Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"Lost and Found" - Rediscovering Yourself and Moving Forward

December 29, 2014 - It was late in the evening on a Monday night that followed a weekend of watching The Hobbit movies in succession, and also a weekend of cleaning out an old room in the house. The timing of this all is very impacting, seeing that it's almost the new year. Friday night I watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey; on Saturday I watched The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug; and on Sunday I watched The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies in a movie theater. It was exciting to see the movie and it made me want to read The Hobbit book again to see the difference between the book and the adaptation, so I read it Sunday night, had several hours of sleep, then picked it back up and finished it Monday afternoon. I had a feeling of accomplishment.

I'm glad to see many things are reflected in the movie, yet of course a number of things were made up in it's adaptation. It is a gem of a tale with morals and lessons to be gleaned, even to this day. It's as if Tolkein tells the story as a narrator and interjects insights at certain points. Such might be expected for a children's tale, yet it's inspiration can touch all ages and for evermore. It's a fantasy realm in Middle Earth that I think is not too far from our own Earth, at least in that of the reality of the course and discourse of mankind's struggle between "good and evil" or right and wrong. There are virtues shown in this novel, and it also teaches us to believe more in ourselves. There's a passage I made a note of when I read this book through again. It's from Chapter 1 called 'An Unexpected Party' and you can put yourself in this quote/book while reading it. "I have chosen Mr. Baggins and that ought to be enough for all of you. If I say he is a Burglar, a Burglar he is, or will be when the time comes. There is a lot more in him than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself."

My old copy of The Hobbit novel.

This was all very nostalgic to me as I grew up reading The Hobbit and other fantasy books. I played role-playing games and arcade/video games. They opened up my imagination and gave me a sense of adventure. Yet I also liked to play football. Interesting mix. You could say life is all about balance. In preparing for the new year I was cleaning and organizing a room where I kept old belongings. I found a good number of precious things that still mean a lot to me because they marked important times in my life. One of those life-changing times was being in the U.S. Army as a Cavalry Scout. I recall the days leading up to leaving for basic training, and I knew that I would be part of a big adventure there.

 "See what you find when you clean your room."

One of the things I found which I knew I had somewhere was this fantasy novel called The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. I also enjoyed the Elfstones of Shannara and The Wishsong of Shannara. After reading The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings by Tolkein, this book series quickly became another favorite of mine. I found the movie soundtrack cover of First Knight and also a book on chivalry. Growing up I was intrigued with knights and it made me want to at least act like a modern-day knight with virtues. The First Knight movie has some great quotes in it, and I think they helped shape the way I treat others. Another thing I found was my "yearbook" from being in basic training at Fort Knox, KY. I haven't looked at it in a long time. I read one of the notes a fellow soldier wrote in it which is touching: "I have really enjoyed getting to know you these last few months. You are a truly good friend and a good person. I wish about 20 more people on this floor had your maturity and seriousness. Things might have been a little different. Good luck in everything you do." That means a lot to me and my time in the Army was an incredible experience for me. I also found some training manuals too. I also uncovered this book by John Eldredge called 'The Way of The Wild Heart.' It's a "guide to the process of masculine initiation, that ancient path every boy and man must take if they would become the man they long to be." I didn't get far into this book, but I did read through John's first book 'Wild at Heart' which was a bestseller and it became somewhat of a movement that invited men to "a life of adventure, passion, beauty and danger, a life beyond the walls of simply being a nice man." All these things I found were a part of me, and they still are.

I also found an old notebook from a photography class, and we had to learn to develop film too. Wow, how far we've all come personally and as far as technology is concerned. I look at the pictures I took over the years and I can't help but criticize my own work. We may not be great when we start out, but we learn along the way and we just have to do the best we can at the moment. Sometimes I feel like scrapping a lot of my work and starting over in a sense. It's all a learning and growth experience, and it takes practice. Reignite your passions and get motivated and inspired. Take the next step. I think it's important to appreciate the past and what you have, but forge ahead to make today and tomorrow better. 

In applying all this to photography in the new year, I think it'll help me refine what photography projects I want to pursue. We should photograph things that are meaningful to us, even if it's a personal project. Photographers are often asked "Oh, you're a photographer, what do you shoot or like to shoot? The answers may well represent our niche or focus. We do what we can to make a living, but I've always wanted to do more portraits and fashion photography.

