One Man’s Trash… The groundskeepers w

One Man’s Trash…

The groundskeepers were a bit perturbed, but I was ecstatic.

It was April 8, 2003, weeks past the time when one might have to worry about frost and snow. However, a couple of inches of snow fell overnight in the New York area. I headed out to the New York Botanical Garden, fully expecting to capture some unique and unusual images. I wasn’t disappointed. The rare, early-Spring snowfall depositing a healthy coating of the white stuff on the saucer magnolia buds along Magnolia Way. Snow-covered pine cones are common, but snow-covered magnolias — one of the first blooms of Spring, and a sure sign that Winter is finally over — aren’t something you see every day (at least not in this part of the country). I set up my tripod amid the frosted pink and purple flowers and began shooting an array of seasonal contradictions. For better lighting, I used a flash set to “Fill” to eliminate dark shadows. Although the day was overcast and shadows were minimal, I’ve gotten in the habit of using my flash pretty much all the time. I feel it adds a certain sparkle or “crispness” to the photo that shines through even on cloudy days. To pump a little more color into the scene, I attached a red gel filter to the flash for some of the shots. With the flash slightly powered down, I was able to add a trace of natural-looking reddish tint to the branches and blooms.

A couple of grounds-keeping officials came by while I was shooting to survey the damage to the magnolias. They admitted that although the scene might look like a photographer’s paradise, the late frost was definitely going to cut the magnolia season short. I tried hard to mask my glee in their presence, but I couldn’t help thinking: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure (or in this case… a great photo op!)”

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F.M. Kearney is a fine art nature photographer, specializing in unique floral and landscape images. To see more of his work, please visit