Riley’s Lock

There are no shortage of things to do in the DC area, and they aren’t all museums and monuments! When the weather is nice, we try to get out and explore, taking our dog with us as often as possible. Back in February, on an unseasonably warm day, we headed up to Maryland to check out Riley’s Lock. Riley’s Lock is located in Seneca Creek State Park and is part of the C&O Canal.  In this area, there are lots of parks along the canal, so plenty of great opportunities to get out and explore, walk, bike, or picnic.

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While we were walking, I was *super* excited when we stumbled across the remnants of the Seneca Stonecutting Mill. Abandoned building? Yes, please!

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On our way home from exploring, we made a quick stop at Glen Echo Park. It’s not a very hopping place in winter, but I’d love to go back now that summer is on the horizon and check out the carousel or some of the events they have going on.

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All in all, an excellent day of exploring places I had never checked out before. There is an advantage to being married to someone who grew up in this area and thinks of places to go that may never even cross my mind. I’m looking forward to our next adventure!

Oak Hill Cemetery

Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that I am weird in that I *love* cemeteries. I love exploring them and have ever since I was a little kid. I think my parents were quite concerned that anytime we drove anywhere, I asked to A) drive past the prison in our town and B) go look around cemeteries. (So far I have seemed to avoid the serial killer career these interests might seem to imply.)

So it shouldn’t be a big surprise that, for my birthday this year, my husband took me first to explore Oak Hill Cemetery, followed by dinner at my favorite tapas restaurant. Headstones and sangria? Win.

We didn’t have as much time to explore Oak Hill as it deserves, so I will certainly be making an expedition back, but here is what I captured for now.

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Fall 2016: A Summary

Yep. Totally slacking. My last post here was 9 months ago.
Oops.

I, for one, am glad 2016 is winding down. I can’t say I haven’t been doing any photography, but for most of the last 9 months, the thought of getting out and doing it has been, frankly, exhausting. Even just working on fun stuff for myself. 2016 was not a terribly easy year for me.

This was a year where I could feel the almost constant nagging of depression and anxiety. I’ve long struggled with those things, but sometimes it’s just a more frustrating fight than others. I hate it because it affects what I want to do, my relationships, everything. Then in August I cleverly managed to break my foot (hint: be careful stepping off curbs…no…really…they can just jump out from under you at any moment).  As soon as my foot was back to normal(ish), I was so eager to get back to normal I promptly messed up my shoulder at the gym and am still dealing with the consequences of that. So, needless to say, I am planning on 2017 being a better, less injury-prone year.

I wasn’t a total loss on photography, though. I did manage to get out and explore a bit, just in my own neighborhood. Fall is my favorite season, and when I do convince myself to get out and play, I am always rewarded by how much better I feel when I am done. So here’s some of my “just for me” work – I hope you enjoy!

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Travel: A Family New York City Adventure

I was lucky as a kid – we went on family vacation together every summer. But until this past Labor Day weekend, I couldn’t tell you the last time we’d all gone somewhere together – maybe sometime when I was in college…? After this past Labor Day weekend, I remembered why it had been so long….

Kidding!

My dad is a huge folk music fan. I grew up listening to my dad play guitar while we sung along to John Denver, Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, Woody Guthrie, and Peter, Paul, and Mary (“Puff the Magic Dragon” was a favorite song of mine, even though I cried (yes, really) whenever Puff slunk into his cave, sure it meant he shuffled his way off the mortal coil). So when my dad heard about an exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York that chronicled the blossoming of folk music in Greenwich Village in the 60s and 70s, it seemed a perfect reason to head to the city. My parents had never been to NYC and it had been almost 15 years since I had been there – why not go?

So we found an (overpriced) hotel a few blocks off Times Square and headed up for the long weekend. And we crammed a *lot* into those few days. And as much as I can joke about going on vacation with my parents now that we’re all adults, we really did have a pretty good time playing tourist in the city, and I figured I’d share a bit of our adventure with you. Hope you enjoy!

nyc4Times Square and Jared making friends with the T-Rex at the Times Square Toys R Us (which has since closed! So I’m glad we got to go there and poke around!)

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We drove up, but my parents’ flight was late getting in, so we headed over to Rockefeller Center for cocktails and people watching before stumbling across a delicious Cuban restaurant for dinner

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All ready to go on the top of the tour bus on the first day!

