If I were to tell you that I took a picture of the birthplace of the American army, a Romanesque-style castle, and Japanese taiko drummers, you may think that I have traveled the world. But actually, I took all of those photos right here in Montgomery County.
This is an incredible area full of diverse attractions begging to be captured and shared with the world.
Let me share with you a few of my favorites.
Valley Forge National Historical Park is without a doubt the most renowned attraction here, and is an incredible playground for any photographer, amateur or professional. With large fields of rolling hills, log huts, towering monuments, and historic buildings like Washington's original headquarters, there is an infinite amount of subjects to weave into your photographs.
And you never know when a fox, deer, or hawk may pop up and pose for the camera. I once waded through the brush to capture a shot of a deer. I may have emerged with brambles stuck to my pants legs and a few scratches, but I also got some great shots. As a photographer, you often have to do what you have to do.
For extra special light, try visiting during the "golden hours" of dawn and dusk. The diffused warm light adds an extra magical punch to your photo and is great for portraits!
"You want the sun to be almost level with the subject," local photographer Mike Irby says. "In the middle of the day, the sun is directly overhead, and pictures shot under those conditions have a raw, hot look."
Irby continues: "What I recommend especially at the park is for photographers to plan on several days' worth of shooting. Some in the mornings. Some in the afternoons. It is absolutely worth the effort. In the mornings, if you're there and the fog and mist have settled in the valleys, it's gorgeous."
For a change of pace from Montgomery County landscapes, try the challenge of shooting a Romanesque castle. Glencairn Museum, in the Bryn Athyn Historic District, is an architectural wonder from a faraway time, only about a half-hour's drive from Valley Forge.
The outside is stunning, but wait until you see the Great Hall inside. For optimal pictures that encompasses all the tapestries, antiques and medieval weaponry on display, I suggest a wide-angle lens to truly convey its vastness.
The historic district's yearly Landmarks in Lights event (the 2014 edition is June 26), provides one of the site's most unique opportunities for photographers. The exquisite stone walls and stained glass are to be accented with lights that range from tabletop tea lamps inside to massive floodlights outside. Make sure to bring a tripod for nighttime shooting, as you will need the slower shutter speed to get a sharp image in low lighting.
Attending some of the county's plentiful events can give you the opportunity to capture natural shots of people. I recently went to Morris Arboretum for its Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival. The gardens are absolutely beautiful for nature photography, but the festival gave me the opportunity to get pictures of taiko drummers, samurai, and men and women dressed in traditional kimonos.
Another event to keep on your radar, especially if you are a history buff like me, is the annual Whitemarsh Encampment at Hope Lodge. Hundreds of reenactors dress up in authentic Revolutionary War outfits and engage in a skirmish. Just be sure to hold that camera steady when the thundering boom of the cannon roars across the battlefield!
Remember, photography is about enjoying the ride, and working to capture a single moment that tells the story of your subject. Don't get too hung up on the technical stuff if you are a beginner. You have to feel it. Don't be afraid to move around, crawl on the ground, or wade through the woods.
Think about telling a story with your camera. It's what makes the difference between a snapshot and a photograph.
And when you're done and have had a chance to evaluate your results, share your photos of Montgomery County with us using #MakeItMontco on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.