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 🙂
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One of my favorite things to do before the New Year is to go back and look through all my images from the past year. It’s fun to reminisce on all the memories and it’s a great way to see how much I’ve grown as a person and photographer. It’s funny how looking back at some of these images can bring back so many memories. In general, I feel like I share a lot when I’m posting a new image every single weekday on this blog so there’s bound to be some images that I connect with more than others. So without any social media influence or outside judgment, here are my personal favorite images I created in 2019.
Something that I found interesting is that the images that are my favorite from this past year aren’t your stereotypical Washington DC monument images. Yes, they may have some of the monuments and landmarks included in the image, but I love how unique and creative these images are. So I’m pretty sure you should expect to see even more of these types of images in 2020!
P.S. You can click on each image to read the original blog post but I’ll try to add some additional light on these images now that I’ve sat on them for a while. So in no particular order except chronological, here are my favorite Washington DC images of 2019.
Ok, the first image on the list and I’ve already cheated. LOL. This image was actually taken in 2018, but I didn’t get a chance to post it until 2019. Regardless, I love this image. It’s just so simple but my favorite part is the Washington Monument reflection down the middle. It’s not super obvious, but this was taken just after the sun had risen a bit and it was hitting the Monument at the right spot to make it glow orange in the US Capitol Reflecting Pool. I just love how subtle reflection is. The water also kind of reminds me of a Mary Cassatt painting. Just an impression of water with tiny brush strokes.
Besides the cherry blossoms, I always look forward to the magnolias trees in the Washington DC area. My favorite of the bunch can be found behind the Smithsonian Castle in the Smithsonian Gardens on the National Mall. On this particular morning, I was with my friend, Birch while out shooting and I remember telling her about my upcoming road trip to Austin. She had been there before so she was giving me advice on what to do there. See, isn’t that crazy? I remember all those details from just this one single image? HAHA.
I’ve never captured an image like this, but I’m in love. I think this may be my favorite cherry blossom image I captured all season. It’s the one that always comes to mind whenever I think of this spring and I just think it’s so unique. It’s also the fact that when the cherry blossoms flowers start falling off the trees, they fall so delicately and so beautifully that it’s actually pretty hard to capture. Especially when you’re doing it organically as opposed to staging a photo. But this image is of cherry blossom petals falling times 100. LOL. I didn’t pose this image but I did have some assistance. National Park Service was actually cleaning up all the fallen petals from the ground near the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial by using a leaf blower. So as they were trying to gather all of the petals in a pile, I was ready with my camera to capture them as they were flying in the air.
On one of the last days of the cherry blossoms, we had rain. Rain or wind are usually the two deadliest elements for cherry blossoms so I knew this would probably be the end of them for the year. As I was walking around the Tidal Basin, I was noticing some petals that had already fallen onto the ground and in the water. So I captured this image almost by accident. I had left my camera settings the same as the previous image, but looking down onto the water was a little darker than it was photographing them in the trees. So by accident, this was sort of like a long exposure. Whatever the case, I love the way it turned out. The motion in this image is so interesting to me and I love how you can still make out the shape of the flower petals. SWOOSH.
I’m starting to notice a flower theme I’ve got going on here. HAHA. But this is an image that I did not expect to find. I woke up early one summer morning so I could catch the sunrise at the US Capitol. I love just walking around with my earphones in, listening to music and watching the sunrise however the sunrise itself didn’t end up being that spectacular. So I decided to just take advantage of the early morning hour and empty Capitol grounds with my camera and walked around. I’ve noticed these rose bushes bloom every year and I’ve always tried to come up with a creative composition with them before but never really found one that I really liked until this one. I love how they are engulfing the Capitol building and all that is left is the dome in the middle of the image. I feel like this looks like a greeting card for Washington DC. LOL.
This technically was not photographed in the city of Washington DC, but I added it to the list anyways. This was taken in Potomac, Maryland, a little less than an hour away from Washington DC but it’s one of my favorite places to be in the summer because of all the sunflower fields! It was captured during an Instagram meet up with IGDC. My friend, Birch and I decided to go in the middle of the sunflower field to see if we could find something interesting. With a step ladder, we took turns climbing to see if there was a unique point of view but while I was on the ground, I found this framing. I just love how the top flower petals look larger than life. Or larger than a Birch! HAHA.
For a unique view of the US Capitol, consider visiting Union Station. The top level of the parking garage is usually pretty quiet, especially if you’re there early in the morning. I don’t know why, but I’m usually just standing by the ledge you see in this image. When you look down you can get a cool shot of taxis and pedestrians walking to the train station, but this day I decided to take a step back. Not sure what compelled me to do it. I think I was just looking for a different view, but then I saw how all these light posts lined up and thought it looked very interesting. This parking garage is so quiet that I actually had to wait a bit for someone to walk by. But when he did, I was ready for him.
One of the best things to happen in 2019 was in September when the Washington Monument had finally reopened. After 3 long years, visitors can finally go to the top and see the city from a whole new point of view. I could have added a whole bunch of images you would see from the windows of the Monument, but I really liked how this one turned out. Just a moment of silence and contemplation as a couple as they look out on the view. If I remember correctly, they were facing north towards the White House at sunset.
Like I always say, “More Rooftops, More Better”. And the Smithsonian National Museum of American History listened. Soon after the Washington Monument reopening, the American History museum followed by opening its doors to the rooftop. Unfortunately, it not opened to the public, just for private events, but based on where it’s located on the National Mall, this rooftop will provide some amazing views of the city. I mean, could you imagine getting married with a view like this? This image is of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. I just love the rigid lines of the architecture with the curves on the sidewalk. It’s such a contrast that I think really works for this image. Plus that sunset glow makes it even better. So if you’re planning on hosting an event here, I’d love the opportunity to go back here again! *hint, hint*
And last but not least, this image I posted last week on the blog. LOL. I still find it hard to believe that I didn’t know I captured this but not really all at the same time. When I’m out photographing lightning, I’m usually shooting off my images so fast that I don’t really get the chance to review them in between shots. So there could be many more lightning images that I’ve missed. I’ll have to go through my archives more carefully. Not only do I love the way the lightning strike turned out, I think the clouds behind the Capitol look so powerful. It looks like a storm that I should have stayed indoors for but glad I didn’t.
So there it is! My favorite images from 2019. I can’t believe that actually ended up being 10 images. I didn’t plan for it to be that way but it’s pretty cool that it did. I had a lot of fun creating these images and this list. It makes me excited to get back out there and photograph even more in 2020. Let me know what you think of this list and if you have any favorites. I’d love to see them.
And if you live in the Washington DC area or find yourself traveling to the capital city, check out my book, Snap DC, Your Guide to Taking Extraordinary Photos of the National Mall and Beyond… It was created for any level of photographer from mobile to DSLR, who wants to cut down the research time and spend their time out doing what they love- shooting.