Don’t wait for summer to get out to the parks. Our Park Authority photographer Don Sweeney says “going to the parks in early spring is one of the best times to get great shots because the trees have not foliated.” That improves your chances of seeing wildflowers and wildlife.
For 27 years, Sweeney has been documenting nature and events at county parks, and Huntley Meadows is a favorite spot for getting photos of birds that he says seem to “pose for the camera.” A boardwalk makes it easy to access the wetlands that attract a large variety of birds.
Sweeney says there’s really no bad time to take pictures in the spring. “The natural light is always there, even when the clouds are out.”
Some of Sweeney’s tips for getting the best nature shots:
- Go out in early morning or late evening when fewer people are around and animals are more likely to be out feeding.
- Choose a subject that has an interesting shape or color contrasting from the scenery surrounding it.
- Pay attention to the background. Try to keep it simple to keep focus on the subject.
- Mix it up. Try shooting your subject from different angles and different light.
- Don’t be afraid to take multiple shots of the same subject. Sometimes the fifth take is the perfect shot!
- Before taking a photo, remember to set the right shooting mode for the job.
Spring and summer are popular times for photography in Fairfax County parks with graduations, weddings and a host of family celebrations on the horizon. There are more than 300 commercial photographers who hold permits to work in our parks. They come from as close as Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., to as far away as Delaware, New Jersey, North Carolina, Colorado, Utah and California.
If you shoot professional shots in the parks, don’t forget that a commercial permit is required. If you already have a permit, please take a moment to make sure it has not yet expired.