One of the great things about being a photographer is the intentional seeking of discovering the most scenic places in our area. Every day, right here in Hampton Roads we have the opportunity enjoy beaches, visit the wooded trails in the local parks, watch a sunset over the river, or explore the historical buildings and battlefields.
Ideal portrait sites offer wide open shade out of direct harsh direct light. As with all portraiture, natural soft light is at its best the last two hours of the day for any time of the year. I adore spaces with light that can be seen sparkling through the trees.
My favorite portrait locations in Hampton Roads offer a variety of structures like barns, rustic old homes, historic brick buildings, piers, and bridges. Our local nature parks provide beautiful sitting areas, fields of cotton, wooded trails, and peaceful river shorelines where together we can create natural and beautiful portraits.
Here are some of my favorite locations:
Sandy Bottom Nature Park - Hampton
Sandy Bottom nature park is practically in my own backyard. I love this sweet little family nature park. I know this park well from my many early morning runs through the winding wooded trails. The park offers sparkling tree light in the evenings and wispy grasses surrounding the marshlands and small lakes on the property. The park has several wooden piers and bridges that make for perfect structures to include in your photos. Sandy Bottom Nature Park is easily accessible, and usually not very crowded. It's not only a great spot for family photos but also the perfect spot for a quiet afternoon of reconnecting with nature and your family.
The Noland Trail and Lions Bridge - Newport News
The Noland tail is also is always where I head to when I want to put a little extra effort and time into a run so I've spent a lot of time here not only creating portraits but enjoying the trails myself. The pathways here have small hills with wooden bridges and benches overlooking small scenic lakes. The Mariner's Museum which is located along the trail has several benches and large stones that offer perfect sitting areas for family portraits. The Lions Bridge is a popular local landmark, but personally, my favorite part about taking photos here is the opportunity to catch a sunset along the James River when I am able to time a session just right.
Fort Monroe- Hampton
I have found one of the region’s most serene and picturesque communities in Coastal Virginia to be Fort Monroe. I love the stacked rocks near Outlook beach, and the slow passing boats along the river make for perfect backdrops for photos on the small sandy rivers edge. I always enjoy my time there walking around the historical buildings, old homes, and intriguing moat. There are well-maintained lawns with wooden fences and landscaped sidewalks throughout the area that offer great family portrait environments. The children always enjoy walking along the top of the fort.
There are rarely crowds, or interference with cars or traffic while I am there. It's a relaxing and enjoyable day trip for a family to spend time on the beach, explore the old buildings or have a picnic. I recommend a trip even when it's not time for your family portrait.
Windsor Castle Park - Smithfield
This area is a classic country setting that is ideal for capturing the essence of fall portraits. There are haystacks, red barns, older rustic looking homes and sheds and fields of cotton and soy. While holding family sessions here I've seen ducks, cranes, owls, deer and once even a rooster joined in on a family session. The nature trails there wind around the marsh, river, and wooded areas. This location is very popular for family portraiture and for some inexplicable reason always has the most amazing light. (Like seriously, every time I shoot there the light is perfect.)
For sessions here, I always suggest taking your family to historic Main Street right nearby to The Smithfield Ice Cream Parlor for a treat afterward. (A little ice cream bribery can sometimes help offer up a few extra happy faces.)
The Battlefields and Beach- Yorktown
Yorktown beach holds a view of the Coleman Bridge, which is near and dear to my heart as it leads to my very own hometown of Gloucester. The soft rolling waves of the river, the coarse brown sand and the tall sea grass all feel like home to me. The Yorktown beaches offer beautiful open space and in the evenings have beautiful sunsets making the light the perfect environment for portraits. I always begin sessions for this location at the Yorktown Victory Monument and walk along the sidewalks and stopping at the historical buildings in the area. (My favorite one being a teal shuttered white building that used to be Carrot Tree restaurant.) Of course heading over to the nearby battlefields is a great idea if you love vast grassy fields as much as I do.
The College of William and Mary -Williamsburg
The Wren house is a great meeting spot to begin a family portrait session. The lush Sunken Gardens at the College of William and Mary are located just off the house. The gardens there offer a landscape design that follows the spirit of the eighteenth-century English gardens with its sweeping lawn and natural setting. The old oak trees here make perfect "family tree" photos. I've even found myself enjoying the horses nearby with a family after a session. This location offers a historical and classic element to family portraits.