So I think it's an important moment in finding what was lost, so that we may remember and allow what was good then to be a part of helping us to rediscover ourselves and go into tomorrow as a more rounded person. Sometimes I think we start out with good intentions and do well for awhile, but then at times we get off track or even stumble and fall. May we get up and move forward, and hopefully we'll have the aid of like-minded companions to live our lives with meaning and purpose.  

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Day

December 25, 2014 - I just wanted to follow up my digital Christmas card from an earlier post with a camera phone shot version. :D I had a nice Christmas celebration with family and relatives and as usual I didn't have to travel far with most of us being local to DC. I didn't buy or get any new photography gear, as much as I drooled in browsing what's out there. I'm going to have to do the best with what I've got. There is always something to work on with our photography craft and at least for me, there always seems like something to update. :- I'll keep on photographing and will do what I can to make it an excellent and productive 2015 with photography.

2015 Miss DC USA and Miss DC Teen USA Pageants

December 21, 2014 - Final Show - I have covered these pageants over the years and those involved in these pageants seem to be like family and a community. It seems like there is a lot that a pageant contestant goes through to compete in a pageant, yet they do have the support of family, relatives and friends. The 2015 Miss DC USA and Miss DC Teen USA Pageants are the official preliminaries to the 2015 Miss USA and Miss Teen USA Pageants. These pageants are supported by parent organizations The Trump Organization and the Miss Universe Organization.

The venue this year was the Renaissance Washington DC Downtown Hotel and the ballroom used was very spacious and wide allowing guests to easily see the stage. This year's judges who were at the final show were Jessica Black, Mick Dadlani, Nana Meriwether and Simone Feldman. Having covered this event for years, I saw some familiar faces at the event and it was good to see them again. For anyone who has attended a pageant of this level or even see one on TV, the excitement and energy in the venue pulsates. From walking in a bikini to an evening gown to being asked tough questions, a pageant is a challenging situation, yet these ladies usually come well-prepared and are ready to compete for the title, sash and crown. Congratulations Miss DC USA 2015 Lizzy Olsen and Miss DC TEEN USA 2015 Niara Tarleton-Allen. I'm sure they will be great representatives for DC.


DC's Dancing Stars Gala - House of Cards Package

The DC's Dancing Stars Gala was on October 25th and one the items on the Silent Auction was a premier dining experience at Charlie Palmer Steak DC restaurant graciously donated by General Manager Todd Salvadore. The Silent Auction package was called the House of Cards package which included: 1) Dinner in view of the US Capital (where Frank Underwood began his climb to power on the hit Netflix Show House of Cards), 2) Dining with Local Casting Director for House of Cards Kimberly Skyrme and recurring Underwood Secret Service Agent, Lamont Easter, 3) Four course meal prepared by Executive Chef Jeffery Allan Russell using the finest fresh ingredients and paired with wines from their exclusive wine list. The winning bid for this Silent Auction Package was Jim Coakley and CJ. I had the opportunity to take their pictures of this evening, which made the dining experience all the more memorable having been captured in photographs. 


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Fall Season VP Review

When the fall season starts, it seems like there is an abundance of activity. I'm very busy in the fall season and I feel like I'm in catch-up mode, and so my blogging suffers. It's at the end of the fall season today, and so I'm posting highlights of what I've photographed this season.

20140903 - Cathleen Photo Shoot at the Southwest Waterfront - I've always enjoyed going to the Southwest Waterfront in DC as they have this beautiful area with a growing development of community activities and stores. Cathleen was going to turn a year older the next day and I was glad we had time to do a photo shoot.I mostly used natural light and when it was getting darker I used a speedlight flash for fill. I used several lenses for this shoot: 12-24mm f4, 35mm f1.8, 50mm f1.8 and a 70-200mm f2.8. Thankfully Cathleen had a couple nice outfits to use for the shoot, and I think they matched well with the environment.


20140906 - Bracket Room 1-year Anniversary - It's an awesome thing to celebrate anniversaries and the first one is very special. I was asked to cover the one year anniversary of Bracket Room, a restaurant in Clarendon VA owned by Chris Bukowski of ABC's The Bachelor fame. I enjoyed being there in celebration and enjoyed the food and drink and interaction with the guests there. Congrats!


