Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Summer is upon us! For photographers in the DC area, that means it's time to grab the camera bag and hit a favorite summer time photo spot at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. Although they are located in DC, it's not an attraction many tourists see, but during early summer draws the photographers in droves. Admission is free to the aquatic gardens (it's a US National Park, so you already paid for admission in your taxes!).

The Kenilworth Aquatic Garden has large ponds full of aquatic plants to photograph

Last year was my first time visiting the gardens, and although I got there first thing in the morning when the gardens opened (7am) it was hotter than the Sahara Desert and there was at least 130% humidity! This year I choose a cooler weekend where the daytime high was expected to be in the mid-80s and arrived early enough that the temperature was a pleasant 75F while I shot. Unfortunately some of the lotus plants and lilies weren't as open as I'd seen previously, which is probably a reflection of the cooler temperature.

I loved the reflection caused by the perfectly still water. Unfortunately perfectly still water also is a great breeding place for mosquitos - pack spray!

The gardens are huge and I recommend wearing good closed toe shoes as high water can make it muddy. I explored a variety of the gardens to capture lotus, water lilies, and the occasional dragonfly that stopped for a break. Because the lotus plants grow in big ponds, I highly recommend a long telephoto to get close up shots of these plants. For this trip I primarily used my Sigma 150-500mm lens although I carried an 85mm macro as well. A good tripod is a must have for this spot! I also played with my new remote shutter release - a Freewave RW-N1 for the D800. That let me setup the shot and wait for the dragon flies to get in just the right spot before firing. 

I intentionally underexposed this image to isolate the lotus from the background so we're drawn to the perfect details of these plants.

There are other great photo-ops at the gardens - if you can get to them. Geese, ducks, and cranes can frequently be spotted going through the gardens along with frogs and some neat spiders. Unfortunately the flying critters were avoiding me and making it difficult to get a shot during this trip!

I have attached a few photos from the shoot - I like to intentionally isolate the flower from the background to draw you eye to the intricate detail of these great blooms. 

If you are interested in visiting the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, you can visit their website ( for more information and directions.