I am not at heart a floral photographer. I love the brilliant colors and delicate beauty of native and exotic flowers, but, based on a deficiency of both equipment and inclination, I don't seem to be optimally fitted to the task. In terms of equipment, I lack a good macro lens to focus on the fine detail. My workhorse 24-105mm lens has a minimum focal range of only18 inches. As for inclination, I am generally not "inclined" to lay on my stomach in the moldy dirt for hours waiting for a split second of calm air to still the waving foliage. I admire all the dedicated people who do this so spectacularly, but for me, I need to have the flowers "teed up". That is why, in the spring, I love going to Walker Farm in Dummerston Vermont. Walkers is a unique place, combining the best of a wonderful organic farm stand and lush green houses supporting a brilliant array of flowering plants. A few weeks ago I accompanied my wife to the farm and while she was filling the car with flowers for the garden and the gazebo, I was in heaven shooting the flowers. Real flower photographers will undoubtedly be appalled, but for me, photographing in a green house is a joy.
First even on sunny days, the light in the greenhouse is generally soft and diffused, making the colors richer and eliminating troublesome glare and sharp contrast. I seldom need to use a diffuser . There is essentially no wind to contend with and the flowers are elevated on tables or hanging from above - no crawling in the dirt! Most importantly the flowers at Walker Farm are beautifully arranged and uniformly healthy. An added bonus is that the flowers are usually labeled making identification much easier for a botanical moron like myself. The folks at Walker Farm are always very welcoming and have even helped me identify unlabeled plants and flowers. They clearly love what they do and are excited to share their joy with everyone who visits.
There are some challenges that come with greenhouse photography. Most importantly the background needs to be carefully monitored and controlled to avoid distracting elements, such as posts and windows, that could spoil the natural feel of the image. Depending on the color of the roofing material, white balance can be tricky, but a white or gray card can be very helpful in setting a custom white balance that can then be used throughout the shoot. It is especially important to be sensitive to needs and safety of the other visitors. Wandering among all this beauty someone could easily stumble over a protruding tripod leg.
Real floral photographers may argue that flowers are best seen in their natural environment, and they undoubtedly have a point. But when I am shooting in the wild, I tend to look for soft light and calm air to capture flowers to best advantage. If it is argued that achieving those condition in a greenhouse is cheating, I can only quote the profound words of my friend Sarah and say "You Betcha".
Walker Farm is located on Route 5 in Dummerston Vermont just North of Brattleboro. For lots more information and directions check out there website. I particularly recommend the fascinating history page which follows the farm from the 1770's to the present. When you visit you will be unable resist the wonderful produce that keeps our family coming back thoughout the season.
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