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In an effort to push me out of my comfort zone and try something new, I did something that I never thought I would ever do. I left my house around 8:45 pm and drove all the way to the Shenandoah Mountains ALL BY MYSELF AT NIGHT! 

I’m not sure what got me to do this but I was just craving a new challenge and just a different type of photography than I’m used to. I say that I thought I’d never do it because I never thought I’d have the courage to go into the mountains all by myself AT NIGHT. I don’t know about you, but I get freaked out about all these animal noises I’ve never heard before. But luckily, I pulled myself through it and I am so excited to go back again for another round!

I captured these at the Jeremy’s Run Overlook (I THINK), just a few overlooks away from the Thorton Gap Entrance into Shenandoah Park. Since I got there at night, it was pretty difficult to find out a foreground element. My first idea was to try to get myself in the image. But figured it would need more light, so I had to coordinate my interior car lights with my cellphone acting like I was taking a picture of the milky way with my phone. It was a fun experiment but moved on to the most obvious foreground in front of me, this crazy branchy tree.

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I am very happy with the way both of these turned out. I think in all my years of photography, I’ve only tried to capture the milky way a hand full of times. I was not so confident with my focus, but in the end, I think it turned out pretty good. *pats on the back

My camera setting for the self-portrait is F2.8 at 3.2 seconds at ISO 3200 with my Sony A7II and 35mm lens. My camera settings for the tree image are F1.8 at 13 seconds at ISO 3200 with my Sony A7II and 35mm lens.

Also, some exciting camera equipment upgrades coming soon 🙂

 

I typically read non-fiction or biographies. Books that make me feel good and inspired. Authors like Eckhart Tolle, Michael A Singer, and Brene Brown fill my bookshelf and are books that I read over and over again.

I also enjoy listening to Audible books when I’m driving or just casually walking around creating pictures. In particular, biographies where the author reads the book themselves. In that way, I feel a lot more connected to the person and comprehend them better when I can hear the inflections in their voice.

There was a point where I tried to read more books on art. But for some reason, those never really stuck with me. They weren’t about photography, but art in general. I’ve even read a book about creativity from a dance choreographer. I just didn’t connect as much with those books.

So earlier this year in March, when the Coronavirus quarantine came in place to those of us in Northern Virginia, I found way more time on my hands. I decided that I would take that time to improve my photography skills. I bought a CreativeLive membership that gave me access to such great content. Just like with Audible books, I really enjoyed listening to photographers speak about their images. I’m currently in the middle of a 24 hr Lightroom class. It so detailed and I’m learning so much every time I sit down to watch these videos.

But sometimes, I just don’t feel like being in front of a screen. I spend most of my days sitting at the desk and sometimes all I want to do is have a good book to cuddle up to and just enjoy. So, I started looking into art books again with a focus on photography.

Up until last week, I didn’t even realize how many books I’ve ordered and consumed during this quarantine. It’s so funny because I have so many more on my Amazon Wish List where I use it as a place to bookmark the books I want to get in the future. For some reason, I can’t handle having books wait for me on my bookshelf.

So in case you’re like me with a passion for photography and want to learn more about it, here are the books I’ve read in the last few months about making pictures.

The Soul of the Camera: The Photographer’s Place in Picture-Making
by David duChemin

Link on Amazon

I started out on my photography book search by googling some book recommendations and somehow I stumbled onto the fact that David duChemin was having a sale on his books. I had heard of him before and knew he was a great author. I believe out of all his books I saw on Amazon, this was the one that interested me the most. I had never imagined a camera having a soul. I’ve thought about photographs having souls, the photographer obviously has a soul, but not the camera. So I picked it up.

This is a hardback book that has more images than text and a majority of the images are portraits. I’m not usually a portrait photographer but I’ve become more and more interested in incorporating people into my images. So I thought it was interesting how he has presented his ideas. I have not studied portraiture as much so I think some of the ideas he has can apply to all genres of photography considering I have heard some of them before. Others were brand new to me.

I copied down some of the more striking quotes to me. Here are a few of my favorites:

“Perfection is counter human”

“Maybe that’s why we chase perfection. Maybe we do it because it’s so much easier to define.”

“Knowledge of the subject leads to make openness, more recognition and this makes more opportunities for strong photographs.”

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If you know me, I love a good road trip. Especially the ones that make you feel like you’ve hopped on an airplane and you’re miles away from home but in actuality, you just jumped into your car. So if you’re like me, I created a list of my favorite summer destination that are 3 hours or less from Washington DC with a variety of adventures waiting for you. So if you like being in the outdoors, this list is for you:

Great Falls Park:

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Great Falls Park from the Virginia side

I’ve mentioned this place a hundred times on my blog so it’s definitely a favorite. Less than 20 miles outside of Washington DC, find some peace in Great Falls Park. From the roaring falls, to plenty of space to roam or have a picnic, Great Falls is kind of an unexpected gem outside a major US city. The great part about Great Falls is that there’s a Virginia and Maryland side. You can see actually see the Maryland side while in Virginia and vice versa but they are very different.

Virginia has a better view of the falls and in my personal opinion, the park just feels a little bit more open with wider fields and more viewing spots of the falls. It’s a great place to have a picnic or go on a hike with friends.

Maryland allows you to be closer to the rocks but I personally enjoy the views on the hike on the Maryland side much more.

Don’t be surprised if you see kayakers navigating the rough waters or blue herons fishing for the dinner on either side of the park.

