Park Authority

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Open during regular business hours 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday

TTY 711

12055 Government Center Pkwy.
Fairfax, Virginia 22035

Sara Baldwin,
Acting Executive Director

Snapshots E-Newsletter December 2017


Great Pet Photography is Pawsible with these Tips from a Pro

You know how cute and funny your pet can be, but getting the perfect pose from your pet can be challenging.

Award-winning local photographer Annie Ballantine specializes in pet portraits and volunteers her time and photographic talents to the Fairfax County Animal Shelter. As the owner of Artful Paws Photography in Fairfax, she creates memorable pet images on a regular basis. Patience is one key to how she does it. If you’re heading outdoors or to a park with your best friend, here are some of Ballantine’s other tips to help you make your pets look their best:

  • I think capturing personality is one of the keys to a great pet portrait.  Make sure your dog is happy and having fun!
  • Try to choose an area with few distractions. Treats, squeaky toys and other funny noises are great ways to get a dog’s attention. Make sure your dog has had some exercise before you try to start a photo session. 
  • Try to keep backgrounds simple. The fewer the distractions, the more the eye will be drawn to your intended subject. Using an open aperture to blur the background can help when there are a lot of distractions in the background.
  • Fairfax County has so many beautiful parks, but you don’t need a big park to get a great photo. Just a little bit of greenery or color in the background. Sometimes the little neighborhood parks work best.
  • Many people think you need a bright sunny day to take good pictures, but hazy clouds can soften the sunlight and make it more flattering. The last hour before sunset is what photographers call the “golden hour,” when sunlight is soft and warm and does not cause harsh shadows. Early in the morning is a good time as well. If you must shoot in the middle of the day, choose an area of open shade.
  • One of the most important things to remember is to get down on your dog's level. Not only will this help to eliminate the “bobble head” look that results from shooting down on your dog, but this perspective will create a better connection between the viewer and the dog by bringing them into the dog’s world.
Artful Paws Photography Artful Paws Photography
Artful Paws Photography Artful Paws Photography
Artful Paws Photography Artful Paws Photography

Click on photos for full resolution versions. Photo credit: Annie Ballantine, Artful Photography

Of course, if you’re taking your dog to a Fairfax County Park for photos, be sure to abide by park leash laws -- unless you’re visiting one of the Park Authority’s off-leash dog parks. Dogs got to enjoy some bonus time off-leash as the Water Mine closed its season this year. Park Photographer Don Sweeney captured these images of happy canines.

Photo Credit Don Sweeney
Photo Credit Don Sweeney Photo Credit Don Sweeney

Click on photos for full resolution versions. Photo credit: Don Sweeney

Making Room for Words on Photos

There’s a difference between what makes a good photo and what makes a good cover shot for a magazine. With magazine covers, you need to make room for words, too. It’s the same problem you might face when making a poster, web page, photo invitation, brochure or holiday card.

With each new season, Park Authority photographer Don Sweeney has to choose a photo to grace the cover of the 200,000+ issues of Parktakes magazine that are distributed throughout the county. While he wants to find an eye-catching photo, he needs more than a pretty picture. He has to consider the shape of the publication and the space available for a masthead and headlines, as well as the appeal of the photo itself. Sweeney says that for Parktakes, “A tight, well-composed image that would look good by itself won’t work.” When framing a photo, you need to consider how it’s going to be used and what else may be added to it later. Consider the images below.

Photo credit Don Sweeney Photo credit Nina Tisara

Click on photos for full resolution versions. Photo credit: Don Sweeney

In the case of Parktakes, Sweeney says, “The subject has to basically be composed in a square at the bottom with enough image on top for the masthead.” There also has to be room for headlines that don’t cover a face or other important aspect of the image.

When taking a photo in a park or anywhere else, if you need to add words, fight the urge to center your subject. Try putting the subject to one side. The background is important, too. Look for something that won’t compete with the lettering. In addition, if there’s a direction to the photo, the composition should move from left to right, just as you would read the words.

You can see these principles at work in some past issues of Parktakes.

Photo credit Don Sweeney Photo credit Don Sweeney

Click on photos for full resolution versions. Photo credit: Don Sweeney

Give the Gift of Photography Classes

Take your photos from routine to ribbon-winning.

