Clearly I got the directions wrong. I was parked in a fairly rough neighborhood at 6:15AM behind a line of ten cars sitting in front of a rusty chain link gate. This wasn’t a National Park where I could add nature images to my portfolio. That’s what I get for reading Google Maps while driving the beltway.
Just as I started to turn back to the main road, the gate opened and I followed the line of cars into a parking lot. Drinking my last sip of coffee, and uh oh…my last bite of granola bar, I watched people move hurriedly out of their cars. Wait, they were pulling tripods out of their trunks and big…long…lenses, and one lady brandishing a selfie stick. This is a National Park!
This National Park (https://www.nps.gov/keaq/index.htm) is a 7.5 acre sanctuary comprising 45 ponds filled with water lilies, lotus and other aquatic flora. Its location may surprise you being located on the east bank of the Anacostia River, but if it weren’t for the government’s dredging of the river for commercial reasons in the 1930s, Shaw Gardens, a collection of wetlands converted to lily ponds, may never have been purchased by the government and under the oversight of the National Park Service today.
I was at Kenilworth Gardens to lead a local “meetup” group for NANPA, the North American Nature Photography Association. We only had a handful of attendees among the 50 people that went through the gates by 7AM. It’s a flurry of activity initially: introductions, a quick orientation, and be ready to help out anybody new to this kind of event. Then it was a little time to myself.
Composing a Few Nature Images
Whenever I’m out taking photos I like to just get a few easy shots out of the way – no pressure, just compose and shoot. But then I like to slow down and I parked myself in front of a cluster of pretty purple loosestrife. I must have sat there for 5-minutes, just moving a little to the
right, a little closer, listening and smelling the flowers. Then everything came into focus just as a little bumblebee was buzzing around my loosestrife. Click, first nature image.
Kenilworth Gardens hadn’t been on my bucket list, but now it’s on my Top 10 list of nature photography locations. And those guys with the really big lenses? Well apparently that’s how you photograph the lilies and lotus flowers out in the middle of the ponds – you know, way beyond those flowers that are just in front of your feet.
Just slow down. The photo is right in front of you.