Guides

Christmas Gift Guide for Photographers 2016

 

A guide for any level of photographer. All of my personal favorites.

Practical gifts
1. These Rocket Air Blaster:  are pretty awesome. They blow out air but won’t suck it back in. Awesome to clean those little dust spots on lenses or mirrors. I have 2.
2. SD Cards  So simple, yet so necessary. You can’t get more practical than that.
3. Domke Protective Wrap makes it super easy to take your camera or lenses on the go and keep them protected.
4. When I travel I like to keep all my cords and electronic things together. This Travel Electronic Organizer  is perfect.
5. It’s important to stay hydrated and comfortable while out shooting. The Swell Water Bottle will help keep your water tasty.
6. Gorilla pod tripods are cool because they can support the weight of DSLRS but I’d still be a little careful with it depending on the lens. Super fun to get creative angles with this.

Fun gifts

7. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert is about you and your creativity. 5 stars. Highly recommended.
8. These Personalized Greeting Cards by Moo are such great quality. I mean the paper is so nice and thick plus they have lots of other great personalized gifts.
9. I love this JBL Speaker. I listen to it all the time while editing my images and blast it when I’m in the shower.
10. Another essential to keeping comfortable while taking pictures. These Rainboots are comfortable to walk in all day.
11. Fujifilm Instax Printer I have S-1 but the S-2 looks even cooler. I love being able to take pictures on my phone but print them out on this Polaroid film.

All photos available for print and licensing >

Independence day is right around the corner and I’ve been getting a lot of questions about where to shoot. So here it is, the best places to shoot the fireworks in Washington DC with views of the monuments:

Of course the National Mall is the top pick. This was taken on the Washington Monument lawn facing the Lincoln Memorial. The earlier you get there the better, but you don’t have to wait all day. I got there 3-4 hours before the fireworks started and there was still plenty of room for everyone. Count on the metro to be super crowded. And of course, the bathrooms are an extraaa long wait.

Fireworks on the National Mall

Fireworks on the National Mall

Here’s a quick little video to watch them in action:

Another good place to go is Roosevelt Island off of the GW Parkway. You get a killer view of the Lincoln and Washington Monument all lined up. You could pack a picnic and go early for this one but again, its not completely necessary. There are so many places along the trail that offer great views of the fireworks. However, the traffic on the parkway can get pretty nuts. Especially once the fireworks get going, many cars stop to watch. If anything, plan on walking to Rosslyn metro station to get home.

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A 10 minute walk from Roosevelt Island

Last but not least, Iwo Jima memorial in Arlington VA. This is the ONLY one where I recommend you get there as early as possible. Like pack a lunch and dinner because I’ve seen some people wait there starting morning time. The only area available to sit and watch is the little grassy area by the apartments so go early if you want a good line up of the Iwo Jima memorial with the DC monuments. Did I mention you should go early?

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Fireworks at the Iwo Jima Memorial


Skip to 3:50 to see what it’s actually like.

And if you need a few tips on how to photograph the fireworks, here’s a little video I made a couple of years ago on how to do it. This is the exact way I shot all these fireworks images in this guide.

Hope you enjoy and Happy Independence Day!

All photos available for print and licensing >

 

DC is so awesome! Why wouldn’t you want to visit the Nation’s Capital? Theres so much more to it than just the government. Fun museums, beautiful art, beautiful people and amazing eats. What more could you want?

So here’s a little guide on how you can get the most out of the city without feeling like you missed out on anything.

Day 1: National Mall

Do I really need to explain? This is why you come to DC! There are so many museums, monuments and history that this could really be your whole weekend. But in case you don’t have the time, these are the highlights:

Favorite Museum: It’s always a toss up between the Smithsonian Natural History Museum or National Gallery of Art. Go to either one of them and you won’t regret it. Then let me know which one you like better cuz I can’t decide!

Tip: Go to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum early and go to the live butterfly exhibit before it gets super crowded. So fun!

national gallery of art, washington dc, east building, west building, lights, smithsonian, art installation, multiverse, leo villareal

Tunnel connecting the East and West wing of the Gallery of Art

Best View: From the top of the Washington Monument. You gotta plan this one early, but if you’re lucky enough to get a ticket, this is the best seat in the house.

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View of the Lincoln Memorial, Reflecting Pool and WWII Memorial from the top of the Washington Monument

Day 2: Penn Quarter/Chinatown

This little neighborhood is one of my favorites in DC. It has a character all on its own.  While you’re there check out the top level of the National Portrait Gallery. Super modern, super interesting.

