Last weekend, I was so enthused by seeing a magnificent image of a water lily taken by John Barclay at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, that I jumped in my car at 6:30 on Monday morning and made the two-hour, 120-mile drive to Longwood to photograph the lilies myself.
Of course, I should have realized that, when an amateur photographer tries to emulate the work of a top professional, it is bound to end in disappointment.
As John lives close to Longwood Gardens, he was able to pick an overcast day with light drizzle to create his images, so that the lilies were covered in a light coating of tiny raindrops and their colours were saturated and luscious: perfect flower photography weather.
By contrast, when I rolled up a Longwood, despite a “partly cloudy” weather forecast, I was met by bright sunshine with not a cloud in the sky and a blustery wind that constantly shook the delicate blossoms: possibly the worst conditions for flower photography.
It is often said that local photographers, those who live closest to a given location, always capture the best images of a given subject because they can pick when to shoot it: the time of day, time of year, weather conditions. I suppose my two-hour drive up to Pennsylvania illustrated that truth.
From when the Gardens opened at 9:00am, I spent most of the first two hours sitting indoors hoping that some clouds might roll in. Eventually, at around 11:00am, some scattered clouds crossed over the gardens and, with a lot of patience and by carefully picking my moment when to trip the shutter, I was able to capture a few images when the lilies were still and in shade.
After spending three hours at Longwood and arriving home at four in the afternoon, these five images were the only ones I managed to salvage from a long, tiring day.
Next time, I’ll think twice before thinking that I can easily replicate the work of a professional photographer who lives on Longwood’s doorstep.