photography

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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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At the end of every year, I like to sit down and look through all the images I’ve taken in the past year. It’s one of my favorite traditions because I reflect back on the year and most of the time, I have forgotten about some of the fun photo excursions I’ve been on. It’s also really nice to put all these images together in one place and view them as a collection.

We can all agree that 2020 was very unusual. Not only were there times where I felt uncomfortable going out to take pictures, but there were times where I just felt uninspired and a lot of judgment towards my own work. The judgment towards my work has always been there, however it was much more amplified this year. I tried my best to go out and shoot at least once a week but there have been at least a dozen photo walks that I’ve been on where NO ONE has seen the pictures from. I just wasn’t happy with them, so they are just sitting in my Lightroom catalog as we speak.

But that’s not to say that I lost my passion for photography. I feel like I am even more passionate about it than ever. When I wasn’t out shooting or doing the normal stuff I would typically be doing in a normal year, I was at home learning. I have never watched so many tutorial videos, read so many books, and slowed down to be really present while I’m out shooting. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been so hard with myself. I always felt like something could be better or different and I’m trying to use all that I’ve learned and apply it to my real-life shooting.

Typically I would have another blog post about my favorite travel images, but that obviously didn’t happen this year either… LOL. So here are my favorite images from 2020 🙂

January

washington dc, national mall, puddle, reflection, american flags, washington monument, sunrise, early morning, national parks, sylvan theater,

At the very beginning of the year, my friend Andy messaged a few of friends and started a little group called Sunday Sunrise. We were going to try to meet up every Sunday… for sunrise. LOL. Unfortunately, the group was only able to meet a few times in the beginning of the year, but while we were in the peak of meeting up, I created this one beautiful morning. I just love how the reflection turned out with that person walking towards the Washington Monument.

It’s interesting because this was the day that I realized that I take a majority of my images in a vertical orientation. A couple of years back, a friend of mine told me that magazines are always looking for vertical images because magazines are vertical. So ever since then, I’ve tried to challenge myself with the vertical orientation. And then Instagram started favoring the vertical orientation as well, so I’ve been creating pictures that way without even realizing it. This year, I’ve been making a conscious effort to take more horizontals to balance out the way that my imagines are seen.

February

US Capitol, sunrise, capitol dome, united states capitol, washington dc, puddle, Ulysses S Grant Memorial, reflecting pool, national mall, washington dc,

Another image with our Sunday Sunrise group. I don’t remember it raining or anything the day before, but there was this large puddle at the Grant Memorial. It was an awesome find because it gave such a different perspective of the US Capitol building. The beautiful sunrise colors was an added bonus!

March

It felt like spring came early this year and it was very much welcomed. I find that I’m always on the hunt to find new places to capture all the beautiful blooms in the city. I have been to the National Cathedral a few times for spring, but it was mostly to photograph the Saucer Magnolias that are at the park next to it. Never had I thought of walking the grounds and I was so pleasantly surprised when I saw these beautiful blooms.

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To be honest, I never had New Hampshire on my bucket list of places to travel. I’m not much of a winter sports girl and I honestly didn’t know what more the state had to offer. So when my wanderlust started kicking into high gear in the middle of August, I started researching places to go for the Autumn time. I know New England has some of the best foliage to offer in the country, so that is where I began my research.

The more I looked into it, the more it seemed like New Hampshire was the best place to go. About a 10-hour car ride (one way) can easily be divided into two relaxing days of travel. Plus, I know there would be some fun stops along the way. In general, we were looking to relax on this trip. We wanted to have some great views that were easily accessible from the road but also have fit in a hike or two throughout the day. Nothing too strenuous, but something that was good enough to build an appetite for  after the hike. After getting some great advice from fellow photographer, Patrick Koetzle, I was ready to hit the road.

Our entire trip revolved around spending 3 whole days in the White Mountains National Forest area the first week of October. At that time it seemed like we were right in the middle or towards the end of peak autumn color which was exactly what I was looking for. For the most part, the weather was beautiful. In the mid-50s with no humidity. But in the middle of our trip, it rained really hard and it got really cold and windy bringing the temps down to the 30s.

