national mall

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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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Memorial day is a day to honor veterans and in years past I enjoyed doing that by attending Rolling Thunder. However, 2019 was the last year for the official event. I will miss hearing the hums of motorcycles throughout the area. It was a signal that summer is here! Although there are other ways of honoring veterans, I spent this year’s memorial day a little differently.

In the month of May 2021, Mayor Bowser proclaimed that May 31st will forever be a Day of Solidarity Against AAPI Hate in Washington DC. With so many recent hate crimes against the Asian American Pacific Islander community all over the country, I began observing a movement in the immediate area.

I found out about this rally that was happening on Memorial day and immediately looked into a way I could contribute to the event. I signed up to be a volunteer on the day of Solidarity Against AAPI and brought my camera along on this momentous day.

I arrived a little early so I could get a feel of what the event was going to be like and get my barring on to what it may look like in photographs. In the end, it was an afternoon full of inspiring speeches and performances all in the name of standing up against Asian hate.

Lee Wong, a U.S. Army veteran and elected official from West Chester Township in Ohio gave a moving speech about patriotism as the audience listens and applauds.

I may be biased but one of the best performances came from my friend, Kha. She performed her song No More and it was one of the most touching and moving songs I’ve heard in a really long time. When she found out about the shootings in Atlanta, she knew she had to do something and that something was using her talents in songwriting and performing. If you haven’t already, listen to the words and watch the music video.

Earlier this year, my cousin told me about this show on Cinemax called Warriors. Andrew and I started watching it and got immediately hooked after the first episode. After two seasons, we can’t wait for the third one to come out. It’s a really good show if you haven’t seen it.

But Father Jun, Perry Yung, came to DC to be a keynote speaker. His mix of storytelling, guitar, and flute playing was not only captivating but also very interesting to listen to. I’m so glad I got to see his speech and it was very cool to meet him in person.

Overall, the rally was an uplifting and inspiring event. I am so glad I was able to be a part of it in a little way. Hopefully, there won’t be a need for this rally anymore but in case there is, I believe it will happen every year on May 31st.

For more resources for the AAPI community:

Stop AAPI Hate

Asian Women Alliance

Asian Mental Health Collective

The Asian American Foundation

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To say the 2021 cherry blossom season was really different is an understatement.

They came about a week earlier than expected which worked out well because crowds were a lot more manageable. There were road closures around the tidal basin, no in-person festivals celebrating the blooms, and the Jefferson Memorial is STILL under scaffolding.

Luckily, the blossoms were as beautiful as ever. I’m glad I was able to get out there when I could. I hit up my usual spots, tested out a new camera lens, and came home with some images I was really excited about.

Washington Monument

Since parking was really limited this year, Ohio Dr and the East Potomac Park parking lots were all closed, I had to get creative with the places I parked. Most of the time that meant parking on Jefferson Dr or Constitution Ave and walking past the Washington Monument to get to the Tidal Basin. I didn’t mind because I’ve always enjoyed these cherry trees as well. Although they aren’t as big as the ones by the Tidal Basin, they are beautiful trees that frame the Washington Monument.

Tidal Basin

Cherry blossoms usually last about a week, maybe 10 days if we have some really nice weather. However, if it rains or gets really windy, the petals start falling off the flowers and start turning into green leaves. I think most locals know this and by the time the first rainstorm hits, a lot of people will stop going to the tidal basin, but it’s probably my favorite time to go. Puddles are everywhere and I love it when the petals start flying off and land in the water and all over the ground.

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I recently got a Zeiss Batis 85mm f1.8 E-mount lens for my Sony A7rIII. For the past few weeks, it’s been the main lens that I’ve been using while going out to take pictures and I have been really enjoying it so far. My first impression was that it was kind of short and stubby, but overall a great weight for an f1.8 lens and a lens I see carrying around for years to come.

If you’ve been following my work for a little while now, you’ll know that my usual go-to lens is a 70-200mm because I love the compression that I get with it. For being a prime lens, I am most impressed by the compression that I get with the 85mm.

So here are a few sample images I’ve captured using the 85mm. All of these images were taken with my Sony A7rIII in RAW and then edited using Lightroom.

ISO 160 f2.5 1/4000th sec 85mm

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It finally happened! We finally got some decent snow in the Washington DC area. I originally thought we were going to get pounded by 8-12″ of snow and I was jumping up and down from excitement. But in the end we may have gotten about 3″ if that. I’m just happy it was enough to cover the grass. I hope there will be more opportunities later on in the month for snow, but until then, I’m happy with what we got.

I don’t think he wanted his picture taken so as soon as he saw me lift my camera to my eye, he made a sharp turn for inside the Lincoln Memorial

The snow started in the middle of the night so I set my alarm clock to wake up for sunrise. I knew there wasn’t actually going to be a sunrise, but I just wanted to get out as early as I could because I love the look of fresh, untouched snow. I knew if I waited later in the day, there would be more people out and I just wanted to have a quiet morning to myself and my camera.

I started at the Lincoln Memorial, walked along the side of the reflecting pool, past the WWII memorial, and then back down the other side of the reflection pool with one last stop at the Korean War Memorial.

 

 

The path leading to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

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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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