20140910 - Shannon Rockville Photo Shoot - I met Shannon at a fashion show in MD awhile ago and wanted to have her model some clothes from Red Hue Boutique in Rockville Town Center. We had a beautiful day and beautiful clothes for the shoot. As a way to thank Shannon, I even bought her one of the outfits from the shoot we did. She wore it well and it's a wonderful addition to her fashion collection. 


20140912 - Art Soiree 5-Year Anniversary - I've attended Art Soiree events for many years and it's wonderful to have celebrated their five year anniversary. They've brought artists, the art community and art enthusiasts together in the DC area. I couldn't stay long, but dropped by to celebrate with Art Soiree and I took only a few shots with my Canon G10 compact camera.


20140912 - Lilly Ghalichi in DC - Anyone who has watched Shahs of Sunset on Bravo knows who Lilly Ghalichi is, and I was able to meet her a year ago. When I heard she was going to be in DC to put on a fashion show, I was excited to be able to see her again. Here are some pictures from her show at The Huxley nightclub. 


20140919 - Andrea Great Falls Photo Shoot - Andrea is a lady with many talents and she stays in great shape too. We wanted to take advantage of the great weather and do an outdoor shoot, and we decided on Great Falls. It's a place of natural beauty. Although I prefer doing photo shoots at sunrise or sunset, we did what we could in the early to mid afternoon, considering we'd be in the shade for some of the shoot. Here are a few highlights from the shoot. I used one or two speedlight flashes as I either wanted some extra punch to the photos or some fill when we were in shade. 


20140924 - DC Fashion Week with Keith Carlos of ANTM - I'm a fan of watching America's Next Top Model on the CW. The most recent cycle was 21, which was the first cycle where they had both male and female models competing for the title. When I watched the finale of ANTM Cycle 21 on December 5th, I recalled that Keith Carlos was in a DC Fashion Week opening night show that I covered. So Keith was the Cycle 21 winner and he made history being the first male ANTM winner. Congrats Keith! It was cool that you could be in DC for a fashion show. 


20140928 - National Harbor Capital Wheel - When it was announced that National Harbor was going to get a wheel, similar to the The London Eye wheel, there was mixed reactions. At 180 feet tall, the Capital Wheel is not as big as the one in London at 443 feet, yet it's a nice addition to the National Harbor area. Not only is a great amusement park style kind of attraction, it is also provides an amazing view of the surrounding area. For me as a photographer, I knew I had to take pictures of it, from outside the wheel and also inside one of the capsules. I also noticed there was a photo contest of the Capital Wheel, but I didn't get my photos submitted in time to enter the contest. At least it was still an amazing experience and I got some nice photos out of it.



20140930 - Dar Be Dar Fashion Show - Tala Raassi is an Iranian-American fashion designer who was born in Maryland and raised in Tehran, Iran. Raassi. She was called “One of the Most Fearless Women in the World” by Newsweek Magazine as she impressed the fashion world with her talent in designing swimwear. Her swimwear is devoted to “celebrating the beauty of a women’s body through her designs and empower women all around the world to follow their dreams.”

It was great to have Tala hold a fashion show at Co2 Lounge in MD befitting autism speaks. I had never been to Co2 Lounge before, but it is a beautiful restaurant and lounge. For the event they had DJ Bazza spinning and Cyrus Reel performing with his electronic cello. After the fashion show, guests browsed and shopped for swimwear, while continuing to enjoy appetizers and drinks.


20141004 - City Debut of Blind Whino Art & Event Space - I had seen this old church in passing by the area as it's near the Capital Skyline Hotel. The structure of 700 Delaware Ave SW venue was designed and built in the early 1900s by James A. Boyce at the site of the old Friendship Baptist Church. The building is unique for its eclectic use of Victorian and Romanesque architectural styles combined with Gothic Revival and Queen Anne elements. It was designated as a D.C. historic site in 2004.
Blind Whino commissioned Atlanta based artist HENSE to produce a full mural wrap around the entire perimeter of the venue. Additionally there is a full mural wrap on the inside performance area, which was curated by Australian based artist MEGGS. I enjoyed checking out the new space and could see that it has a lot of potential
in it's mission "to provide a functioning organic art space for all to share and learn through various art exhibits and events, live performances, and artist workshops."


