Riverside Park on the George Washington Parkway

Storm Clouds over the Potomac, Riverside Park. Nikon D200, Tokina 11-16 2.8 @16mm, ISO 100, f/11, 1/30 sec
Storm Clouds over the Potomac, Riverside Park. Nikon D200, Tokina 11-16 2.8 @16mm, ISO 100, f/11, 1/30 sec

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.

Riverside Park at Low Tide, George Washington Memorial Parkway. Nikon D200, Tokina 11-16 2.8 @11mm, ISO 100, f/11, 1/15 sec
Riverside Park at Low Tide, George Washington Memorial Parkway. Nikon D200, Tokina 11-16 2.8 @11mm, ISO 100, f/11, 1/15 sec

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!

Riverside Park Sunset, George Washington Memorial Parkway. Nikon D200, Tokina 11-16 2.8 @ 11mm, ISO 100, f/16, 1/2 sec
Riverside Park Sunset, George Washington Memorial Parkway. Nikon D200, Tokina 11-16 2.8 @ 11mm, ISO 100, f/16, 1/2 sec
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