This week’s guest Blogger is Debbi Koplen. Debbi is a member of the Vienna Photographic Society.
If you’ve never been to Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens before, you will be delighted to find this 14 acre oasis filled to the brim with lotus flowers and water lilies, frogs, turtles, heron, hawks, blackbirds, geese, butterflies and dragonflies. It also boasts a river trail and a boardwalk with observation platforms along the marsh that offer spectacular birding and wildlife sightings all year long. The park is nestled among the wetlands of the Anacostia River in northeast Washington, D.C. A Civil War veteran purchased 37 acres of this land in the late 1800’s and cultivated it into a magnificent water garden that now operates under the National Park Service.
The lotus flowers are generally in full bloom by the first week of July, but lotus and other various water garden flowers are present from May through August. The best time of day to photograph the flowers is early morning before the temperature hits 90 degrees and long before the sun is high in the sky. The blossoms will literally close up in the extreme heat and not re-open until the next morning, and a high sun will cast harsh, unwanted shadows on your subject. The optimal time to photograph in the park is under an overcast sky in the morning. If you are lucky enough to arrive just after a light rain, the water droplets will add another interesting dimension to your images.
Although a torrent of photographers show up mid-summer to capture the garden’s beauty, the park is large enough and the ponds and flowers are numerous enough to allow for the capture of images without background distractions.
I recommend shooting with a telephoto or macro lens for optimal images, and to use a tripod at all times. A polarizing filter is necessary to reduce glare on the foliage. There is often a slight breeze in the park so a shutter speed of at least 1/500th of a second is often critical in getting sharp images. You may want to experiment with depth of field for varied looks of the same scene by shooting wide open at f 2.8 (or as wide as your lens will allow) and then bracketing your way down to f 8 or f 11 or more. You may also want to use fill flash to fill in shadows.
The park rangers state that you are more likely to get bitten by a mosquito in your backyard than in the gardens, but I recommend wearing insect repellent just the same. I also recommend bringing sunscreen and water (the park has no vending machines, but last time I was there, the water fountains were operating), and wear closed-toe shoes due to geese droppings and the unlikely event of a snake on the walking path.
There is a small Visitors Center with bathrooms and there are picnic tables if you want to picnic there.
The walking paths are level and fairly wide, but the ground gets mushy and soft around the edges of the ponds after a rain. There are no fences around the ponds themselves, so keep an eye on small children if you have them in tow.
Admission is free and there is ample free parking. It is about a 10 minute walk from the Deanwood Metro station to the park, but the official website does not advise coming by Metro. If you do come by Metro, an internet poster advises that you walk out of the Polk street exit, and then walk over the ramp across the highway and down Douglas Street until you get to Anacostia Avenue. Make a right, walk a block and the entrance to the park will be on your left. I have never personally come by Metro so I can’t verify these directions.
Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens (1550 Anacostia Avenue, NE) is located in northeast Washington, DC, near the Maryland boundary along the tidal Anacostia River. The entrance to the Aquatic Gardens is just west of I-295 (Kenilworth Avenue), between Quarles and Douglas Sts., on Anacostia Ave. It is open daily from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm. For more information call 202/426-6905. The Gardens are not within close proximity to a Metro station.
Debbi Koplen is the founder and organizer of Pixel Pals, a group of photographers made up of mostly women, who go on many causal half or full-day local shooting excursions throughout the year. There is no fee to join the group. Just send Debbi an email and let her know you want to become a Pixel Pal member. Debbi formed the group because she believes in safety in numbers for female photographers.
Debbi can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org