Lodging

Based on all my research about the White Mountain area, an overwhelming amount of people suggest staying in a town called, Lincoln. I did my best to find a suitable place to stay but even booking our trip 2 months in advance, our options were limited. We ended up finding a cottage in Twin Mountains. We brought our dog, Frankie so it was great to have our own little cottage with a fenced-in backyard. The location was right in between Franconia Notch and Crawford Notch, two of the places where we wanted to spend most of the time so the cottage was perfect for us.

So if you’re looking to stay somewhere centrally located with your own private kitchen and hot tub, I’d highly recommend staying with Sherry and Ron. They were amazingly welcoming and thoughtful hosts.

We did visit Lincoln one day around lunchtime. Since we were visiting during the Covid pandemic, a lot of the restaurants and stores seemed like they were closed. That just reinforced the idea that our decision to stay in Twin Mountains was the best option for us.

Franconia Notch

Driving around this area is so exciting. I remember telling Andrew on more than one occasion that he had to drive just so I could stare out the window. But I think my favorite was the Franconia Notch side. Maybe because it seemed like there was more color on that side but more than anything, I just really enjoyed the views.

Our first official hike was Artist’s Bluff for sunrise. Although it is only 1.5 miles long, the hike was strenuous being that it was just straight up the mountain then down the mountain. There were a few flat areas but not much. If I think about it, a majority of the hikes around the White Mountains area was like this. A great glute workout for sure! But it was absolutely worth the sweat.

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Virginia was issued the initial stay at home order on March 30th, 2020 due to the Coronavirus. It didn’t come as a surprise but it was still something that I had to mentally prepare for. Honestly, one of my first thoughts about it all was, “How am I going to go and take pictures?” Not only is photography fun for me, but it is my way of exploring places, finding stories, and expressing myself. In the past, the longest I had ever gone without taking pictures was a week. I already knew the stay at home order was going to be tough.

The world was a rapidly changing place and I was craving to capture it. Here’s are the images I created in the first two months:

Cherry Blossoms

Covid-19 really started being a concern in the Washington DC area just before the cherry blossom season. We had an unusually mild, dry winter that allowed the cherry blossoms to bloom a bit earlier in the year than they usually do. So I was excited to be able to visit the Tidal Basin with a bit less of a crowd since travel was in the process of slowing down and social distancing was starting to become a new term. I tried to go as much as I could until it started to get too crowded. When it got to be too much, I decided to just stay home and be happy with the images I was able to create. My logic was to take as many pictures as I could until it got to be unsafe and then spend quarantine editing them.

Weekdays at sunrise are really the best times to visit the Tidal Basin during cherry blossom season, Coronavirus or not.

The last day I was at the Tidal Basin when it started to get a little too crowded

The cherry blossom trees are smaller at the Washington Monument, but still just as beautiful. I tried capturing a few images from there since it’s a larger area to roam.

Cherry blossom trees are seen from the George Mason Memorial

Mt Vernon Trail/Georgetown

That weekend, Andrew and I decided that we should try to get out “one last time” before we had to stay home. We decided that the Mount Vernon trail would be a good place to go and stretch our legs. Andrew walked Frankie on the trail which allowed me to take my camera and capture a few images as well.

Considering the stay at home order was placed the very next day, I’m so glad we did this. It was a foggy morning and the trail was not as crowded as it usually is. We parked our car at Gravelly Point and headed towards the Navy Merchant Marine Memorial.

At the cherry blossom peak bloom, but the pink flowers came out a little hazy in the fog.

(L) A quick stop in Georgetown along the Key Bridge. (R) Views of the Washington Memorials are seen all along the Mount Vernon Trail.

Vienna Metro

So this is where my real pandemic images begin. It had been about 1.5-2 weeks since our walk on the Mount Vernon trail and I was going crazy. I had never purposely taken such a long break from taking pictures, and it was not making me feel good. I was really craving creativity, seeing what this new world looked like, and just to walk around with my camera. So I started locally. I mean really local since I live within a few blocks from the metro. I figured with public transportation being at an all-time low, it was probably the safest and most isolated I would ever see it.

