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.