Thursday, May 11, 2017

New York Botanical Gardens - A day of incredible photography all by myself, and just for fun!

As you may know from the last blog post, I was in New York recently. I had been there for 4 days and completed my presentations at B&H Photo and our photo walk on Ellis Island. Thursday was my last day on the East Coast and I was supposed to have a meeting with one of my buddies at Canon. As it turns out, he had to cancel at the last minute, which left me with a free day. When at dinner with other friends two nights before, they had mentioned how beautiful the Botanical Gardens were, and how they had the Chihuly glasswork on display. This sounded like an awesome spot to photograph, but I was not sure how difficult it would be to get from downtown Manhatten to the gardens in the Bronx. One quick Google search and I saw that it was a quick train ride away. That was simple enough, so I decided that this would be my adventure for the day!

I walked from my rented apartment to Penn Station and grabbed a train from there. Less than 45 minutes later, I was at the New York Botanical Gardens. The weather was overcast, which was perfect for me. I am not a fan of heat or humidity, especially when walking around for hours, and and it made for less hard shadows when shooting.  I decided to travel light, and only brought my Canon 5D Mark IV and Canon 28-300mm lens.

As I approached the entry gate to the gardens, I saw this amazing scene and knew that this was going to be an epic day of shooting. Wow! Before even entering the gardens I grabbed the camera out of my ThinkTank Streetwalker HardDrive backpack and took some photos of these flowers and cherry blossoms.

I gladly paid the $23 to enter the gardens and started my search for good photos. One of the first things that caught me eye was this beautiful Chihuly glass sphere. It was mounted right in the middle of a grass area. I saw some other people photographing the glass sculpture from right in front, but I wanted something more interesting. I walked around and found a tree with blossoms about 100 feet away. I positioned myself so that the sculpture was "framed" by the blossoms and took this photo.

(Photographer's note: As you can see from this photo, I try to find unique positions to take my photos. There is nothing wrong with taking the "obvious" shot, but then do yourself a favor and push yourself to find more unique photo positions. Think about your foreground and backgrounds when framing your shots. Also, think about your desired aperture. I took this photo at f/9 so that the blossoms would be somewhat visible and not too blurred. If you are not sure of the ideal aperture, try taking the same photo at different aperture settings and determine your favorite later.)

I walked into the rock garden and saw this tree with blossoms on the branches. I zoomed the lens to 300mm and took this photo with the nearby tree in focus and the distant tree slightly out of focus (at f/5.6).

I did not bring a tripod with me on this trek, but I knew that I wanted to blur the water in the rock garden. I rested the Canon 5D Mark IV on a nearby sign, changed the settings to ISO 100 and f/22 to take this photo at 1/8 second.

While walking around the gardens, I always do my best to look at the details that surround me. With all the amazing colorful flowers, it is easy to miss other good photo opportunities. I saw these water drops on some nearby leaves and captured this shot. I like the simplicity of this photo.

What a cool display designed by Dale Chihuly. One of the other advantages of the overcast weather, and the fact that it was a weekday, is that there were less people to contend with when taking the photos. (I did remove a couple of people from this shot using Adobe Photoshop.)

I watched some people taking photos of this sculpture, but all of them were shooting it in it's entirety. I got up close and zoomed in to highlight the area where the glass met the wood. I think this is as interesting, if not more interesting, than the wide photo.

 Then I was back to photographing the flowers...

I walked around the flower beds, looking for good vantage points to shoot from. I was looking for scenes like this one, where I had different colored flowers in my foreground and background. I positioned myself low on the pathway and took this photo.

I saw this one yellow flower poking up amongst all the others, and framed this shot using the rule of thirds. I took this photo at 300mm at an aperture of f/5.6 to make sure that the yellow flower would be the only one in perfect focus, therefore drawing your eye right to my main subject.

When teaching photography, I always challenge my subjects to tell me their main subject in their image. For this shot, I focused on the flower in the center of the frame and made that my subject. This is a great image for teaching photography, because you will notice that all the flowers look similar, but your eye is drawn to the one in sharp focus!

Here is a photo taken from a higher position...

...but then by lowering myself, I now have a totally different background.

Seeing these flowers with their tall stems, I rotated the camera to take this photo in portrait mode.

I was surrounded by endless color, but still able to find the beauty in these white flowers. I walked around these flowers and looked for an interesting formation, where the flowers filled the frame of my shot.

More color, but this time I set the flowers off to the left of my frame and let the tilting flower take you off to the right side of the image. Did your eyes move from the left side of the photo to the right?

I walked over to the conservatory and saw yet another Chihuly sculpture in front of the building. All I could think of was "How the heck do they transport these across the country without breaking them?"

I took three different photos of this sculpture, the first one being a fairly wide shot.

I then zoomed in and took a tighter shot of the sculpture.

Lastly, I zoomed in even further to show detail on just one piece of glass. Seeing the detail in the one piece of glass makes you appreciate the work involved in creating this piece of art.

Walking around the courtyard of the conservatory, I positioned myself in a place to capture the glasswork and the reflection of the building in the water pond.

I have always loved photographing reflections. When I look at this photo, it just makes me wonder what this scene would look like with blue skies and big puffy clouds.

I photographed this yellow and red glass sculpture dead center to the atrium of the building, but did not like the composition. I then moved to an off-center position and liked it better.

Again, trying to find unique photos of the Chihuly art, I got up close and focused on the glass while still showing you the building in the background.

