Behind The Scenes: Secrets of Monticello

August 25, 2012 | By | Comments (16)

Photo by Robbie Caponetto

What does it take to capture one of the South’s most iconic gardens? A lot of time and patience. Staff photographer Robbie Caponetto spent nearly a week at Monticello to capture Thomas Jefferson’s gardens in their best light.

Robbie Caponetto“For three days, we woke up every morning at 5 a.m. to figure out the exact angle, setup and time to capture the sunrise on the grounds,” Robbie says. “We knew we had to time it perfectly, because there are only a few minutes to be able to shoot into the sun at the angle we wanted. On the fourth day we went back to the precise spot we planned.”

This is what he shot, which is featured in the opener of “Breaking Ground” on page 82 in the September issue.

Monticello Sunrise View

Photo by Robbie Caponetto

“It was such a privilege to stand where Thomas Jefferson once stood,” he says.

View of Monticello gardens

Photo by Robbie Caponetto

Robbie was guided through the gardens by Monticello’s Director of Gardens Peter Hatch. “Peter — and the entire staff — is so passionate about preserving Jefferson’s legacy.”

Peter Hatch

Photo by Robbie Caponetto

“It was fascinating to walk throughout the gardens and learn about the origins of these plants and Jefferson’s logic in growing each one.”

Monticello apples

Photo by Robbie Caponetto


Photo by Robbie Caponetto

Fresh from Monticello garden

Photo by Robbie Caponetto

To see all of Robbie’s images, and read the story of the Monticello gardens, pick up a copy of the September issue of Southern Living.

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  4. Mary Ann C.

    I’ve been fascinated by Monticello since I learned of its existence and would love to see the architectural drawings of the house done by Thomas Jefferson.

    September 11, 2012 at 4:42 pm
  5. Diane Squires

    Monticello is such a beautiful and historic place. My husband and I so enjoyed its tranquil peacefulness. We toured the home and grounds and I found myself closing my eyes and picturing the day to day happenings…… cooking in the kitchen, Jefferson in his solitary office……….enjoying the sunset……..I made a memory that day.

    September 11, 2012 at 1:13 pm
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  7. Sandra D. Snapp

    This article is so timely. I have been studying Thomas Jefferson, his life and gardens all summer so that a fellow garden club member and I can present a program for our local garden club in May 2013. Thank you for your dedication and wonderful feature on this extraordinary American and his many talents. We visited Monticello about 3 summers ago and will encourage all my garden club friends to visit also.

    Sandra Snapp
    Sept. 7, 2012

    September 7, 2012 at 7:48 pm
  8. Anna Reed


    September 3, 2012 at 8:44 pm
  9. Brenda Goodman

    Your beautiful pictures inspire me to visit Monticello once again. The early morning shoots were certainly worth the effort to give us an ethereal feeling as we viewed the sunrise at Monticello. Thank you Robbie for representing Southern Living so well.

    August 30, 2012 at 11:48 am
  10. Betty Burgess

    Fabulous photos! With more photos like these, SOUTHERN LIVING will become once again the great magazine that it used to be.

    August 30, 2012 at 12:12 am
  11. Bonnie Plants

    This is beautiful and worth the efforts of your group! Thank you for capturing such an important garden by one of the most influential men in our country to date. Great work! Looking forward to sharing the article with our gardening community.

    August 29, 2012 at 2:51 pm
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  13. John D

    Jefferson is a central part of my life, and the sunrise view of Monticello touches my soul. Thank you, Robbie.

    Is there a way we can support your work? Please let me know.

    August 27, 2012 at 8:22 pm
  14. Ed Talley

    America and the world have been fortunate to have Peter Hatch and staff at Monticello.

    August 26, 2012 at 7:28 pm
  15. Dorit Thies

    Robbies photos have a rare sensitivity and intimacy. I want to see a lot more of this kind of work of his in Southern Living, Dorit

    August 26, 2012 at 1:53 am
  16. Molly

    Fantastic pictures! Loved the lighting in the ‘Breaking Ground’ shot.

    August 25, 2012 at 4:38 pm

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