Summer Pursuits

If you are a photographer based near the city of Washington,  July provides many photo ops beyond the well-known fireworks extravaganza that happens on the 4th.

For example, there is the fairly well-known field of sunflowers in Maryland’s McKee-Besher’s Wildlife Management Area (Maryland DNR website).  Since the weather forecast for the fireworks was iffy, I decided to zip over to that field on the 4th to see if they had been planted this year and, if so, how long it would be before they were ready to be photographed.  It was a good thing I did.

Sunflowers 03

Approaching Storm, Sunflowers (July 4, 2014)

The plants were so vigorous this year that one needed a ladder in some spots just to get a clear view of the entire field.  I had neglected to take a ladder on the scouting trip so I returned with one the next day for another go.

Sunflowers 01

Morning Fog, Sunflowers (July 5, 2015)

Sunflowers 02

Soft Light, Sunflowers (July 5, 2015)

The morning light with the fog provided a completely different mood than the previous afternoon.  While a ladder is helpful, to get higher one needs a camera-equipped drone or, in my case, a friend with such a device.

Drone 01

Drone, Awaiting Orders

This was purely an experiment and requires a skill set I do not possess, one completely different from still photography.  The owner was in charge of where it went and what it did.

View from above

The image above is a still photograph taken by the drone’s camera.  One can get an idea of its potential, however, by checking out this link to an unedited clip of one of the flights.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Washington, DC, the lotus blossoms were at peak in Kenilworth Gardens, according to a fellow photographer who was there on July 3rd.  Here is an image from a previous visit.

Lotus 01

Lotus, Kenilworth Gardens, Washington, DC

But Kenilworth will have to wait until next year, a kayak race over Great Falls was scheduled for July 11, and I wanted to check out the practice runs on the two days before the actual event.   The advantage of the practice runs is that the race day crowds are absent.  The downside is that you don’t know exactly when the boats will be coming down.

Kayak 01

Navigating the Fish Ladder, Great Falls National Park, Maryland

The Fish Ladder is a tricky course as can be seen from a 35-second video taken shortly after this run.  Listen for the thuimp when the lead boat collides with the wall.  The race course was on the Maryland side this year because the water level was too high for the classic run through the center line, known as the Fingers, shown below.

Kayak 02

Navigating the Fingers, Great Falls of the Potomac (July 2014)

Whether running the Fish Ladder or the Center Lines, this event is an extremely dangerous undertaking.  A competitor died in 2013 during a practice run over the falls.  The event organizers go to great lengths to ensure the safety of the kayakers, but the power of the river is impossible to tame completely.


17 thoughts on “Summer Pursuits

    • Yes, the falls are pretty daunting. They were considered impossible to run until the mid-1970s. Even now, the river level has to be within a narrow 6-inch range for them to choose the Center Lines for the competition. The great thing is that the two most spectacular runs are on the side of the river that is only about 5 minutes from my home.

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    • Thanks, Michele. It was a busy ten days as you well know since you made it not only to the sunflowers and kayak run, but also to Kenilworth and the lotus blossoms in that brief period.


  1. Love the stormy sunflower image. The contrast between the sky and flowers is perfect. I’ve been wanting a drone for quite a while, but the cost of a really good one (if I like it I don’t want to have to upgrade after a year or so) has stopped me from making the purchase. I love to kayak, but I wouldn’t attempt either of those runs!! Great action shots.

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  2. Robin, I am so sorry I missed this outing! Your photographs of the sunflowers are stunning! Fields of sunflowers in France and Tuscany are among my favorite memories from my travels there and I had absolutely no idea I could experience that same beauty so close to home. I must remember this next year, drone or no drone (the video is unbelievably cool). As for the kayaking, again, wonderful shots! I applaud the courage (perhaps craziness) of those who took part in that race. Just watching the video gave me goosebumps; I can’t imagine actually being in the middle of that maelstrom! What great summer shots! Thanks for sharing 🙂

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