A few weeks ago I spent a Saturday morning at Bok Tower, a wonderful garden in Lake Wales, Florida. It was architected by Frederick Law Olmstead and dedicated by President Coolidge in 1929. The tower itself is fun to photograph, but what attracted me was the possibility of migrant warblers. I seem to find a lot of them on good days. There was also a Rufous Hummingbird that visited there last year, and I was curious to see if one had returned this year. The great thing is that even on a slow bird day, Bok Tower in bloom is gorgeous and a fun place for flower photography!
The hummingbirds typically are easiest to find at the firebush near the Window By the Pond, so I headed there first. On my way I saw several tiny birds flitting high in the treetops, but they didn’t stay still long enough for me to focus on them. I suspect I saw my first-of-fall warblers. The cheerful calls of hummingbirds echoed all over the place as they squabbled in mid-air. When I got to the Window by the Pond, it took me about five seconds to find a Rufous, who seemed to enjoy perching on the same branch as last year. A few red dots on his gorget told me that he was a juvenile male (and therefore a different bird than last year, who was also a juvie male). I got a few shots of him nectaring, but as I didn’t have The Beast with me, I had to crop significantly!
Bok’s giant water lilies bloom in the late summer. The lily pads are big enough and strong enough that small children can sit on them! I wished I had taken my circular polarizer with me, as my close-up shots of the blooms had a lot of reflections that were very distracting. So I used some Fractalius to emphasize the colors of the bloom, and darken the distracting background…
Rich saw this image and said, “it’s ok.” He’s hard to please when I get into these artsy-type of images. So I hesitated to show him the next one, where I used some filters on a shot of ivy. But he really liked that one! Boys…!!
One of my favorite parts of visiting Bok Tower is laughing at the squirrels. There are lots of them, and they are very friendly. They are very used to people, and they’ll come scampering up to check you out. Once a squirrel almost crawled into my car as I was packing up my camera gear! This one was hopping around near a bird feeder. He enjoyed stealing the sunflower seeds!
At the overlook of the tower are some benches with clumps of melampodium growing nearby. One tiny flower had worked its way up through a crack in the bench. I loved the isolation of that one little bloom. I put on my macro lens and did a few shots with the bloom in the corner of the frame. This was my favorite.
At the base of shady trees and benches, there were all these green plants with tiny pink flowers. I’m not sure what they are called. I loved how the pinks and greens contrasted. It took a few tries to find a bloom that was nicely isolated against the backdrop of leaves.
Finally there were some beach sunflowers in bloom, and when I saw them, they screamed “Fractalius!” at me. My shots of the blooms by themselves were so-so, but the Fractalius effect made them pop. I think I had as much fun post-processing these shots as I did wandering around the gardens! :)
Want to learn more about nature photography at Bok Tower?
Check out my Bok Tower page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!
Planning a trip to Florida? Don't miss my Central Florida Bird Photography Locations reference guide!
Nicely written Jess! I too like the photo of the flower growing through the bench. Nicely done!
I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed your visit to the Gardens. Your photographs are stunning. Keep up the great work and visit us again soon!
Marketing Manager @ Bok Tower Gardens