Callaway Gardens

Callaway Gardens is one of our favorite vacation getaways. The gardens are located about an hour southwest of Atlanta, or a seven-hour drive from Orlando. The gardens are particularly well known for their gorgeous displays of azaleas in the spring, and for the amazing Fantasy in Lights display of Christmas lights in November and December. I also enjoy photographing songbirds in Mr. Cason's Vegetable Garden. There are daily Birds of Prey shows with easily photographable raptors. The Day Butterfly Center is also fun for butterfly photography. We usually stay at the Mountain Creek Inn. We've also rented a cottage and enjoyed that very much. Use Azalea Watch to plan your spring trip!

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Callaway Gardens Blog Archives

  • Fall Blooms at Callaway Gardens

    Fall Blooms at Callaway Gardens

    We spent a weekend in north Georgia recently to capture some of the fall foliage, and I tucked my macro lens into my bag, looking forward to the opportunity to photograph some flowers as well.  The fall blooms at Callaway Gardens are always fun to shoot.  The gardens have large spectacular displays of mums, and the camellias are also in bloom.  It’s strange to see the leaves falling off the trees at the same time as the delicate pink and white camellias come out.  It’s like the camellias are nature’s hint of spring as winter sets in… Last year’s visit to the Sibley Horticultural Center gave me great opportunities with chrysanthemums.  One of my favorites was a bright red mum covered with dew, featured in my Flowers portfolio page.  This year yielded similar opportunities.  I walked into the center and immediately yelped, “Rich! look at that!”  The displays of bright yellow mums mixed in with pale purple mums were very impressive.    Rich proceeded to stand patiently while I took dozens of pictures.  What a nice hubby! The bright pink mums were fun too.  But I think I like last year’s pictures better.  It’s hard to improve on images that …
  • Fall Colors at Callaway Gardens

    Fall Colors at Callaway Gardens

    Rich and I did a quick getaway trip to Callaway Gardens last weekend.  Callaway Gardens is located in Georgia, about an hour southwest of Atlanta.  My photography goal for the trip was fall leaves.   While the peak color is past in places like New England or along the Great Smoky Mountains, the leaves are just now changing in north Georgia.  I kept an eye on the Georgia Leaf Watch website to help time our trip, and I think we hit the peak weekend.  The leaves have been slow to change this year, but they burst into color right before we drove up.  It was fun to walk the nature trails and photograph the fall colors at Callaway Gardens. The above shot is at “Hummingbird Lake,” which we drove by often during our weekend at Callaway.  Often we can find turtles sitting out on logs, sunning themselves.  Rich thinks the lake should be renamed to Turtle Lake.  I think the name is just fine as it is! I hadn’t realized just how many evergreen trees are in Georgia.  There were certainly trees with beautiful red and yellow hues, but they didn’t seem to stand out much with all the green …
  • Fall Leaves

    Fall Leaves

    I thought it would be easy to photograph fall leaves. After all, there are tons of them lying around, right? Turns out they are not as photogenic as you might think. And a lot of them were already brown, which really distracted from the leaves that were brightly colored. So I took lots of attempts, but few turned out to be anything like what I wanted. This one was my favorite.
  • Soft Colors

    Soft Colors

    I’m always surprised at camellia blooms because they remind me so much of my roses.  The colors of this one are very delicate and pretty.  Pale whites and pinks make me think of spring – but it’s December!  I need to go find some poinsettias to play with. :)
  • Tall Trees Make Me Feel Short

    Tall Trees Make Me Feel Short

    I saw these tall trees still with some fall color and thought it would be fun to photograph them from an ant’s perspective.  So I threw myself on the ground (much to Rich’s surprise) and starting photographing up into the sky.  The result has an interesting perspective.  Tall trees make me feel really short!
  • Fun with Filters

    Fun with Filters

    I recently photographed some tiny flowers.  I don’t know what kind they were.  Rich stood patiently as I crawled on the ground to get really close.  I liked the images, but they seemed a little boring.  So I played a little bit with the Color Efex Pro and Fractalius filters…
  • Mum’s the Word

    Mum’s the Word

    I didn’t have a chance to get out and do photography this weekend, so I don’t have new Florida pictures to share.  So I’ll keep sharing shots from my recent vacation to Callaway Gardens.  Mum’s the word!
  • Fall Sunshine

    Fall Sunshine

    In a few months, this Overlook Garden at Callaway Gardens will be a beautiful mass of azalea color.  I hope to get back up there to photograph it.  But now it is a wood with a little bit of fall color remaining, and the sun shone through the trees on me…I never noticed the change of seasons much until I started gardening and photography! :)
  • Camellia Blooms

    Camellia Blooms

    I was surprised to find the camellias blooming already in Georgia.  The fresh delicate blooms contrasted so much with the fall colors and dead leaves that surround the bushes.  Two bees were pollinating this bloom that I spotted high over my head.  In the background are the bright yellow and orange leaves of a tree still in full color.
  • Back to the Waterfall

