Summer 2022

Photographing Summer’s Beloved Birds

This season brings with it heat, sunshine… and hummingbirds! There are more than 330 species of hummingbirds in the Western Hemisphere, and the most common visitor east of the Great Plains is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. These delightful balls of energy return to our gardens and feeders every April or May, adding as much joy to our summer days as the pollen they have in tow.


Revered by many Native American cultures as a messenger of the gods or a harbinger of good luck, it is easy to understand the deep affection that people feel toward these tiny but brilliant creatures. Their wings can beat up to an impressive 70 times per second, according to the U.S. Forest Service, but we can still revel in a hummingbird’s full beauty when captured through the lens.


In eager anticipation of their arrival, photographers often vie to post the first photo of a male hummingbird with its deep ruby-red throat (gorget). Green Spring Gardens is a wonderful place to catch these delightful birds in action as they feed on sweet nectar from flowers in the garden. If you’re new to Green Spring, here’s a tip: you’ll probably find them feasting on the native trumpet honeysuckle vine growing on an arbor near the Historic House. In any case, “almost anywhere you look at the gardens of Green Spring, you'll see many kinds of pollinators delighting in blossoms,” photographer Jane Gamble said. “You can even find hummingbirds, and hummingbird moths, drinking nectar from delicate blooms.”

Photo credit: Jane Gamble

Naturalist and photographer Steve Berardi from Photo Naturalist shares some tips on how to photograph hummingbirds. Berardi notes, “Hummingbirds are amazing little creatures. They’re the only birds capable of flying backwards, and their wings flap between 15-200 times per second! However, their incredible speed and small size make them extremely difficult to photograph.” He recommends that you learn their habits, have a great deal of patience, and know the settings on your camera. Additional tips include using an extremely fast shutter speed to “freeze” the action, using an external flash if you want to avoid a little blur from the wing action, enabling autofocus, then positioning yourself in their habitat, setting up your tripod and waiting for a hummingbird to arrive.


Photo credit: Barbara Saffir

's A group of local photographers are mounting an exhibition titled “A Celebration of Hummingbirds” at Green Spring Gardens in celebration of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird’s return to its summer home. It will feature works from more than 20 area artists and will include hummingbirds from all over the Western Hemisphere. All profits from the sale of photos will be donated to the Friends of Green Spring, a non-profit organization devoted to maintaining the gardens and furthering public education and outreach. The show runs from June 28 through October 16, 2022, at the Green Spring Gardens Historic House, located at 4603 Green Spring Rd. in Alexandria, Virginia. The historic house is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon until 4:30 p.m., though the exhibit space may be closed on occasion for program use. Please call ahead (703-941-7987) to be certain the exhibit is open for viewing before you come. For more information, visit Green Spring's Art Exhibit webpage or call 703-642-5173.

Celebrate Pollinator Week with Your Camera

As you explore our parks this summer, take a moment to revel in the sunshine and smell the fresh-cut grass, along with the scent of the fragrant flowers in bloom. Listen carefully to the low buzz of working bees as they drift from one plant to the next. After all, this is their peak pollinating season and they deserve the special attention. Lastly, don’t forget your camera on each visit.

Pollinator Week just wrapped up a few days ago. This is an annual celebration of pollinators to raise awareness and spread the word about what we can all do in our communities—and our own backyards too—to protect them. One way to get involved is through photography and sharing the amazing images you snap in our wondrous parks. 

“I do love photographing pollinators, because having birds, butterflies or bees feeding from bright colored flowers is a sure recipe for a great photo,” said photographer Jane Gamble.

You can take advantage of the many pollinators at Green Spring Gardens, in particular. It’s a fantastic place to find Salvias, Cardinal flowers and Milkweed, which are just a few plants that are sure to have butterflies and bees on them all summer long. 

There are many popular areas around the Green Spring to snap a great shot of these pollinators in action. “The native Coral Honeysuckle vine growing on an arbor near the Historic House is a favorite spot to catch the hummingbirds, and the gardens in this area are excellent for other pollinators,” Gamble said. “Sometimes you just have to listen to find the best plants for pollinators, because they will ‘hum’ with the sounds of busy bees!”

Although there’s no special trick to photographing butterflies and bees, Gamble recommends a high shutter speed. She also prefers 1/125 of a second or higher, which is especially efficient when capturing pollinators in flight. “Take some time to observe the patterns of the animal or insect’s movements, such as how long they tend to stay on a blossom. Then be ready for them to move off and onto the next flower,” Gamble suggested.

With that said, we urge you to be cautious of the gardens so that the environment is not disturbed. “Good photography means ethical behavior, and that includes mindfulness of other people,” Gamble noted.

A commercial license to photograph in our parks is required, and one should be obtained if you’re a photographer conducting business on Fairfax County Park Authority property (FCPA) or in FCPA facilities. This includes Green Spring Gardens. The $25 permits can be purchased through the Commercial Photography in the Parks website. To learn about specific rules for using Green Spring Gardens as a photography location, go to: Green Spring Gardens Photography Guidelines Reservation.

Share Your Inspired Photos of Green Spring Gardens

frogs photo contest

Photo credit: Laura Strecker

During a stroll through Green Spring Gardens, it’s easy to get lost in the fantastic colors and textures of seasonal blooms—flowering dogwoods, peonies and tulips, to name a few. Also lending themselves to the picturesque beauty of the park are the Historic House, as well as the wooded stream valley and ponds with their diverse flora and fauna. The scenery urges you to capture it all on camera—and the time has come to show off the photos you’ve snapped!


Green Spring Gardens is hosting its very first judged photography contest this summer, which is sponsored by the Friends of Green Spring (FROGS). Participants are encouraged to submit photographs that capture the beauty of the gardens as long as they were taken between July 2020 and June 2022. All photographs are welcome, whether they’re in black and white or in color. They can show the hardy geraniums in May or the snowdrops of January, as submissions can depict any season. It should just be clear that it was taken at Green Spring Gardens.


Photographs are not required to show only the plants, either. You are free to submit those that contain wildlife and garden buildings too. If they include people, their identities must either be unrecognizable, or permission should be secured prior to entering the photograph in the contest.


The contest is open to non-professional adult photographers, who are at least 18 as of 2022. Entry forms and fees can be submitted from July 1 to 31, 2022, or until 95 entries that meet the contest rules are received. To download the entry form and complete contest rules, go to the Photo Contest web page or visit the FROGS website. If you have any questions, please contact


From the witch hazel collection to the gazebo surrounded whimsically by colorful blooms, let Green Spring Garden inspire you! And we hope you share the magic of the gardens with us.



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Editor: Judy Pedersen, Public Information Officer

Writers and Contributors: Georgia Coffman

Layout and Design: Don Tubel

Photograph Contributors: Barbara Saffir, Jane Gamble, Laura Strecker


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