Five “Must Shoot” Locations in Central Maryland

Hunt Valley, MD: Nikon D700, Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 at 70mm, f/5.6, ISO 200, 1/200s.  This row of trees is on the north side of Shawan Road, just east of the Beaver Dam Road traffic light.

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From a photographer’s point of view, Maryland is one of the most widely diverse states in the entire country, which is impressive given its diminutive size.  If you drove from the easternmost part of the state (Ocean City) all the way into West Virginia, it would be six and a half hours (sans traffic) of constantly changing terrain, environment, and uniquely interesting places to photograph.

Just in Central Maryland alone, there are countless places to visit which could keep a photographer busy for season after season.  Some of them, however, are “must-sees” for anyone who considers photography a hobby.  If you’re one of these people, here are 5 places in Central Maryland which you must visit to shoot:

1) Annapolis.

If you’re a photographer, the Annapolis City Dock should be written in stone on your to-do list.  In the heart of the historic capital of Maryland, simply head down Main Street to Church Circle, and you’ll discover an endless number of photographic opportunities of all kinds.

The photojournalist will have a field day walking around on the quaint brick and stone streets which are littered with eccentric shops, art galleries, pubs, and outdoor dining.  The City Dock is also home to all kinds of public events,  such as the Annapolis Spring Sailboat Show, Fourth of July party (with pyrotechnic displays), St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and Military Bowl Parade.  For more information on the Annapolis City Dock, click here.

Church Circle as seen from City Dock.

Ego Alley is heaven sent for portrait and landscape photographers, who could literally spend days capturing all sorts of unique scenic background imagery as boats constantly sail into and out of the dock.

Cross the Spa Creek bridge, and you can track down the perfect spot to shoot a westerly view of the harbor, as the sun sets over the capital building while sail boats pass by in the foreground:

Spa Creek in Annapolis

It doesn’t really matter whether you’re a photographer or not, Annapolis is a must-see for anyone.

For more information on the city of Annapolis, click here.

2) Jonas Green State Park.

Jonas Green State Park: Nikon D800E w/ Zeiss 15mm Distagon T* f/2.8 at f/8, ISO 100, 15s

A stone’s throw from Annapolis, Jonas Green State Park is located on the Severn River, partially underneath the Naval Academy Bridge (route 450).  On the south side of the bridge there’s a restaurant and boat piers along the shore, with a view of the Academy across the river.  On the north side is a fishing pier and a rocky beach, with an iconic view of the Severn’s natural beauty.  Regardless of the composition, there’s a better than average chance you will be dodging fisherman perched over the dock or along the beachside…or making them part of the scene.

Many photographers choose to include the Academy bridge in their images, which provides some interesting architectural spice into an otherwise purely natural landscape.  Given that you’re looking predominantly west, if you choose a night where Mother Nature cooperates with the setting sun, you can be treated to some memorable experiences at dusk.

Jonas Green presents an excellent opportunity to shoot some ultra-wide perspectives.

For detailed directions on how to get to Jonas Green Park, click here.

3) The Late-Summer Sunflower Fields.

Every summer there are farms all over Maryland which grow sunflowers…the one I frequent is in southern Harford County, on the corner of Jarrettsville Pike and Hess Road, directly across the street from the Royal Farms gas station. If you go, bring a self-standing ladder and walk to the top of the hill. You will be awestruck by the enormity of the seemingly endless rows of sunflowers.  If you want to get a shot of the landscape, a ladder is very important, otherwise you won’t be able to get the camera high enough over the tall sunflowers.

On the images above and below, I stood atop a 7 foot ladder and held the camera above my head (I am average height). Several shots were required to get the composition right.

It’s also a great place for a family photo to put on the next Holiday card.  And, the kids will have a great time running through the maze of flowers.  You will have an even better time trying to keep up with them.

Another great opportunity for an ultra-wide shot.

4) The Federal Hill Skyline.

Baltimore City offers all kinds of interesting landmarks to photograph…and one of the easiest to get to is the skyline of downtown Baltimore from the top of Federal Hill.  Simply park alongside any of the roads in the Federal Hill neighborhood, and walk up the steps to the top of the hill.

Nikon D800E with Zeiss Distagon T* 15mm at f/22, ISO 100, 25s.

Late afternoon/early evening is the ideal time to shoot here (depending on the time of year), as you can grab the sun setting behind the skyscrapers on the left.  Sunrise is cool also…the sun rises off to the right, away from the skyline.  As the sun rises up, those fresh rays of light cast a gentle and pleasant warm glow over the architecture.

