On the first morning in July, I made my annual visit to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in northeast Washington to photograph the lotuses.
It was a really tough morning for flower photography. The sky was bald and cloudless and the sun came up fast and harsh, splattering the lotus ponds with the kind of bright, ugly light that drains flowers of their rich colours. To make matters worse, a blustery wind kept buffeting the gardens, so a lot of time was wasted waiting for the wind to calm before tripping the shutter. Inevitably, this also required re-composing the image, as windblown flowers, especially lotuses with their heavy blooms atop long, spindly stems, never end up in exactly the same place once a gust of wind has passed.
Although I reached the gardens before 6:00am, I had only about 30 minutes of good light before I had to start using a diffuser to shield individual blooms from the harsh sunlight in order to photograph them, as I did with the above image. Blooms further out in the ponds, that I couldn’t reach with a diffuser, I photographed with an infrared camera and a 200-500mm telephoto lens (see final image). Infrared works best in bright sunlight, though the resultant images don’t achieve the pleasing, natural look of colour photography.
Having such a short period of good light to work with in such huge gardens presents the photographer with the challenge of rushing to find good compositions before the light deteriorates. For me, at least, this is an uncomfortable feeling, as I work slowly when taking photographs, particularly photographs of flowers, which require close attention to detail to achieve successful compositions. I can easily spend 30-45 minutes photographing a single flower, experimenting with backgrounds, different angles, compositions and focal length lenses.
I hope to get back to the gardens on another day when there is some cloud cover but, in summertime in Washington, that is a rare event.