Macro at Longwood Gardens

Sometimes, no matter how hard you plan, the President get's in the way........

Last weekend Americans paused to remember our nations heroes on Veterans Day. I absolutely love Arlington National Cemetery, but I've never had the chance to visit during a holiday like Veterans Day. The weather was unusually nice for mid-November, so I packed the camera and headed out for Arlington to visit our heroes. I knew it'd be busy, but I was prepared to deal with crowds in order to pay my respects to our fallen on this holiday.

It was not to be. Unbeknown to us, President Obama was planning to visit Arlington at precisely the same time for a wreath laying ceremony. As we pulled up to the gate, we were immediately turned around back towards the Pentagon. We were extremely confused - I could see people walking through the cemetery and there were no signs to suggest the parking lot was full. As we drove away we mused that maybe the President was there for the holiday - later that night my husband found a photo of President Obama laying a wreath. 

Time for a new plan.

That was the first time I've ever been turned away from a shoot. Baffled by the situation we decided to retreat home and plan a follow up photo shoot.

Earlier this year we visited the Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. The gardens are an hour outside Philadelphia and roughly two hours from Washington, DC. We were visiting an old prison in Philly for a weekend and discovered the gardens on our way home to DC. Not intending to photograph flowers when we left for Philly, I was completely unprepared for these gardens and had almost no equipment with which to shoot the flowers. Even more upsetting was that this visit occurred during their annual orchid festival - orchids are my favorite flower. After our defeating visit to Arlington, I proposed the idea of revisiting the Longwood Gardens in fall - and this time with the correct equipment!

For those interested, my macro setup for photographing insects and flowers is a Nikon D800 with a Nikon 105mm macro lens + 1.7x teleconverter, a set of extension tubes, and my trusty Nikon R1 flash kit. I carried this all in my new Think Tank Shapeshifter Backpack (which I still love). All of these prints were shot at a shutter speed of 1/250th and an f-stop ranging between f/8-f/11 (on average).

My visit to Longwood Gardens was significantly more productive this time. Longwood holds a fall event to celebrate the leaves changing, but we were visiting near the end of the colors and my true goal was to capture some flowers. I am particularly fascinated with trying to catch the little details - the microscopic hairs and textures that make up these beautiful buds. 

I always try to build my prints in my head before I ever see my subject. I knew I wanted to find that perfect flower that would let me shoot the back of the petals and capture the precision with with nature builds these beautiful flowers. During my visit I photographed a number of flowers before finding this one in an attempt to try and create my vision, but after one exposure of this flower I knew I had my "keeper."

This visit didn't coincide with the orchid festival, but there are still plenty of beautiful orchids to photograph. I particularly like the "tongue" on this one - it looks like it's shooting fire out of it's mouth!

The bird of paradise is a commonly photographed flower due to it's bright colors and funny shape. I wanted this print to be more abstract with a variety of colors and shapes that would dance to the viewer.

It's not a flower, but these berries seemed seasonally very appropriate and the bright orange color really tickled my senses. 

I wasn't limited to photographing just flower, but in late fall, there are far fewer bugs out in the gardens. I found a spot with several bees and was able to capitalize on the opportunity. 

I didn't limit myself to macro photography... during a walk through the garden I found a few trees that still held colorful leaves. I was particularly intrigued by this tree due to his twisted and colorful trunk. The late afternoon sun really helped to pull out the colors as I crawled beneath the tree canopy to make this print looking straight up the tree trunk. 

The entire visit was extremely successful. It wasn't Arlington, but I was very happy with the results of my photo shoot. We decided to become members of the Longwood Gardens, so expect plenty more prints over the next few months!

If you are interested in visiting the Longwood Gardens (I highly recommend it), visit their website for directions and travel information.


Kristen Meister