Incredibly great, not very dismal


A full moon sets over the Great Dismal Swamp at sunrise.

It’s been a couple years since I first visited the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.  Since then, my photography has taken off and I pined to capture images of this incredible place at sunrise.  Fortunately for me, the US Fish and Wildlife Service had opened up the most scenic area of the swamp to allow for sunrise photography.

Pre-sunrise glow paints the sky over lake Drummond. Located at the center of the Great Dismal swamp, Lake Drummond is Virginia’s largest natural lake.

My first shoot was 2 days before Christmas.  I arrived to windless skies which meant that surface of Lake Drummond (Virginia’s largest natural lake) was like a mirror.  The sky was cloudless, which meant that not only did I witness great sky color, but also the setting full moon on the Western horizon.  Having such beautiful conditions in such a special place was like receiving an early Christmas present.

Storms Across NoVA


This past week saw some of the first thunderstorms of the season for 2017.  Rolling through on Thursday night, they caught most of us off guard, as the forecast wasn’t calling for thunderstorms until the following day.  Fortunately, I had the opportunity to head out, upon learning about them.

This shoot started on the West side of the storm as it departed Western Loudoun County.  Eventually, I ended up at Dulles Airport to shoot “The Iconic Dulles Shot” with lightning in the background.  This was by far my best image of the night.  I love how my D810’s imaging sensor was able to extract dim details from the scene, like the faintly visible mamatus clouds in the sky above.

Winter 2016

I’ve hinted in the past that while the vibrant “organic” colors that Spring through Fall bring make for amazing photographs. However, there is something to be said for the simple beauty of winter.  After all, the peaceful beauty that freshly fallen snow (let alone the peaceful silence of being out in the snow as it quietly falls) makes for great images.

While winter may have gotten off to a late start here on the East Coast, it made for some great photography: bringing the foggiest December on record to the Mid Atlantic.  Then in January, we were treated to a true whollop of snowstorm, bringing 34 inches to my backyard.  Some areas of West Virginia saw 40+”!  Unfortunately, this much snow made it extremely difficult for me to get to get to scenic locations to photograph, but my new pair of snowshoes got a lot of use for a week 🙂

Finally, we were able to make it up to Canaan Valley in the high Alleghenies of West Virginia for Winter’s last true stand.  While not quite as cold or beautiful as the winter of 2015, all-in-all winter 2016 did not disappoint.



A Rainy Saturday in Harpers Ferry

Who said rainy days had to be all stormy any grey? - A "sunny" bunch of Maryland's State Flower, found right across the state line in West Virginia
Who said rainy days had to be all stormy any grey? – A “sunny” bunch of Maryland’s State Flower(s), found right across the state line in West Virginia


As I’ve said before, just because it’s raining, doesn’t mean that you can’t shoot good pictures.  You just have to change your subject matter/techniques.  Rainy days are like challenges to me, pushing me to think of new ways to create unique images within the confines of trying not to get the camera wet.

This past weekend, my wife’s family was in town and they asked to go to Harpers Ferry…what a great idea, go to a normally PACKED summer destination on a day when the weather drove almost all the visitors away.  All of the shops/sights/attractions were open and we had the whole place to ourselves.  It also allowed us to closely interact with some of the period reenacters and get great pictures (in the nice even lighting) with few distractions.

Having someone to drive me around is an opportunity that I rarely have these days.  I decided to make use of the time by trying to create some images of the damp Blue Ridge valley countryside whizzing by my window:


Steaming Through History

Growing up in a family that loves trains, I would often be dragged along to see various trains and locomotives at home and abroad. Fortunately for my dad/uncles, they didn’t have to do much dragging because I find the “iron horses” of old to be fascinating. It had been a while since I had seen a steam engine in action, so I was excited about the prospect of seeing one of the greatest (and last) steam locomotives ever built.

I set out on the morning of June 7th and picked up the 611 at The Plains, followed by Delaplane, Markham, and Front Royal (all made possible by the line’s close proximity to a 70mph interstate).

While at one of the stops I had heard that it was possible  to view the bridge over the Shenandoah that the train would use while turning around at the Wye (my previous research had shown that this was impossible due to it all being private land/active rock quarry/NS land surrounding the bridge).  So, I decided to take my chances and head straight down there…

My research was correct, I arrived at a private campground, and immediately tried to find the owner to ask permission (he wasn’t around).  But, in the meantime I met a few friendly campers who were also interested in trying to see a “steam locomotive” cross the bridge.  We were climbing around the banks of the S. Fork of the Shenandoah River and attracted the attention of a curious fisherman, who navigated his boat over to the shore to strike up a conversation.  Not long afterwards, came “I can take you out to see the bridge, I’d like to see the train myself.”  And the rest is history…aside from 2 other fishing boats, we were the only ones out there.

On the way back, I was able to pick up the 611 at two stops: historic Rectortown (the former train depot was used as a prison for POWs during the civil war) and sharply contrasting Gainesville, which is more of just a large modern freeway interchange these days.

Chasing the Light

I am constantly trying to improve on my methods.  As I do so, I find myself trying to find the best and most interesting lighting conditions.

One of those moments where you just have to stop the car and take a picture.  Late day post storm light pierces through the canopy in the George Washington National Forest
One of those moments where you just have to stop the car and take a picture. Late day post storm light pierces through the canopy in the George Washington National Forest

Proper lighting has been a key component of my photographs for as long as I’ve owned a camera.  However, it’s become even more important as my skills have evolved.  Our summer has been off to a stormy start in the Mid-Atlantic, so unique lighting conditions have been easy to find.  Below is a compilation of some of my work over the past couple of weeks.

A Damp Morning in Shenandoah

I had originally been planning a hike to one of the top sights in the George Washington National Forest to take sunrise pictures.  So, when the weather forecast began to call for clouds, I began to make alternative plans.  I awoke on Sunday morning and made a quick check of current satellite observations of cloud cover, they confirmed the weather forecasts: 100% cloud cover = no sunrise.  I almost went back to bed, but decided to get out anyways and head up to Shenandoah National Park. As much as photographers love early morning lighting, cloudy days are also nice due to their “even” lighting.  I arrived at the top of the mountains, greeted with off and on drizzle, which helped ensure that I was the only one out that early.  Most notably, there were low hanging wispy clouds in the valley, which always makes for interesting photography.  It was a great morning: hiking to mountain tops, waterfalls, and fern forests.  Yet another instance that I was glad I got out of bed at 3:00.