Reeves Reed Arboretum
165 Hobart Ave.
Summit, NJ 07901
Eric and I have discovered a wonderful photo opportunity just 10 minutes from our home. The Reeves Reed Arboretum in Summit is absolutely beautiful, and lends itself to a number of photographic exercises, including macro and landscape photography. The photographs included in this article are from our outings in May and June 2008.
The arboretum provides 13 acres of landscaped gardens, open fields, and woodland. Certainly enough to keep you busy for an entire day, especially if you enjoy taking close-up photographs of flowers – you’ll never find the time to go home. You can read about the full history of the arboretum here if you like. But briefly, the estate residence (seen pictured) was built in 1889 for John Wisner and his family, exchanged hands to both the Reeves and Reed family throughout the early and mid-1900s, and finally in 1974 enough money was raised by local citizens to preserve the property as an arboretum.
On our visit in May we made two trips to the Arboretum, photographing in the morning then returning for the beautiful light a couple of hours before sunset. We did it this way so that we could avoid the harsh midday light when the sun is directly above us. When the sun is in a high position in the sky, it makes it very difficult for the camera’s metering system to operate properly, as well as objects having extremely unflattering shadows cast upon them. Seeking out and finding great light – just after sunrise, later in the afternoon, and just after sunset – is very important to good nature and landscape photography. Light in the early and later hours of the day has more depth to it, more direction, it literally has more color, which can make for a much more dramatic photograph. How is this so? During these times of day, the sun’s rays are entering the atmosphere at a steeper angle, which produces different light refraction enhancing the color of the light! Eric’s photo of the stone birdbath was enhanced by the warm steeper-angled light shining on the colorful and vibrant out of focus flowers in the background.
In the morning we split up to explore. Eric started with the gardens around the backside of the estate house while I roamed the trails that darted off into the woodland areas on the edges of the property. Eric found a rolling field of daffodils which we later found out had been covered with many many more just about a week earlier on Daffodil Day. He was able to spend about an hour in this region of the arboretum doing both wide landscapes and more detailed flowers images before the lighting became too harsh.
I, on the other hand found a very interesting sequence of back-lit situations with leaves while hiking through the forest areas. When the sun is directly behind the object you’re taking a photo of, it can either be really great, or really gosh-darn awful. One way to identify between the two is if your subject has lots of vibrant colors in it.
Over-expose a little bit and the sun creates sort of a rim-lighting around the object and makes your colors glow. The other way to properly photograph this situation is to make your subject a silhouette against the much brighter sky. Luckily, the leaves I was photographing (pictured) were a nice vibrant red and orange.
During our trip in June we again made two visits to the arboretum, this time taking the hours when the sun was too harsh to wander through downtown Summit for a little shopping and lunch. Later that afternoon, we concentrated a bit more on doing some macro photography utilizing both a tripod and a wireless flash setup for fill-in light to bring out subtle details which will often go unnoticed without the addition of strobe light to the scene.
One of the wonderful things about the Reeves-Reed Arboretum is that every week, no matter what time of year it is, something new is in bloom. You can check the schedule yourself on their calendar to see what’s new on the day you choose to go.
This is a place that can really be photographed on any kind of day – sunny, overcast, rainy (with umbrella!), and snow-laden, because there are so many photographic angles you can take.
We will be holding several informal photo workshops here in the Fall 2008 and Spring 2009. This is also a great place to take a one-on-one session with Eric. We are also in the middle of organizing a larger group macro photography workshop to the arboretum for Spring 2009. Keep checking back on the Upcoming Events page to see when the workshop information is posted!