Hampton Roads Photography Location Guide: Lake Lawson/Lake Smith Natural Area in Virginia Beach, Virginia


Lake Lawson/Lake Smith Natural Area is a 42-acre natural preserve area located in Virginia Beach, Virginia. This natural area has around 12,000 feet of shoreline along the lakes.  Lake Lawson/Lake Smith Natural Area is located at 5381 Shell Road in the Bayside area of Virginia Beach. This natural area has several small overlook areas that are located along the lakes. In addition, there are several trails in this natural area with views of Lake Lawson/Lake Smith, and the trails are fairly flat and easy to walk. The paths of the trails are wide and lined with mulch, and several overlook platforms are found along the trails that look over Lake Lawson and/or Lake Smith. An interesting fact is that the waters of Lake Smith and Lake Lawson are owned by the City of Norfolk even though Virginia Beach owns Lake Lawson/Lake Smith Natural Area. So, the City of Norfolk governs the boating rules on the water.

The morning sunrays coming through the trees reflecting on Lake Smith at the Lake Lawson/Lake Smith Natural Area in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Best Time to Arrive

Lake Lawson/Lake Smith offers opportunities at both sunrise or early morning and at sunset or late evening. The natural area is open each day at 7:30am and during the winter season closes around 5:30pm to 6:00pm. During the summer it closes around 7:30pm to 8:30pm.

The Photography Potential

Lake Lawson/Lake Smith Natural Area provides ample opportunities to photograph sunrise/sunsets, water views, macro, and wildlife. The sun will rise over Lake Smith near Northampton Blvd, and there are several views from the overlook platform to capture sunrise images of the Lake Smith.  During the early morning, the sunrise may offer great potential with possible mist or fog over Lake Smith. Also, there are a lot of possibilities for encountering birds such as double-crested cormorants in the hundreds flying over Lake Smith as they leave a nearby roosting area to fly to there day spot. During the spring and fall there are a lot of songbirds that use the hardwoods to rest on their journeys of migrating north and south. Nonmigrating songbirds such as the Carolina Chickadee can be found at Lake Lawson/Lake Smith Natural Area year-round. Some of the migrating songbirds include Carolina chickadees, tufted titmouse, pine warbler, yellow-rumped warbler, and ruby-crowned kinglet. There are woodpeckers such as the red-bellied woodpecker and pileated woodpecker that can be photographed among the trees in this natural area. Some birds that can be seen year-round are mallards, great blue herons and great egrets. The Spring offers chances to do macro photography with capturing some of the buds of flowering trees that are along the natural area as well as mushrooms found in the ground underneath the forests of trees. There is a wide path that crosses between Lake Smith and Lake Lawson with several small dock areas that a canoe or kayak could pull up to. The lakes are lined with trees that would be a great place to capture to fall colors of the leaves around the lakes. Lake Lawson is located at the back of the property and a short walk through the trails will lead to Lake Lawson. The views of Lake Lawson are spectacular, and the trees lined around the lake will provide wonderful fall colors as the leaves turn in the fall.

Red-bellied woodpecker in tree at Lake Lawson/Lake Smith Natural Area in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Gear Needed

Bringing along an assortment of lenses would be wise especially if you like to photograph several different genres such as landscape, macro or wildlife. A short telephoto lens would be great for capturing some of the views of the Lakes. A wide-angle lens would be perfect to capture a sunrise or sunset or early morning or late evening images of Lake Lawson and/or Lake Smith. I would recommend a longer lens such as 150-600mm or a 500mm lens for bird photography. The bird opportunities may be found with birds on the lakes or in the trees along the trails in this natural area. A tripod would be essential for landscape and macro photography. As for bird photography, depending on the lighting conditions, a tripod may be needed for stability. If lighting conditions are good, there are possibilities for hand holding your longer telephoto lens while photographing birds on the water or in the trees. As always, I like to use a remote release for my landscape and macro photography while my camera and lens are mounted on a tripod.

Techniques Used

To capture the image of the flowering bud, I used a wide-open aperture so that I could blur the background so the focus would be on the bud. I also moved around to use the water of the lake as a background as well as the trees across the lake as the background to give several looks so that when I viewed the images at home, I could see which look I preferred. For some of images of Lake Smith just after sunrise with the sun back behind the trees, I used a smaller aperture of f/22 to try to capture the rays of the sun as well as giving my overall scene sharpness.

Close up of a Japanese Red Maple bud at the Lake Lawson/Lake Smith Natural Area in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Any Other Pertinent Information

At the parking area off Shell Road to Lake Lawson/Lake Smith Natural Area is a building with restrooms and a pavilion with picnic tables. Benches and trash cans are located along the trails. Also, there is a boat ramp at Lake Lawson/Lake Smith with additional floating docks as this natural area is a popular fishing destination.

Lake Lawson/Lake Smith Natural Area has a lot to offer for wildlife and nature photography. There is a bit to explore with the shorelines of the lakes and walking along the paths of the trials among the trees. It is just a wonderful place to spend time out in nature photographing nature and wildlife.

A winter morning on Lake Lawson at the Lake Lawson/Lake Smith Natural Area in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
<p style="font-size:18px" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80"><strong>Thank you for taking the time to view and read my <a href="https://loriacashphotography.com/blog/&quot; target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">blog</a>.</strong>Thank you for taking the time to view and read my blog.

All the very best,

Lori A Cash

Copyright © 2006-2021 Lori A. Cash Photography. All Rights Reserved.
All images on this website are the sole property of Lori A. Cash/Lori A. Cash Photography. Images may not be copied, printed or otherwise disseminated without express written permission from Lori A. Cash Photography.

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment and I will get back with you.

Please follow me on and share with friends…..

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s