In November 2020, I was out trying to photograph the full moon and unfortunately, clouds had a different idea. The moon was completely covered and I was just standing in the cold with my camera and 70-200mm on a tripod. I could have gone the next night when the sky would have been clear but I just was feeling so discouraged that I didn’t want to. This had been my 3rd month in a row where I wasn’t able to capture the moon. So I wanted to do something that would keep me motivated to go out and shoot.
Right then and there I came up with an idea that I should rent the biggest lens I can find. LOL.
So after discussing this idea with a few friends, I finally decided that I’d rent a 200-600mm lens. This would bring a whole new view to the city that I couldn’t even imagine. I rented it from lensrentals.com and I could not have been more excited that it actually came 3 days earlier than I had expected. So I had 10 days with the lens and I was pumped!
Images my friend, Albert captured me with the 200-600mm
My first real test came on an afternoon at the Washington Monument. It is actually the same exact place where I came up with the idea to rent the lens so it’s funny that this was the first place that I want to go to test it out.
I was blown away!
600mm ISO 250 F6.3 1/2500 on a tripod
324mm ISO 250 F6.3 1/2500 on a tripod
The compression on the lens is CRAZY. These people were at least 20 feet away from me. The US Capitol is about a mile away from the Washington Monument. But if you asked me, it seriously looks like you could just reach out and touch the people.
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:
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.
Old Town Alexandria at sunrise
Specifically, Old Town Alexandria. Old Town Alexandria is just 8 miles awayfrom 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
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 Trailand 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.
From the feedback that I got yesterday about being a photographer and writer I can see that I’m not the only one who feels like it’s difficult to express themselves verbally. After all, photographs are a visual representation of a 1000 words right? What more do we need to say?
I’ve started to read the book, Henri Cartier-Bresson Interviews and Conversations 1951-1998. From its title you may guess that Mr Cartier-Bresson did not consider himself a writer. In fact he’s published several books, most of which he did not write the words in and I found that to be very interesting. I’m not done with this book, but when I am, I’ll for sure write a book review like I do with many other books that I read.
But Henri is such a influential photographer that I would think many people would love to hear his exact thoughts about photography, art and his life in general. Maybe he was like me and did not know how to do it. But as I’ve taken the commitment to be more thoughtful and concise with my writing, the more I’ve learned from it as well. I’ve learned that there is more to the story than just a pretty photograph. There is so much preparation that is involved (whether you realize it or not), timeliness and even whether or not you executed your planned intention. The ability to verbalize this and to make sure to clearly send the right message makes you really think about the words you use and how to use them. I could re-write the same sentence like 10 times and it still not come out right.
Regardless, in the past two years I’ve have come to realize how important words are. I still would not consider myself the best writer in the world but I definietly try my best. Reading/listening to books has really helped me come up with my own writing style and learned just how free I can be in this new form of communication.
As seen in my recently published book, Snap DC. LOL
This image was taken about 20 minutes before the previous image. I figured that if I’m writing about the same thing, having similar images would be ok. But can we please get rid of that Lincoln Memorial scaffolding? 🤦🏻♀️🤦🏻♀️🤦🏻♀️
Some of you may not know but I’ve been writing this blog since March 2010. It was then that I commited to posting a new image every monday-friday and I have not broke that commitment once. To be fair, sometimes the blog posts will go up a little bit later than others but they are always there!
However when I made that commitment, I never said anything about writing. I have never considered myself to be a person who can easily express their feelings or view point. I feel like I know what I mean in my head but when it comes to verbalizing it, it can be difficult. You know what I mean?
So if you read my blog in the early days, you would have seen my image and then one or two sentences max. I remember it was such a hassle and torture to even do that. But it was in January of 2017 where I commited to be more than just a photographer. I wanted to be more thoughtful and practice the art of writing. Thanks to my friend, Mel for the encouragement! So I stepped up my game and have been consistently taking pictures and writing about them more thoughtfully for almost 2 years. I will say it was a struggle at first but the more I do it, the easier it gets. I even find myself looking forward to writing sometimes. I think it’s the sense of accomplishment that I feel after writing something I’m proud of. Don’t get me wrong though, some days are easier than others. For example, I wrote a book talk/speech for a photo club I presented at last week. It took me about 1 hour to write a speech that I loved so much. The icing on the cake was that people came up to me to tell me how inspired they were by it. I was on cloud 9 for the rest of the week!
I have a lot more to say on this topic so to be continued for tomorrow…. LOL