Arlington

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Happy 4th of July! This was the first year I watched the show from Netherlands Carillon in Arlington, VA, rented a lens for the event, and the weather conditions worked perfectly in our favor. I don’t think I could have asked for a better way to celebrate Independence Day.

The fireworks prep started a few weeks prior to the 4th. I wanted to do something special this year since I missed out on photographing the fireworks last year. So I decided that I would rent the 200-600mm lens again from lensrentals.com.  I like renting from them because they are a small business and I’ve had nothing but good experiences with them. They have a selection of gear and prices that are comparable to other gear rental companies I’ve seen so why not.

iPhone 11 plus PAN-orama of Netherlands Carillon waiting for fireworks

I set the delivery date for July 2nd, figuring I could spend the weekend with the lens and then return it after the holiday. I should have thought about the fact that it was a holiday and shipping things may be delayed. I kept on checking my tracking and the final update said that it wasn’t going to be delivered until July 5th. I was really bummed out and sent an email to lensrentals.com and they were super accommodating with options that would work for both of us.

But that still left me wanting a lens for the 4th. Then I remembered my friend, Larry owns the lens. Fortunately, he had no plans of using it over the weekend and let me borrow it.

On the actual day of the fourth, I met up with my friends Michael and Virginia at Netherlands Carillon. Netherlands Carillon is just an iconic place to go in Arlington, Virginia that will give you amazing views of the top three landmarks of Washington DC, the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and the US Capitol. The show was going to start at 9:09 but we had all planned to be there around 6 pm. Luckily we were early enough to find a great spot. At that time, there were a few spots available but if we got there any later, it probably would have been a lot more difficult. The good photo spots were filling up fast.

Not only did Larry let me borrow the 200-600mm lens, but he also lent me his 1.4 teleconverter. All I had to do was mount the teleconverter in between my camera and lens and I was able to zoom from 600mm to 840mm at F8. It was incredible how much more detail it allowed.

At first, the lens had image stabilization off, even using a remote and a tripod, it got a little shake in the images. I assumed it was the teleconverter so I took it off but I was still getting it. I think the 200-600mm lens is just so heavy that no matter what, there was going to be a little shake, especially considering it doesn’t mount directly onto the tripod. It has to be mounted with the lens foot. So I turned my image stabilization back on and all the images turned out super sharp. Luckily there were a few small neighborhood fireworks that were going off before the show that I could practice a little bit to make sure everything was how I needed it to be.

I did not use the teleconverter for the actual show because I thought that would have been too much zoom. The 200-600mm was perfect for some really compressed, tight shots of the monuments. It helped me create a variety of images that I would have not otherwise been able to capture.

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Thursday, June 10th, was a special day. I woke up early and went out to photograph the partial lunar eclipse happening at sunrise. It had been a while since I woke up at 4:30 in the morning to go take pictures so when my friends Mark and Andy invited me to go with them to the Air Force Memorial I couldn’t say no.

The first peak of the sun rising over the horizon.

The plan was to photograph the solar event as the sun was rising over the Washington DC skyline.

It was so cool to witness this particular sunrise. It was obviously very unique and just so happened to be my very first time photographing an eclipse. To be honest, I hadn’t done much research before waking up in the morning. I was just looking forward to seeing something cool.

My favorite part was seeing how bright this sun crescent got to be. It also sort of looks like cheese, or a Pacman in the sky.

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There were a handful of other photographers already at the memorial and others who were just there to watch the event. They were even prepared with solar glasses. I need to get a pair myself for next time I want to photograph an eclipse. A friend recommended these off of amazon.  Most of the time I was shooting on a tripod and through my camera’s LiveView so I didn’t have to look directly into the sun, but glancing up once in a while, I could tell that the sun was extremely powerful. A few people have asked and I did not shoot with a lens filter. I mostly exposed for the sun which made the foreground really dark and lightened everything up in Lightroom.

The eclipse was visible for about 20 minutes before it hid behind the clouds.  So we packed up our things and created a few shots of the Air Force Memorial before heading out. Overall it was a great morning out and well worth the early wake-up alarm. Can’t wait for the next one in 2024!

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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!

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!

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.

It was on!

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At the end of every year, I like to sit down and look through all the images I’ve taken in the past year. It’s one of my favorite traditions because I reflect back on the year and most of the time, I have forgotten about some of the fun photo excursions I’ve been on. It’s also really nice to put all these images together in one place and view them as a collection.

We can all agree that 2020 was very unusual. Not only were there times where I felt uncomfortable going out to take pictures, but there were times where I just felt uninspired and a lot of judgment towards my own work. The judgment towards my work has always been there, however it was much more amplified this year. I tried my best to go out and shoot at least once a week but there have been at least a dozen photo walks that I’ve been on where NO ONE has seen the pictures from. I just wasn’t happy with them, so they are just sitting in my Lightroom catalog as we speak.

But that’s not to say that I lost my passion for photography. I feel like I am even more passionate about it than ever. When I wasn’t out shooting or doing the normal stuff I would typically be doing in a normal year, I was at home learning. I have never watched so many tutorial videos, read so many books, and slowed down to be really present while I’m out shooting. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been so hard with myself. I always felt like something could be better or different and I’m trying to use all that I’ve learned and apply it to my real-life shooting.

