Early this morning, my mother and I stumbled upon an other-worldly scene: thousands of lotus flowers in bloom at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Washington, DC. We arrived at 7:30 am to see the lotus flowers while they are open. The lotuses were indeed gorgeous, but the most striking aspect of our visit was seeing all the photographers who had arrived before us to stake their claims. The ones I spoke with were amateurs–but they were serious amateurs, with lenses almost as big as my leg, tripods, reflectors, step ladders, rolling equipment cases, and assistants. Some came from as far as New York. I had no idea Kenilworth’s lotus blooms attracted this much attention. I showed up with my camera, a small case containing three lenses (the largest of which is smaller than my hand), and my mother. No tripod, no reflector, no ladder. I looked glaringly out of place, unencumbered by the accoutrements of the trade, with not even a flak jacket to my name.
For the most part, there was a great spirit of collegiality–sharing of tips, patient waiting for good spots, etc. But everyone was there to get a good shot, and as the sun bore down and the light became trickier, some competitiveness emerged. One photographer and her friend/assistant had spent some time setting up tripod and camera, and were focusing on a particularly lovely lotus flower. Another photographer stopped close by, but not in the first photographer’s line of vision, to see if he could get a differently angled shot of the same flower. He asked if that was okay. Female photographer: “I can’t tell you where you can or can’t stand, but there are lots of other flowers here.” Male photographer got the hint and moved on. I’d like to think that was the exception, rather than the rule.
I was using a macro lens to capture a dragonfly on a lotus bud when another photographer came by, took a second look to see what I was shooting so close up, and got very excited when he saw the dragonfly. I stepped aside to give him a turn. The good thing about dragonflies is that once they find a spot they like, they often spend some time there, so I knew I would probably get another chance. Plus, the gentleman I ceded the spot to had a huge lens and I knew he would be able to get a really, really nice close-up shot. If I got any closer with my little macro lens, I’d fall into the pond.
Later, I was admiring some lotuses, but ruing the fact they were in direct sunlight–and hence, beyond my ability to shoot them properly–when the same gentleman stopped by again, and had his friend hold up a huge reflector that allowed both of us to take the shot (third photo below). In the end, I like to think that though we are all photographers of varying abilities, we are kindred spirits nonetheless–out there to capture fleeting moments of beauty. Below are lotus buds and blooms, with close-ups of a lotus receptacle, and of water pooling on a lotus leaf.