You may have seen prolific floral photographer Roy Kelley and his wife, Dolores, on one of their flower walks around Kentlands. A former real estate broker originally from Portsmouth, Virginia, Kelley has enjoyed photography as a hobby since childhood. At his wife’s suggestion, photography has become the focus of his retirement.
Flower photography, however, came out of the blue. “I was happy because they were there and they were interesting,” Kelley said. “They don’t complain about being photographed!”
The Kelleys, who have lived in Kentlands since 1995, are art lovers who take day trips to flower and garden venues and museums and enjoy international travel, including trips to Russia and China. Their home has an impressive collection of art by a number of Virginia Beach artists. Dolores is an art history major and former docent at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.
Kelley has developed a signature worldwide following through several Facebook flower- and photography-related sites. He uses social media to test what people like and don’t like, posting one photo a day to each group. He receives hundreds of daily comments on his work and is pleased that his posts have been liked more than 1,400,000 times on Facebook. “It’s validation—it’s a good hobby, and I enjoy the appreciation. It is rewarding that others see my photos as meaningful. It’s hard to tell what moves them. They may have fallen on hard times and a single photo can brighten their day. If one person says I’ve made their day, it makes it all worthwhile.”
I was surprised to learn that Kelley does not print or frame any of his photos, uses iPiccy.com for photo editing and has only
sold his work for commercial purposes. “I will sell them if people want them, but it hasn’t been my quest,” he revealed.
He captures whatever is blooming during his walks in Kentlands and Lakelands, and has learned the best conditions for photographing, like early morning light, and considers the background as well. “You learn to look at things a different way when you are photographing,” he said.
Locally, the lily season is coming to an end and dahlias will be in bloom now until the first frost. He mentioned that when flowers dry in winter, they take on new forms and provide a unique photographic perspective.
Brookside Gardens is enjoyable for its butterfly show, fall dahlia show and displays of chrysanthemums. He is especially interested in dahlias and orchids as they photograph well and have therefore become favorites.
Another regular day trip is the Longwood Gardens’ Orchid House. “They cater to photographers and have an exotic collection. They put dye in the water at their lily ponds so that photographs can stand out more.”
Kelley looks at photography as a year-round hobby. “There is always something in nature to photograph,” he said. He also likes to shoot art and frequents Hillwood Museum, the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond.
He writes a popular blog on activerain.com about real estate, local businesses, photography and topics of general interest.
He adds a photo of one of his flowers at the end of each blog. Sometimes, he said, “I think there is more interest in the flowers than in the blog!”
“I encourage readers to walk around the area. There is a lot to see in Kentlands and Lakelands and plenty of flowers to photograph—always something new to photograph and networking to do!” You can see Kelley’s work on his Facebook page and on his activerain blog at activerain.com/blogs/roykelley.