Photographing Roses in Colonial Park

A single rose with water droplets.
Rudolf W. van der Goot Rose Garden, Colonial Park, Somerset, NJ.

Story and photos by Sastry Karra

The rose garden inside the Colonial Park in Somerset, New Jersey, is named in honor of Rudolf W. van der Goot, the first horticulturist with the County Park Commission, as a tribute to his efforts in designing and developing the garden. It is only one acre in size but contains more than 3,000 roses covering 325 varieties. From late spring through fall, these roses present an unending variety of colors, fragrances and, above all, appearances.

Photographing roses also presents unending opportunities, especially after a rainy night or while it is drizzling. The park being very close to my home, I visit often.  Recently, I went once while it was drizzling and again on a bright sunny day.

For most of my pictures with my Nikon D3400, I shoot wide, with my AF-P NIKKOR 18-55mm DX VR-1, 1:3.5 to5.6G kit lens. When I need to zoom in to find interesting details, I used AF-S NIKKOR 55-300MM DX VR-1 1:4.5 to 5.6G ED lens.

In June 2018, on a drizzling day, I visited the van der Goot Rose Garden.  With rain droplets still on the flowers, I set the shutter speed to 1/250th of a second and let all other parameters be decided by the camera software. I went with the fast shutter speed because I was hand holding and occasionally using my telephoto lens. I could still get a low ISO and a reasonable aperture. If the background blurred a bit, so be it. My interest and focus was on individual flowers. The gray sky acted like a giant softbox and eliminated any glare.

These are a couple of my favorite photos with water droplets from that day.

A single rose with water droplets.
Rudolf W. van der Goot Rose Garden, Colonial Park, Somerset, NJ.
A single rose with water droplets.
Rudolf W. van der Goot Rose Garden, Colonial Park, Somerset, NJ.

By contrast, in May 2019, on a clear sunny day, I visited the Colonial Rose garden again.  With the flowers dry and the sun bright, I again used shutter priority, went with a very fast shutter speed—sometimes as high as 1/1600th of a second—and let all other settings be decided by the camera software. I knew this would result in a very shallow depth of field, but was OK with that. It helped prevent glare and hot spots on the flower petals.

Here are a couple of my favorite photos from clear sunny day.

A single rose in bright sunlight.
Rudolf W. van der Goot Rose Garden, Colonial Park, Somerset, NJ.
A single rose in bright sunlight.
Rudolf W. van der Goot Rose Garden, Colonial Park, Somerset, NJ.

Jaganadha “Sastry” Karra was born in India, but left when he was 24 years old. For the past 27 years, he’s worked as an IT professional, and has been living in NJ since 2004.

During his spare time, he goes outdoors and takes nature photos, especially waterfalls. Along with his wife (who loves hiking), they go to many nearby state parks where he can experiment with different compositions. In the summer, when his friends play cricket, he’s been experimenting with sports photography. Find him on instagram at #sastrykarra, where he posts most of his pictures. On Facebook, he’s active in some photography forums, like NANPA. “Maybe I’ll see you there!” he says.