I picked my top 3 favorite locations for Midshipmen portraits at the Naval Academy

It’s safe to say I have taken my fair share of Midshipmen portraits at the United States Naval Academy. In each session, the MIDN and I visit a lot of iconic locations and some of which are just special to them personally. In my opinion, the Academy is one of the most beautiful places on planet earth, featuring gorgeous historical architecture and breathtaking waterscapes and dreamy, colorful landscaping. As a photographer, there really isn’t a bad place to take a photo! If you want to see a list of some locations I usually photograph, click here.  However, as the years pass on, some locations have worked their way in to my top 3. Here they are, in order from least to greatest. 

But before I get started, Here is a pretty picture from a Midshipman Portrait session at the Naval Academy!

Midshipmen Portrait at USNA near water with sunrise in background.
Midshipman Portrait Session at the Naval Academy Sea Wall by Kelly Eskelsen Photography.

And now, on to the locations!

#3 – The Chapel Dome


My third favorite location for midshipman portraits at the Naval Academy is a no-brainer and an obvious choice! After all, The Naval Academy Chapel, and specifically the chapel dome, was constructed by Ernest Flagg himself to be the crown jewel of the United States Naval Academy! Beyond that, it is a historic landmark, iconic to the Naval Academy, but also an important part of the landscape for those of us who live and work in Annapolis. We locals are proud of this dome! It brings a sense of beauty and rich history to our home. 


For Naval Academy families and MIDN’s, it is a nostalgic symbol of their time spent here. These are transformative years that will be remembered forever by those who navigate the Naval Academy experience as a midshipmen, or a family member! This location at the Naval Academy is made for Midshipmen portraits!

When I include it in photographs, it is in the hope that it calls to mind this important time in the life of my clients. 


Speaking directly from a photography standpoint, the Naval Academy chapel dome easily lends itself to beautiful Midshipmen portrait compositions due to its symmetry. There are also a couple of times a day where the light hits the dome just right and it glows! I know these times well and always try to schedule sessions accordingly.  It’s an added bonus that the groundskeepers on the USNA keep this area loaded with seasonal flowers and shrubs, giving endless options for creative portraits of midshipmen. 

Just take a look at these Midshipmen portraits near the Chapel Dome!

#2 – Dhalgren Hall


Dahlgren Hall is number two on my list due to the fantastically dramatic lights and versatility of the space, which lends itself to so many different backdrops for Midshipmen portraits at the Naval Academy! 

I’ll speak to the versatility first, because the Academy leadership clearly agrees and the purpose of this space is often changing based on needs for events, practices, etc. 

Many Options

For my own needs,  I could truly get a full gallery out of this one location. For starters, there are beautiful east and west-facing windows which offer lovely diffused light for moody, saturated close-up portraiture. There are standing American flags that offer a perfect, classic set-up. Lovely marble stairways and warm wooden walkways lend themselves easily to motion portraits; ones that evoke the emotion that the Midshipmen are moving forward. Then there is always the Wright Flyer replica, which is a poignant feature for those headed to flight school after commissioning! I could take an entire gallery of Midshipmen portraits at the Naval Academy right here!

Dramatic Lights

The best of all, of course, is the pure drama of setting a midshipman in front of the ceiling lights and creating dramatic, bokeh-filled portraits. For those who don’t know, bokeh is the blurred effect in the background of a photograph. These particular photos, to me, are meant to wow the viewer! They represent the glowing honor and achievement of having been a part of the traditions of the United States Naval Academy.  

Here are a few goodies from inside Dhalgren! 

And now, for the number one spot. 

#1 – The Sea Wall

Splendid Nature & Naval Symbolism

My favorite location for Midshipmen portraits at the Naval Academy is the Sea Wall, especially at sunrise and sunset, and often by the Triton light. Maybe it is not an obvious choice, but for me it is purely a personal one. I am an outdoorsy person. I am also a sucker for the drama and beauty that nature lays out on the Severn River every single day, twice a day. How lucky I am, and those attached to the Naval Academy are, to live in such a beautiful place! In addition, the nautical nature of the water, the mooring bits, and the boats passing by are rich with Naval symbolism.

My Specialty

When the sky is ablaze, I get to work! I have a matter of minutes while the sky is on fire to capture it and the midshipmen just perfectly. And when I nail it, it is what all my photography dreams are made of.  These are the photos I am most passionate about and the ones I am known for. These sunrise and sunset photos are my specialty, unique to scheduling a session with me, and I take pride in them. They are the Midshipmen portraits that the Naval Academy moms tell me they tear up over. The ones they hang. The ones that make their jaws drop. I purposely choose dynamic lighting and angles, then couple them with powerful posing to create an image that signifies the strength built during the Midshipman journey at the USNA. 

I could put a million photos here, but this one, of a repeat client, was in my top 10 favorites from 2022!

Midshipmen portrait by the sea wall in Annapolis, Maryland.
Midshipman Portrait by the Sea Wall at the Naval Academy by Kelly Eskelsen Photography.

Want more information about why sunrise sessions are the best? read this post!

Bonus Location – Mahan Hall

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t go overboard and chose a bonus location for Midshipmen portraits at the Naval Academy. I almost want to keep this one a secret! But let’s not snooze on Mahan Hall for U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen portraits! This building is a hidden photography gem with much to offer! 

Artistic Unique Architecture

The symmetry of the architecture just begs to be put into a classic rule of thirds composition! And that same architecture, while clearly recognizable and representative of the USNA, features unique components that look beautiful in wide-open photos; That clock! The columns, sconces, dolphin sculptures, arched windows, and cannons. It is notable that I start almost all my evening sessions for Midshipman portraits at the Naval Academy here as the building provides lovely open-shaded areas. And all this is just on the outside! Repetitive marble arches, columns, a dramatic stairway and ship replicas before the theater entrance are pure artistic magic. 

Tell Me What You Think

Thank you for taking a little trip around the yard with me. What do you think? Do you agree with my selections? What’s your favorite spot for Midshipmen portraits at the Naval Academy? I’d love to hear! 

Comment below or click this link for my contact form.

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Kelly is a USNA Midshipman photography specialist in Annapolis, Maryland. She is also a Navy veteran, wife, and mom of 4. She talks way too much and loves to do anything outside! Find more out more about her on her website! Kelly Eskelsen Photography

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