Story and photos by Bonnie Marquette
This has by far been my most viewed and awarded images… and I only had one shot at it.
Located off Angola Road in St. Francisville, Louisiana, Greenwood Plantation was built in 1830 by William Barrow and was originally a 3000 acre cotton plantation. In 1850, Barrow switched the crop to sugar cane and the property grew to 12,000 acres. After the Civil War, the plantation was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Frank Percy in 1915. The Percy’s worked the farm and restored the mansion. From 1940 to 1960, they opened the home to the public. On August 1, 1960, lighting struck the home and burned it to the ground. Only remnants of the columns remained.
Eight years later, Walton Barnes purchased the property and the remaining 300 acres. Walton and his son, Richard, set about to restore the home to it’s original glory. Using old photographs and conducting exhaustive research, the house was rebuilt in 1984 and was used in many movies, the most famous being “North and South” starring Patrick Swayze and Leslie-Ann Down. The property is still owned by Richard Barnes and is run by his daughter, Victoria and is open to the public. See the link at the end of this blog.
In February of 2012, I was working as a Location Scout and Location Manager for the motion picture, “The Host” and was out early one morning (around 6am) to prepare the property for a visit by the Director and other crew members, due to arrive in about 30 minutes. It had rained the night before and the property, beautiful at any time, was shrouded in a thick, misty fog. The photographer came out in me and I started firing away with my Nikon D90. The Nikon was my scout camera and not my “big” camera but it was the only camera I had on me that day.
At first I shot around the house and the porch, catching the type of details I like to shoot such as the spiderweb below.
I love the architecture of the house and started to focus on the columns then the massive live oak trees that canopy the yard. Planted over 200 years ago, the trees form rows with the main row leading to the front of the house. Used in the 1800’s, the main row is known as the “oak alley” which the wagons and horse-back riders would use to approach the house.
Moving around, I thought one of the two cemeteries in front of the house would make for an interesting shot, so I grabbed a few of those.
It was right before Spring and the foliage on the trees and bushes was starting to just begin to wake up from winter. A nearby camellia bush even had blooms on it. The greenish-grey color of the Spanish Moss dripping from the live oaks was captivating.
One of my favorite spots at Greenwood it its reflecting pond. I had shot it many times before but not on such a mysterious and eerily lit misty morning. Walking around the pond, I captured the famous reflection and some detail shots.
It was still very thick with the fog so I headed back up to the front of the house to wait for the crew. As I faced the house, I noticed the light change on the massive columns and became almost a silver-yellow. Something told me to turn around and there it was… the famous shot.
I got only one frame of the sunlight beginning to stream through the Oak Alley. The beams lighting the grass under the trees. The second after I pressed my shutter button, the sun broke through and the entire scene changed to a bright, overbearing light casting hard shadows and blowing out all of the highlights. It was a once in a lifetime shot!
That day taught me to go with my gut feeling and always turn around. The old saying of “being in the right place at the right time” is very true. It was a magical half hour with just me and my camera in a magical place on a magical morning. The image is located in the “Landscapes” portfolio on this website.
To visit this fantastic property, visit Greenwood’s website at: www.GreenwoodPlantation.com. Tell Richard and Victoria I said “Hello!”
“Greenwood’s Oak Alley” has won the following awards:
- Most Viewed Photo of the Year: www.OnlyInLouisiana.com (425,800 views)
- Photo of the Day- Smithsonian Institute
- Editor’s Pick- Smithsonian Institute
- Finalist, Projected Division- Photographic Society of America
- Image of the Month- 1 Million Photographers
- Finalist- Clicking the Light Fantastic
- Chosen as a Top 3 image on the live broadcast featuring John Greengo on Creative Live.
Louisiana resident and native, Bonnie Marquette specializes in capturing the mysterious, vivid and sometimes hauntingly beautiful sights that define this unique state. Winner of numerous International, National, Regional and Local awards, her work showcases the essence of this incredible area. She also has a background in Graphic Design and magazine publishing. Bonnie and her husband, David, also raise AKC English Mastiff Dogs. They occasionally have puppies for sale. You can find her website here: www.MeauxMastiffs.com.