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Before settling into San Diego, we spent the last few days of 2018 in Joshua Tree National Park. I was so excited because I’ve never been but have always heard how amazing it is. It totally lived up to expectations. It is beautiful.

The if-y part about it was the government shut down. We arrived just days after it started and wasn’t sure what it would be like in the park. Since it was our first time, I don’t know if it was quieter than usual but it was definietly like we had the park all to ourselves. With a couple of random people who would drive by, it was great to explore without having to worry about being in anyone else’s way. But on second thought, it could have been the temperatures that deviated people from visiting. It was cold! and so windy.

I captured this image on the very first day of 2019. It was a sunrise hike to welcome in the new year and the last thing we did before leaving Joshua Tree. If you’re traveling with kids, Joshua Tree is a great place for them to explore. These huge boulder rocks are along several very easy trails and if they’re anything like, Axl, he loved climbing on all of them. The only hard part was getting him up before sunrise. LOL.

I was standing on some rocks when I heard from a distance, “Tita Angela, you are so far away!” I turned around and saw his little head peeking through the rocks and thought it was the cutest little scene. I’m so glad he enjoyed the national park and look forward to hiking with him in different places as he grows up.

My camera settings for this image is F6.3 at 1/100th sec and ISO 800 with my Sony A7II and 70-200mm zoom.

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If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for cute, cuddly things. So obviously, I had to spend some time at La Jolla Cove while I was out in San Diego. This image was captured early morning while I was out shooting sunrise with Andrew and Frankie. As soon as I saw the seals, I squealed and yelled out that I had to get closer. Andrew, who is always looking out for me, told me that I can’t get too close but I didn’t listen. I pretty much hopped the wall and walked over to seals as fast as I could. Obviously I didn’t want to disturb them so I threw on my 70-200mm lens and got as close as I could without them noticing.

I love that little guy in the middle. Doesn’t it look like he’s smiling? It’s like a dog pile that I wish I were a part of. There were other seals all along the rocks but this group really made me happy. You know what though, one of my friends told me that there are times when there aren’t any seals here? Is that true? I’m grateful that I’ve never witnessed that. I always look forward to the seals whenever I’m in the area.

One last thing, this Thursday I’ll be a part of a travel writing panel at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland. If you’re free, I’d love for you to attend. I’ll be there with my friends, Katie Bianco, author of 100 Things to do in Washington, DC Before you Die and Jennifer Barger who has worked with National Geographic, Traveler, etc as we discuss our experiences about writing and photographing the District. I will be talking about Snap DC.

Click here for the details.

My camera settings for the seal image is F7.1 at 1/200th sec and ISO 1000 with my Sony A7II and 70-200mm.

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Just a mile away from where we stayed in Mission Beach was Belmont Park. It was fun because everytime we drove home, it was the landmark where we knew we were almost there. And traveling with a toddler, he definietly made sure we all saw it each time we drove past. For the two weeks that we were there, we always said that we would go, but never ended up making it. Oh well, there will definietly be a next time!

One of those days that we were driving home, I was thinking about interesting places I could fly my drone. I don’t think you understand, I really became drone obsessed while I was away. So as we drove past the park, it struck me that flying over Belmont Park would probably be interesting. I envisioned a really cool lines from the rollercoaster and had no idea what else they had in the park. I just knew there was a lot and that it was big. I also knew that I wanted to do it early morning so that there would be no visitors or anything in the park just in case. So the very next morning, I woke up, hopped on a Bird Scooter and scooted my way down to the park. I went across the street to Mission Bay so I had plenty of room to take off and land but still close enough to fly.

It just so happened to be one of the only foggy mornings that we were there. I was able to capture some cool images but it really wasn’t what I was looking for. I figured I could go back on another day when the sky was a bit better so I hopped back on the scooter to go across the street to check out what it looked like on the beach. As soon as I got to the beach, the skies cleared up and I was able to capture what I had envisioned.