Alexandria, Virginia

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Old Town Alexandria at sunrise

Specifically, Old Town Alexandria. Old Town Alexandria is just 8 miles away from Washington where you can enjoy a day by the Potomac River. Surrounded by cute shops and even better restaurants, it’s shouldn’t be a surprise if you find yourself smiling while walking around the neighborhood. If you of age, The BRÜT Wine Bar is a personal favorite if you like bubbly adult drinks. Waterfront Park is a fantastic place for kids to run around and to experience free outdoor art. I can’t express how much I enjoy this cute little town every time I visit.

But Alexandria is also a great central point for many other excursions. Hop on a scenic water taxi that will take you the National Harbor in Maryland or to DC destinations such as the Wharf, Georgetown, the National Mall, and Nats Stadium. It is also along the Mount Vernon trail that gives you access to Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve and Huntly Meadows Park, both wetland areas with boardwalks that make it fun for birdwatchers and photographers to enjoy the views.

Shenandoah National Park

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Shenandoah National Park along Skyline Drive on a foggy early morning

Shenandoah National Park is beautiful summer, fall, spring, winter, whenever! Just 70 miles outside of the District, it’s the best place to get a great hike in. My personal favorite is Old Rag Mountain Trail and Hawksbill Mountain Trail. Both give you an unbelievable view of the mountains and surrounding areas. Just know that both of these hikes are steep but Hawksbill Mountain Trail is significantly shorter, so plan accordingly with the time you have in the mountains.

If hiking isn’t your thing, I highly suggest finding a rental company where they’ll take you down to the river. You can rent canoes, rafts or tubes to float your way down the river. It’s so relaxing.

But if you just want an easy way to enjoy the views, Skyline Drive has stunning views from multiple overlooks along the way.

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Hi,

Sorry, long time no blog. I realize that my last two blog posts were about the Black Lives Matters protests in Washington DC. It is such a large subject to document and I really wanted to frame the posts in a way that wasn’t political but my experience at each of the protests I had gone to. But after a while, I was not sure how to transition away from that. I had gone to more protests and wanted to share the images, but I did not know how to present the images in a different way. One thing led to another and I sort of felt like I was in a creative rut. So I just didn’t write any blog posts and barely went out to create more pictures to share.

BUT I’M BACK BABY! After spending some time for myself and reflecting on the type of work I want to create, I found myself getting more excited about capturing images and sharing them.

But to automatically switch gears from the protests posts to my favorite road trips from Washington DC, seemed a bit of a weird transition. Don’t get me wrong, I have my favorite road trips blog post about 70% done already and that will probably be the next post after this one, but I figured this blog post can give a little update of what has happened since last time I blogged…

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A lot has happened since my last blog post on protests in Washington DC. I have attended more protests and was able to capture a ton more images. As news about Black Lives Matter and protests continued every day, I tried my best to try to find unique locations and views of what was going on in the nation’s capital.

So after spending two days at the White House, I wanted to go somewhere different. I knew the BLM protests were happening all over the city, I just had to find them. So on Wednesday, June 3rd, I started a bit earlier in the day and went straight to the Lincoln Memorial. I saw some images of the National Guard all along the steps so I wanted to see it for myself.

But I may have been a little too early because there weren’t as many people as I thought there would be at the Lincoln Memorial so I headed to the US Capitol. The thing about these protests is that I don’t really know where they will pop up. I just sort of show up and hoped there will be people there.

So my luck at the US Capitol was about the same at the Lincoln Memorial. I overheard that I was about 30 minutes too late and most of the protestors that were there, had already left.

I made a loop around the US Capitol grounds and I was about to call it quits. I figured I’ve already captured some pretty good images that past few days, I knew I would be back for more so I didn’t want to push my luck. But there was just one more place that I wanted to check before leaving the city. I wanted to check out the Trump Hotel since it was on my way home and I figured that could be a good place for some action. On my way there, I noticed a bunch of police vehicles blocking off the road. I thought it was unusual but weaved in and out of the streets to try to get as close as I could to the hotel without being stopped. Once I got out of the car, I realized I was right in the middle of a walking protest! The police cars were there to make a safe path for the pedestrians. It was amazing to stumble upon them.

This group of protestors had just left the Trump hotel and was making there way back to the US Capitol so I had to follow them.

While walking to the US Capitol I couldn’t help but notice people helping people. People were handing out cold Gatorade and water, offering snacks and masks, and even medical aid.

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Monday, June 1st morning was the first day I went out to the White House in months. I don’t usually spend too much time photographing the iconic residence because honestly, it’s just not in the best location for sunrise/sunsets. That’s it.

But after a weekend of Black Lives Matters protests, riots, and looting, I had to go. I knew the city was going to look very different than it did just a week ago. So I woke up early in the morning to see if I could capture some of the rioting aftermath.

(L) Cash register found on the sidewalk (R) Broken glass storefront

It didn’t take long to find damage. I knew the White House was the epicenter of the weekend so I had planned to drive around until I found something. Turns out, I could have parked my car anywhere around there and see the destruction.

Windows smashed in from riots along Vermont Ave NW

I noticed a lot of people cleaning up the shattered glass of business storefronts and graffiti on walls while other people were making sure it doesn’t happen again by putting up boards over windows.

The morning after a lot of rioting and looting.

(L) DC Fire & EMS putting out fires from the night before (R) Graffiti seen on the street.

But going in the morning was not enough. I didn’t want to just create images of the wrecking, I wanted to photograph the protest. I wanted to photograph the people, emotions, and voices of the protest. Later in the afternoon, I found myself driving back into the city. 

For the most part, it was peaceful. People chanting “George Floyd,” “I can’t breathe,” and “No Justice, No Peace“. Most seemed determined to have their voices heard, others were there supporting them.

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