 20141016 - Blue Hope Bash - I've been supporting the Chris4Life Colon Cancer Foundation for several years. They are a national Colon Cancer non profit dedicated to permanently eliminating the threat of the disease through the discovery of a cure. Every year C4L holds the Blue Hope Bash to raise awareness and funds for the cause.


20141017 - Vida Photo Shoot - I did a photo shoot in DC for Vida, founder of Artist Elite, which is an exclusive global network of professionals in the beauty and fashion industry. Vida is fond of yoga, and also holds events called Lipstick Yoga that celebrates beauty, fashion, health, and well-being all while giving back to others. Lipstick Yoga gathers people including local hair & makeup artists to enjoy a yoga session. It's an opportunity to network with local businesses and professionals while supporting our local non-profit organization. Vida put on a workout outfit and she did some poses and I worked out my camera. :D We decided on the Georgetown Waterfront in DC for our photo shoot and here are several of my favorite images from the afternoon.


20141020 - Hijacking The Runway - Fashion Group International of Greater Washington DC hosted a book signing for Hijacking The Runway with the award winning Wall Street Journal Fashion Writer and Author Teri Agins. There was also a Q&A with special guest Robin Givhan, a Pulitzer Prize  winning fashion critic and author. I was asked to cover this event at Mazza Gallerie, and there was an abundance of cocktails and food along with many fashionable guests.


20141025 - Fashion, Art, Design (FAD) Georgetown - When Fashion's Night Out (FNO) became a worldwide phenomenon in the fashion industry years ago, Georgetown put on an FNO to be part of the action and the community of fashion. The FNO events were great fun and exposure for those who participated. Once FNO ceased, the Georgetown Business Improvement District wanted to continue in the tradition of FNO, yet put their own spin on it. So "Fashion. Art. Design. Georgetown" was launched, and it seemed far from a fad, as Georgetown continues to grow as a fashion destination and the art and design sensibilities of this town has become very strong and influential in the DC area. 

For this year Fashion Art Design featured 50 retailers for a day and evening of fashion events, gallery browsing and inspirational design, and there was the DC premiere of the film Advanced Style.


20141025 - DC's Dancing Stars Gala - Being a fan of ABC's Dancing With The Stars, when I heard about the DC's Dancing Stars Gala, I was excited about attending. The event's venue was The Ritz-Carlton in Tysons Corner, VA which is right behind luxury shopping mall Tysons Galleria. The gala involves noted people in the DC area who are paired with a professional dancer and trained to compete in a dance competition to vie for the most points awarded by celebrity judges. The dancers were from the Fred Astaire Studio in Fairfax, VA and the celebrity judges were Jonathan Roberts, Chris Bukowski and Gary Clark, The gala raises funds for various charities.


20141027 - WeWork DC Photo Shoot - I was referred to Jacob and Ryo, the founders of a startup called Snaapiq to take some portrait and environmental shots of them. I went to their workplace in the WeWork collaborative space in DC across from the Verizon Center. Snaapiq "started out as a coffee chat about how to turn picture-taking into a game where people could earn prizes for their pictures and businesses could drive rich, brand-related content." So it's a way to "incentivize and reward mobile photographers." Check out http://www.snaapiq.com.


20141030 - Walk This Way benefiting Becky's Fund - Walk This Way is a fashion show bringing people together to raise awareness and raise funds to Becky’s Fund is doing everything they possibly can to fight the issue of Domestic Violence and make many aware of its dangers to our world. In this fashion show professional athletes walk the runway along with a few models to encourage others to walk their talk in preventing domestic violence.


20141104 - Leslie Sanchez visits DC again - Leslie Sanchez has served as a leader in public opinion research specializing in elections as well as the women's and Hispanic-Latino marketplace. "Her career has been at the forefront of predictive data analytics that shift opinion, shape policy and aid in the decision-making process for Fortune 500 companies, universities and colleges as well as global non-profit organizations."

I covered the AMP Summit for Leslie in 2010, which was about the ever-changing world of activism, media and politics. Leslie contacted me saying she was going to be in DC for coverage of the November 2014 Midterm elections, so she asked me to pictures of her before the Yahoo News ‪#‎MidtermMixer‬ led by Katie Couric & David Gregory, with appearances by Matt Bai, Mike Allen, et al. Her dress is by Twilley Atelier. Later that night I watched part of the coverage of the Yahoo Midterm Mixer on TV and saw Leslie on a discussion panel. It was cool to have been at the location where they were filming and then to be home and watch it on TV.


