Huntley Meadows Park wildlife photo wins award in international competition


Charles Schmidt's award-winning photo of a Hooded Merganser at Huntley Meadows Park (Credit: Charles Schmidt Photography)

A photo of wildlife taken at Huntley Meadows Park was a winner in the 2022 World Nature Photography Awards, announced Feb. 20. The photo of a male Hooded Merganser won gold in the "behavior – birds" category.

Charles Schmidt, a Springfield-based photographer, took the photo of the Merganser — a type of fish-eating duck — during a park visit in January 2021. Ducks tend to swim faster and in a straight line when preparing to fly, said Schmidt, so he was able to anticipate the shot — but didn’t necessarily expect the Merganser to fly directly at him.

Schmidt, who retired from federal government work and now pursues his photography passion full-time, said he typically visits Huntley Meadows once a week. He described it as “an oasis of nature in a suburban environment” and “the best place to go in the D.C. Metro area for wildlife photography.”

Credit: Facebook/Charles Schmidt Photography

While there is no monetary prize for Schmidt’s winning photo, he’s generating publicity in far-flung media outlets like “The Guardian,” “The Daily Mail,” “USA Today” and NBC Chicago, and on popular art sites like “My Modern Met.”

Schmidt’s photography also has appeared in the Virginia Wildlife Photo Showcase and placed in the top 100 in the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.

Mason Neck State Park, Burke Lake Park and Lake Mercer in Fairfax Station are other sites that Schmidt frequents with his camera. He returns to Huntley Meadows most often, however, for its unique photo opportunities of wildlife like otters and Roseate Spoonbill.

“Huntley Meadows is a place I go for guaranteed action,” he said. “There’s always something there to see.”

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