The National Park Service has established the Artist In Resident (AIR) program at approximately 40 of their sites around the country. Since 2016, I have been fortunate to be selected as the AIR at eight National Park locations, through a very competitive process. It has been an amazing opportunity to engage with National Park employees, visitors and volunteers and create new artwork for the park. I am a photographer and I want my photos to tell stories and make connections with people. My AIR stays in the parks have ranged from 2 to 5 weeks; each one has been an eye-opening adventure.

At the parks, I make every effort to immerse myself into the landscapes, history and lore. I take images that evoke feelings in the viewer, which often involves getting up at 4:30 am to make sure that I am in the right place at the right time for sunrise.

This image above was taken at the Manassas National Battlefield Park very early in the morning in the hot and humid summer of July 2018 when I was there as the AIR for two weeks. This location was the site of two of the earliest major battles of the Civil War in 1861 and 1862. This specific location, Battery Heights, is often overlooked by many visitors and can easily be missed on most auto tours. Throughout the two battles, this land was held by both sides of the war. I had visited and scoped out the site on several instances and made up my mind to return for an image of the cannons with the sun rising over a distant treeline as the background. On that particular morning, after climbing out of bed around 5 a.m., I drove to Battery Heights and had the site to myself. I quickly set up my tripod and camera, and saw a strong cloud hiding the sunrise and a light fog was clinging to the eastern ridge of trees. The clouds were heavy and I thought that they would block out the sun for a good portion of the morning. I began to look in other directions to see what other photographic options might be available.

As I have often experienced, the light and mood can be altered very quickly and I always make it a point to stick around just in case lighting and conditions change. Within just a few minutes, back at my original point of view, the sun cracked through the clouds and created a unique cloud formation with sunrays that added a dramatic background to the image and brought focus and balance to the photograph. I had my shot of the day!

To see more of my work from my Artist-In-Residencies, check out https://photomanva.zenfolio.com/p570512401

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