washington monument

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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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Hi,

Sorry, long time no blog. I realize that my last two blog posts were about the Black Lives Matters protests in Washington DC. It is such a large subject to document and I really wanted to frame the posts in a way that wasn’t political but my experience at each of the protests I had gone to. But after a while, I was not sure how to transition away from that. I had gone to more protests and wanted to share the images, but I did not know how to present the images in a different way. One thing led to another and I sort of felt like I was in a creative rut. So I just didn’t write any blog posts and barely went out to create more pictures to share.

BUT I’M BACK BABY! After spending some time for myself and reflecting on the type of work I want to create, I found myself getting more excited about capturing images and sharing them.

But to automatically switch gears from the protests posts to my favorite road trips from Washington DC, seemed a bit of a weird transition. Don’t get me wrong, I have my favorite road trips blog post about 70% done already and that will probably be the next post after this one, but I figured this blog post can give a little update of what has happened since last time I blogged…

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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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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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Greetings. About one month has passed since I posted my first COVID 19 update, I figured I’d send out another one.

In the past few weeks and even days, I’ve started realizing all the things I used to take for granted. I used to take for granted meeting up with a friend for lunch. I never even considered the fact that I would be unsafe walking past someone on the sidewalk. I took for granted being able to run to the grocery store real quick when we ran out of eggs. Now it’s a lengthy discussion with Andrew as to who’s going to go, what we want to eat for the next couple of days and if we have all the ingredients, fun snacks and even to make a note to look out for toilet paper (which we’re running dangerously low on!). Needless to say, it’s a crazy time where I’ve been feeling a lot of ups and downs. When I’m feeling up, I am productive doing things that make me happy.

A few images from an expired roll of Porta 400 film from cherry blossom season. I got these images developed from PhotoVision.

When I’m feeling down, I try my best to journal or write at least write down the things that I’m grateful for. Going on neighborhood walks has helped. Sitting down and expressing my feelings out to Andrew or friends on the phone has been great too. I’m still constantly thinking about what’s going to happen after all of this is done, when it’s going to be done but I just know all this uncertainty can’t be answered right now. When I catch myself feeling like this, I try to remember how I’m blessed to even have my health and almost instantly feel better.

From a walk on the Mt Vernon Trail before the stay at home order in Virginia.

I’ve also realized that every time I step foot outside my house, I’m concerned about the coronavirus. Even if it’s just to walk Frankie, I’m on the lookout to see who’s about to come near us and I feel so disturbed having those feelings. This has also hindered my photography. I’m not going out nearly as much as I used to but still feel the urge to capture images. I’ve taken a few pictures around my neighborhood and surrounding areas which has been nice.

Our local grocery store that I can walk to.

One day, Andrew and I just needed to get out so we decided we’d go fo a car ride. It was great to get out but so weird to see the streets of DC so quite. Frankie loved the little outing too. I also need to make a mental note that whenever I leave the house, I should bring my camera. I want to get better at that, especially since it doesn’t happen very often.

We didn’t get out of the car. Just enjoyed the views from inside.

While I’m home, I’ve been working on a few personal projects. One project that I’ve mentioned in my newsletter and on Instagram is that I’ve been scanning old family pictures. Luckily, my mom gave me a few photo albums before everything really broke out so it’s been keeping me busy. I’ve also taken the time out to scan images from high school.

A few family scans

But a majority of the time I’ve been trying to learn more. I want to take this time to try to improve my own photography. I love watching youtube videos of other photographers and attending webinars. I’ve learned that one thing that I don’t want to take for granted now is all this extra time we’ve been given. No more time spent stuck in traffic, no more time even commuting anywhere or even running mindless errands has given me so much “extra” time. All those things that I use to say that I would do if I had more time, I’m going to try to do them now!

I’ve also been going back and editing some older images. (L) Our first snowstorm in March 2018. (R) Surfer in San Diego in January 2019

But I think one of the most rewarding experiences so far has been running again. It’s been a great release for me. Andrew and I used to run a lot together when we first started dating. But after I ran a half marathon in 2015, I haven’t ran much. Running now has shown me how much stronger I have gotten over the years just by working out at the gym (which has now been replaced by virtual workouts). But in general, I feel less winded and my mile has definitely gotten faster. I am starting to feel really good when I go out for a run too. After all of this, I’m not sure if I’ll still continue running. But for now, I’m am grateful to be able to concentrate more on my health.

That’s all from me. This update was kind of all over the place with all the things I’ve been thinking about and doing but I hope you enjoyed it. Sending you much love and well wishes. Stay safe!

PS If there are any particular blog posts or photo content that you’d like to see from me, please let me know in the comments below! I’d love to use my skills to try to make you feel safe and more comfortable at home.