If it’s a partly cloudy day, try a long exposure…it will add the element of movement as the clouds will appear to be “stretched” out.  A long exposure at night will transform moving cars into laser beams across Fort Avenue, Light Street and Pratt Street.

For more information on Federal Hill, click here.

5) Kilgore Falls.  

Saving the best for last…this is my favorite location to shoot in all of Maryland, let alone the central portion of the state.  Kilgore is located inside the northern portion of Rocks State Park, a couple of miles northwest from the village of Street, Maryland in Harford County.

Kilgore Falls from downstream: Nikon D800 w/ Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 at 50mm, f/16, ISO 100, 20s.

There’s a small parking lot off of Falling Branch Road (the Falls are a part of the Falling Branch tributary).  Park there, walk a quarter-mile along the easily navigable trail, and you’re treated to a beautiful waterfall that offers many different vantage points to photographers.

In my opinion, the best location to shoot from is downstream (the south). Here, the upper portion of the falls are partially hidden behind an enormous boulder which sits directly to the right.

To shoot it from the west (if you’re standing downstream, to the left of the falls) is tricky with limited vantage points for you and your tripod, and the rocks there are perpetually slippery.  Getting close-up requires some careful footing, as those slippery boulders offer up an interesting way to leave you with a week-long limp.

During the summer, lots of swimmers frequent the falls, which makes getting photographs significantly more difficult.  One way to make the swimmers “disappear” from the image is to shoot very long exposures, which effectively makes anyone who is moving invisible:

View from the west.  This is a several minute long exposure…three swimmers were wading in the water here, but the long exposure made them disappear.

You can also get a unique perspective of the falls from the north.  Over the years, I have seen very few photographs of the falls from this perspective.  It’s a difficult setup, as the rocks are extremely slippery, and getting your tripod on those rocks presents a real challenge:

View from the north.

The best times to shoot the falls are late in the afternoon, around sunset, or early in the morning, which will give you some nicely diffused, warm lighting.  The park closes after sunset, so if you choose to shoot around then, leave yourself with ample time.  The best season is the fall, when the foliage will grant you a colorful wide-angle image.

If you plan on visiting the falls, you’ll want to bring a wide-to-normal zoom lens (i.e. a 24-70mm) for the downstream perspective.  If you wish to get a close-up shot from the west or north, you’ll need a wider lens (i.e. the Nikon 14-24mm or 16-35mm).

If you’re a photographer, Kilgore is most definitely a must-see attraction.

Kilgore Falls from the southwest: Nikon D800E, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 at 31mm, f/8, ISO 100, 10s.


Honorable Mention: Loch Raven State Park.  

Generally speaking, Loch Raven is a Baltimore County treasure for anyone who enjoys the outdoors.  Regardless of the season, hiking, jogging, on-or-off-road bicycling, photography of wildlife or a sunset, and/or even a peaceful afternoon picnic are all possible activities in and around the Loch Raven Reservoir.

To get a sunset shot of the park/reservoir:  If you head into the park driving by Peerce’s Plantation restaurant, go about a mile or so past Peerce’s then park on your right, before you get to the bridge.  If you pass over the bridge, you went too far.  Usually there will be several other cars parked at the same location, and you will see a small beach off to the west of the road.

If you get out of your car at that spot, it’s maybe about a 100 yard walk to the beach, where you can set up for a (hopefully) pleasant sunset.  Even if the sunset isn’t photogenic, it’s still a very nice spot to relax and take in the scenery.

For more information on Loch Raven State Park, click here.

Loch Raven State Park:  Nikon D800E w/ 25mm Zeiss Distagon T* f/2 at f/8, ISO 100, 10s.


Happy shooting!!



11 thoughts on “Five “Must Shoot” Locations in Central Maryland”

  1. Excellent information here, Jeb. I am an amateur photographer who like to shoot landscape and impressionistic type. , I am new to this area (Maryland), and didn’t know where and how about this area. However, tremendous information about cameras, post processing, locations, and along other helpful tips you provided here are very good that helps me in a great deal. Thank you.

  2. I’m in Annapolis and I intend to see if I can re-create your shot of downtown. I don’t have a 58, but I’ve got a 50 and a D750 so I’m fairly sure I can do it. If not…life goes on.

    1. The 58 was a little tight for the scene…ideally I would have preferred a 50 or 35 for that shot. Please feel free to share the final image…it’s cool to see other perspectives on the same scene.

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