It seems like hardly a day has gone by without rain these past few weeks. Yesterday was no exception, and in fact, it hardly stopped raining all day. Regardless, my wife and I try to get the kids out for walks because sitting around the house starts to get pretty rough.
So we headed out during a bit of a lull in the downpour, armed with umbrellas, toys, and of course, my Nikon D200. I never really worry about this camera when the weather is bad because it’s built like a tank. I actually froze the shutter on it once when shooting birds on a 15ºF day a couple of winters ago.
I get a little bit excited about heading out during crappy weather because it tends to make for better photos. Clouds are often more dramatic, and in the case of rainy days, colors tend to look more saturated. Such was the case with this historic home on beautiful Lee Street in Old Town.
I wouldn’t mind owning a home with a lantern on the front some day.
On one of our evening walks with the kids, we passed this house that we’ve passed at least a hundred times before. Except this time it looked markedly different.
“Was that wall always like that?” I asked my wife. Definitely not we decided.
I had to do a Google maps street view search to even recall what it looked like before (white plaster or something), but now the original brick was exposed in all its glory- and with a surprise. I love these old advertisements that were just painted right onto buildings. It reminds me a bit of the sign painted onto the cliff above Harpers Ferry (photo at right). Lasting impressions from a time long gone.
When it comes to photography the better you know your location, the greater the chance you have of getting great shots. This is true of all types of photography but I think even more so in landscape photography.
When I first moved to Alexandria and began seriously studying photography, I remember trying to find nearby sunset locations. I was having a lot of trouble finding anything on the Virginia side of the Potomac River with a clear view of the western sky. I tried finding higher ground without tree cover- no luck. Finally, somehow, I ended up a few miles south of Old Town on the George Washington Parkway where it starts to curve around to the west. There’s a small park right there that actually allows a pretty unobstructed view of the southwestern sky above the Potomac.
Over the years, I have returned to this location again and again, seeking beautiful light and cloud formations. Whenever there was an evening thunderstorm I’d be hopping in my car and driving down to Riverside Park, hoping for a spectacular sunset. 75% of the time it’s so-so, 15% of the time it’s okay, and 10% of the time it’s just amazing. I feel like this is typical of landscape photography- you just go out and shoot as much as you can so that you can get a higher chance of capturing the right light and atmospheric conditions.
Because I have been to this location so many times, I have become familiar with its idiosyncrasies. I know where the good angles are, I know that low tide offers the best opportunity to get low to the water, and I know (more or less) when the clouds are going to look good once the sun goes down. I have risked getting pretty darn wet trying to hop over the slippery rocks, and I have traipsed through the woods and down gravelly slopes trying to reach new shooting locations.
I’m not done exploring this location either- I’ll keep going back. This is what it means to know your location, because you can never really exhaust the opportunities of a great location. Keep searching and keep shooting!
On a walk with my family the other day, we decided to go check out the replica of L’Hermione that has been docked at the Old Town Waterfront. The original ship was sailed by the Marquis de Lafayette on his return to America, and was part of the eventual blockade that signaled the end of the Revolutionary War.
It’s a beautiful replica and quite a presence in port. Unfortunately, our walk was during broad daylight and, besides being packed with people, it was hard to get any compelling photos of the ship in that light. I did get a nice detail of a member of the Alexandria Seaport Foundation demonstrating shipbuilding techniques, and another of the flags at the ship’s stern.
Thinking about the light (and beating the crowds), I resolved to wake up before dawn yesterday morning and take more photos. Well I didn’t beat the crowds (there were other people with my same idea!) but I did get some nice light, and some beautiful clouds. See below for two of my favorite photos from the morning’s excursion.