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At the museum. Someone was a little bit excited….

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The paper is the handwritten lyrics to Bob Dylan’s “Blowin in the Wind”

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I spent a disturbing amount of time being fascinated by this light fixture and the spiral stairs in the museum. I want them both.

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Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall at night

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The *highlight* of the trip for my dad – open mic at The Bitter End! This venue, which opened in Greenwich Village in 1961, hosted a ton of folk music artists during the height of the folk music revival. It meant a lot to my dad to get to sing and play at the same place as so many people who have influenced him – and he did a great job! (I admit it…I teared up a bit…)

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The city from the top of the Empire State Building

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The city from Liberty Island

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Travel: Grand Canyon and My Own Las Vegas Wedding

I’ve been a slacker on this one, but figured it might be time to get around to blogging some of my 2015 travels, to include my biggest adventure – heading off to Las Vegas for a week for good food and drinks, a Grand Canyon side trip, and…getting married!! My now-husband, Jared, and I decided that we were really excited to get married, but didn’t want to have a big bells-and-whistles wedding – it just wasn’t the best fit for us. So we called up our two best couple friends – Jen and Matthew and Chris and Annie – and said “so…if we were to get married in Vegas, would you come?” And that’s how we ended up in Vegas with some of our best friends, getting hitched! So I wanted to share some photos from Las Vegas, our day trip to the Grand Canyon, and a few of our wedding pics – I shot the details myself, and then the photographer from our resort shot the ceremony and posed shots after. I hope you enjoy this quick peek at our special day and great vacation!

If you haven’t been to the Grand Canyon, GO. I planned this excursion (we used Pink Jeep Tours) as one of those “we’re this close, we should go” sort of things…and I didn’t regret a minute of it. It is a breathtaking spot and there is no photograph that can really convey the breathlessness of it. Just go.
On the drive back, we stopped at the Hoover Dam briefly. We didn’t do the tour, but it was still impressive to see from the outside and hear some of the history.

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This was Jared’s first time in Vegas, so of course we had to wander and enjoy the strip at night. We hit up Lago at the Bellagio for dinner and the watched the fountains outside after.

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The day before the wedding, Jen and Annie and I hit up the Grand Spa and then had a delightful lunch at Paris overlooking the Bellagio and its fountains. As a side note, the guys went to Hooters for wings and played KISS mini golf because, yes, apparently that’s a thing.  That night, we all met up and went for delicious tapas at Julian Serrano. We also spent some time drinking at the The Chandelier, because who wouldn’t want cocktails inside of a massive sparkly chandelier? vegas7vegas6Vegas-34logo

Vegas gets an average of 4″ a rain a year, and I felt like it all came down during the week we were in town! Luckily it didn’t affect our plans too much – and we were rewarded with a rainbow as we looked out our hotel window on our wedding day!

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My favorite saying after the ceremony was “if you’re not poolside an hour after you’re wedding, you’re doing it wrong”. Aside from getting married, perhaps the best decision we made the whole trip was renting a pool cabana to hang out in the rest of the day. Our own private space with food, drinks, and the opportunity to float on the lazy river. Can’t beat it! We had just enough time after the pool closed to grab quick naps, then clean up and head to dinner at Voodoo Steakhouse and catch the Penn and Teller show, where Jen, Matthew, and Jared all ended up getting on stage!

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Overall, this was an amazing trip. I always say every couple should walk away from their wedding feeling like it was exactly what they had hoped for, and we definitely felt that way with our Vegas getaway!

 

Wedding Day Info:

Accommodations and Ceremony Location: MGM Grand

Bridal Gown: Rene Ruiz @ Nieman Marcus

Bridal Shoes:  Christian Louboutin

Groom’s Suit: no idea, but his only instructions were to wear a suit that didn’t start with “bathing” or “birthday” so….

