Best Locations in the Manassas National Battlefield Park for Photography
The Manassas Battlefield is a fantastic place for photographers. It is packed with hiking trails, streams, fields, forests, cliffs, bridges, and homesteads that have survived since the first and second battles.
The park is huge, with more than 10 miles of trails and is located an easy, 30 minute drive west of Washington D.C.
This battlefield is not covered in monuments like Gettysburg, but there are a few scattered throughout the area. It is really designed to invite visitors to enjoy nature while learning a bit about the terrible battles that took place here during the Civil War.
With the diversity of the landscape and the varied buildings, cemeteries, and rustic fences, there is tremendous photography potential for the amateur and professional. Read on for some of my favorite places in the park to capture powerful and touching pictures.
This area is the most popular, and if you are short on time, this is the place to go. It is located on the east side of highway 234, just north of Cracker Barrel.
The Visitor's Center has a nice movie that describes the battle and the importance of the various locations and buildings. An interactive display lets you see how the troops moved along the paths and there is an excellent display of artifacts. Of course, the gift shop is nice as well.
But, the great opportunities for photographs are outside! Step right outside the Visitor's Center and you have a huge field and the beginning of wonderful trails to explore.
Black and White Photography
I am not good at using photoshop, but it is extremely easy to convert shots into black and white. I don't do this often, but I find that it is appropriate when I want to capture the feeling of history and mourning. The picture below, which was taken right outside the Visitor's Center, was a good candidate for black and white. The wagons appear ready for battle, the fence in the background hints at the age of site, and the fog gives an atmospheric and mournful feel to the site.
I think that the shot brings the viewer into the battlefield and evokes a quiet and melancholy emotion. What do you think?
Stonewall Jackson's Statue is within a few hundred yards of the entrance to the park and is a very short walk from the car. On most days, it is hard to capture a good shot since the statue is much taller than the visitors and can only have the sky as the background.
Certainly, an HDR photograph could capture the detail of the horse and the General while not overexposing the sky, but I opted to take advantage of the deep purple-blue sky and tried to accentuate the silhouette altogether. I think it is a nice effect!
During the early spring, cherry blossoms are showcased throughout the mid-Atlantic. Washington D.C. is famous for the Cherry Blossom Festival, and the Manassas Battlefield has its share of wonderful blooming trees.
There are plenty of opportunities to mix the beautiful floral displays with the hard and cold statues and memorials. I like mixing the two together in order to bring balance to the shot.
Stuart's Hill Loop Trail
This is a fun hike that takes you behind the Park Headquarters on the western edge of the park. If you wanted one hike that "does it all," then start here. The short hike will take you through fields and forests, over several streams, and is perfect for hot days.
Watch closely on this hike. We found turtles and small fish in tiny pockets of water.
This is a fantastic area for photography! The old stonework on the trusses, the rambling creek, and a fantastic boardwalk make this one of my favorite places in the entire park for photography.
I visited in the winter last year and found frozen waterfalls on the far bank. That made for some pretty dramatic shots!
Also, I highly recommend setting up on a tripod on the shady side of the bridge. The light coming through the arches underneath makes for a dramatic shot. If you come early in the morning in the spring or fall, there is a good chance that a light fog will add drama to the scenery.
This is a fun section of the battlefield, just a mile or so west of the Visitor's Center on the north side of Highway 29. There is plenty of parking.
This is my favorite area of the park for abstract photographs. Hike around the Brawner Farm Loop and you will spot many old and rusty farming tools in the field.