I joined a friendly group of Somerset County photographers for an early morning walk around Duke Farms in Hillsboro.
The early morning weather was cool, and the skies were clear. I met up in the parking lot with a large group of photographers from all over Somerset Country. I already knew a few people - like Terry Lyons - but the rest were strangers.
Duke Farms is the former estate of Doris Duke, an American heiress, horticulturist, art collector, and philanthropy, past. The estate was opened to the public last year. It is a fantastic place with ponds, barns, wildlife, wildflower fields and incredible scenery. There were plenty of photo opportunities.
We walked over instead of taking the tram. As with any large group of photographers, each of us was interested in different things, and each of us saw the park differently. We strolled, stopping at park features we found interesting. For me, that was the landscape and the flora. I got into fascinating conversations with fellow photographers about camera equipment, photography tips and kids.
Following a fire in January 1915, the building remained abandoned. Doris Duke used the ruins as an outdoor sculpture gallery, placing individual marble statues of human figures in linear arrangements along the walls, which can still be seen today.
Duke Farms has a small greenhouse filled with Orchids. One could spend an hour inside. I couldn't. The orchids are misted every five minutes, and the humidity becomes unbearable. However, by far, this was my favourite part of the walk. I saw a few picnic tables, but I'm not sure visitors can bring food in.
There is so much I didn't get to see in the two hours I was there. I will certainly return with my camera and my family and do another walk myself, perhaps more slowly and deliberately.
The image in this post is of the abandoned hay barn near the southern gate to the park. At the time of its construction, the Hay Barn was near the centre of farming activity, but as more land was purchased and the farming moved elsewhere, the structure was no longer needed as a hay press.
Image is HDR from three exposures (+2,0,-2) combined in Photomatix Pro. You can see more of the photos on 500px.