national mall

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On June 9th in Houston, Texas, Rev Al Sharpton delivered a eulogy at George Floyd’s funeral.  At that time he also announced that he would plan a demonstration in Washington to rally for criminal justice revisions. Ever since that day, I kept my eyes and ears open for the information as it developed. I knew this was going to be a huge event that I wanted to attend.

The Black Lives Matter movement in Washington has been an eye-opening experience for me. In all my years living in the area, I’ve never attended any protests or rallies like this. So when I went to my first one, I knew immediately that I wanted to keep going back with my camera. I couldn’t help but be in awe of all the passion and emotions I felt while attending these protests.

But the day before Rev Sharpton’s Commitment March on Washington, President Trump accepted his Republican nomination for  US President and had a fireworks display at the Washington Monument. Since I missed photographing on the 4th of July this past year, I figured I would go to the Reflecting Pool and practice some of my night photography. Although there were only 3 other photographers at the Reflecting Pool, there was also a news crew right next to me who was listening to President Trump’s speech. I listened to every word and as soon as he finished, the fireworks went off.

I’m glad I went because they were very different from the previous 4th of July firework displays. You could tell that they were shot off with the White House as the main spectators so all of my images were a little skewed to the right. I should have thought of that before picking my firework location. Oh well. I also noticed how the Washington Monument was the centerpiece of the show. I had never seen rings of fireworks go around it before. It was pretty cool and I had fun photographing the show from a vantage point that was only seen by a few others.

But watching the fireworks from the Reflecting Pool also allowed me to see the set up of the rally the night before. It was interesting to see how the sides of the Reflecting Pool were gated off, the chairs for people with special needs were socially distanced, and there were so many lights set up all over the memorial grounds.

A little sneak peek of the rally set up from the night before

On August 28, 2020, the 57th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Rev Sharpton and the National Action Network held its rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with a march ending at the Martin Luther King Jr memorial.

I’m grateful to know this part of the city like the back of my hand so I was able to park my car as close as I could to the White House and walked over to the National Mall with ease. It was a hot, humid summer day and a little harder to breathe with a facemask on. With a water bottle in my backpack and my camera in hand, I was ready to go.

My game plan was to start close to the WWII memorial and walk down the Reflecting Pool to try to get as close to the Lincoln Memorial as I could. Other than that, I had no real intentions of what kind of images I wanted to photograph. I was just going to go with the flow and stay mindful of everything that was happening around me. That means I zipped my phone into my backpack and watched the people around me.

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A lot has happened since my last blog post on protests in Washington DC. I have attended more protests and was able to capture a ton more images. As news about Black Lives Matter and protests continued every day, I tried my best to try to find unique locations and views of what was going on in the nation’s capital.

So after spending two days at the White House, I wanted to go somewhere different. I knew the BLM protests were happening all over the city, I just had to find them. So on Wednesday, June 3rd, I started a bit earlier in the day and went straight to the Lincoln Memorial. I saw some images of the National Guard all along the steps so I wanted to see it for myself.

But I may have been a little too early because there weren’t as many people as I thought there would be at the Lincoln Memorial so I headed to the US Capitol. The thing about these protests is that I don’t really know where they will pop up. I just sort of show up and hoped there will be people there.

So my luck at the US Capitol was about the same at the Lincoln Memorial. I overheard that I was about 30 minutes too late and most of the protestors that were there, had already left.

I made a loop around the US Capitol grounds and I was about to call it quits. I figured I’ve already captured some pretty good images that past few days, I knew I would be back for more so I didn’t want to push my luck. But there was just one more place that I wanted to check before leaving the city. I wanted to check out the Trump Hotel since it was on my way home and I figured that could be a good place for some action. On my way there, I noticed a bunch of police vehicles blocking off the road. I thought it was unusual but weaved in and out of the streets to try to get as close as I could to the hotel without being stopped. Once I got out of the car, I realized I was right in the middle of a walking protest! The police cars were there to make a safe path for the pedestrians. It was amazing to stumble upon them.

This group of protestors had just left the Trump hotel and was making there way back to the US Capitol so I had to follow them.

While walking to the US Capitol I couldn’t help but notice people helping people. People were handing out cold Gatorade and water, offering snacks and masks, and even medical aid.

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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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It all started when I saw a photograph similar to this one. I had never seen anything like it before.

washington dc, fog, weather, tidal basin, jefferson memorial, capital, memorial, cherry blossom trees, kutz bridge, reflection, water, camera settings, east coast, weather, dc

I feel in love with the way it was so mysterious and the way it made the Jefferson Memorial look so obscure. Even though I had photographed a little bit of fog in 2012, I didn’t know it could get this foggy in the city until I saw that particular image.

I’m sorry I don’t have a link to the original image anymore, but I studied that picture. I wanted to know exactly where the photographer was standing and tried to figure out different ways I could have potentially captured it.

It finally happened to me on Christmas Day 2015. I woke up early for sunrise since my family doesn’t celebrate until later in the evening. I figured the best way to start off the day would be to take a quick morning walk around the National Mall. I checked the weather and it said it was going to be unseasonably warm, so why not.

I don’t remember how long the fog took to appear but I do remember it was quite a bit after sunrise. When it first started forming, I was over by the Potomac River. I had never seen fog just appear out of nowhere but something triggered in my head that if it was starting to form on the river, maybe it was forming at the Tidal Basin. I walked over as quickly as I could and there it was! It was the white Christmas I never knew I wanted.

After that, I became obsessed with finding out more about fog. How to capture it, when it was going to happen and all the best places in the Washington DC area to photograph it.

The Lincoln Memorial on a foggy morning. (L) Predawn (R) 20 minutes after sunrise

So here’s what I learned:

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Besides the Washington Monument, there aren’t many options in Washington for someone to get an elevated view of the city. Sure you could go to a rooftop bar or hotel, but who can pass up the opportunity to go to the third tallest building in the city, for free! The Old Post Office Tower is located at 1100 Pennsylvania Ave and considered to be a part of the National Mall. It’s viewing tower has some unique views that can’t be seen anywhere else and opened daily from 9 am – 5 pm daily (last entry is at 4:30 pm) except Thanksgiving and Christmas.

In the early 1900s, this building was used as the city’s main post office. Since then has been transformed into office buildings and in 2016 Donald Trump redeveloped the property into a hotel with restaurants and retail.

The entrance is located in the middle of 12th street between Pennsylvania Ave NW and Constitution NW, next to the Starbucks. A little tucked away but there are signs that will lead you to the entrance. As you enter the building, there is security who checks your bags to make sure you aren’t carrying anything you aren’t supposed to be carrying. You are then directed down the hall to the elevators. This hallway was particularly interesting because it had old images of Washington DC from years ago. Living in the Washington area, these are scenes I see almost every day so it’s interesting to see what it actually looked like in the early 1900s.

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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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