Ceremony & Wedding Portrait Photography: Cashman Photo

Wedding bands (including bride’s custom engagement ring and bands): Jared

Bridal Jewelry and Bridesmaid Gifts: Konplott

Cupcakes and mini-cakes: Corner Cakes, MGM Grand

 

 

 

 

Light Painting Workshop: Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

One of the coolest things about photography (or art in general) is there is always the chance to learn something new and keep growing your abilities. The day I think I know all there is to know about photography and can’t do anything to get better is the day I know I should put away my camera. There is always always always some new aspect to explore! So, with that in mind, last month I made the trek with my friend Evan to the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (TALA) in Weston, WV, for a light painting workshop.

The workshop was put on by a great local group, Road Runner Photography Tours, and I admit I had no idea what I was getting into. I was intrigued because I had heard of light painting but knew nothing about it and because I LOVE old, falling apart buildings and ghosts, so going to TALA for anything was a dream come true. The leaders of the tour were awesome – gave a great lecture beforehand to help educate us about light painting and then walked around the asylum during the night as we worked to help set up some interesting shots with different techniques and answer questions.

If you’re not familiar (like I really wasn’t), light painting is just what it sounds like – set yourself and your camera up in a dark or low-lit space and then illuminate parts of the space with different light sources. You can use anything from regular hardware store flashlights to heavier duty lights  with colored gels to glow sticks and colored light sabers – all kinds of neat stuff. There also doesn’t really seem to be a “wrong” way to do it – it’s a lot of trial and error to create the effect that you’re looking for. The key is really to have a tripod and a vision, because for most instances, you’ll want to take several different exposures with different ways of light painting and then layer them together in post-production (I use Photoshop) to make a composite.

If I came away from this workshop having learned anything, it’s that I have a LOT more to learn. As I went through my images, I was definitely making a mental list of what to do differently for next time! But I feel that, for my first time giving this a shot, these didn’t come out too shabby at all. Hope you enjoy!

The one below is a composite of three different images – we lit each room individually with its respective color and then I put them together in post production.

TALA3One of our great instructors, Denise, posing as an asylum patient for us

TALA7This is a cool effect created by having white lights on the inside of a bicycle tire and spinning it on its side on the ground, creating this neat dome of light

IMG_6522 TALA5The glowing “waterfall” is created by someone spinning flaming steel wool (sometimes called “woolies”). I’m not going to give a “don’t try this at home” message, because obviously people do and are fine, but I will say to keep in mind that this is METAL or FIRE and so obviously precautions need to be taken. I found this blog post that gives a great explanation on how to create this effect safely, and if you have any doubts about whether you’re comfortable doing this or not, don’t do it

TALA1 TALA4 TALA6 This is actually probably my favorite from the night, and it’s not a composite – the typewriter (which I loved on its own!) was lit in just one shot IMG_6543

 

And leaving you with one final woolie!

 

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A Travel Story: San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

As you can tell, 2013 has already been full of adventures for me. New Orleans last month and I just returned this weekend from a week-long yoga retreat in Nicaragua. It was an amazing experience! It was wonderful to be in nature and away from it all, enjoying morning and evening meditation and yoga classes as well as relaxing on the beach, drinking smoothies, and exploring what a beautiful country Nicaragua is. I also have to give a lot of kudos to Yogaville for organizing this wonderful trip, and express gratitude to all the people who shared the week with me. I never knew it was possible to connect with such a diverse group of people so strongly in such a short time!

We flew into the capital of Nicaragua, Managua, and then took a 2.5 hour ride to San Juan Del Sur on the Pacific coast. At the top of a very steep hill, we discovered our resort, Buena Vista Surf Club, located just above Playa Maderas, one of the top surfing beaches in the country. We had run of the resort for the week, and the owners, Marc and Marielle, and their staff (Ashley, Jose, Alex, and Jet) were beyond amazing. They were helpful and cooked the most delicious vegetarian breakfasts and dinners your can imagine. They were cheerful and blended right in with our group, even joining us for some of our yoga classes. The resort is an eco-resort designed by Marc and Marielle to blend seamlessly in with nature. They have treehouse-type bungalows for guests, as well as a beach house slightly down the hill (where I stayed with three other ladies). The first night there, I watched the sunset from the balcony of our beach house and then enjoyed a deep relaxation class before dinner. It gets very dark very quickly there, so by the time we opened our eyes at the end of our relaxation session, we were gazing up at glittering stars – what a start to the trip!