I love the perspective and all the cool colors and shapes. Now this really makes me wish we were able to check the park out. I love rollercoasters and fast rides.

My camera settings for this image is F2.2 at 1/100th sec and ISO 102 with my DJI Mavic Pro.

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While in California, I headed to some of my favorite spots to take pictures. It’s crazy what a difference a year can make. For example, this image was taken at the same exact spot but a year before.

There are a few key differences that have made this year’s image better than the last, in my opinion.
1. Last year’s image was taken around sunset which was at that time was low tide. There wasn’t as much water to fill the frame and I needed to have that bird walk by to have something of interest in the frame. The water itself is far less dramatic and I don’t know… it’s just not what I was looking for this year.

This year’s image was taken at sunrise during high tide and there was far more water to “play” with.

2. Last year I remember wanting to squat down a lot in order to capture the reflection in this image. Low tide is the best time to capture reflections in the sand but that could have been better too. I don’t think I used a tripod for that image.

3. The lens choice! I know I got my 70-200mm later on in 2018 but wow, the compression on this years image is so much more interesting to look at. I love seeing the water swirl between the pier’s legs. But that my eye immediately goes to the far back with that one wave. Love the color tones in that one. I captured this with my tripod and we both got our legs soaked. My legs and the tripods but it was so worth it.

So what do you think? Which image do you like better? They both tell different stories, but I enjoy this year’s a lot more.

My camera settings for this year’s image is F20 at 0.6 sec ISO 200 with my Sony A7II and 70-200mm on a tripod.

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Home from California and it honestly feels a little different being back.

Why? Because I was so used to the beautiful California weather and as soon as I stepped off the plane, all I saw was snow. So sad to have missed the first real snow we got in the Washington DC area but not sad because I had a blast on our trip.

Even though a majority of our time was spent in San Diego and we had a trip similar to this around the same time last year, it was still like our first time there. It was a different experience because this time we went with our cousins and we stayed directly on the beach. Living that beach life was so great. Sometimes instead of driving the rental car, we would just take scooters to get around. We took Frankie on walks on the beach which he loved because he had so much open space to run around and overall just looking outside the windows of our airbnb at sunset was a view that stopped you in your tracks. I loved it.

It also allowed me to spend more time practicing and capturing the city from above with my drone. By the end of the trip, I tended to reach for my drone more times than my actual camera. I love just standing on the beach and seeing different points of view with just a slight movement of my finger. It made taking pictures a little more relaxing.

This image was taken just a few steps away from our airbnb in Mission Beach one morning just after sunrise. It was cool because our view was of the ocean but right behind us was Mission Bay. It was so nice to be surrounded by water.

My camera settings for this image is F2.2 at 1/280th sec at ISO 100 with my DJI Mavic Pro

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Taken around this time last year, I remember exactly when I captured it. This was taken after the first day we had come back from San Diego. While we were gone, the Washington DC area had gone through this insane cold snap. I remember getting texts from my friends all saying that they were going to come to San Diego because it was like 15 degrees below freezing or something crazy like that. While we were in San Diego, it was colder than usual but nothing like it was on the east coast. It was so cold that the Reflecting Pool had frozen over. It was so frozen that I saw people walking across it! I must admit I was a little jealous of the opportunity but was even more grateful to be in southern California. So feeling the fomo, I went down to the reflecting pool as soon as I could. I was glad to see that it was still frozen over because it made for a cool photo opportunity but the cracks in the ice did not give me the confidence to actually walk on it.

In order to capture this image, my camera was practically on the ice so I could get as much of it in the frame as possible. I remember really wanting to concentrate on those little ice chunks on top of the ice. It was so interesting to me.

So I thought this was a pretty cool throwback considering it was such a memorable event at our return from San Diego. As you’re reading this now, we have safely landed back home from another amazing trip to SoCal. Can’t wait to share more about it soon 🙂

My camera settings for this image is F9 at 1.3 sec and ISO 250 with my Sony A7II and 16-35mm wide angle lens handheld.