In south Louisiana, we’ve crossed the line of the spring equinox. Winter is in the rear view mirror and spring is already bursting into green and gold at Oak Alley. Green and gold because the live oaks in the alley are blooming and growing fresh, new celery-green leaves all at the same time.
Live oaks are generally considered “evergreen” because they don’t drop their leaves in the winter. In actuality, they’re semi-evergreen and shed their leaves at different times throughout the year, and mostly in the spring at the same time that they grow bunches of thin, gold hanging flowers called “catkins.” This spring combination makes for some colorful opportunities at Oak Alley Plantation.
As we leave winter behind, we move out of fog season in plantation country. But, with the right combination of recent rain and cool night-time temperature, you may be fortunate enough to experience a foggy morning under the alley. I say fortunate because the fog creates lovely soft light and muted colors that can help you make beautiful moody photographs around the grounds. Fog can isolate tree shapes from their backgrounds and help simplify an otherwise complex and distracting composition.
I’m especially fond of photographing in the soft light from fog or on overcast and cloudy mornings, which are fairly common this time of year. The soft light reduces the overall contrast and lets your camera see more clearly into the shadows under the trees. At these times, you can capture details that otherwise would be lost in the harsh shadows of a clear sunny day. In the fog, you can almost imagine that you’re walking in a timeless dream world of hazy shapes and forms until the warming day slowly lifts this magical veil.
Another colorful bonus of spring at Oak Alley is the variety of blooming flowers, and especially the Southern azaleas. Oddly, the majority of azalea blooms were almost a month early this year. Ordinarily, March into early April would be peak season for the confetti-colored pink, fuschia, brick red, and pale-white flowers from the azalea bushes that grow throughout the grounds at Oak Alley.
Remember, every season has its own special beauty at Oak Alley. I personally find that the transition periods – winter into spring, spring into summer, summer into fall, and fall into winter are the most interesting times to capture the changing personality of the live oaks and plantation home.
And if you want to experience the special magic of quiet under the oaks without the crowds, stay overnight to enjoy a sunset or early morning stroll down the alley. And don’t forget to bring your camera.