Shenandoah national park

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In an effort to push me out of my comfort zone and try something new, I did something that I never thought I would ever do. I left my house around 8:45 pm and drove all the way to the Shenandoah Mountains ALL BY MYSELF AT NIGHT! 

I’m not sure what got me to do this but I was just craving a new challenge and just a different type of photography than I’m used to. I say that I thought I’d never do it because I never thought I’d have the courage to go into the mountains all by myself AT NIGHT. I don’t know about you, but I get freaked out about all these animal noises I’ve never heard before. But luckily, I pulled myself through it and I am so excited to go back again for another round!

I captured these at the Jeremy’s Run Overlook (I THINK), just a few overlooks away from the Thorton Gap Entrance into Shenandoah Park. Since I got there at night, it was pretty difficult to find out a foreground element. My first idea was to try to get myself in the image. But figured it would need more light, so I had to coordinate my interior car lights with my cellphone acting like I was taking a picture of the milky way with my phone. It was a fun experiment but moved on to the most obvious foreground in front of me, this crazy branchy tree.

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I am very happy with the way both of these turned out. I think in all my years of photography, I’ve only tried to capture the milky way a hand full of times. I was not so confident with my focus, but in the end, I think it turned out pretty good. *pats on the back

My camera setting for the self-portrait is F2.8 at 3.2 seconds at ISO 3200 with my Sony A7II and 35mm lens. My camera settings for the tree image are F1.8 at 13 seconds at ISO 3200 with my Sony A7II and 35mm lens.

Also, some exciting camera equipment upgrades coming soon 🙂

 

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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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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’s been a busy fall season already! But I’m enjoying every minute of it. I love just driving down around my neighborhood and seeing all the colorful trees. So I obviously had to take a quick run down to Shenandoah National Park to check out the foliage around there. It’s become a tradition that my friend Larry and I will make a trip down and photograph the sunrise along Skyline Drive. This year, our friend Brande came with us too. It was a beautiful morning with photo friends.

In general, the trees were looking a little green along the drive so I think we were a bit premature in going. Regardless, it was great to watch the sunrise over the mountains. There were even little pockets of fog along the mountain range that made it even more special. But I didn’t get the shot I was looking for. I was either hoping for a really foggy morning making images look extra moody and gloomy or very colorful trees lit up by the sunlight. So since we didn’t get either of those, I’m thinking another trip to Shenandoah is necessary. Hopefully sometime soon!

My camera settings for this image are F11 at 1/30th sec and ISO 400 with my Sony A7II and 70-200mm zoom lens.

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THE FINAL COUNTDOWN 

It’s the last day of 2018 and I thought it would be fun to look back on the past year and relive some of my favorite travel moments from the year. It’s interesting because I do something similar to this every year and every year my favorite images are almost always different from others. I try not to let emotions play into the selection but it can be difficult. You’ll see what I mean 🙂

I had a fantastic year of travel and so blessed to be able to experience everything that I did. I’m lucky enough to have visited the Europe, Caribbean and of course different parts of America. So let me know what you think. Click on each image to read the original blog post:

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One of my very first drone images from San Diego. Taken around this time last year, I loved being in Southern California in the winter time. I got my drone at the end of 2017 so I was just practicing flying when I took this image. I really didn’t think much of it until I saw that bird fly below close to the water. With the placement of where I’m sitting and that bird, I love how everything lines up. Definitely expect more drone images from me in 2019. I’m hooked!

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Is it me or did Thanksgiving creep up on you too? I can’t believe it’s next week! In the past I would have already known what dishes I’m making but this year I have no clue. I have not looked at pinterest once! I need to get on that this weekend.

But in the meantime I have been going through some of the images I’ve taken recently of the fall colors. It was like I spent a week straight photographing different places around the Washington DC area to capture the color but didn’t have time to go through ALL the images. But this trip to Shenandoah National Park was definietly a highlight.

Shenandoah National Park isn’t exactly in the Washington area but it’s a great place to escape to when you need a little time with nature. On this trip I went with my friend, Larry and we were both pleasantly surprised by the sunrise color. In the past, we haven’t had much luck with color in the park. Mostly a lot of cloudy, foggy days.  So as soon as I saw that color come out, I was super excited to switch to my 16-35mm wide angle to try to capture as much of the sky as I could. I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not but lately, I’ve been really liking to have a blurry foreground element and have something in the mid-ground in focus. That is exactly what I was trying to do here with the huge rocks that I was standing on in order to capture this image. What do you think?

My camera settings for this image is F4.5 at 1/40th sec at ISO 1250 with my 16-35mm and Larry let me borrow his Sony A7III for the day.

And if you have any Thanksgiving recipe suggestions let me know! Something on the easy side 🙂