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 October 2018


A Look Back at Summer and Carnival Time

Frying Pan Farm Park Carnival

Before fall gets too tight a grip, enjoy a look back at one of those iconic summer events in the parks – the annual 4-H Fair and Carnival at Frying Pan Farm Park.

The carnival celebrated its 70th anniversary this year, and Park Authority photographer Don Sweeney was there to capture the moment. Here are some of his favorite shots:

Frying Pan Farm Park Carnival Shots

Photo credit: Don Sweeney

Selfies with Virgil and Ginny Lead to Prizes

State birds Virgil and Ginny Cardinal made the rounds of Fairfax County’s parks over the summer. They were on hand for concerts, fireworks, ribbon-cuttings and other events and gave photo enthusiasts a chance to win prizes. Visitors who spotted the birds were invited to take a photo with them and post it to Instagram with #VirgilandGinny. Weekly winners got a choice of RECenter or mini-golf passes.

Here are a few of the close encounters with Virgil and Ginny.

Selfies with Virgila and Ginny

Photo credits (from left to right): @juliayanff, @cmbratt, @jpmorgan62, and @jennifer.deems

Too Bright, Too Dark or Just Right

Fairfax County parks offer many opportunities for wildlife viewing, but what you see with your eyes can be tricky to capture in a photo.

According to nature photographer Michael Glagola, “Taking a properly exposed image can be one of the most difficult problems of wildlife photography.” Large animals usually are not a problem because their coats are often a form of camouflage and match the background. Because they are large, even if the background is different, they usually dominate the scene for exposure purposes. Matrix metering usually provides accurate exposure.

For small creatures, especially birds, their distinct coloring can be significantly lighter or darker than their background. When that’s the case, typical light metering modes don’t set exposure properly. Matrix and center-weighted metering both have drawbacks, as the illustration shows.

Too Bright, Too Dark or Just Right

Glagola says the best solution is to spot meter and determine how much exposure compensation is needed, adjust the exposure appropriately to account for the reflectivity of the subject, and then use that setting in similar circumstances.

In this example, -1EV exposure compensation allows all the detail and the color in the bird to be properly exposed.

Too Bright, Too Dark or Just Right

Glagola can be reached at or 703-830-6860.

Photo credit: Michael J. Glagola

Nature Photography Takes an Odd Turn

Nature Photography Takes an Odd Turn

Nature photography can take you to some unexpected places, as FCPA photographer Don Sweeney found out this summer. When some migrating chimney swifts decided to roost in the chimney of Sully Historic Site’s 18th century kitchen, Sweeney was called in to document their nesting site. Since the birds are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1918, it’s illegal to disturb them, their nests or their eggs. Fires in the fireplace were banned during their stay.

Nature Photography Takes an Odd Turn

Photo Credits: Elizabeth Duke (FCPA intern) and Don Sweeney

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Drone!

The rules have changed. You can now use drones in Fairfax County parks, as long as you don’t violate regulations set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). That means photographers anxious to capture a bird’s-eye view of the parks should do a little homework first.

The airspace around Washington, DC is more restricted than in any other part of the country, and many Park Authority properties lie within the 15-mile DC Flight Restricted Zone -- the airspace where the FAA generally prohibits drone flights without specific authorization. Check out our long list of parks online that may be in the restricted zone.

If you do bring a drone to the parks, please be considerate of wildlife and fellow park visitors, as well as our valuable natural and cultural resources. Flying a drone in a reckless or irresponsible manner could result in civil fines or criminal action.

In Fairfax County parks, the Model Aircraft Site at Poplar Ford Park is the recommended site for drone use. However, membership in Northern Virginia Radio Control (NVRC) and the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) is required to fly at Poplar Ford. Visitors who are AMA members may fly as a guest under supervision of an NVRC member for one session while they consider joining NVRC.

Poplar Ford is located within the Special Flight Rules Area of the District of Columbia. Recreational model aircraft may be flown only within unassisted visual line of sight (LOS) of the pilot. For more details, please contact the Northern Virginia Radio Control Club.

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Drone!

John Roach, NVRC Poplar Ford VP, has used airborne cameras to locate lost model airplanes at the park – and make new friends.

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Drone!

Photographer Phil Foss has taken drone photos of the ongoing meadow restoration work at the park that Roach is monitoring.

Photo Credit: John Roach and Phil Foss

Garden Photography Workshop Series

Green Spring Gardens will be offering an adult workshop series on Garden Photography in November. Whether you own a DSLR or use your smartphone for all your photography, instructor Jim Seith will introduce you to techniques, equipment, composition, processing, software and workflow ideas that will take your images to the next level. With the beautiful Green Spring Gardens as a backdrop, you’ll have a great place to practice your new techniques. The class runs from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on two Saturdays, November 10 and November 17, 2018. A supply list will be emailed before the first class. The series cost is $105 per person. For more information, call 703-642-5173, or register online through Parktakes.

Garden Photography Workshop Series

Photo Credit: Don Sweeney

Gift Ideas for the Photographer on your Holiday List

The holidays will soon be here, and if there’s a nature photographer on your gift list, there are many items that will bring cheer beyond the usual photo accessories. Here are a few ideas from local nature photographer Michael Glagola to consider:

  • Reference materials or wildlife guides: These materials are not only useful for identification, they often have information on wildlife behavior that can be used to predict the movements of wildlife and allow you to anticipate photo opportunities.
  • Smartphone wildlife guides: These guides have the advantage of providing animal calls. Animals often can be heard before they are seen, and the guides can help warn you of their possible approach.
  • Comfortable portable chair: It’s far easier to be patient while you’re waiting for that perfect shot if you are comfortable. A portable chair makes the wait more bearable.

You can find guides to local plants and wildlife at Park Authority nature centers and Green Spring Gardens.

Gift Ideas for the Photographer on your Holiday List

Glagola can be reached at or 703-830-6860.

Photo Credit: Don Sweeney

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.

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.

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Editor: Judy Pedersen, Public Information Officer

Writers and Contributors: Carol Ochs

Layout and Design: Don Tubel

Photograph Contributors: Don Sweeney, Elizabeth Duke, John Roach, Phil Foss, Cristin Bratt

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