Thursday, October 29, 2009

Reflections....



Greetings....

So it's been over a week since my return and a lot of people have asked me, "where was your favorite place on your trip?", and "what would you have done differently?". I got a couple "what have you learned?", and even... "you were gone??" ;-).

I thought I'd recap my trip by sharing a few thoughts I have had as I reflected on the time and how I spent it. I'd also like to post a few more pictures from the last week spent in Richmond, Virginia, and by sharing one of my favorite pics from each destination.... hope you enjoy!

First, I would like to thank Jet Blue for such an incredible offer, and truly hope that they decide to do it again. At a reception they held for Jet-Passers in the JFK airport, I talked to a Jet Blue staffer that said they are planning on the promotion again, but may change it up a bit. Can't wait to see what they decide!

I'll start out by saying that I would DEFINITELY do it again. No question. I would, however have changed a few things:

1) I would've had transportation a little better laid out. For example, with the frequent rains and limited bus routes in the Bahamas, I felt a bit constricted while I was there. A car would have made a big difference, and I'd recommend the same to anyone planning to go...even if its for vacation.

2) I would have packed less. I didn't over pack, per se, but I certainly could have gotten by with a lot less than I brought. Hard to pack for 3-4 weeks:).

3) While I didn't have a ton of time to plan (only 2 weeks between booking the JetPass and departure), I would have tried to squeeze more planning in. Specifically, logistics of where to go while at each destination. I wanted to keep it fairly loose, and could still have done that, but a little more research before-hand could have let me capture some things I feel like I missed.

4) I would have changed some duration-of stay decisions (such as less Bahamas, more Puerto Rico). Having said that, I couldn't have really known that ahead of time. I feel like I just took a scouting trip of sorts. Where would I go back? Yes. ;) I'd go back to pretty much every destination... in fact, I hope to. The only significant change I'd make is Bahamas. I would make sure to get to one or more of the other islands besides New Providence, where Nassau is located.

As you all know, I made the trip alone. For those of you that know me, this really isn't a problem... I am a bit of an introvert, and enjoy time on my own. Plus, it wasn't a vacation, so having the ability to pick up and go when I needed, change plans on a dime, etc. was helpful. I have to admit, though, there were occasions when some company would have been nice. . . and while I did meet a handful of interesting people along way, there is nothing like the company of someone who knows you.

All in all, it was an amazing trip. I'm fortunate to have been able to take it, and glad I could share a bit of it with all of you!

And now on to some pictures.... I'll start with Richmond, VA, and then I'll move on to a pick from each of my destinations.


Richmond is a neat town. The capital of Virginia, it's not a small town, but it doesn't have a metropolitan feel to it, even in the downtown area. If you want the metro-feel, Washington, DC is a quick hour and a half up the road. Richmond is a Southern city. By that, I mean it has a distinct culture, one that has a lot more in common with other southern cities such as Charlotte, Atlanta, Raleigh and the like. People are generally friendly, there is a much slower pace than you find in Northern VA or DC, and though not a major metro area, there is plenty of culture, recreation, and entertainment. Of course I've mentioned before, one of my favorite things about Richmond is it's location. You can be in the mountains, at the beach, or in the city (DC), each within an hour and a 1/2.

The following are shots taken in and around Richmond, from downtown parks to suburban farmer's markets... let me know what you think!


Maymont Mansion

Magnolia

Monarch

Maymont Sunset

Great Horned Owl (Maymont Park)

History

Pole Green Market


So now for the "Best Of" ... though honestly it may not be the best of the bunch, rather ones I like :). I hope you've enjoyed following along for the last two months! This will be the last post I make on this blog, but I am thinking of maintaining one on my website when I have it up and running to document and share shoots I go on, trips I take, and my emerging life as a photographer.

Thank you all!

Danny




Nassau, Bahamas


Loiza, Puerto Rico


Arenal, Costa Rica


Rocky Mtn NP, Colorado


Arches NP, Utah


Las Vegas, Nevada


Mojave NP, California

Empire State Building, New York

Portland, Maine


Shenandoah NP, Virginia


Washington, DC

Richmond, VA




Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ah... Virginia


A couple of the things I love so much about Virginia (and central Virginia in particular) are its seasons, and the proximity to some of the most serene and beautiful mountains this country has to offer... the Appalachians. My recently retired father and I took the opportunity to do a quick backpacking trip in Shenandoah National Park, part of the Appalachian Range that runs from Georgia to Maine. We both love these mountains, and try to get out to them as often as we can, so it was indeed a treat to escape for an overnighter in the Park.

On this first trip, I decided not to bring my DSLR camera, but rather opt for my small, convenient, and much lighter point-and-shoot camera. It takes great pictures, but I found myself longing for my DSLR at times... so much so I decided to return following my DC trip to hit the same trails again!

I'm getting ahead of myself, however... back to the the overnighter. Dad and I took off last Wednesday morning and made the 1-1/2 hour drive out to the Shenandoah National Park entrance near Afton Mountain, and quickly made our way up to the Blackrock Gap parking area. We started towards Blackrock Summit after a quick sandwich we'd packed, and made our way up the polkberry-lined Appalachian Trail (AT), enjoying the beautiful colors of changing hickory, gum, dogwood, oaks and maples that surrounded us.




