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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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Back in 2018, my cousin gifted me with his old film camera. It was unexpected but I am so grateful for it. It brought back many memories of when I first started in photography. At that time, there was no digital photography. Everything was on a negative film. But what had initially sparked my interest in photography was being able to go out with my friends and capturing portraits of them with my SLR camera, point and shoot, and even disposable cameras. It was just something fun for us to do and I used to love seeing pictures I took on my friend’s bedroom walls or lockers. So from that point on, everywhere I went, I had a camera on me.

Obviously with a “new camera” comes new adventures so when I got the film camera, I was excited to start experimenting with it. It’s been a while since I have used film so along the way, I’ve learned to take my time with composition and framing. I learned that each frame is precious and should not be taken for granted, especially since a roll is film is just 24 or 36 frames. Photograph the moments that really speak to you. And practice patience in creating and developing the images.

But omg, that sound of the shutter too! It instantly brought back so many memories.

So I thought it would be fun to go through some images that I’ve taken in the past year or so with my Canon T70 and 35-70mm lens. By the way, none of these images on this post have been edited. I may or may not edit them in the future, but for now, it’s just fun seeing the results of the film.

My first set of images were taken in August 2018. I brought it on a peach picking trip with me and it was really just to see if the camera was working if there were any light leaks and a refresher on how to use film. I’m sorry to say that I forgot what kind of film these were captured on. I tried going through my Amazon orders and I don’t see any film listed. It may have just been some old rolls of film my cousin had in his camera bag. Although it’s a little fuzzy, this roll of film got me excited to start shooting again.

Delaplane, Virginia August 2018

Nowadays, I find myself researching different kinds of film and cameras, just to see what’s out there. I love watching youtube videos of other photographers getting great images with their analog cameras. I have to admit though, it’s a little hard for me to capture film images. I have my digital camera which I love, but it’s hard to balance the time between my digital and film camera. I spend most of my time shooting on my digital camera because I’m so used to it that sometimes I’ll even forget that I have a film camera on me.

It has helped to go on photo outings that are dedicated to just film. I’ll leave my digital camera at home and I love the feeling of roaming with such light equipment. Since I don’t have additional lenses or equipment for my film camera, it has been a nice change of pace to just have one camera with one lens.

Kodak UltraMax 400: San Diego, California January 2019

Kodak UltraMax 400: San Diego, California January 2019

Expired Film

I am extremely grateful for my friend, Jim. He was my photography mentor when I interned at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum while I was in high school. We’ve been able to reconnect through social media which was really cool when we found each other! Last year, he was kind enough to give me a whole bunch of expired Portra film 400 and 800 rolls of film. It has been so fun to try to go through all the rolls. I’m nowhere near completing them, but to see how the expired film develops has been super interesting.

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Every year Washington DC welcomes millions of visitors traveling to the National Mall to take in all the sights and history. Many will start coming in the springtime to catch a glimpse of the beautiful cherry blossom trees at the Tidal Basin. They are alluring, but can sometimes be elusive. Especially when you are dealing with nature, you never know exactly when they are going to bloom or how long they will even last. In general, they will stick around for a week to 10 days. This already leaves a short window of time to see them and that doesn’t include the fact that these flowers are fragile and can fall off their branches with a sudden gust of wind or rain.

So this guide is for all you flower nature lovers who may have missed the cherry blossoms and are here to see what else the city has to offer. Don’t worry because there’s a lot! From Saucer Magnolias to Star Magnolias, Tulips and Forsythia, there is no shortage of beautiful blossoms in the city. You just have to know where to go to see them.

But if you are only interested in the cherry blossoms, I’ve got your back. Click here for the cherry blossom guide!

The National Mall:

Washington DC, especially the mall area, is a very nice area to walk. I highly suggest just taking the day to wander and get lost. There is no doubt that you will run into flowers and beautiful trees while walking around the area. Even the side streets that lead up to the Mall have pretty florets to look at. But if you’re on a time crunch, here are a few specific places to go:

Enid A Haupt Garden

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On our third day in Taiwan, we headed to Jiufen. I had heard it’s like no other place in Taiwan with extremely narrow alleys with so many different vendors and places to eat, I really wanted to check it out. Little did I know it would take more than two hours by public transportation to get there from Taipei. From I read online, it didn’t seem like it would take that long. But those two hours made a huge difference.

By the time we got to the top of the mountains to Jiufen, it was pouring rain. And it was that uncomfortable rain where it was cold and splashing everywhere. So much to the point that when you were walking through those narrow alleys, you had to watch out for your eyeballs or else someone may poke you with their umbrella. We went but didn’t get to stay for as long as I would have liked. I really wanted to see what it looked like at night time but it was just way too crowded and wet.

But at least now I can see I went, right? LOL I’ll definitely have to try it again next time.

This image was taken while we were waiting for the bus to come. AT THE BUS STOP. I’ve never seen such a beautiful bus stop in my life!

My camera settings for this image are F6.3 at 1/160th sec and ISO 1000 with my Sony A7II and 70-200mm.

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I forgot to mention on the blog that my girlfriends and I were going to go to Austin, Texas. As you may know, I went for the first time earlier this year to help my friend, Sue move. She’s all moved in and invited my friends and me to come visit her for a fun girls’ weekend in the south. I had a blast!

But since it was a girls’ weekend, I decided to just keep it simple and only bring my camera. That’s it. Meaning, I didn’t bring my drone, tripod, GoPro or anything like that. I just had my camera and two lenses and to be honest, walking through the airport with such little equipment/baggage felt so nice. I don’t think I’ve ever traveled so light.

The first two nights we spent at the Wyndham in downtown Austin and one of the best parts of the room was the outdoor patio. This image was from our first sunset. We were hanging out by the pool when I saw the clouds and color start to come in. So I quickly ran to the elevator to go back to our room and tried to capture it all from an above level perspective. I love this view and thought the buildings were all so different and interesting.

I had a blast in Austin and looking forward to sharing more images from our trip.

My camera settings for this image are F22 at 0.6 sec and ISO 125 with my Sony A7II and 16-35mm wide-angle lens.

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Our second night in Oregon was spent in Pacific City, specifically Cape Kiwanda and I loveddd it. The afternoon that we arrived was super foggy. So foggy that you weren’t able to see the Haystack Rock in the ocean. It was pretty interesting to see (or not see…). I think I loved Cape Kiwanda so much because it was definitely quieter than Cannon Beach but I just felt so relaxed and at peace there. The fog may have added to the mood as well.

But that limited our photo opportunities in this area so Andrew, Frankie and I woke up early the next morning and just hung out on the beach in front of our hotel. The skies had cleared up by morning time and created this amazingly warm glow all along the beach. My favorite part was playing with the reflections that the ocean tide created on the sand.

So this is an image of the sand dune that was on the side of the cape. I noticed some kayakers getting ready to get into the water and thought that it was the perfect focal point to break up the landscape. I love seeing the scale of the people compared to the sand dunes. Andrew and I were actually really impressed because the night before we saw so quite a few people sledding down the dunes. Looked like fun but I was in relax mode. LOL.

My camera settings for this image is F7.1 at 1/160th sec and ISO 640 with my Sony A7II and 24-70mm lens.