Prince William Forest Park

Scene by the Creek #1 by Todd Henson


On a quiet late afternoon, I went hiking the trails of a nearby park. The sun was going down, a light drizzle was falling, and I had the trails to myself. Something about this scene captured my attention. Perhaps it was the late afternoon light. Perhaps the interplay of patterns of the moving water with the rings caused by the falling rain. Maybe it was the placement of the rocks and the fallen log, and how the log caused the patterns to differ on each side. Whatever it was, it resulted in this photograph, which takes me back to that peaceful day. I hope it can do something similar for you.

Scene by the Creek #1 is available for purchase as wall art or on a variety of products.

National Park Service Centennial by Todd Henson

The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) turned 100 on Thursday, August 25, 2016. The National Parks, and other lands managed by the NPS, truly are some of the jewels of the United States. The NPS works to preserve some of the most beautiful locations in the country, while still keeping them open and accessible to the public. I have benefited greatly from this system of parks and monuments, and I hope they continue to be preserved far into the future.

I have not visited nearly as many of the parks or monuments as I would like, but included in this post are photographs from a number of the locations I have had the privilege of visiting, sometimes multiple times. The National Park Foundation can help you find a park near you.

National Park lands are known for their iconic scenic views, beautiful mountain ranges, flowing streams and waterfalls, and fields of flowers. But they are also home to wildlife of all sorts: mammals, reptiles, birds, spiders, etc. And the Park lands also include many monuments and memorials showcasing fantastic statues and amazing architecture. If you haven't been to a National Park, Monument, or Memorial lately, get out there! Go visit one today. And take along your camera, create a few images. It's worth the trip.


Locations Around the National Mall, Washington, D.C.

Lincoln Memorial at night

Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool at dawn

Washington Monument & Cherry Blossoms Reflected in the Tidal Basin

National World War II Memorial Water Fountains

Storm over the Washington Monument and Tidal Basin in Black & White

Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial in Infrared

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial and Washington Monument in Black & White

Closeup of Jefferson Memorial in Black & White


Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, Washington, D.C.

Lotus Flower and Bumble Bee against green background

White Water Lily in dark pond

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Bridge in Infrared

Dragonfly on unopened Lotus Flower


Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park in Black & White

Pika in Rocky Mountain National Park

Uinta Chipmunk in Rocky Mountain National Park

Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park

Clark's Nutcracker in Rocky Mountain National Park

Yellow-bellied Marmot in Rocky Mountain National Park

Facing the Storm in Rocky Mountain National Park (Black & White)


Acadia National Park, Maine

Long exposure of a rocky shoreline in Acadia National Park, Maine (warmer tones)

Long exposure of a rocky shoreline in Acadia National Park, Maine (cooler tones)

Panorama of inlet and rocky beach in Acadia National Park, Maine


Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Maryland

Falls Along Canal in Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park

Great Blue Heron Above Falls in Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park

Double-crested Cormorant in Potomac River at Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park


Great Falls Park, Virginia

Prelude to Rafting at Great Falls Park in Virginia

Kayakers in Potomac River at Great Falls Park

To the Falls, Great Falls Park

Facing The Fingers on the Potomac River at Great Falls Park


Turkey Run Park, George Washington Memorial Parkway, Virginia

Blue Phlox at Turkey Run Park

Yellow Trout Lily at Turkey Run Park


Prince William Forest Park, Virginia

Stream in Prince William Forest Park

Quaker Ladies Flowers in Prince William Forest Park

Daisy Fleabane Flower in Prince William Forest Park

Arrowhead Orbweaver Spider in Prince William Forest Park


Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Skyline Drive Sunset in Shenandoah National Park

Flowers along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park


The resource list below contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This is at no extra cost to you.


Resources from my library

National Parks: Our American Landscape
Earth Aware Editions

Ian Shive, recipient of the Ansel Adams Award for Conservation Photography, is well known for photographing America's National Parks. His work is showcased in a book titled, The National Parks: Our American Landscape. I own a paperback edition of this book, and it contains some fantastic imagery, along with a number of essays by different writers. The book is in landscape format, approximately 8" x 10.5" and is 228 pages in length.

