The original intent of Snap DC: Your Guide to Taking Extraordinary Photos of the National Mall and Beyond was to help fellow photographers capture amazing images around the National Mall. I wanted to take all the knowledge that I have and put it all in one place to help anyone who wanted to photograph my favorite city. The first thing I did was mind map all of my favorite locations and quickly realized that I had a dilemma. All of my favorite places to shoot in Washington DC were not just in the National Mall. They were located in and around the city, including this place, Great Falls National Park which is technically located in Maryland and Virginia.
I had to decide if I wanted to narrow the focus to just the National Mall or keep it real and include all the other places. So I kept it real. I love Great Falls. Its such a great getaway from the busyness of the city. Who would have imagined that this magical waterfall is just 20 miles outside of the city. This was taken from the Virginia side and if you go to the Maryland side, it’s a totally different ballpark.
So if you were interested in learning more about Great Falls National Park, The National Mall or all of my other favorite places in the DC area to shoot, then check out Snap DC! It is finally going to be released THIS SUNDAY May 20th on Amazon as a paperback and kindle version. Also don’t forget that we’re photowalk-ing it out on Saturday, May 19th with IGDC to celebrate the launch of the guide book. This weekend is going to be so awesome. I can’t waittttt!
The other day I was out by the Navy-Merchant Marine Memorial shooting the red tulips. They are so beautiful when they’re fully bloomed. Can you imagine just red on red flowers all lined up at sunrise? It’s like a dreammmm.
Typically when the sun has come up for a while, I’ll head back to my car. But on this day I was not ready. I didn’t want to go back. It was such a beautiful Sunday morning that I felt the need to go on a walk. So walking along the trail next to the George Washington Parkway, I found myself capturing the willow trees with the Washington Monument. I loved how linear everything was. I probably stopped at like 5 willow trees to use the branches as framing pieces. But then there was this one tree where the sun light was hitting it just right.
Wow, check out those leaves on top of the image. If that ain’t an image all on it’s own then I don’t know what is. But then mister bike guy came rolling past and made it even more perfect. I had no idea he was coming and once I saw him in my camera frame, I just kept on clicking, clicking, clicking.
LOL I waited a bit longer to see if I could recreate this moment with another biker. But I waited a good 10 minutes and no one showed up. I lady ran past but it just wasn’t the same. I don’t know what I was looking for with the other biker. I guess I just wanted options. Either way, it was the perfect Sunday morning walk.
My camera settings for this image is F/18 at 1/100th of a second at ISO 400 with my Sony A7Ii and 16-35mm wide angle lens.
One of my favorite places to go to shoot in Northern Virginia is Meadowlark Botanical Gardens. I actually learned about it through Andrew. The first time we went here was on one our first dates. I still remember thinking it was weird that he took me here because he gets bad allergies in the spring time but he knew it was a place that I’d enjoy so I really appreciated that about him. Some of my favorite cherry blossom images that I’ve ever taken were taken from here. For example this one and this one. I just love the variety of flowers that you can see here.
So when I got the opportunity to pick a workshop location for a recent one-on-one teach that I did, Meadowlark was the first place that popped in my head. It is beautiful but still quiet enough where we’d be able to walk and talk about cameras and settings without disturbing many other people. The National Mall is a good place too, but it can get pretty crowded and parking isn’t always the best situation. So a great alternative is Meadowlark.
This image was taken from across the lake facing the Korean Bell Garden. I love how the branches create a cool frame around the pagoda. If I didn’t know any better than I would have assumed this was taken somewhere in Asia.
Just in case you’re in the area, the gates will open at 6a on Saturday May, 19th when they typically open at 10a. I bet this would look really nice in the early morning light. And if you’re interested in my workshops, click here for more information. They’re one-on-one so I can cater the information based on whatever you’d like to learn. Plus you don’t have to live in the DC metro area, we could go over everything through google hangouts or skype 🙂
My camera settings for this image is F5.6 at 1/1250th of a second at ISO 200 with my Sony A7II and 28-70mm handheld.
Within the first couple pages of the book you’ll see that I’ve dedicated the book to my grandma, Nai Nai. She passed away earlier this year but I know she would have been super proud of me for creating this book. I know I haven’t talked about it much but we found out she wasn’t doing well around Thanksgiving 2017. I spent a lot of days with her in the hospital and I would always bring my computer with me. I would work on Snap DC while she was resting. Remember that story I shared earlier this year about my love for flowers and my grandma saying “pretty”? We were in the hospital at that time looking through pages of the book. At that time they were just google drive pages on my phone but she is one of the first people to ever see it.
This image is not a part of the book. However it’s the image that I was working on when I found out the news of her passing. I find it symbolic to have been working on an image with the fog passing through the bridge as if it is her spirt was passing to her next life. This is exactly how I left it when I found out the news.