Typically I would have another blog post about my favorite travel images, but that obviously didn’t happen this year either… LOL. So here are my favorite images from 2020 🙂

January

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At the very beginning of the year, my friend Andy messaged a few of friends and started a little group called Sunday Sunrise. We were going to try to meet up every Sunday… for sunrise. LOL. Unfortunately, the group was only able to meet a few times in the beginning of the year, but while we were in the peak of meeting up, I created this one beautiful morning. I just love how the reflection turned out with that person walking towards the Washington Monument.

It’s interesting because this was the day that I realized that I take a majority of my images in a vertical orientation. A couple of years back, a friend of mine told me that magazines are always looking for vertical images because magazines are vertical. So ever since then, I’ve tried to challenge myself with the vertical orientation. And then Instagram started favoring the vertical orientation as well, so I’ve been creating pictures that way without even realizing it. This year, I’ve been making a conscious effort to take more horizontals to balance out the way that my imagines are seen.

February

US Capitol, sunrise, capitol dome, united states capitol, washington dc, puddle, Ulysses S Grant Memorial, reflecting pool, national mall, washington dc,

Another image with our Sunday Sunrise group. I don’t remember it raining or anything the day before, but there was this large puddle at the Grant Memorial. It was an awesome find because it gave such a different perspective of the US Capitol building. The beautiful sunrise colors was an added bonus!

March

It felt like spring came early this year and it was very much welcomed. I find that I’m always on the hunt to find new places to capture all the beautiful blooms in the city. I have been to the National Cathedral a few times for spring, but it was mostly to photograph the Saucer Magnolias that are at the park next to it. Never had I thought of walking the grounds and I was so pleasantly surprised when I saw these beautiful blooms.

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It’s been a while since I’ve had an update blog post. Mostly because I didn’t have much to update on. However, I was going through my catalog the other day and realized I have some images that I wanted to share!

Since coming back from New Hampshire, I tried my best to capture the fall colors around the Washington DC area. Even though Washington DC is a city, there are still some great places to go to see fall colors! All the different shades of red, yellow, and orange make me so happy. So this is a compilation of the images I’ve created from mid-October to the very end of November.

Shenandoah Sunrise

It was my friend, Larry and I’s 4th year anniversary of capturing the sunrise in Shenandoah National Park in the autumn time. I love this tradition. Mostly because it’s fun to reminisce on our friendship. Each year we go has been extremely different. But there has always been one thing in common, awesome fall colors!

This time around, we were lucky to get some fog. It was crazy because the entire time we were driving to and from Shenandoah, there was a lot of fog. So when we got to the top of the mountain, it was really cool to see it from above. They kind of look like spider webs!

Mt Vernon Trail Sunrise

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The Mount Vernon Trail is one of the best places to go for those who enjoy being active outdoors but doesn’t want to deal with the crowds in Washington DC. The 17 miles trail spans from Rosslyn, VA to President George Washington’s home in Mount Vernon but along the way provides some of the best views of the nation’s capital and then some. The trail itself is protected by the National Park Service and can be accessed year-round from 6 am- 10 pm.

Here’s a great map of the trail.

For a majority of the time, the trail is sandwiched between the Potomac River and the George Washington Parkway.  This makes it really easy to hop on and off the trail at any given point. But it also provides some very beautiful waterfront views.  In other words, you don’t have to walk the entire 17 miles in order to see the best of the best, here are some personal favorite points of interests and places where you can hop on and off the trail:

theodore roosevelt, island, trail, leaves, trail, sunrise, early morning, gw parkway, george washington parkway, early morning, potomac river, autumn, virginia, va, dc, nature, lincoln memorial, washington monument, memorial bridge, sunrise, washington dc

The Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and Arlington Memorial Bridge are seen from the Mount Vernon Trail in the middle of autumn.

Theodore Roosevelt Island

(L) the footbridge leading to Theodore Roosevelt Island (R) Theodore Roosevelt statue

Let’s start with one of my favorite places along the Mount Vernon Trail, Theodore Roosevelt Island. A great place to begin your outdoor adventure. I love it because it’s not like any other place along the trail. Park your car in the parking lot and cross the footbridge. You’ll be greeted by Theodore Roosevelt himself. Walk within the island for a bit more solitude than you would get along the Mount Vernon Trail. No bikes are allowed on the island but there’s a bike rack by the bridge so you can leave your bike and walk 🙂

Once you are back on the Mount Vernon Trail, you will see beautiful willow trees, and about half a mile away from Roosevelt island, you’ll start seeing some of the best views of the Washington DC Memorials. Its one of the only places where you can actually see the top 3 landmarks (Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and the US Capitol) all lined up in a row. There is not one spot, in particular, you should go to see them. The more you walk, the more the perspectives will change and the view from across the Potomac River is like no other. If you walk a little further, you’ll start seeing the Thomas Jefferson Memorial as well. Enjoy these views or the memorials anywhere from Roosevelt Island to the Navy Merchant Marine Memorial.

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July 4th firework celebration

If you can, my favorite time to go here is on July 4th for the firework show. You basically get front row seats all along this part of the trail so you don’t really have to go early to claim your spot. If you do decide to go, then driving/parking may be a hassle. The best way to do it is to take the metro and get on and off at the Rosslyn stop. It’s a little more than half a mile walk but you’ll be saving so much more time by using the public transportation route. I have been on the George Washington Parkway when there are fireworks and cars will literally stop in the middle of the road to watch it. At that point, traffic gets super backed up!

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