Finding Intimacy in a Special Place

Not long ago I published a blog post on a remote Pine Barrens Atlantic White Cedar Swamp as part of an ongoing project. Take a look at my gallery of cedar swamps photographs. As you explore your way through these swamps, you eventually come out on the other side. Usually it is back in the forest or next to a waterway, but sometimes you find yourself in a little magical meadow called a savanna.

Savannas in New Jersey? Aren’t they large grassy plains in Africa loaded with giraffes and lions? Yes, but we have them here too sans the exotic wildlife. In the Pine Barrens they are small, wet, open areas that can be home to some amazing wildflowers like orchids and carnivorous plants.

Savana Light And Shadow by Richard Lewis 2020


Savanna View by Richard Lewis 2019

From Swamp to Savanna

Savannas are not easy to get to. A typical trip to one would look something like this. After leaving a trail or back road, you bushwhack your way through the forest undergrowth and into a cedar swamp. In the swamp you work your way among cedar trees that are so close together you’ll want to lose 20 pounds instantly no matter what you weighed when you entered the swamp. Then, through the trees you catch a glimpse of an opening in the forest. You find your way to it and suddenly step into an open and secluded savanna that seems out of place surrounded by thick stands of cedar trees.

From Swamp To Savanna by Richard Lewis 2020

These two photographs show savannas in the winter (above) and summer (below).

Edge Of The Savanna by Richard lewis 2020


The Magic Savanna

While all savannas have their charm, the photographs below are from what I call the Magic Savanna. It is small, but it is loaded with all sorts of rare flowers. One in particular is the endangered Bog Asphodel. This is one of the few spots where these pretty yellow flowers grow profusely. Maybe no one here told them they are endangered.

Morning Twilight On The Savanna by Richard Lewis 2020


Orchids and Asphodels by Richard Lewis 2020


Foggy Savanna by Richard Lewis 2020


Becoming intimate

The Magic Savanna is a small space. What you might notice from the above photographs is that this savanna has limited opportunities for creating grand landscape photographs. The Pine Barrens, in general, lack a lot of expansive vistas. So what does a grand landscape photographer do? You can pack up your wide angle lens and say goodbye to the Magic Savanna. Or you can think differently.

What the Magic Savanna lacks in space it makes up for in detail. Instead of the grand landscape, look at the possibilities for getting more intimate with your compositions. I zoomed in with the lens and starting seeking the small landscapes within the grand landscape by using the rich diversity of color and texture in the savanna.

Summer Savanna by Vivian Lewis 2020


Asphodels In Bloom by Richard Lewis 2020


Orchids and Asphodels 2 by Richard Lewis 2020


Golden Crest With Savanna Flowers by Richard Lewis 2020


Asphodels by Richard Lewis 2020


Intimate Savanna by Richard Lewis 2020


An Orchid Amongst The Asphodels by Richard Lewis 2019

Whether you choose to have everything in focus or let the backgrounds go soft to be an abstract bokeh for your foreground elements, photographing the intimacy of a savanna will allow you to explore the depth of these small open areas with your camera.


Savanna Up Close

Even the most hardcore grand landscape photographer cannot visit a savanna in its prime without a macro lens. The beauty of these little wildflowers is just too good to pass up.

Dew Kissed Rose Pogonia by Richard Lewis 2020


Torches (Threadleaf Sundew) by Richard Lewis 2020


Dressed To Kill (Pitcher Plant) by Richard Lewis 2020


Grass Pink Flowering by Richard Lewis 2020


Asphodel Before Dawn by Richard Lewis 2020


Pitcher Plant Flower Up Close by Richard Lewis 2020


Lanceleaf Rose Gentian by Richard Lewis 2020

Other Savannas Up Close

The the photographs below aren’t from the magic savanna. Still, all savannas can provide great opportunities for macro photography and creating art from our amazing Pine Barrens wildflowers.

Early Bog Asphodel by Richard Lewis 2019



Bowing Pitcher Plant with Asphodels by Richard Lewis 2018


Sundew Growing by Richard Lewis 2020


Grass Pink Orchid by Richard Lewis 2019


Savannas are part of the magic of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Unfortunately, they aren’t easy to get to. This leaves photographing them up to those who are willing to brave the trip which is almost always a challenge.


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