In no time we were at Blackrock Summit, an amazing trail running around a peak consisting of massive boulders ranging in size from your doghouse to your backyard shed. We circled the peak, and of course, I needed to scramble up to the top to take in that amazing 360 degree view of the Shenandoah National Park, and beyond into the Valley. It was here that I was convinced I wanted to return the following week with my DSLR, in hopes I'd catch the leaves even closer to peak.

video


Wanting to make it to our destination, Furnace Mountain, a couple of peaks away, we set out down the series of trails that would take us there. The 2.5 mile trip took just around an hour, with plenty of time for us to set up camp, make some dinner, and plop down on an outcropping of rock that marked the termination of the trail at the peak of Furnace Mountain.






The show we witnessed would rival any Broadway blockbuster in my mind. While the sun set behind us, out of view from where we were facing, the dropping shadows against the mountains and changing colors of the North-Eastern view were gorgeous; the darkening sky and emerging stars bloomed into a full-blown light-show, complete with meteors, constellations and a clear view of the Milky Way; and as an encore: about an hour after sunset, the moon rose over the mountains in the Eastern sky. I was cringing that I'd not brought my XSi, but even if I had, it would have been tough to capture the beauty. I slept out on that outcropping, and woke to an equally beautiful, spectacular sunrise. Looking back, it was definitely one of the best overnighters in recent memory....

We broke camp after breakfast, and made our way back through the trails that had led us there, past Blackrock Summit, and on to our car. The hike back was just as enjoyable as the hike in, and we enjoyed the sights, sounds, and smells of being in the forest.

My return trip the following week didn't include an overnighter. I left Washington the following Tuesday morning early, made a quick stop into Harrisonburg and my alma mater, JMU before entering the park for some day-hiking and shooting along the same trails Dad and I had traveled the week before. It was time well spent, and though the weather wasn't quite as inviting as the week before, the color was indeed closer to peak, and worth the decision to come back.
My remaining time in Virginia was spent with family in my hometown of Richmond, and was a great way to unwind after a phenomenal 6 week trip. I've just arrived home in San Jose, and am looking forward to sharing some final thoughts about my travels in a blog I'll post in the coming days. Thanks to Jet Blue for the incredible offer, and to you for following me on my journey! :)

Danny


DC Snapshot...



Last Monday I took my last Jet Blue flight of this trip from Portland, Maine to the town where I grew up, Richmond, VA. I got to spend the next day decompressing a bit and hanging out with the parents in their home in Mechanicsville, and did a little planning for the upcoming two weeks remaining in my Jet Blue adventure. First up was a few days in Virginia. Next, a weekend in Washington, DC to spend time with some more close friends of mine, and a day of shooting in the capitol city. The remaining time would be with my parents and family back in Virginia to finish off my trip.

I'm going to diverge a little bit from my habit of posting according to the sequence of events and concentrate on Washington on this post. I'd like to save some post-worthy material I experienced in the days before DC and share it in my next posting on my beloved VA.

Washington DC is a unique place. Like any major metro area, there are certainly things you can find that you may not like. However, it has a plethora of cultural outlets, an almost limitless number of fascinating things to see and do, (both inside and out), and an incredible wealth of history. There is a distinct feeling of awe you can get if you start to think about the impact that the people, the policy and decision makers in this city, have had and continue to have on this country and the world at large.

My reason for coming to DC was not to dwell on politics or the cultural relevance and impact of the city. It was much simpler... I wanted to spend some time with some good friends, their 8 month old son, and hopefully get a few shots in the process. I definitely enjoyed the time with friends, and I think you'll enjoy some of the shots I captured:).

In large part, I left my camera in the bag for the first few days in DC. The time was well spent, though, as myself and my two college roommates from years ago played golf in the suburbs of Maryland just outside the city, paddled some kayaks up the Potomac river from Fletcher's Boathouse near Georgetown, watched the Redskins get trounced (sorry Neil & RT), and enjoyed good food, wine, and time with a precious little 8 month-old addition to my friends' family named Kai.

The last day in DC I spent shooting on and near the The Mall, an approximately 5 mile in circumference rectangular stretch of grass and monuments surrounded by museums and foliage, and the buildings where our nation is governed.



There were a few things that were working against me as I shot that day - a national solar energy competition that was being hosted on the Mall interfered with many of the views I'd anticipated; a huge tent for a coming event was set up directly in front of the White House, blocking an otherwise fantastic (and really the only) shot of the President's residence; and lastly an overcast day, almost all day, wasn't the best setting for striking landscape shots. That being said, I think I made the best of it. I worked my way up the Mall toward the Capitol building and for the first time explored the National Botanic Garden.






































Not a huge footprint, the Gardens were packed full of all kinds of plant life, ranging from flowers to ferns, to herbs and trees, from all over the world and all kinds of climates. I was actually surprised at the diversity represented in this relatively small building and plot of land next to the Capitol building. I highly recommend it as a stop on a tour of DC. you can spend either 20 minutes or half a day in the Botanic Gardens and feel good about your time there.





After the gardens, a stop for some photos of the Capitol building left me standing on the southeast end of the famous Pennsylvania Avenue connecting the Capitol to the White House. I walked the historic street, stopping for a street-vendor hot dog and taking shots of many of the government buildings and monuments that line it on either side.







































Turning left at the White House, I headed toward the Washington Monument, and a chance to replace an old photo of the monument I've been hanging on to which I took with a film point and shoot film camera almost 10 years ago. The sky wasn't cooperating with me, but I gave it my best shot (no pun intended ;)).



Leaving the Monument, I headed back up the Mall and to my Metro ride back to the cozy neighborhood of Friendship Heights. I spent a final night with my friends, and set the alarm for 6AM and my next stop..... which I'll share with you next time :).

Until then,

dg