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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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Chicago is such a photogenic city. I felt like everywhere I turned there was a new image to capture and I probably took way more pictures than I had expected to prior to leaving for the trip. Which is 100% why I am so excited for the photo workshop in July. The whole time I was walking around the city, I just envisioned walking around with some of you and having so much fun with our cameras. I was so inspired by Chicago and the vibe that I think I found some great photo spots to help you create some stunning images. So if you’re interested in learning more about spending a week with me in Chicago, click here. Feel free to send me or Focus on the Story any questions you may have.

This image was captured a little bit after sunrise. To be honest, I was surprised by how many people were out there so early in the morning. A little surprised, but not really because I did notice a lot of people walking around with cameras. Even in the non-touristy spots, there were photographers everywhere. But I’m glad I was there in the early morning because this spot can get real packed, real quick. Also that amazing glow that was going on underneath the bean was stunning! As soon as I saw it, I just kept on hoping and waiting for someone to walk right underneath. This lady was under the bean all by herself taking pictures and I love how her outfit just matched that early morning light.

PS Can you spot me in the image? Andrew is standing just a few steps behind me. I love how reflective that surface is.

My camera setting for this image is F4 at 1/1600th sec and ISO 250 with my Sony A7II and 16-35mm wide angle lens.

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This image is nuts. I can’t even believe I captured it because it’s really not supposed to look like this at all. This has got to be the worst flooding that I have EVER seen at the Tidal Basin and I’ve seen it flooded a number of times before. For example, here and here and even here.

The sidewalks were totally not walkable at all. I didn’t have my rain boots on this day but that would not have mattered. At some points I think the water came up to my knees. At that point I would have needed waders. Which is a funny story because I actually have a pair. Don’t ask me how I was given a pair… just trust me in knowing that I look super cool in them.

In order to captured this, I walked along the grass the entire time. It was pretty sad to see so many cherry blossom trees just wading in the water. At some points I would even see ducks swim by in places that was supposed to be a sidewalk. It was almost like I was walking through a really weird dream.

The only good side to this is that the reflections were unbelievable. The water was only moving when ducks would swim by but otherwise it was like glass. The sunrise was way better than expected so I was super happy to be able to capture it all in the water and make it look even more dramatic with the reflections.

My camera settings for this image is F4 at 1/500th of a second at ISO 1000 with my Sony A7II and 16-35mm wide angle lens. I noticed that a lot of the images I captured this day were in the shadows because I was walking around in the trees so much (with no tripod) so I had to bump up my ISO to compensate.

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We had our very first snow fall of the season over the weekend! It was perfect. It snowed all day Saturday, just one or two inches. Enough to stick on cars and the grass a bit but nothing on the roads. No mess to clean up, no fuss to worry about. Just the way I like it!

My friend, Larry and I went out to Great Falls Park to check it out. It’s been a while since I’ve photographed the park and was really looking forward to shooting it in the snow. It reminded me of my high school days when I first got interested in photo. At that time, I didn’t know how to drive so my sweet mom drove me in the snow so I could get the shots that I wanted. And wait for me in the cold to photograph the trees and water. It’s crazy how things come full circle. I remember being really proud of those Great Falls shots in high school. LOL how time flies. I bet if you asked her today, she’d still remember doing that. SHOUT OUT TO MY MOM! I LOVE YOU AND APPRECIATE YOU! Even though you know I blog every day but still don’t read them.

I am really looking to photographing more snow this season. I heard we’re going to get a lot this year. I was sort of looking at this Great Falls Park photoshoot as the prequel. So many possibilities to shoot. And I’m really hoping for some drone shots thrown in there too! Let me know, what’s your favorite weather to shoot? Mine is fog but snow could be a close second. Similar effects but more cold.

The settings for this image is F4.5 at 4 seconds and ISO 160 with my Sony A7II and 16-35mm lens.

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So after yesterday’s update at Shenandoah National Park, I figured I’d give an update at Great Falls Park. I used to come to this park a lot. When I was first getting started with photography in high school AND after I graduated from college (I sort of dropped off while I was in college), I’d come to this park a lot to practice. Since then I think I just got distracted with Washington DC images that I haven’t been back in a long time. It was probably last October since I’ve been back and it felt so good to hear the roar of the water again.

But I may have seen one or two trees that have already changed colors, other than that the park was mostly green. I find this to be good news though because it gives me more reasons to go back in the near future. If you’re looking for some great fall foliage shots, the falls and the Billy Goat trail are awesome to shoot.

Another reason why I sort of stopped going to Great Falls Park was that it started to close it’s gates at night. That meant I couldn’t get in for sunrise. Luckily, sunrise is around 7:20a now and I was at the gate for about 5 minutes before someone showed up to open the gate up at 7a. Pretty perfect timing if you asked me. The parking lot is pretty close to the first overlook which is where I shot this particular image. I had plenty of time to set up for this shot.

My camera settings for this image is F5.0 at 2 seconds ISO 640 with my Sony A7II and my 16-35mm wide angle lens. I also used my neutral density filter to slow down the image and create those awesome water lines on the bottom middle.

 

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When we first arrived in New York, Brooklyn Bridge Park was one of our first stops. We originally went to go get ice cream but ended up walking across the Brooklyn bridge. Kind of.

But I did not have a tripod with me. Andrew and I were just planning on taking it easy and not really do much that evening since we were both tired from travel. No problem at all. As long as I have my camera, charged batteries and my memory card, I’m down for whatever and not having a tripod pushed me to find creative ways around that. So as Andrew was finishing up my ice cream (they gave me wayyyy too much), I was trying to find different ways to keep my camera sturdy in this evening light. I took quite a few shots. Some from the ground, some from leaning against trees, etc. This image turned out to be my favorite composition.

If you look towards the left of this image on the pier, you can see how there’s a fence there, right? Well that same thing was going on right in front of me so I kneeled down and put my camera on the ground, in between the wood from the pier and the iron fence. So thats what the foreground texture is. The wood grain. I love how it turned out and how it’s so noticeable. I also think it adds a different element to the image having the bottom half so dark. For some reason it kind of reminds me of Gotham City from Batman.

The settings for this image is 1.6 seconds at F7/1 ISO 800 with my Sony A7II 16-35mm.

Have a great weekend everyone! Hope you all have something fun planned and if you do, let me know in the comments. Stay safe! I can’t believe September is almost over….