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The main house where we ate our meals and had our yoga classes

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The view from the deck – we spent our yoga sessions gazing out over the trees at the oceanIMG_4897_2 IMG_4895_2 IMG_4893_2 IMG_4828_2

Looking into the living room our our beach house, which I shared with three other women as well as an assortment of spiders and a few very chatty geckos

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A sailboat out at sunset

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Our second day there, I spent time reading and relaxing, as well as exploring the beach, drinking the first of many fruit smoothies (big fan of the pineapple-banana combination), and eating guacamole and veggie tacos at the shacks on the beach. We also spent beach time during the week boogie-boarding (many thanks to my new friend Padma for helping me learn to do this by just handing me the board and giving me a shove, literally and figuratively, and to Swamiji for showing so much joy and excitement in this activity), enjoying deep discussions in the sunshine, and making friends with the stingrays (no one stepped on any, but goodness, it is startling when they just start swimming over your feet and legs!)

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Aside from the stingrays that liked to boogie-board, there were plenty of other interesting creatures and beautiful flowers. Lots of really lovely birds flying about, dolphins frolicking in the water, geckos, creepy bugs hanging out by on the doors of the beach house, scorpions (note: if getting stung by a scorpion is on your bucket list, I highly recommend against it – I got a nasty sting our last night there that we’re 95% sure was from a scorpion, and it hurt like hell), and MONKEYS. How much fun is it to wake up to the noise of howler monkeys? (OK, only sort of fun, at 4 AM, it’s really a bit more annoying. The monkeys also thought we were incredibly interesting – they would often come and hang out around the deck during our yoga classes (probably laughing at us).

IMG_4885_2 IMG_4886_2 IMG_4888_2 IMG_4868_2 IMG_4968_2 IMG_4961_2 IMG_4967_2 IMG_4869_2 IMG_4871_2We didn’t just hang around the resort and do yoga – we also did some exploring of Nicaragua. One day, I went on a catamaran sailing trip, courtesy of Nica Surf and Sail. Zack, Byron, and Geraldo were really knowledgeable and friendly and we had a great trip. We did some sailing, then dropped anchor in a quiet cove called Playa Blanca, where we got to swim and walk on the beach, and also have homemade guacamole and salsa on the boat. We sailed back to San Juan Del Sur just in time to still see the sunset from the boat.

I also have to add that one of the most amusing things about the sailing trip was getting there – we had to take a taxi from the resort to the pier in town. Imagine a taxi – now erase that image and imagine a beat up old pick-up truck, with room for 4 passengers…a 6 people needing to get into town. Well, Nicaraguans are prepared for that – the bed of the pick-up taxi is outfitted with boards along the sides to make benches. So…along with another person from our group, Rene, and Dunia, the woman down the road from the resort who gives awesome massages, I rode into town in the bed of a pick-up. While a bit dusty, the breeze was surprisingly refreshing, and it is at least a good story to tell!

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I admit it, I broke the “no alcohol” rule while out sailing – the Jimmy Buffett part of my soul just didn’t think it was acceptable to be on a boat without a Mai Tai, and I had to try the Nicaraguan rumIMG_4910_2 IMG_4916_2

The statue in the distance is a giant Jesus statue. Who knew, Ohio’s Touchdown Jesus has a Central American cousin? ;)

IMG_4922_2 IMG_4920_2The day after sailing, we went on another adventure, to the Masaya Volcano and then into Granada for lunch and some sightseeing and shopping. Masaya is an active volcano, and it was pretty impressive to see the smoke pouring out (and to smell the sulfur – whew!). We didn’t have much time in Granada, but it seemed to be a quaint city with a lovely center square (lots of vendors!) and good spots to eat (we enjoyed lunch at the Garden Cafe). During our drive, we also made a quick stop at Lake Nicaragua, which was beautiful.

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The garden courtyard at the Garden Cafe – great smoothies and brownies!

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From the edge of the Masaya Volcano

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An amazing example of the resilience of nature – even if the lava fields around the volcano, flowers are still growing

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Masaya from a look-out point above

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Lake Nicaragua

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After those two adventures, I spent the last few days of the trip just relaxing and visiting with the others on the retreat. I feel like the photographs don’t even really do this place justice. I had never given Nicaragua a thought as a vacation destination, but I am so glad I went, and I highly recommend it if you ever have the opportunity!