June 15, 2023
June is blueberry season in southern New Jersey!
Southern New Jersey’s sandy soil is perfectly suited for blueberries. I’ll find both lowbush and highbush blueberry plants pretty much everywhere when I’m out hiking in the Pine Barrens. A couple of my hikes will actually pass right through old abandoned highbush blueberry farm fields. These particular fields aren’t maintained or fertilized any longer and are sometimes completely overgrown in the forest, so although you’ll find blueberries, they aren’t always the big juicy berries that you’re used to seeing.
Luckily, I often drive through Hammonton, NJ, which is the self-proclaimed Blueberry Capital of the World. About 80% of New Jersey’s blueberries come from Hammonton. The NJ Department of Agriculture lists 28 different blueberry farms in Hammonton alone. The blueberry fields in Hammonton stretch away from the roads in almost endless rows. One farm that I know of sits alongside almost two miles of county road with its farm access road traveling a mile back through the blueberry rows. That’s a LOT of blueberries! And, unlike the cranberries that I see harvested every autumn in New Jersey, freshly picked blueberries are sold from farm stands at many of the Hammonton fields.
Photographing blueberries proved to be a little more challenging than I had thought. It sounds simple enough, given how many blueberry farms are out there and how many blueberries sprout from the shrubs, patching the green fields with splotches of blue. No, I didn’t count on the subtle summer breezes and the weight of the plump berries on their branches. To put it simply, the branches full of heavy berries are always bouncing in the breeze!
These photos were taken right at sunrise when the breezes hadn’t kicked up yet. The fields were silent except for the waking birds and a cropdusting plane that was spraying a field a short distance away. The top photo taken in the glow of the 6:00 AM sun is my favorite. These photos were taken with my Nikon D500 with a Nikkor 200-400 f4 AF-S VR lens. I used an ASA of 500 to try and get my shutter speed a bit faster. I also shot a roll of film in my Nikon F5 - can’t wait to get that roll back and start scanning!
(Be sure to click on “Beyond Weddings” in my menu to the left to see more photos…)