So Snap DC is dedicated to Nai Nai. I wish she could have seen the final product.
I deleted Instagram off my phone on Tuesday night.
It may not seem like a big deal to some, but for me it was. I’m going to be open and honest here because I just got done talking about this with my friend, Alejandra and I felt inspired to share the story…
I woke up Tuesday morning at 6a. Not an unusual time for me to wake up if I’m not shooting the sunrise. Usually I’d wake up around 4:30-5 if I were. So 6am is kinda like I’m sleeping in. Just like everyone else, one of the first things I do when I’m fully awake is go on my phone and check out what’s been going on social media. One of the first things I see is that there was this amazingly beautiful sunrise, pinks, purples, the whole 9 that morning. I took a look out my bedroom window (which is facing west) and noticed that the sky was so pink. From my experience I know that if the sky facing west is pink then it had to be an amazing sunrise. I immediately felt upset. I missed out on an opportunity to capture one of my favorite things in the whole world, a colorful sky.
So that’s how I started off my day. I spent the rest of the morning thinking about where I would have gone if I went out to take pictures, what my composition what have been like, etc etc etc. Basically just beating myself up about missing the sunrise. But I felt like there had to be underlying reason why I was upset. I was upset because I knew that my most popular images on Instagram are the ones with skies just like the one I had slept through. They are the ones with the most beautiful sunrises with a memorial or something iconic in the foreground and I had missed out. This winter has been so grey and foggy that I couldn’t believe I stayed in bed for this one! I was missing out on the likes. I was missing out on new followers. I was missing out on other people’s confirmations that they like me as an artist and in turn them liking me as a person.
How freaking crazy is that?
So obviously one thought lead to another and I ended up having a really hard mental day. Everything was getting on my nervous. I started getting really antsy and impatient about some projects that I’m working on and why it’s not all complete. Even though nothing had really changed as far as the progression, I just expect things to come sooner, better, and I could not get over it.
I realized at the end of the day I was putting so much pressure on myself to be perfect, to create the type of images I was expected to, and to get as many ‘likes’ as I possibly could. What’s crazy is that I even have this magical number in my head that if I don’t hit it within the first hour of my posting, then it’s not a good image. I just couldn’t deal with it anymore and decided to delete instagram from my phone and take a little “instabreak”. I don’t know how long it’s going to last but I already feel like some pressure has been taken off.
As an artist, I shouldn’t be so concerned with what other people think of my work. I should be concerned if I like the work. I should worry about if the image I created is a true representation of who I am as an artist and if it conveys the thoughts or emotions that I want said.
I don’t know. Those are just my quick thoughts about being an artist on social media now. Please let me know if I’m not the only crazy and if you feel the same way as well. I’ll be back on instagram eventually. Probably within the next week because I still love it for artistic inspiration and I’ve made some amazing friends from the app. I just need to take a little bit of time for myself. I’ll still be out there taking pics even if I’m not posting on instagram… I’ll be posting them on twitter now instead. LOL. FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER!!! I took this one this morning at the Iwo Jima Memorial 🙂 JK I love taking pictures and sharing them with everyone. I just felt like I was putting too much pressure on myself and don’t feel the same pressure from facebook, twitter, etc…
Other thoughts that passed through my head yesterday were not being my true self on the internet vs. real life and the need for everything to be perfect in my images before posting them. If you’re interested, let me know and I can write another long ass blog post about those topics and hopefully start a discussion.
Going through some of my older images, I found this one. Man it’s been a long time since I’ve been to the United States Air Force Memorial. I think the last time I was there was almost 2 years ago when my friend, Navin and I were out capturing some lightning images. In my opinion it’s one of the harder monuments in the Washington DC area to photograph. I think I find it is so hard to capture because there isn’t a lot of space surrounding it. It’s hard to maneuver your camera and tripod around in order to get the entire monument in one frame. The only way to capture was to I walk outside of the memorial grounds and stand on the sidewalk at Columbia Pike to get it all in one image. Obviously you can photograph it while in the grounds but it’s very difficult without cutting anything off.
My favorite part of the image is the light that’s hitting the bare trees. I think it looks really cool and interesting, especially the one on the right. I think it looks like it is made out of metal or something, right? Don’t get me wrong though. I still think that the United States Air Force Memorial is one of the coolest places to go to photograph a big sky. I love the hill the sits right outside of it. It’s a great place to sit with your camera and see interesting views of the Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument and the US Capitol. The best time of day to shoot this memorial is probably sunset.
My camera settings for this image is F5.0 at 2.5 seconds and ISO 500 with my Canon 5D Mark II and 24-105mm. LOL that’s how you know this is an older image. I shot it with my Canon. Ahhh memories.