Making the fall pilgrimage to Skyline Drive with Richard Barnhill

A farm landscape in Paris, Virginia.  


For a lot of local photographers, fall means hitting Skyline Drive, the 105-mile road that runs the length of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

Richard Barnhill and a friend made the trek recently and he says if you’re coming from D.C., avoid the temptation to enter at the park’s closer, northern entrance. He and his friend drove to Sperryville where they entered at the southern entrance to the park and started heading north at about 8:30 a.m.

“This is easily the best decision we made all day!” Richard said. “There is very little traffic for the first 75 percent of the drive, with almost vacant overlooks. We basically had the place to ourselves!”

Despite their early start, the light wasn’t the best. Of course, it takes a meteorologist like Richard to tell us what was really going on:

“A unique weather setup made sunlight hard to come by, but it did peak out toward the end of the day,” Richard said. “Easterly winds at the surface caused a low level cloud deck to try to hang around when looking east, while a southerly mid-level flow (partially from the remnants of Hurricane Patricia) worked to lock in even more clouds.”

The upshot is that as the sun rose, it burned off the cloud decks just long enough for the pair to capture some wonderful images.

“This trip was one of the more challenging ones for me in that I was forced to use subpar light to highlight colors that really need to be enhanced by the sun!” Richard said. “I used a combination of low f-stop shots and HDR to try to make the images better, given the conditions. Luckily, we finally got some decent light and the trip was not a total bust!”

All images © Richard Barnhill. Richard is a meteorologist/software tester living in Arlington by way of North Carolina and a few years in downtown DC.  His focus is on landscapes, especially ones involving particularly interesting weather and clouds. You can see more of his work on his flickr page and on his Facebook page.

Do you have a series of interesting photos you’d like to feature on DC Focused? Contact us at editor@dcfocused.com

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Richard used a 4 second exposure and stacked neutral density filters to capture the movement of the clouds over the ridge line.

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From Richard: “This is what happens when you are bored, the lighting sucks, and you are trying to make lemonade out of a lemon of a lighting situation. Out of my sunroof going down Skyline Drive.”

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This panoramic image was made by stitching together three images. Click the image to see it larger.

Life in metro Washington, D.C. as chronicled by the area's photographers.