    Back to the Waterfall

    On our last trip to Callaway, I found a waterfall near the chapel that I really enjoyed photographing.  It was my first real opportunity to experiment with slow shutter speeds to blur the water.  I got some nice compliments on the pictures, and total strangers e-mailed me to ask me where in the world this waterfall is!  So on our recent trip of course I had to go back.  This time the falls were surrounded by falling leaves and fall colors.  The pictures are very different!
  • Fantasy in Lights

    Fantasy in Lights

    A few days before Thanksgiving, Rich and I went up to Callaway Gardens.  Callaway Gardens is about an hour south of Atlanta, which is a seven hour drive from Orlando.  Each year they decorate the gardens with wonderful Christmas lights and music, called their “Fantasy in Lights” celebration.  It’s so much fun!  This was our second year to visit the lights.  We went before Thanksgiving to enjoy fewer crowds, and we lucked out and happened to visit during the March of Dimes walk, the one night a year when you can walk through the lights. Let me try to describe these amazing lights.  There are 8,000,000 of them in 12 lighted scenes that span over 5 miles of the woods.  Each scene has a theme with coordinated music.  It’s wonderful! You start your trip through the lights with a walk down Christmas Tree lane.  Trees of various colors line the road.  On most nights, you either drive through the lights  in your car, or you take a trolley–um, sleigh, driven by a reindeer called Snowflake. The next scene is one of the original scenes from the first Fantasy in Lights in 1992.  It’s called the March of the Toy Soldiers. …
  • Cosmos Burst

    Cosmos Burst

    The light levels were low at the Vegetable Garden most evenings when we were at Callaway Gardens.  Plus it was wintertime, and there weren’t many birds around.  I photographed a few Yellow-Rumped Warblers and a Junco, which is really common but not in Florida, and then my attention turned to other photogenic subjects.  This clump of cosmos was about the only colorful thing in the garden.  I decided to take advantage of the low light and try to make some pleasing blurs.  This was my favorite.
  • Going in Circles

    Going in Circles

    Sometimes it’s fun to mix up your photography using filters and effects.  I took a nice picture of a lake scene with fall colors earlier this week at Callaway Gardens.  But it was a little boring…straight lines, nicely executed, but nothing special.  I noticed the layers in the trees and the waves of the lake and decided to play with Photoshop’s Polar Coordinates filter.  It wrapped the waves of the lake around my layers of fall colors quite nicely.  Fun! In case you’re wondering, here’s the original image. Some images work very nicely with this sort of effect.  Others do not!  It’s fun to experiment.  I think I would have liked the effect even better without the little buildings.  Oh well, maybe next time!
  • Happy Thanksgiving!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Rich and I just returned from a weekend trip to Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia.  We’re very thankful that we had an opportunity for a few much-needed days away.  And for our nice neighbors who took care of our cats while we were gone!  We went to Callaway for their Fantasy in Lights display of Christmas lights and music.  I’ll blog more about that after Thanksgiving.  For today, here’s a surprise shot – I didn’t realize that there would still be fall colors in Georgia in late November.  I’m sure they were past peak, but for a Floridian, they were very exciting. :)
  • Callaway Gardens Vacation: Part 6 – Waterfall!

    Callaway Gardens Vacation: Part 6 – Waterfall!

    This is my last post about our Callaway Gardens vacation in Georgia this month.  We had a great time photographing hummingbirds, songbirds, warblers, butterflies, and turtles at the beautiful gardens in Pine Mountain (about a hour southwest of Atlanta).  But we stumbled upon my favorite photo from the whole trip rather unexpectedly.  It was mid-day, and I had my wide-angle lens on the camera while we hiked the various trails in the gardens.  Yes, it was hot, but it was significantly cooler than Florida, and we were having a good time.  I’d stopped at a small waterfall on the Wildflower trail and tried to do some longer exposures, but the water was such a tiny trickle that my efforts were rather pitiful.  Then as we hiked up near the chapel, we came across this waterfall.  The top of it was at ground level, and you had to duck down under some trees and sit on rocks in order to view it.  I said to Rich, “we have to go back for my tripod!” The picture above was taken with my wide-angle lens zoomed all the way out.  I used a warming filter to give the mid-day light a bit of …
  • Callaway Gardens Vacation: Part 5 – Migrating Warblers!

    Callaway Gardens Vacation: Part 5 – Migrating Warblers!

