The Illuminating Lens

McKee Botanical Gardens – Vero Beach, Florida – 2021

July in Florida is not the best time to be out during the hottest part of the day, but if you want to get great images of waterlilies in Florida then that is the time to do it and the best place is…

McKee Botanical Gardens in Vero Beach.

One of the historic buildings where a very long table made from one tree is on display!

Details from Wikipedia

The McKee Botanical Garden (area of 18 acres (7.3 hectares)) is a non-profit, subtropical botanical garden in Vero Beach, Florida. It is located at 350 U.S. Highway 1, Vero Beach, Florida. It was founded in 1929 when Waldo E. Sexton and Arthur G. McKee purchased an 80-acre (32 ha) tropical hammock along the Indian River. Tropical landscape architect William Lyman Phillips was hired to design its streams, ponds, and trails. Its indigenous vegetation was augmented with ornamental plants and seeds from around the world. In 1932, they proceeded to open the garden, then known as McKee Jungle Gardens, as a tourist attraction. Although the Garden was successful for several decades, it shut down in 1976, and most of its land was sold for development. The site remained vacant for twenty years until the Indian River Land Trust purchased it in 1995. The current Garden was formally dedicated in 2001. It is now a Florida landmark and on January 7, 1998, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places under its former name of McKee Jungle Gardens. Currently, there are several buildings in the garden including the office, gift shop, education center, and restaurant.

This botanical garden has many other types of flowers and plants but the showstoppers are their waterlilies! They bloom, in general, in Florida during the summer and the flowers bloom from about 10 am to mid-afternoon when the sun is shining overhead. They love the sun! Therefore, to shoot these lovelies you must brave the heat, sun, and humidity of the east coast of Florida in July!

Our Visit

The day we decided to travel across the state to McKee Botanical Gardens, we were blessed with overcast skies! Normally, I would be very happy as flowers are better when the sun is not shining directly on them. There are less-hard shadows and the colors are more intense. Even a little rain will add some interest with drops of water. So with the light that we had, we walked into the gardens, hoping the waterlilies would be open! We were happy to find that the waterlilies were opening even with the lower light!

There is something about waterlilies that just pulls me in. They are very colorful but they seem to have their own inner glow. So, even in a relatively dark situation, these flowers explode with light!

Above: These are tiny water lilies. Less than 2″ across.

I am always looking for interesting plants and leaves. Waterlilies have very amazing leaves, with great shapes and patterns.

Even in death, the back of a waterlily leaf is visually stunning!

As usual, I had brought along my Nikon Z6 that is converted to Infrared (590nm). So I had to get some Supercolor IR images along the way! One of my favorite images the last time I visited McKee Botanical Gardens was an Infrared of a single waterlily. You will notice that the lilies are a slightly different tone than the surrounding greenery!

590nm Infrared converted to B&W

We found a few other flowers blooming around the gardens as well.

There was a new section that had been added since my last visit. It is a “Children’s Garden” but it has some great subjects to shoot (not the kids!)!

They look real, don’t they?

We had to immediately share an image of these giant blue mushrooms with our mushroom-loving friends back in Tampa!

When I saw this pirate ship I saw a special infrared image in my head and the final result turned out as I had imagined it!

590nm Infrared converted to B&W

We moved onto another part of the main gardens and found some more of the many species of waterlilies that they grow!

I liked this image so much, I had placemats made for my dining table.

I love waterlilies but my absolute favorite water flower is the Lotus! We were a bit late in the season but I was hoping to find some here. Initially, I only found some that had already bloomed leaving only the lotus pods. The good thing about that is the lotus pods make for a great image as well!

I found the pod below in some dramatic light!

I continued to search and eventually found one blooming Lotus. It was quite far away but I was able to capture an image!

We then found some interesting sculptures near the Lotus pond!

That is one big mushroom or my friend is very small!
Intertwined vines and branches make up this huge work of art!

We were on a quest for great reflections for an assignment for our camera club competition that was coming up. I found this sculpture in the water that made a great reflection!

Reflection of sculpture above

Infrared really likes palm trees so I made a couple of images around the palm groves and ponds.

Supercolor 590nm Infrared image
590nm IR converted to B&W with some Glow added!

We came upon the bamboo area so I had to pull out my iPhone 12 Max Pro and get some ICM (Intentional Camera Movement) and multiple exposure shots.

ICM – Slow Shutter Speed
ICM with Multiple Exposures

The temperature and humidity were starting to get a bit much. The clouds had been breaking up so the light was getting too contrasty. So we decided it was time for a break. We had a good lunch at their cafe, got rehydrated, and cooled off!

After lunch, we made a few more images of waterlilies and then headed home.

I highly recommend McKee Botanical Gardens when you are visiting Florida. They have flowers all year round but by far the best time to visit is in the late spring and summer when the water lilies are in full bloom!

They often have special events going on so check their website to see what is happening and what is blooming!

My next post will start a series of posts on our fall trip to Maine!

To see larger versions of these and many additional images, please visit my McKee Botanical Gardens gallery. Also, here is the link for the post from my last visit in 2017.

That is all for now!


Lynn Wiezycki

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