I first visited Shenk’s Ferry Wildflower Preserve in the Southern end of Lancaster County exactly ten years ago this past month. It’s a beautiful small preserve under the stewardship of PP&L featuring a flat half mile trail with a bevy of wildflowers on either side of the path. I returned to Shenk’s Ferry last week with the Lancaster County Photography Meetup Group for some much needed fresh air and to shoot the mostly dime and quarter sized blooms.
April is a great time for wildflowers in the preserve, but I don’t get down to the Southern end all too often. Partially because it takes me almost an hour to get there from my lofty perch up here in Northern Lancaster County, and partially because I inevitably get lost in that area regardless of how simple the directions are. I think the main reason I don’t go back to the preserve all that often is that it’s very difficult for me to get a unique photographic take on flowers, and that particular challenge is daunting.
When you first start out in photography flowers seem like easy pickings. They’re intrinsically beautiful, so half your work as an artist is done for you, right? As I’ve moved along my path in photography finding a way to shoot flowers that also converges with my overall style and vision has been difficult. I can almost hear you saying, “Stop your navel-gazing, your pictures are purty! Just get over yourself you latte-sipping hipster!” Or, given the fact that you’re already reading this blog, you’re probably inclined to be thinking something a little more generous but with similar sentiment.
I’m not trying to say that photos of flowers can’t be artistic, beautiful, and also indicative of you the photographer. I just think that pulling off all three is really, really, really hard. You would think that since most folks who pick up a camera start off by shooting flowers as subjects it would get easier as years and your skills progress. My experience has been almost the exact opposite.
I can pick out a few photographs I took during that first trip 10 years ago and they’re almost indistinguishable (and some are actually better) from ones I took this past weekend. I know in my heart I’ve grown as a photographer in the past decade, but as far as wildflowers are concerned, the tale of the tape isn’t as clear!