One of the specifics tasks the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park had for the “Artist in Residence” program was to conduct a photography class. Sam, the Park Volunteer Manager, and I had several discussions on when we could schedule a class, and what I could include in it.
We ultimately decided that the second Saturday, the day before Easter, would be a busy day at the Park, and probably the best opportunity to lead a group that would be interested in photography. I decided to use a class I had done previously, on the ABCs of Better Photography, as the basis of my walking class. Sam created a flyer, which was shared on the Park’s Facebook page, and also shared it with the Bolivar-Harpers Ferry Public Library…which created another opportunity! (more on that later)
Saturday, April 4, was a beautiful day, and I met my first group at the Park Information Center. I introduced myself, and asked the folks where they were from, and how they had heard about the class. I had a father and daughter from Virginia, another man from Virginia, and a young man from here in Harpers Ferry.
We talked about ways to improve our photography, regardless of what type of camera was being used. As I shared some of my recommendations, we made some stops on our way around the Lower Town. We paused at the Dry Goods Store and the Provost Marshall’s office. I even took a photo of my group near the old wagon near the theater.
From the corner in town, we walked down by John Brown’s Fort, and then to the Point, from which you can observe the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. Beyond the rivers, you also see the gap in the mountains that made this location so important to explorers, travelers, and settlers, and eventually to the canal and railroad builders. From there, we crossed the footbridge over the Potomac, and traveled to Lock 33 of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath.
From the Canal, we returned to the Point, and wrapped up with a few questions. In the afternoon, I took another group through the same locations. Remember that other opportunity related to the local library? When I was telling Library Director Gretchen Fry about my upcoming classes at the Park, she said she would love for me to be able to do something at the library for the local people. So, after a little discussion on dates, we were able to schedule an evening at the library. My last evening in Harpers Ferry would be spent at the Bolivar-Harpers Ferry Public Library, teaching the ABCs of Better Photography to a local audience!
Easter Sunday was somewhat cloudy, and I met Ranger David Fox in the morning. We traveled around the Park, in order to get a good feel for the various trails. David told me that about 40% of the visitors to the Park come to hike the trails. There are several miles of trails within the Park, which also extend from Harpers Ferry into Maryland Heights and Loudoun Heights.
This gave me an excellent chance to better understand the logistics of the major battle for Harpers Ferry, which occurred in September of 1862. The Union Army was trying to hold the town against a Confederate force, with troops in town, on Bolivar Heights, and also on Maryland Heights. The Confederates managed to overrun the Union troops on Maryland Heights, as the Bolivar Heights troops were also pushed back. This left the Union troops in a completely defensive position within the town, and surrounded my Confederate forces. Want to learn more? Visit Harpers Ferry National Historical Park for the rest of the story! Want to see more? Visit www.WVFinePhotography.com .
Ron Gaskins, “Artist in Residence”
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
(events on and around April 4 & 5, 2015)