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Electronic Superhighway in the National Portrait Gallery

Favorite Eats: I’m a ramen fan! And Daikaya is one of the most popular places for these noodles in DC.  Theres usually a line but you can skip it and head to the second floor for  Izakaya. The food is just as good and you don’t have to wait as long.

Shopping: Such great shopping in Penn Quarter. You’ve got all the big name stores as well as some that are exclusive to DC. If you’re a photo enthusiast like myself, you GOTTA check out the Leica store. Sooo awesome (Homer Simpson drool).

Day 3: Capitol Hill/Georgetown

Eastern Market: The cutest little market right in Capitol Hill. There’s a lady that sells baked goods at her own stand. Sorry I don’t know her name but she is the only one who sells coconut cake. Serious yumms right there. And I don’t even like coconut. But there are so many stalls to get great food, meats, local art and flowers. Be warned, it can get crowded on the weekends.

Afternoon Tea in Georgetown: Capitol Hill and Georgetown are not that close to each other, so you may have to take a taxi for this one but going Georgetown is the perfect way to spend your afternoon. So why not have afternoon tea with some furry friends at DC’s first and only Cat Cafe: Crumbs and Whiskers. Just remember they are reservations only.

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Didn’t move an inch the whole time we were there. Treat bribes didn’t work either.

Last but not least, a leisurely stroll around Georgetown is the perfect backdrop to more shopping, more great eats and the cute views like this one.

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The C&O canal brings the right amount of history to this hip neighborhood

Dinner and drinks on the waterfront with a view of the Potomac River is a must. The best view is definietly at Sequoia but Farmers Fishers Bakers has some great farm to table food too.

*And if you really want to get down with DC, you gotta get down with go go music. YESSSS!!!!!

Enjoy your weekend in DC and let me know if you liked these suggestions or would like to see more 🙂 Follow some of my other DC guides:

Must See Sights
Inside DC
Tidal Basin
Lincoln Memorial

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I was fortunate enough to have spent 7 full days in Tokyo. To some it may seem like a lot, but each day was a new adventure to me. There’s so much to do in this city. It can be a little overwhelming to figure out what’s what, so I thought it’d be helpful to create a guide for those who have never been and highlight some of my favorite things to do in this huge city.

So here’s a guide to maximize your 3 days in Tokyo.

Day 1: Shinjuku

You could spend a whole day in just this ward. Tons of shopping, eating and sight seeing all in one place. This is the best place to just wonder without a map and enjoy the sights and sounds of this great neighborhood. Here are my favorites…

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
The best time to visit this garden is definietly cherry blossom season but it’s super hard to plan for. But even if it’s not spring, this garden is BEAUTIFUL all on it’s on. Everything is so well manicured and clean. It’s a great to grab a picnic basket, your best friend and spend a lovely afternoon in the garden.

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just a couple of girlfriends chit chatting

Food
Especially if you’re jet lagged, this Ichiran is the perfect ramen spot because its open 24 hours. You even sit in these little divided tables (think DMV type testing seats). Once you’ve been served, they’ll close the curtain in front of you so you have total privacy and can enjoy the full flavor of your noodle soup.

Din Tai Feng for some serious yums. A taiwanese restaurant transplanted in Tokyo known for their soup dumplings. Theres usually a wait, but its totally worth it. Located on one of the top floors of Takashimaya Times Square, which is cool all on it’s own. Each floor is dedicated to a certain department (women, men, homeware, kimonos, etc.) so work your way though times square and then have Din Tai Feng as a reward.

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For dinner or some evening entertainment, you gotta check out the Robot Restaurant.  It’s kind of hard to describe. Imagine a super trippy drug experience summarized in song, dance, color and lights.

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Day 2: Tokyo Skytree, Akihabara, Night Photography Tour

Located in Sumida, it’s a bit of a hike to make it to Tokyo Skytree but it brings an interesting perspective to Tokyo that makes it worth it. I’d try to go early as possible to avoid lines or evening time to see the city light up.

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Taken in the middle of the day, Tokyo skytree created a cool shadow over the city.

On your way back to the hotel, stop by the Akihabara ward. Known for all things electronic, anime and manga, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen. The heart of the city has tall buildings all covered by anime and manga posters. Pretty cool to see in a city. My favorite part was the electronic store, Yodabashi. For example, the first floor was everything cell phone related, the second floor was all computers, etc, etc, etc. If you’re like me, you’ll want to head to the fifth floor for the camera equipment. It’s like photo heaven.

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This is just the escalators to get in between the floors. Yea, it’s pretty awesome.

Our absolute favorite dessert in Tokyo were these mini cheese tarts from Pablo. They’re sooooo good and the ones from Akihabara were baked fresh on the premises so they’re warm when we ate them. They came in three different flavors and in order of my favorite to least is cheese, green tea, chocolate.  I can’t emphasize enough how good they were. I wish I had one now.

