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 January 2017


January 2017

First Hike Photo Contest

Photographers rose to the challenge on New Year’s Day and started the year off on a healthy note with a First Hike on one of the county’s five designated First Hike trails. Everyone was encouraged to post photos on social media with the hashtag #FirstHikeFairfax. The Park Authority offered free RECenter passes to all who sent anything from a selfie to a professional shot along the trails to a designated email address. The response was so overwhelming, our email system couldn’t keep up!

As determined by Facebook likes and comments, the Grand Prize winner was a scene captured by Lara Fabiano at Huntley Meadows Park. Fabiano receives a four-month RECenter pass valued at up to $300.

Cosplay at Lake Accotink Carousel Photo credit Alicyn Drew

Some other fun and eye-catching photos from the contest:

Burke Lake Park - Lan Ge
Burke Lake Park - Lan Ge
Lake Accotink - Shannon Johnson
Lake Accotink - Shannon Johnson
Cub Run RECenter - Mark Hall
Cub Run RECenter - Mark Hall

Click on photos for full resolution versions.

See more photos on our Flickr site: First Hike Fairfax - 2017.

Get info about these photo-friendly trails at: First Hike Fairfax

Winter Wisdom for Shooting in Snow

If you scan the online photography advice from camera makers, camera sellers, and camera users, there’s remarkable agreement about how to get the best photos in the snow – and Fairfax County Park photographer Don Sweeney agrees. Some of the recurring themes:

  • Use your camera’s snow setting, if you have one.
  • Overexpose your shots to compensate for camera metering, which is standardized for middle gray.
  • Try bracketing to improve your chances of getting just the right look.
  • Shooting in raw gives you more options for fixing photos that need some post-production work.
  • Use the histogram. Don’t depend on your LCD screen.
  • Getting the right white balance with automatic settings can be tricky in snow, so consider setting a custom white balance.
  • Keep batteries warm to help them last longer.
  • Protect your camera from the ice and snow as much as possible. Avoid sudden temperature changes to prevent fogging and condensation in the camera.
  • Unless you want footprints in your photos, be careful where you step.
  • A colorful object against a white backdrop makes a stunning subject, and the contrast can make for a better photo.
  • Think about investing in fingerless gloves with a fold-back mitten top to keep you warm while shooting.
Winter Wisdom for Shooting in Snow Photo credit Don Sweeney Winter Wisdom for Shooting in Snow Photo credit Don Sweeney

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

Winter is a Great Time for Wildlife Shots in the Parks

All those blossoms in the spring, green leaves in the summer and colorful leaves in the fall make parks a beautiful place to shoot photos, but they may be hiding a lot, too.

Winter is a great time to spot wildlife that may be camouflaged by foliage during other seasons of the year. If you have a long lens and a warm coat, this is a particularly good time to capture stunning bird photographs in the parks.

Check out our blog on winter birds and get some tips on what you might see and where to look: Winter is a Great Time for Birding.

Winter is a Great Time for Wildlife Shots in the Parks. Photo by Don Sweeney Blue Heron Photo by Don Sweeney
Winter is a Great Time for Wildlife Shots in the Parks. Photo by Don Sweeney Belted Kingfisher Photo by Don Sweeney

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

Hidden Pond No Photo is Worth a Fall through the Ice

Photographers can be daredevils who think about the photo first and their safety second, but in winter time, that can be a tragic mistake.
While glistening ice on the lakes, streams and rivers in Fairfax County parks can make for stunning photos, be careful out there. Never venture onto ice in county parks. It just doesn’t get cold enough for long enough to make walking, skating or shooting photos on the ice safe.

Here are some ice facts from the county’s fire and rescue department that show why icy conditions can be dicey:

  • Ice seldom freezes or thaws at a uniform rate. It may be a foot thick in one spot and only an inch thick ten feet away.
  • Beware of ice covered in snow. Snow can keep ice from freezing solidly and hide cracks, weak or open ice.
  • New ice is usually stronger than old ice. As ice ages, the bond between crystals decays.
  • Ice formed over flowing water is weaker.
Ice branch at Burke Lake Park King Rail

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

Bird in flight Keep Your Camera Grounded

Aerial views are for the birds in Fairfax County parks. If you’re dreaming of taking aerial photographs from that drone you got for the holidays, please keep in mind that drones are not permitted in Fairfax County parks. Park regulations prohibit the use of remote-control devices and powered models or toys on park property. A complete list of park regulations can be found at: Park Authority Regulations. For more information, please contact the Public Information Office at 703-324-8662.

Go Where the Pros Go to Get Professional Shots

If you want to get professional-looking photos, go where the pros go - Fairfax County parks. More than 400 professional photographers have purchased permits to shoot photos in our parks. That’s about one photographer for each of the county’s 400+ parks!

The pros know that the Park Authority’s properties provide stunning subject matter and beautiful backdrops for their portrait photography. So, grab your camera and head to a park.

Professional photographers who hold the $25 permits can easily renew those permits online. Each permit is good for one year. Check the permit for the expiration date. Find details (and past issues of Snapshots) at Commercial Photography in the Parks.

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.


Eagles at Burke Lake Park Photo credit Gil Langley
Gil Langley

Eagles at Burke Lake Park Photo credit Gil Langley
Gil Langley

Eagles at Burke Lake Park Photo credit Don Sweeney
Don Sweeney

SNAPSHOTS Reflections

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Editor: Judy Pedersen, Public Information Officer

Writers and Contributors: Carol Ochs

Photographers: Don Sweeney, Lara Fabiano, Lan Ge, Mark Hall, Shannon Johnson, Gil Langley


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