While walking inside the conservatory, I came across this one cactus and liked the way that the one flower was growing off-center on the top of the cactus. Even nature follows the rule of thirds! :)

 I really liked the way that the Botanical Gardens integrated the Chihuly glass into the gardens.

I saw this towering cactus inside the conservatory and thought that it would make a cool photo. I focused on the center of the plant and let the focus fall off on either side of the plant.

It was nice having the garden to myself, to enjoy it without distractions. At this point, it was close to 2pm and I needed to grab some lunch. The food at the NYCG was actually pretty darned good. I sat outside and enjoyed my sandwich while looking at all the images on the back of my camera. I was having so much fun, and felt so fulfilled, having all of this to shoot. Having covered most of the gardens, I did not think that I would see even more to photograph, but I was wrong.

I walked towards the back of the gardens and was blown away by what I saw.

Seeing the foliage, I felt like I was walking around in a painting.

Isn't this just amazing?

I walked by this one tree and watched the pedals falling to the ground. I backed up as much as I could, and took this photo at 28mm, so that you could see the bed of flower pedals at the base of the tree.

I then walked up to one of the branches and positioned myself as high as I could, to shoot down, letting the bed of pedals be my background.

As I made my way up a hill, I saw this man painting. As I almost always do, I walked up to check out his painting and asked if it was OK to take some photos of him creating his art. I took some photos of him and then gave him my business card and told him to email me and I would send him the photos.

As I walked away from him, I saw the opportunity to frame him with the cherry blossoms.

I took a bunch more photos, and then went back to show him the new photos. He really liked them and promised to reach out to me. His name is Adriatik and he did email me. I retouched the photos and sent him the high-resolution images for him to keep.

This was nature's painting right in front of us.

There is a hillside inside the gardens called the Daffodil Hill and this is something to behold.

Even though this tradition started almost 100 years ago, in 2015, the curators of the garden set out to plant one million daffodil bulbs. These bulbs will join with those that have been blooming there for decades.

At this point, I had been walking around the gardens for almost 4 hours and was getting tired. But with this beauty in front of me, I was not about to stop.

I watched this bee flying from one flower to another and shot a bunch of images to capture it mid-flight.

I saw this boat full of Chihuly glass balls and it reminded me of the art I had seen last year, at Chihuly's exhibit in Seattle. But that exhibit was inside, and this offered a different perspective of the same glasswork.

More use of reflections...

Before I exited the Botanical Gardens, I walked to the Mertz Library to see the Chihuly exhibit, located inside.

More awesome art...

And then it was time to head back to Manhatten for my dinner meeting...

...but not before taking one more photo of the flowers, as I exited the gardens. I actually walked back to the entrance gate and told the nice people at the front that it was the best $23 I had ever spent.

It was just an amazing day of photography, and totally filled my "creative cup". It was fun spending a day shooting photos for no other reason, but for the enjoyment of doing so. Since I was alone, I could take as much time as I wanted at each location, with no guilt in doing so. The weather was great. The gardens were incredible. I was able to capture cool photos. What could be better? OK. Maybe next time I will bring my family and friends. :)

Oh...and in case you are wondering how much I walked that FitBit Blaze was keeping track of that for me.

And yeah, I know. I didn't sleep much. But how can you sleep with all this in front of you?!

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Unknown said...

Looks like a great day in the park. Nice pics. On the Chihuly photo you mentioned photoshopping out a couple people. Their ghosts remain in the reflection of the water on the left side, light shirt and dark pants. I think I see a reflection on the right side as well. Can see some repeat pattern in the grass. Don't you just hate nitpickers. LOL (You do not have to post this comment. Just thought I would chime in with my observations.)

Anonymous said...

The Chihuly sculptures are a wonderful counterpoint to the blooming foliage. We always make time to visit the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix when Chihuly's work is on display. You need to see his work to appreciate it!

Your pictures contradict those who say there are already enough pix of flowers...

GNB said...

Thank you for posting such a beautiful array of flowers and Chihuly glass. It provided me a great deal of pleasure viewing your photos. I however question why you removed the people from the one photo. That would have provided an additional perspective. I also find it generous of you in providing the painter with high resolution photos. It shows that you are a "mensch". Keep posting and educating.

Unknown said...

Really great shots and thanks for the lecture in San Leandro! Glad my wife and I were able to make it.

1Pixatatime said...

On May 13,2017 I attended a class in San Leandro, Ca that Jeff taught. Great. I learned a lot of great things. Thanks, Jeff.

Ruth Navis said...

Beautiful images! All the flowers and glass art is absolutely amazing!!!

Unknown said...

Was hearing the story behind these images today in San Leandro. We spent 7 hours in the car to hear you today and it was a wonderful day. Added another dimension to reading your blogs.

Unknown said...


Great seminar you gave for the Yerba Buena chapter of the PSA on Saturday May 13, 2017! I especially liked the final presentation.

Leslie Crandell said...

I enjoyed the talk you gave for the Yerba Buena chapter of PSA last Saturday in San Leandro. My favorite presentation was your your journey from start to present in sports photography, and the stories about your Olympic experiences.

Dan said...

Awesome photos.

Allison said...

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Unknown said...

Just wanted to say thank you for you B&H seminars. I am really enjoying them. I am watching 15 Things You Should Think About Every Time You Take a Photo while typing this comment.

Damoms said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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