If that DSLR is always set in auto mode or there’s a camera on someone’s gift list this year, it might be time to give yourself or others the gift of a digital photography class. The Park Authority offers numerous classes throughout the year to help photographers get the most from their cameras. Topics include camera controls, resolution, flash, composition, stop motion, close-ups and more. Students learn through weekly assignments and reviews. Software and printing are covered, too.

Digital Photography I for students age 13 to adult is offered at park and RECenter locations throughout the county. Courses run for five, eight or ten weeks. Choose from a variety of days and times. More advanced photographers can register for Digital Photography II. Register with Parktakes Online

Photos with award ribbons

Click on photos for full resolution version.

Preserving Photos for Posterity

There are thousands of historical photographs in the Fairfax County Park Authority’s Museum Collections, and the county curators are experts at keeping those photos looking their best. Here are some of their tips for keeping your own treasured family photos in top condition:

  • Exposure to bright light, high heat, high humidity and acidic materials will cause photos to fade and deteriorate. Protect them by displaying photos away from direct sunlight and in rooms where temperatures and humidity are controlled and fairly stable. Don’t store photos in a hot attic or damp basement.
  • Handle photos with care. Make sure your hands are clean, and handle photos by the edges.
  • If you want to frame your photos for display, use acid-free mats and ultra-violet filtering glass or Plexiglas. If you’re going to store the photos, use archival albums, folders or boxes. Look for acid-free papers and albums, archival quality adhesives, and page protectors and mounts made of polyethylene, polypropylene, Mylar Type D or archival polyester.
  • You can take scratched, torn or stained photos to a paper conservator for repair, or you can take them to a professional photographer who can make an improved copy, often removing or covering cracks, tears and stains.
  • And before you forget who’s in those photos or where they were taken, use a soft pencil or acid-free archival labels to record names, dates and locations on the back of the photos.
Green Spring Gardens Late 19th Century Walney Grounds 1967

Click on photos for full resolution versions.

Halloween Comes to Lake Accotink a Little Bit Early

Cosplay (costume play) witches, monsters and superheroes got ready for Halloween at another group photo shoot around the beach at Lake Accotink Park on Sunday, October 10.  More than three dozen hobbyist photographers and cosplayers joined in the fun. The DC area group hosts monthly events bringing together cosplayers and photographers to create eye-catching images. Photographer Jon Rochetti shared some of his favorites.

Photo CreditJon Rochettiy
Photo Credit Jon Rochetti Photo Credit Jon Rochetti
Photo Credit Jon Rochetti Photo Credit Jon Rochetti

Click on photos for full resolution versions. Photo credit: Jon Rochetti

Don’t Forget to Check the Expiration Date on that Permit!

PermitAll photographers conducting business on Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) property or in FCPA facilities must obtain a photography permit. Those permits are good for one year, so if you have one, please take a moment and check the expiration date. If it’s time to get a new one, you can quickly purchase that $25 Commercial Photography Permit online at:  Commercial Photography in the Parks.

Permit holders automatically become part of the Photographer's Ambassador's Club, which includes a subscription to SNAPSHOTS. Those who wish to participate in the creation of Ambassador's Club activities and materials are asked to contact the Public Information Office at 703-324-8662.

Get your Photos Seen on Instagram

InstagramInstagram provides a quick and easy way to share your best photos and draw attention to your work. At the Park Authority, we welcome contributions to our Instagram site to help us showcase our parks and our programs. We can help showcase you, too, by providing a photo credit in the Instagram post. If you don’t already, please follow us on Instagram and send your best park shots to: View these and more photos and follow us on Instagram.

We'd love to see how you #optoutside in our parks for Black Friday! Burke Lake Park

This Great Blue Heron is surfing a piece of drift wood at Lake Accotink.

Follow the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park straight to a beautiful sunset.

SNAPSHOTS Reflections

emailWe would love to hear from you! Comments or suggestions for SNAPSHOTS E-News are welcome. We encourage you to contribute an article and share your photographs to be included in a future SNAPSHOTS E-News.

Email comments, articles and photographs to


Editor: Judy Pedersen, Public Information Officer

Writers and Contributors: Carol Ochs

Layout and Design: Mary Nelms

Photograph Contributors: Don Sweeney, Annie Ballantine, Jon Rochetti

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