The Free-State is as diverse as it is scenic and historic and many consider Maryland to be like the U.S.A. in miniature. The western counties from Frederick to Garrett are characterized by plush rolling hills, crystal clear streams, abundant wildlife and stunning mountain vistas…providing photo ops for a variety of tastes.
Sideling Hill Sunrise
While out west, don’t forget to take a hike along Maryland’s portion of the Appalachian Trail. This rugged trail traverses the state near the Frederick County/Washington County border. The most popular access points to the trail are at Harper’s Ferry and at the crossing of Alt. Route.#40 at South Mountain. A medium-wide angle lens will handle most of the scenics…and don’t forget that macro lens for the myriad wildflowers, wild mushrooms and interesting insects and other critters you’ll likely encounter along the way.
Maryland’s diverse terrain is blessed with many waterfalls of which Great Falls on the Potomac is the most impressive. The Potomac is a huge river (by Maryland standards) and the sheer volume of water cascading 20+ feet over house-sized boulders is truly a sight to behold! The falls area is managed by the National Parks Service on both sides of the river and is open year-round. A $5.00 per vehicle fee allows access to the Maryland and/or Virginia sides.
The Potomac at Great Falls
Other noteworthy waterfalls within Maryland’s boundaries include Swallow Falls and Muddy Creek Falls in Garrett County, Kilgore Falls in Harford County, Cunningham Falls in Frederick County and numerous un-named falls and rapids along the many miles of rivers and streams that traverse Maryland’s highlands.
And if wildlife photography is your passion, Maryland's state parks and national refuges are the places to visit. Whether you seek whitetail deer, wintering waterfowl or a variety of other species, these sanctuaries provide safe haven…where the resident wildlife is less afraid of human activity and can often be approached close enough for intimate portraits.
Pintails at Blackwater
Recommended areas to visit are Sandy Point State Park, Blackwater and Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuges and Assateague State Park.
Winter is the best time to visit these refuges. There are no crowds (…and no mosquitos) and the more skittish critters are usually more active in the middle of the day.
Equipment choice will vary dependant upon the intended species but a good telephoto of at least 300 mm is recommended. Another essential tool is a car window mount or other device to afford stability of the camera and lens while shooting from inside your vehicle.
In addition to its natural beauty, the state of Maryland is a rewarding destination for photographers who are also history buffs. In central Maryland near Hagerstown lies Antietam National Battlefield…the scene of the bloodiest conflict in American history. Photo ops include the Antietam Cemetery and the Burnside Bridge. To get there, take I #70 west toward Hagerstown. Take exit 29A onto Rt. 65 south. Ten miles south on the left is the Visitor Center.
Fort McHenry in Baltimore... where Francis Scott Key penned the Star-Spangled Banner, attracts many visiting photographers each year. The Fort and its surroundings are maintained and managed by the National Parks Service. Operating hours are daily, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on the grounds area. The Fort and Visitor Center are open daily, 8:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. with extended summer hours…closed December 25, January 1 and Thanksgiving. (…And don’t forget to stop by the Inner Harbor for that delicious Maryland crab cake. )
On Maryland’s coast lies Assateague State Park and Assateague Island National Seashore. This barrier island stretching from Maryland to Virginia is famed for its wild ponies but also hosts a healthy population of sikas, white tailed deer and shore birds. This island sanctuary is best visited during the cooler months, as the mosquitos, deer flies and ticks are renown for their ferocity.
Medium-telephoto lenses will work fine here for the deer and horses since they are quite tame. It’s recommended that you shoot from inside your vehicle and that you not approach or intimidate the animals you encounter. (The area is patrolled heavily and you will be ticketed.)
To get there, take Rt #50 south toward Salisbury. Take U.S. 13 South , then Route 175 east to Chincoteague Island. At Chincoteague Island turn left at light onto Main St. then turn right on Maddox Blvd. to Assateague Island.
Maryland truly is a special place. From the mountains,…to the prairies,…to the ocean, there is something of interest for photographers of all ages and skill levels to seek, to capture and to share.
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