Whenever I tag along with Susan to one of our many markets or farm stands, it is understood that my job is to photograph while she selects the wonderful stuff for diner. This time of year there is an abundance of delicious native produce. Green Mountain Orchard in Putney Vermont is our favorite spot for all sorts of pick-your-own fruits, especially Blueberries and Apples. Macs, Macouns, Cortlands, Granny Smiths and Red Delicious, they have all the popular apples in addition to many early and heirloom varieties. Of course I’m attracted by Green Mountain’s location, on top of Vermont’s rolling hills.
One of my favorite local farm stands is the Walker Farm along Route 5 in Dummerston Vermont. In the spring I always hit the farm to capture the beautifully cultivated greenhouse flowers and this time of year it is all about the produce. Walker Farm always has the best tasting AND the best looking local vegetables and fruits and they are always displayed in attractive arrangements that make it easy to construct my consumable compositions. It also helps that the friendly staff never seem to mind my “pixel grazing” through their ripe consumables. For my part, I try not to trip the paying customers. A monopod is much less intrusive than a spindly tripod.
Produce photography shares all the usual rules of light and composition. I always approach fruits and vegetables as I would any landscape scene. I look for a focus of interest, usually in the foreground, and a background which compliments the scene, and doesn’t present too much cluttered or flares of distracting bright light. Vegetables tend to have shiny skins and although splashes of glimmering reflection can be attractive, more often softer light can allow the rich colors to shine through. This is where a polarizing filter and a diffuser can help. Many small farm stands benefit from shady natural light, although the Walker Farm has warm incandescent lighting that can be a challenge for color balance and reflections. As always shooting in RAW improves the ability to adjust the color balance and tame the high dynamic range.
Of course we don’t need to wait for produce to arrive at the farm stand. I enjoy capturing the fruits and vegetables when they are still on the vines or suspended from the branches. When we first settled in New Hampshire, Susan and I slaved over an 80×80 foot monster vegetable garden. It was great to grow corn, peas, beans, tomatoes, squash and more. We loved teaching our kids where all the food actually came from, but as our children grew, pulling weeds in the garden lost its attraction. For awhile we were able to get them to join us on pick-your-own expeditions, but then they became teenagers and had no interest in even acknowledging our existence. Our garden steadily shrunk, as we realized that we were spending our entire summer planting, weeding and canning, and now all that remains is an herb garden, my apple trees and potted tomatoes on the deck. I should also mention the squash and tomatoes that inevitably emerge from our compost bin. We never know what we are going to get, but they always show vigorous, well fertilized, growth.
Happily there is no shortage of local farms which provide abundant opportunities to explore along the rows of produce. My favorites include the Stonewall Farm in Keene New Hampshire, Alyson’s Orchard in Walpole New Hampshire and of course Walker Farm. Stonewall Farm is primarily a dairy farm, but as an educational institution it also has nicely managed vegetable gardens, Like Green Mountain Orchard, Alyson’s has rows of apple trees in a beautiful hill-top setting, with beautiful sunsets overlooking the Connecticut River Valley.
As the days begin to cool, we are all anticipating the fall colors, but while we wait for that glorious explosion we can enjoy the great visual display of nature’s abundance. Now, I need fresh corn on the cob for diner and we are almost out of Blueberries. Time to hit the road.