Maintain, Old Town Waterfront

Maintain, Old Town Waterfront
Maintain, Old Town Waterfront. Nikon D200, Nikon 200mm f/4 AI, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/400 sec.

El Galeon is a replica of the Spanish sailing ships used during the colonial era. Here, a crew member works on the bowsprit, high above the Potomac River.

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Man Feeding Birds, Old Town Waterfront

Man Feeding Birds, Old Town Waterfront
Man Feeding Birds, Old Town Waterfront. Nikon D810, 50mm f/2 K, ISO 64, f/5.6, 1/400 sec.

Initially, I was interested in capturing the movement of the man throwing bread crumbs to the gulls, who would in turn catch the crumbs in midair. Later, as I was reviewing photos from the day, I became fascinated by the interplay between the lines that could be drawn between the gulls in the air and the shadows cast on the pavement by the trees just out of the frame.

One of my favorite black and white toning tricks is to pull down the blues so that the sky and water take on a more dramatic look and bump up the overall contrast of the photograph. This really brings out the texture of the clouds in the sky, as opposed to the sky looking like a boring mass of gray paste.

Stone Bridge, George Washington Memorial Parkway

Stone Bridge, George Washington Memorial Parkway
Stone Bridge, George Washington Memorial Parkway. Nikon D810, Tokina 17-35mm f/4 @35mm, ISO 64, f/16, 3 sec.

There are many stone bridges along the GW Parkway. The one in the photo above is located near one of my favorite sunset spots, Riverside Park. This vantage is located about halfway down an unofficial trail that leads to a rocky beach along the Potomac River.

In order to capture the full range of detail against a backlit sky, I hand-blended three varying exposures together in Photoshop. This is the same idea as shooting HDR (high-dynamic range), but with much greater finesse, control, and, ultimately, a more realistic photograph.

Impressions, Old Town Waterfront

Impressions, Old Town Waterfront
Impressions, Old Town Waterfront. Nikon D810, Nikon 200mm f/4 AI, ISO 64, f/8, 6 sec.

Lights from the dock, restaurants, and boats shimmer in the waters of the Potomac River.  An exposure time of six seconds allows them to blur and become colorful patterns against the deep blue of the twilight sky reflected in the water.

Potomac Sunset, Riverside Park

Potomac Sunset, Riverside Park
Potomac Sunset, Riverside Park. Nikon D200, Tokina 11-16mm 2.8, ISO 100, f/11, 1/3 sec.
I love photographing at Riverside Park, which is down on the southern part of the George Washington Parkway. There’s something exhilarating about scrambling down to the rocks and setting up while trying not to fall in the Potomac River. What follows is the serenity of listening to the waves while waiting for the light to change.

Long exposures are typically my favorites down there, showing motion in the water and, in this case, the subtle motion of leaves and flowers.

Stormy Dock, Old Town Waterfront

Stormy Dock, Old Town Waterfront
Stormy Dock, Old Town Waterfront. Nikon D200, 18-70 3.5-4.5 AF-S DX @ 31mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/50 sec.

A storm was on its way out several days ago and, seeing as I hadn’t been out shooting as much recently, I decided it was the perfect time to get out and try to make some pictures. It turned out that the light was absolutely gorgeous everywhere I looked, so I was really glad I made the effort to leave the house!

The shot above was made shortly before sunset, so the low setting sun was reflecting off all of the clouds to the east. As a result, everything beneath was bathed in a golden glow from above. I took a shot very similar to this one over the winter and it’s interesting to compare the two. See below:

Wintry Dock, Old Town Waterfront
Wintry Dock, Old Town Waterfront. Nikon D200, 35mm 1.8 AF-S DX, ISO 200, f/6.3, 1/100 sec.

Fireboat & Rainbow, Potomac River

Fireboat & Rainbow, Potomac River
Fireboat & Rainbow, Potomac River. Nikon D200, 180mm 2.8 AIS ED, ISO 200, f/8, 1/500 sec.

It’s pretty fun to sit and watch the Alexandria Fire Department show off, although I’m sure they have a good reason for these exercises! The sun was hitting the scene just right, forming a rainbow in the mist from the stream of water.

Abstract Ripples, Shipyard Park

Ripples, Shipyard Park
Abstract Ripples, Shipyard Park. Nikon D200, 105mm 2.5 AI, ISO 100, f/16, 1/5 sec.

This photo was created by panning the camera across the already existing ripples in the water. The Potomac River was reflecting the sky at dusk and I wanted to try an impressionistic approach to this beautiful scene.

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