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.

Saint Mary’s Steeple, South Fairfax Street

saint-marys-steeple-south-fairfax-street
Saint Mary’s Steeple, South Fairfax Street. Nikon D200, 200mm f/4 AI, ISO 100, f/4, 1/250 sec.

Here’s a slightly different look at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Old Town. The main facade of the church is on Royal Street, but this was taken from over a block away, on Fairfax. From that vantage, there is a perfect, clear view of the bell tower and it looks especially dramatic when silhouetted against a gorgeous evening sky.

Sunset Over 495, Jefferson Davis Hwy

Sunset over 495, Jefferson Davis Hwy
Sunset over 495, Jefferson Davis Hwy. Nikon D200, 18-70 3.5-4.5 AF-S DX @ 70mm, ISO 100, f/16, 1/160 sec.

Having driven Route 1 north into Old Town many times, I have always admired the view at sunset. Unfortunately, there’s really no good place to pull over and take a photo and I don’t usually have my camera with me in the car.

I decided to change that for good a few weeks ago and made it a point to have my camera with me. There’s a short stretch of shoulder between two exit/entrance ramps that allows for a really nice composition. So I pulled over, leaned out the window, prayed that no one would rear-end me, and made a few pictures.

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.

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