connection is both inspiring and grounding.

ConsiderBeyond: What lessons have you learned about nature while working on botanical art? Do you have any beautiful perspectives to share?

Kriss: Depending on seasonal flowers for my botanical art, often wildflowers, has led me to develop what I call my "flower memory map." During my almost daily nature walks, I know where and when to find different wildflowers. For example, in February, wild Grape Hyacinths (Muscari neglectum) start appearing at the edges of fields here in the Algarve. In England, wood anemones are among the first spring blooms and serve as indicators of ancient woodlands, as it takes them about 100 years to spread six feet.

Observing these natural cycles and the timings of plant life, known as phenology, helps us understand the impact of the environment and even climate change on flora and fauna. For instance, are certain spring flowers blooming earlier? My art and photographs serve as seasonal records and stories of these recurring natural phenomena.

ConsiderBeyond: What are some of the botanical pieces that you enjoy working with most and why?

Kriss: I particularly love seasons when I can mix wildflowers with garden-grown varieties. One example is "Countryside Spring" (left). In this piece, garden divas such as Dutch Iris, Tulips, Narcissus, and Gerbera are intermingled with wildflowers like Muscari neglectum, Scilla peruviana, and Centaurea pullata. Many of these wildflowers, like Pink Bindweed (Convolvulus althaeoides), are considered "weeds." I was enthralled by how the colors and forms of the cultivated and wild flowers complemented each other. The joyful abundance of spring flowers is highlighted in this work, with 41 different types of flowers used to create it.

ConsiderBeyond: In what ways do you believe your work fosters a greater appreciation for nature and the outdoors?

I aim to share the wonder, beauty, and benefits of nature through my botanical art. Creating these photographs has taught me how essential nature is for our well-being, both physically and mentally. As I wrote about in my blog and taught my twins, being outdoors and engaging with the natural world can make us happier and healthier, reducing stress and anxiety. I experienced these benefits firsthand, which fueled my passion to convey this message through my art.

ConsiderBeyond: Many of the flowers in your art are grown in your garden or foraged from the wild. How do you balance sustainability and conservation in your practice?

One of the most remarkable aspects of living in the Algarve in southern Portugal is the rich diversity of native flora. Our home is in a rural area where the landscape bursts with wildflowers, especially in the spring. As it’s also an agricultural region, with oranges, avocados, and carobs as the main crops, the land is frequently cleared to expand these monocultures, often using pesticides. Almost daily, I take one of our three dogs on long countryside walks and photograph the local flora. I pick wildflowers from fields, lanes, and meadows, often racing to collect them before the farmers plough the fields, spray pesticides, or the local council strims the road verges ahead of the summer season. In contrast, I let the wildflowers in our field go to seed, ensuring wildlife can find refuge and sustenance during the dry, hot months.

However, I never pick native flora from nature reserves, parks, or conservation areas. In these locations, I only take photographs to avoid disturbing the ecosystems. Protecting these sites is crucial.

I'm passionate about wildflowers, and I love studying and identifying them. I've also taken classes with an herbalist to learn more about their healing properties. Apart from plant nurseries, there are no local flower farms in the Algarve, so I’m committed to growing seasonal flowers in my garden for my botanical art. My prints are produced by one of the leading fine art printers in the world, which follows an end-to-end carbon-neutral policy. We have a deep borehole for irrigating the garden in the summer, but I also fill areas of my garden with drought-resistant plants. One of the great pleasures of my garden is seeing it as an oasis for pollinators and birds throughout the year.

ConsiderBeyond: Can you briefly describe your creative process—from finding inspiration to arranging the flowers and capturing the perfect shot?

Each photograph is a seasonal story. My botanical art is inspired by the seasons and my location. They are visual narratives reflecting what is growing or fading, cultivated or wild, and a celebration of nature. Sometimes I gather a random mix of seasonal flowers, while other times I choose specific colors. I let the textures, forms, and colors guide me in capturing their beauty. I take dozens of photographs of one floral artwork, often changing the flower composition during this process. Depending on the light, I might only have a short window to arrange, create, and photograph. Some flowers I keep in a sunny position until the last moment to ensure they are in full bloom. The final phase, integral to creating my botanical art, is editing the photos in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.

ConsiderBeyond: What are some key lessons from your artistic journey you would like to share with others?

It’s never too late to change careers or become an artist. I studied art history and practiced studio art in university, and I was an avid photographer, collecting second-hand cameras and lenses. After my career as an international journalist, I returned to my passion for art and photography. My journey has taught me that nature and flowers can bring peace and beauty into our lives, and it's a message I hope to share through my work.

Photos by

Kriss MacDonald

Kriss MacDonald, an American-British photographer and visual artist, resides with her family in the picturesque Algarve countryside of southern Portugal. Her botanical art photography exquisitely captures the seasonal narratives and inherent beauty of flowers and nature. Each piece features real flowers, either cultivated in her own garden or responsibly foraged from the surrounding fields and meadows. After a distinguished career covering conflicts and breaking news for AP and NBC News, MacDonald sought solace in the tranquil embrace of nature. It was in the heart of a thousand-acre nature reserve in southeast England that she began her journey into floral art. Her work now stands as a testament to the calming and restorative power of the natural world.

ConsiderBeyond: Your transition from journalist to botanical art photographer is fascinating. Can you tell us more about what inspired this shift?

Kriss: When I resigned from the Associated Press, one of the world's largest and oldest news agencies, I was head of news planning and in charge of Middle East and Asia coverage for their global video news division. After seventeen years of covering conflicts and breaking news stories, I found solace in nature. I began teaching my twins about the natural world, taking them on walks from a young age while photographing our adventures. The goal was to help them find balance in our modern, stressful, and technological world. One of my photographs is now part of the permanent collection at the Young Victoria & Albert Museum in London, inspiring children to explore the outdoors. When we moved to a farmhouse in the middle of a thousand-acre nature reserve in southeast England, I began creating and photographing my floral art.

ConsiderBeyond: What techniques or equipment are essential for capturing the details and textures of flowers and plants?

Kriss: I shoot all my work in natural light, usually composing my botanical and nature gatherings on painted canvases or wood backboards. After six years at our country house in the Algarve, I have come to understand the rhythms of the light, not only throughout the day but also as they change with the seasons. To avoid shadows and glare, I choose the perfect time of day – usually morning – and specific locations near my studio to photograph my floral arrangements. I'm a huge fan of the Sony Alpha series of mirrorless cameras, which are perfect for my walks in search of wildflowers or photographing garden blooms. Sometimes I use my Manfrotto tripod with a center column and occasionally my Neewer lighting reflector to deflect and soften the light.

Photos by

Kriss MacDonald