    The Beast was napping in his case when Rich and I were hiking in the Azalea Bowl at Callaway Gardens last week.  I had the wide-angle lens on the camera, somewhat disappointed at the meager number of birds that we’d managed to find on our vacation.  So I put on a warming filter and concentrated on making landscape images.  (Note: an APS-C sensor with its 1.6 crop factor does not make for a good landscape camera at Callaway…the trees are so tall that you can’t fit them in the frame!) Of course, as soon as you leave the telephoto lens behind, you come across the birds!  We found a flock of mixed warblers and other small birds in the woods.  Some of them are year-round in Georgia, but with the mixed flock, I wondered if they were migrants. I ran back to get the Beast.  Even though it was mid-day and the light was very harsh, I found that the trees filtered the light, and my shots were better than I expected. The first bird I photographed was the Black and White Warbler above.  I was glad to have my 1.4x teleconverter, as the birds were all really high up …
  • Callaway Gardens Vacation: Part 4 – Butterflies!

    Callaway Gardens Vacation: Part 4 – Butterflies!

    The Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens is one of the biggest open-air butterfly centers in the country.  Thousands of butterflies swirl around you as you walk through the conservatory, which features plenty of nectar plants and a waterfall.  In the lobby, you can watch chrysalides turn into butterflies.  Most of the butterflies are not the typical butterflies you would see in a Southeastern garden.  Some of my favorites are the Paper White butterflies, which were the most active during our early-morning visit.  (The butterflies are not morning insects – they become more active as sunlight and temperature increase.)  This particular butterfly was just gorgeous as he nectared, and I loved the sun angle on him. The butterfly center just redid some of the flower beds inside.  One of the most common plants is the penta, which provides nectar for both butterflies and hummingbirds.  The center also puts out banana peels and oranges for the butterflies to eat.  Apparently those are quite the crowd pleaser! Outside the center are flower beds designed to attract butterflies.  They do an excellent job at that!  I was amazed at the butterfly bushes, which were taller than I am.  Mine never get that tall!  …
  • Callaway Gardens Vacation: Part 3 – Birds!

    Callaway Gardens Vacation: Part 3 – Birds!

    My favorite place at Callaway Gardens is Mr. Cason’s Vegetable Garden.  On our first visit, Rich wanted to check out the veges, and I thought I’d be totally bored.  But it was quite the opposite.  There are tons of birds in the garden.  In fact, it is a certified Backyard Habitat.  It’s not just vegetables, either.  They plant flowers in the garden, too, including a Trial Garden for new varieties of plants.  On this trip, the large patches of zinnias were particularly attractive to the butterflies, goldfinches, and hummingbirds. Our first night there was the only night that the vegetable garden was open for sunset.  Each night after that, the gates were locked long before the golden light hour.  We were very disappointed.  Mornings are just not the same, with the staff working in the garden and mowing and pruning and startling the birds.  (I know the birds are used to having people around, but they pose a lot better when the garden is quiet!)  Also disappointing was the presence of this Red-Tailed Hawk in the garden on the one evening that we were able to photograph there.  Although I’d never seen a Red-Tailed Hawk before, and I enjoyed the …
  • Callaway Gardens Vacation: Part 2 – Turtles!

    Callaway Gardens Vacation: Part 2 – Turtles!

    Rich’s favorite part of our Callaway Gardens vacations is seeing the many turtles in the lakes.  The two best places to see turtles are in the lake right outside the Discovery Center, and at the little pavilion by Mockingbird Lake.  We also saw them sunning themselves on a log in the middle of Hummingbird Lake several times in the late afternoon, prompting Rich to unofficially change the name of the lake to Turtle Lake. The turtles at the Discovery Center are certainly accustomed to being fed.  There are food dispensers along the bridge, and the fish, turtles, and ducks come flocking whenever they hear the machines being operated.  When Rich threw pellets into the water, aiming at the turtles, quite often the fish or ducks beat the poor turtles to the food.  So we shook our pellets into a little bag and took them over to Mockingbird Lake, where the fish were less pushy and there were no ducks to steal the food.   So the turtles fared better there. When Rich first started throwing in the pellets, he attracted one or two turtles.  But word spread quickly, and we started to see turtle heads popping up halfway across the lake.  …
  • Callaway Gardens Vacation:  Part 1 – Hummers!!

    Callaway Gardens Vacation: Part 1 – Hummers!!

    Rich and I recently went up to Callaway Gardens for a few days.  Callaway is about an hour southwest of Atlanta, so about a seven-hour drive from Orlando.  The gardens are a great place to relax.  We enjoy hiking during the day (for Rich) and photographing at sunrise and sunset (for me).  Rich realized there’s another advantage to having a smartphone: you can fit lots of books onto the phone, which fits nicely into a pocket to be readily available when your photographer wife sees a bird!! :) For the next week or so, I will blog about our adventures at Callaway. We chose August for our trip not because of the sweltering heat, but because of the increased population of Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds.  If you look at the bird counts on eBird, the peak time for hummers in Georgia is July-August.  When we first visited Callaway back in August 2008, we were astonished by the number of birds.  We don’t see nearly as many in Florida, so they are a treat for us. Unfortunately, there were not as many hummers on this trip as there were in August 2008.  We didn’t see any males at all (they do migrate first, …