Andre Cantelmo Photography
July in New Jersey brings hazy, hot and humid forecasts one day after another. Pale skies, with an atmospheric haze that can ruin any photograph that includes it. It gets hot in New Jersey in July, and I believe that it is the hottest month here. Lawns turn from a fresh green to a pale hue and require a watering schedule. Every once in a while, I find myself wanting to get creative with a local project. This involves searching through my personal collection of local points of interest. This search can lead me off on a tangent or even a second generation tangent. One lead leading to another and another I soon find myself in unexpected territory. July's search led me to the Rutgers Gardens. The Rutgers Gardens is a self sustaining operation that relies on community support for sustaining its operation. It is open 365 days a year and its mission is to promote appreciation and information about horticulture and its relationship between human health and nutrition and plants. The website can easily be found via Google by searching “Rutgers Gardens”.
My description can only begin with the caveat that even with a GPS, this is not easy to find. It is truly a hidden gem, set in the middle of densely populated section of central New Jersey. There are major highways nearby, as well as heavily traveled local roads all around it. It is worth the search, and once you quiet your mind a bit, you are in for a very rewarding walk. The gardens are divided into sections. There is a Shade Tree Collection, Shrub Collection, Bamboo Forest, Azalea, Holly, and Rhododendron collection. You will also find plenty of colorful flowers, ornamental grasses, and an Evergreen collections, some species are very rare. One section flows naturally into another and it does not take long to become completely immersed in getting “lost” in nature. The staff and volunteers do a wonderful job with making everything work together. It is a well designed layout. Colors, texture, shape, and all well balanced.
I especially liked the Bamboo Forest. There are wood bark paths that wind their way between these majestic specimens. Bamboo is a member of the grass family, but it is difficult to stop yourself from thinking “trees”. Green is a wonderful color that I find very soothing, and Bamboo offers many shades of this calming color. Walking through these giants is so relaxing, you easily forget where you are. I recommend a tripod here, with a lower ISO setting. You'll want to capture everything and minimize the digital noise of very high ISO settings.
On site there is also a small lily pond. My timing was just right in that I was treated to the sight of wonderfully golden lilies. A few small frogs make their home here, and can be easily photographed. As always, slow down, don't just look. Take the time to see. Not far from this spot, is a stand of Sunflowers. They are always fun to photograph, and as usual the colors are striking. The gardens offer quite a visual treat. The more you slow down the more you will see. I also enjoyed the changing aromas from one section to another. From Pine, to floral, and on to spice.
I have always loved Nature. When I was younger I did not slow down enough to have as deep an appreciation as I do now. These days the intensity of colors, sound, textures, and light are a treasure to me. I've come to understand that I am not separate from the natural world, I am part of it. I have also found that whatever state of mind I bring to my hikes affects the intensity of my experience. If I am in an agitated mood it takes longer for me to be in the moment. If I can leave the stress and busy schedule of everyday life on the shelf for a while then my hikes become transformational. The intensity of the experience is higher and more fulfilling. The task at hand then becomes getting my emotional interpretation in the frame of my camera.