Pablo, mini cheese tart, dessert, food, japan, tokyo, pablo,

And if you’re not too tired, check out EYExplore Tokyo photo tours. I highly, highly recommend the veritgo tour but they also offer some cool night time tours in Shinjuku and Shibuya. This is a totally unique experience and its super fun to bring home images you’d be proud of at the end of your whole Tokyo experience.

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One of the cool views you could see on the Vertigo Tour Photo Tour from EYExplore Tokyo

Day 3: Harajuku and Shibuya

Before leaving on the trip, I knew I wanted to go to Harajuku. I heard so much about the girls, fashion and street style that it seemed like a super hip place. It definietly did not disappoint. A great place to go to pick up some unique gifts for friends and family but also people watch.

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It can get pretty crowded, so be prepared for that.

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Last but not least, Shibuya is a place that should not be missed. Home to the busiest crosswalk ever, it’s a sight to see! You’ll be amazed. This short video clip was taken at 11p at night. Can you imagine what it’s like during rush hour? My head still can’t wrap around how many people there are in this tiny space.


Video taken from the the walkway between the Keio Station (Inokashira Line).

But Shibuya has plenty of restaurants and stores to walk around and see. Our favorite place to eat was Joto Curry. It was so good we ate there twice. My favorite part was watching the food being prepared. My mouth is watering just thinking about it again.

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So there it is! 3 days in Tokyo! My favorite things to do and eat. Hope you enjoyed. If you feel like I missed something, please let me know in the comments. Or if you’ve been to any of these places, let me know too so we can reminisce on how fun everything is 🙂

Safe travels!!

* All food images taken with my iphone 6.

Winter has finally broke and spring is here! Such an exciting time to be in the DC area. Everyone comes out of hibernation and are out and about exploring the city. I thought it would be fun to compile some of my favorite things to do around the city for locals and tourists alike!

My Favorite Washington DC Must See Sights:

Seriously one of my all time favorite interiors ANYWHERE in the world.

library of congress, loc, washington dc, columns, stairs, architecture, interior,

The Library of Congress’ interior will seriously “WOW” you! and conveniently located behind the US Capitol. Try the secret tunnel system underground. It’s fun!

And of course you gotta check out some of our free museums.

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My favorite Smithsonian museum, National Museum of Natural History. I love the underwater and rocks and mineral exhibits.

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But it’s the National Museum of American Indian that has the best food. Trust me.

But if I had to choose a favorite monument:

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It would have to be the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. It’s a little off the path but not as busy as the other monuments. Located right on the tidal basin, it’s so easy to spend a whole afternoon checking out the different monuments and if you’re up for it, rent a paddle boat, yea?

*For more about the tidal basin, click here.

Interested in a day trip outside of the Nation’s capital?

helicopters, air and space museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly, Virginia, hdr, angela b. pan, abpan

Favorite off mall museum: STEVEN F. UDVAR-HAZY CENTER Air and Space Museum. It’s totally awesome.

Hope you enjoyed this list. If you think I left anything out, let me know in the comments below.

And in case you missed the any of my other guides:

 

Happy Exploring!

All photos available for print and licensing >

One of my favorite places to go to when I want to spend a day outside. It’s crazy to think that this amazing place is only 15 miles away from Washington DC, yet there are so many people who still have not visited.

When I think about Great Falls Park, I always think about high school. That was when I was first getting into photography and my mom would take me to practice my compositions. I also remember having to write a school paper about the park with my friend Anna. We walked the trails and researched the heck out of the history but only got a “B” on that paper. It’s ok though because I also remember gossiping and laughing our way through the whole project. It was kind of a miracle that we even got it together enough to write the paper.

As an adult, Andrew and I have taken our nephews to the park to play soccer or we’d walk the trails with Frankie. When we first started dating, we walked the whole entire Billy Goat trail while getting to know each other. Another time my cousin, Lynn came to visit from North Carolina and she got her first signs of pregnancy in the park 🙂 And I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve been here and witnessed the most amazing sunrises and sunsets.

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The amazing beauty of the Potomac River on a cold winter morning

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Close up view

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We’re not the only ones who love the park. Its not uncommon to see these beautiful blue herons fishing for dinner.

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The park is so big that it is in both Maryland and Virginia. This is a small part of the Maryland side.

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Although Virginia is still my favorite side

Hope you enjoyed that stroll down memory lane. I didn’t realize how much Great Falls park meant to me until I had sat down and looked through all these images. I hope that you enjoyed it as much as I did <3

 

In case you missed the any of my other DC guides: