Situated between the Rappahannock River to the north and the York River to the south, Virginia’s Middle Peninsula is a photographer’s paradise, with numerous coves, inlets and stately Victorian houses and inns. The historic town of Urbanna is the perfect base from which to photograph this area. Only an hour away from the Richmond airport, the small, friendly town is proud of its relaxed pace, yet is close to the tourist destinations of Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown. From the airport, go east on Interstate 64 toward West Point to exit 220 where you’ll follow U.S. Route 33 east to U.S. Route 227. There, you’ll cross Urbanna Creek to enter the town.
Spring high temperatures are usually in the 70s, with nighttime lows in the 50s. Summers find the temperatures in the upper 80s and 90s. Fall temperatures are pleasant, ranging from the low 70s to low 60s, with absolute lows in the 40s. The Middle Peninsula averages over 40 inches of rain a year, so be prepared to be able to shoot in the rain while keeping your equipment dry. The wettest month is usually September while November is often the driest month.
Having zoom lenses such as a wide 12-24mm and medium 24-70mm will allow enough range to cover most of the local landscapes. There’s also a good chance you’ll see the bald eagles, ospreys and herons of the area, so a good long telephoto zoom lens like an 80-400mm will allow you to fill the frame with a faraway raptor or a nearby blossom from the tulip, cherry or dogwood trees. A good polarizer is a must to reduce glare from the water while enhancing those blue skies and making clouds and rainbows pop. Sunrise shots are spectacular in the area, and the way they light up the clouds and reflect on the water is ever changing. Neutral-density filters are indispensable for aiding in proper sunrise exposures. In most cases, a two-stop hard line will work well since the horizon is a straight line. I use the Singh-Ray Daryl Benson Reverse Graduated filter. If your scene calls for a softer line, you can handhold the filter and move it slightly during the exposure. The use of a sturdy tripod is helpful for tack-sharp photos. I’m a big fan of the Gitzo Traveler series, which folds into a small enough length to be carried on a plane or placed in checked baggage.
The chance to sample the local delicacies, watch several parades and search for unique arts and crafts draws thousands of people to Urbanna the first weekend of November to catch the famous Oyster Festival, and the Art on the Half Shell arts and craft fair is held in May. The very best time, in my opinion, is late spring when the weather is a little cooler and many of the flowers and trees are in bloom. Of course, there are outstanding sunrises year-round.
Contact: The Commonwealth of Virginia, www.virginia.gov.
Summer thunderstorms often produce dramatic shooting conditions, which is great for your imagery, but not so great for your equipment. Camera bags often include weather bags to protect the contents, but to be able to shoot you also need to cover your camera and lens. The Kata E-705 Elements Cover has two side sleeves that allow you to shoot safely with up to a 70-200mm lens and flash attached. The transparent TPU panel allows you to monitor camera controls, and an extension kit is available for longer lenses. Estimated Street Price: $69. Contact: Kata, (201) 818-9500, www.kata-bags.us.