Moments in Time: Living Art Exists in Parks

It was a brisk January morning in 2021 at Huntley Meadows Park. Photographer Charles Schmidt had been waiting along the Huntley Meadows wetlands, eyes keenly observing a pair of Hooded Mergansers swimming nearby.

After more than 60 minutes of watching them play, eat and interact, the signal was given. In a subtle yet pronounced movement, the birds shifted from their meandering path through the water into a rapid acceleration along a perfectly straight course for takeoff.

The experienced photographer was ready and captured a breathtaking image as the bird took flight. That moment, captured in time, was recently selected as the first-place winner in the “Behavior-Birds” category of the 2022 World Nature Photography Awards.

Schmidt, a long-time resident of Fairfax County, developed a passion for photography while in high school. Over the years, he has curated a beautiful gallery of landscapes, wildlife, birds, monuments and much more. While he has traveled to a variety of destinations, today, most of his photos originate right here at home in many of our local parks.

“You always see something in the parks,” Schmidt said. “There are so many features that come together and satisfy any genre.”

Fairfax County Parks have traditionally been great destinations for photographers of all skill levels. Whether capturing a precious moment on your smartphone or framing up an award-winning work of art, the parks provide a wide range of subject matter including historic sites, gardens and trees, waterfronts, wetlands, and wildlife.

For Schmidt and others, a photographic experience in the park is also much more than a technical exercise of lighting, shutter-speed and focus. It’s a way of becoming rejuvenated, away from the hustle and bustle of the daily grind.

“It’s a lot like fishing,” Schmidt describes. “It’s about getting out there, being in nature, observing, relaxing and recharging. It doesn’t always matter whether you ‘catch’ something, but when you do, it’s magic.”

Schmidt often seeks to help his viewers connect with the world around them and become acquainted with the natural neighbors that also call Fairfax County home. He frequently posts photos on social media inviting viewers to contemplate what they think is happening in the image or how the image influences them.

The Fairfax County Park Authority congratulates Charles Schmidt on his momentous achievement, and we express appreciation to artists far and wide who share the majesty, beauty and wonder of our local parks through all forms of artistic expression.

All photos taken by Charles Schmidt and used with permission.

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About Fairfax County Park Authority

About Fairfax County Park Authority HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 13 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2016. Today, the Park Authority has 427 parks on more than 23,000 acres of land. We offer 325 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park system is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: • Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist • Eight golf courses from par-3 to championship level, four driving ranges including the new state-of-the-art heated, covered range at Burke Lake Golf Center • Five nature and visitor centers. Also nine Off-Leash Dog Activity areas • Three lakefront parks including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter • Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel, as well as Chessie’s Big Backyard and a carousel at the Family Recreation Area at Lee District Park • An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter • Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s-era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel • Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent • A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly • A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale • Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community • Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center • Provides 263 athletic fields, including 39 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 417 school athletic fields. PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

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