National Gallery of Art

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Spring is my favorite time to be in Washington DC. Birds are chirping, flowers are blooming and everyone seems to have a smile on their face. What’s not to love? It’s a special time to be in the city where tourists and locals alike flock to the famous cherry blossoms to admire their beauty.

To fully prepared, I reference this website a lot. It’s National Park Services’ Bloom watch. I think they have the most accurate up-to-date information about the peak bloom. They also break down the stages so that you know what you’re looking at in case you are overly eager and want to check out the trees asap.

2021 Update: National Park Service is predicting a peak bloom on April 2-5,2021. Meaning about 70% of the blossoms around the Tidal Basin will be in bloom <3 However, this year may be different. With COVID-19 still a concern in the Capital Region, the National Mall and Memorial Parks are encouraging people to watch them from the webcam and decided they would offer very limited in-person viewing.

But just in case we are allowed to visit this year, let me try to break it down for you…

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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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If you’re anything like me then you’ve been on zoom calls at least a couple of times a week due to stay at home orders placed by the government. It’s hard not to be able to see loved ones and colleagues in real life so one of the next best things to do is hop on a video call. I’ve attended birthday cake cutting zooms, girls happy hour calls, and even photo critiques with fellow photographers. So I figured I’d spice things up a bit with a new background and wanted to share some with you. I went through my archive and found a variety of images so you can swap out your real-life background for something a little different than your living room couch.

Here are instructions from the video conferencing site, Zoom on how to change your virtual background. These images are all cropped to the recommended aspect ratio.

Free Zoom Background 1: Rawlins Park

This image was created about a week before the stay at home orders were placed in the Washington DC area. Rawlins Park in Foggy Bottom right at full peak with Saucer Magnolia trees. If being surrounded by an abundance of pink flowers is your dream, then you can make it happen with this zoom background.

Rawlins_Park_Zoom_Background_Angela B Pan

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Free Zoom Background 2: Ecola State Park

If quarantine has got you dreaming of the ocean, then this may be the perfect Zoom background for you. I visited Oregon for the first time last year and to say that I fell in love was an understatement. I captured this the first morning I was there from Ecola State Park. The perfect place to watch the sunrise over Cannon Beach and the beautiful haystacks.

Ecola_State_Park_Zoom_Background_Angela B Pan

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Free Zoom Background 3: Multiverse

Taking the Zoom name literally, I thought this may be an interesting background for your video calls. This image was created in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Multiverse is a combination of light, sound, and video created by Leo Villareal. A Concourse walkway that connects the East and West Buildings and not to be missed if visiting the gallery.

Multiverse_Zoom_Background_Angela B Pan

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Free Zoom Background 4: US Capitol Storm

For a slightly more dramatic background, I thought this image of a lightning strike at the US Capitol could be interesting to use. Stormy times call for stormy skies?

US_Capitol_Storm_Zoom_Background_Angela B Pan

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Free Zoom Background 5: US Capitol Flowers

And for a slightly less striking image (pun intended), here’s an image from last summer at the US Capitol. I loved the way that the red flowers were framing the dome.

US_Capitol_Flowers_Zoom_Background_Angela B Pan

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I hope you enjoy these backgrounds. If you decide to use them, please send me a screenshot! I’d love to see them.

Stay safe and healthy!

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A couple of weeks ago, I met up with a few friends for a photo walk but with only film. I was pumped.

We met at the Hirshhorn Museum and made our way to the National Gallery of Art where we spent a good amount of time photographing each other and the area.

On the way to NGA, I was surprised at how well this turned out. I watched him get his food from the food truck and sit down at this bench to eat his hamburger. When I captured it, I knew for sure I missed it because I didn’t look through the viewfinder. I just kind of pointed and hoped everything was lined up. If I had to do it over again, I just wish I didn’t get the white plastic bag sitting next to him.

By the way, none of these images are edited. Straight from the negatives.

Film photographers in the wild! Candid portraits of Quyen and Amanda outside the National Gallery of Art.

3/4ths of the film crew, Albert, Me and Amanda. Some call us the A-team. JK. LOL.

Amanda and I originally connected because she was the photo teacher at my old high school after I graduated of course! So crazy how small the world is.

On the way to our next photo location, we found this building that had all this steam coming from its side. We obviously had to stop and capture a few photos too.

All these images were taken with my Canon T70 and expired Porta 400 film.

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This time last week, I had scheduled two meetings for the same afternoon. I like doing this so I don’t have to keep commuting back and forth more than I have to. So killing time in between the meetings, I found myself at the National Gallery of Art. It’s one of my favorite places to go to just pop in and get inspired. They always have something new and interesting going on in the exhibits, especially the East Building.

But I had so much time on my hands on this particular day that I ended up going from the East to West Building. One of my favorite parts about the gallery is the light tunnel that connects the two sides. Leo Villareal’s Multiverse is something not to be missed. It’s a beautiful light show that can be seen along the moving sidewalk. Sometimes I find myself going back and forth on the sidewalk just because the tunnel is that amazing. This time, I just captured the tunnel from the edge and patiently waited for the lights to take up the entire frame.

My camera settings for this image are F3.2 at 1/125th sec and ISO 1250 with my Sony A7II and 35mm prime lens.

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I think it’s because it’s getting to be the end of the summer but I’ve noticed that I’ve been getting a lot more questions about museums and things to do in the Washington DC area. I always have my usual suggestions like sunrise at the Lincoln Memorial or the Library of Congress for a great interior, but when people ask me about museums, I always have to mention the National Gallery of Art. Especially when photographers ask, I tell them they have to go to Multiverse.

It’s the tunnel that connects the East and West wings of the gallery, located on the very bottom level close to the gallery’s cafeteria and gift shop but it’s seriously the coolest tunnel ever. While riding along the moving walkways, the lights in the tunnel flicker on and off and create this really cool light show. In the past, I’ve always just done short, quick exposures for some reason but this time I wanted to focus on the longer exposure.

I just balanced my camera on the handrails and tried to keep it as steady as I could. This looks like some trippy experience straight out of That 70’s Show. I think the hand railing also adds an extra reflection that you can see coming out of the bottom right-hand corner that makes it look even more like you’re completely surrounded by light. Very cool.

So if you ever find yourself in the area, you gotta check out the Multiverse.

My camera settings for this image is F7.1 at 2.5 sec and ISO 320 with my Sony A7II and 16-35mm wide-angle lens.