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It’s been 15 days since the first confirmed case of the coronavirus hitting Washington DC and I’m still a little speechless. I know everyone around the world is dealing with Covid-19 in their own way so I just wanted to take a second to say Hello. How are you doing? I hope all is well. 

Magnolia and Forsythias

Like many others, I’ve been feeling unsettled and worried. With so much information and rumors being spread around, it’s hard to know what to believe. I’m constantly checking news sites for updates but unintentionally getting information flashed before me on social media and by friends and family sharing links. There have been times where I’ve felt so overwhelmed that I needed to turn off my phone.

All of my photography walks, talks and events have been canceled for this month and next. I’ve never mentioned this before, but I was in the middle of working on a coffee table book with a book publisher that was expected to be released in 2022 and that has even been canceled. This whole situation has been disappointing, to say the least.

View of the Washington Monument from the Enid A Haupt Garden

So I did what I thought was best. I found myself seeking more spiritual advice and journaling my feelings. I tried to look on the bright side of things:

  • I have a home where I can stay comfortably and safely with everything I need right here.
  • I’ve been reconnecting with old friends since everyone seems to have a little more time on their hands.
  • The sense of community and working together has never felt so warming and needed.

But even more so, the sense of gratitude has uplifted me through the times where I’ve felt helpless:

  • People all over the world are risking their own health to save others.
    • Thank you, doctors and other health care professionals, food delivery men and women,  news reporters, government officials, and everyone in between who is doing their best to make the world a safer and easier place to live.
  • People who are on the internet spreading the good word and encouraging everyone to stay mentally and physically healthy by offering advice has made me smile every day.
  • Acts of generosity that have come from unexpected places have filled my heart.

 

Washington Monument is seen from the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial

With all these new feelings of confusion, worry but also gratitude, I keep coming back to the fact that I am very lucky. I’m lucky that my family and I are healthy and safe. There are people dealing with far more pressing issues than getting bored at home all the time. I am fine. Andrew’s fine. My parents, brother and distant relatives are fine. Frankie’s fine. *thank you.

But before all of this happened, I was writing a spring guide to DC flowers which I will probably finish at a later time. It just doesn’t feel right or natural to keep on working on it right now. But what’s most natural to me, is going out and photographing the city. The days leading up to the craziness of the Coronavirus, I was busy photographing the saucer magnolias that were peaking around the city. I knew we would be quarantined or on lockdown soon so I tried my best to go out and capture them so I had some images to edit while I was home.

Magnolias in peak bloom around Washington DC

Now that cherry blossoms are peaking and we’re told to practice social distancing, I have been going out this past week to take pictures, but by myself. I’m usually out there in the mornings when there aren’t as many people around. It’s so weird when a popular event like the cherry blossoms peaking at the Tidal Basin is usually shoulder to shoulder crowded but this year is a lot less crowded and everyone is cautious avoiding each other.

Stone lantern at the Tidal Basin in Washington DC

Bur from here on out, I’ll be self-quarantining only leaving my house to walk Frankie around the neighborhood or if we need groceries. Everything else will have to wait. Expect a “best places to find spring in DC” post soon. But for now, I just thought I’d drop in and tell you that you are loved and I hope you are safe.

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This past weekend, my friend, Andy invited a few photographer friends out to join him for sunrise at the Lincoln Memorial. It was a super cold and windy morning, I almost didn’t make it out of my bed. But I ended up going and had a great time catching up with friends that I hadn’t seen in a while. The sunrise itself wasn’t the best so I was super surprised to see that there were so many other people at the memorial for a winter sunrise. So I figured I would try to capture some of the people who were there watching the sunrise with me. In frame is my friend, Mark.

While we were shooting, Andy also created a super fun video of all of us where we each gave one sunrise tip. Mark, myself and others were all asked on the spot and the answers are pretty funny if you ask me. Let me know which one you think has the best tip! Click here to watch the video.

My camera settings for this image are F9 at 1/320th sec and ISO 640 with my Sony A7Ii and 35mm.