Ian's photos in this book present a far better sampling of our National Parks than I've done above. He has visited and photographed a great many of the parks over the years, capturing all aspects of them, from the iconic to the smaller, more subtle details. I believe Ian is a true master of his craft.

Photographing America's National Parks  with Ian Shive.  Image credit: CreativeLive

Photographing America's National Parks with Ian Shive. Image credit: CreativeLive

In addition to the book mentioned above, Ian Shive has taught a 3-day class at CreativeLive titled, Photographing America's National Parks. This class includes over 15 1/2 hours of video, along with several PDF documents with extra info, such as the keynote slides and some amazing examples of Ian's work. I own this class and really enjoyed watching it. This was the first CreativeLive class to take the studio out to a National Park, allowing Ian to demonstrate, in the field, how he goes about creating his images. Most of the topics he discusses are relevant to any form of outdoor nature photography, whether in a local park, National Park, or just in your own backyard. In fact, he advocates starting in your backyard. Most of us have something near us worth photographing, and having it close by gives us the opportunity to easily return over and over again at different times of the day and during different seasons. We can really learn the place. And this helps later when we travel to other locations because we've already spent the time locally learning our lessons, getting to know our gear, learning about light and composition, knowing what's possible.

The class includes many videos on location. The locations include several parks along the Olympic Peninsula, such as Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier National Park. In some videos Ian takes us through a photo shoot, describing what he sees and what he's thinking as he works the scene. In others he takes us on a scouting trip, looking for scenes that might prove promising at a different time in different light.

Back in the studio he talks about how to select and edit your images and takes us through his process. As with many of the CreativeLive photography classes, this one includes critique sessions where they discuss student photographs. These are great learning sessions. Later he talks about the business side of nature photography, describing different markets for selling your work, including a stock agency he founded, Tandem Stills + Motion.

Photographing America's National Parks is available seperately or as part of the Travel Photography Toolkit, which also includes: Post-Processing for Outdoor and Travel Photographers with Ben Willmore and Travel Photography: The Complete Guide with Ben Wilmore. I purchased the first two and received a free copy of Travel Photography: The Complete Guide.


Comparing Infrared to Visible Light by Todd Henson

Infrared image of Quantico Creek along the Birch Bluff Trail in Prince William Forest Park

I continue to be fascinated by infrared photography, even though my setup isn’t ideally suited to it. To take the most advantage of infrared photography you likely should convert a camera, making it a dedicated infrared camera. But in my case I simply use a filter over the lens that blocks out virtually all visible light, leaving only infrared or near infrared. The problem with this approach is that most cameras come with an infrared filter right over the sensor. This is meant to block the majority of infrared light because infrared can cause fuzzy photos. So there’s not a lot of infrared light that actually makes it to my sensor, requiring long exposures to soak up enough light to make an image. My experiments in infrared usually require exposures of several minutes even with higher ISOs. This increases motion blur and contributes to noise, especially since my camera is not one of the more recent models with great high ISO capabilities (though it is decent).

But regardless of this, I’ve enjoyed using the add-on filter to see what I can do with it. I’ve started taking photos both with and without the filter so I can compare the two images, see how the infrared differs. Perhaps one of these days I’ll also try a composite image combining aspects of both visible light and infrared.

The images here were made along Quantico Creek on the Birch Bluff Trail in Prince William Forest National Park. They are not particularly remarkable landscape shots, but were made as experiments. It’s interesting to note how the infrared version differs. An obvious difference is the light glow of anything warm, such as the leaves and some small portions of the rocks. Being a several minute exposure the infrared shot has smoothed the water. The water is cool, so it stays dark and we can’t see much under the surface, but we do get a reflection of the trees and leaves.

Here is the natural light image

Here is the infrared light image

I’m enjoying infrared enough that I suspect one of these days I may go the expense of converting or purchasing an infrared dedicated camera. That would allow much faster shutter speeds, lower ISO, and reduce the noise.

One of my past infrared experiments was at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, where I photographed their small bridge in front of the lotus ponds. And I made some infrared images of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., during the Cherry Blossom Festival.