20141107 - FotoWeek DC Opening Party - FotoWeekCentral for this year was at The Former Spanish Ambassador's Residence in DC. It was an exciting evening in kicking off the 7th Annual FotoWeekDC Festival! There was photography, exhibits, open bars, appetizers, a photo booth, entertainment (Haerts, Pleasure Curses) and music by DJs Lisa Frank & Chris Nitti. 


20141109 - Metro Cooking DC - MetroCooking DC’s Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show has become the DC region’s premier event for the specialty food, culinary, and entertaining community. This 9th edition of MetroCooking DC was held from November 8-9, 2014 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. I had the opportunity to go to this two day event on the 9th and one of the highlights was seeing Bobby Flay. I've become a big fan of cooking shows in the past year or so and watch many shows on TV. Some of my favorite shows are Top Chef, Masterchef, and Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Although I didn't see Guy Fieri at Metro Cooking DC on Saturday, I did see him the night before hanging out in a DC hotel, and got in a picture with him. 


20141111 - The Concert for Valor - It makes sense to hold a concert honoring the courage and sacrifice of America's veterans and their families on the National Mall in DC on Veterans Day. This was the first-of-its-kind concert, and it provided a national stage with celebrity guests and musicians to let veterans know the appreciation and gratitude that America has for them. The concert was free, but we all know that freedom isn't free, and veterans and their families have made sacrifices for our country and it's people and our way of life, living with freedom.

I arrived around 11am and even that wasn't early enough to get the best spot for viewing the concert. Luckily I was able to meet up with a group of friends and sit in their area. Although we weren't in the VIP area ahead of us, we can understand that area is for VIP's and families of veterans. I'm a veteran of the U.S. Army having served as a Cavalry Scout, but as long as I was at the concert, I was happy to sit with friends. Of course I wouldn't mind being closer to the concert stage. Maybe next year.

There was an impressive music lineup which included The Black Keys, Eminem, Dave Grohl, Jennifer Hudson, Jessie J, Metallica, Rihanna, Bruce Springsteen, Carrie Underwood, and the Zac Brown Band. The concert featured celebrity onstage hosts Jack Black, Bryan Cranston, Jamie Foxx, George Lopez, John Oliver, Meryl Streep, and Bob Woodruff, and there were special tributes on the jumbtrons by Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon.

The day went by quickly and the wait was worth it when the concert started. Everyone seemed to join together in celebrating our veterans all the while being entertained by the musical and entertainment lineup. It was a great concert and it supported many causes. To see which causes were supported, check out The Concert for Valor website under the Support menu. It looks like this concert will happen again next year, and I can't wait to experience it again.


20141113 - American Humane Association - The Humane Table - I was asked to photograph a Capitol Hill Briefing for the American Humane Association called "The Humane Table" which celebrates the humane heartland. It's great to see the collaboration of the AHA with Capitol Hill and those who provide food from the heartland in a humane way.


20141122 - Capital City Ball at the City Tavern Club - "The Capital City Ball was created in September 2007 by a group of DC area professionals who saw an opportunity to create a high caliber, annual black tie party for the weekend before Thanksgiving. The proceeds of which would go to a very important charitable cause."

For this year's ball, the focus was on fighting human trafficking, and the support went to three charities: The Amara Legal Center, Courtney's House and Global Centurion. On the Capital City Ball website they say "It is unacceptable that human trafficking exists anywhere, but it is especially troubling that it is a significant problem right here in Washington, DC.  We at Capital City Ball are determined use our events to raise money and awareness to fight human trafficking."


20141129 - L2 7-Year Anniversary - The L2 Lounge in Cady's Alley Georgetown is a unique place, with it's rustic and modern design and appeal mixed together. The venue is perfect for an art presentation and also for fashion related events. Years ago I even held a fashion event here. Through the years L2 Lounge has offered great service and they always know how to decorate and have their staff dress up in themed outfits to fit the theme of the event being held. L2 Lounge hosts large parties from time to time, and I'm glad to have been a guest at several of them. Although Georgetown is not well known for it's lounge scene, L2 Lounge makes for a good representative. It's not as easy to find parking around L2 Lounge, and it's farther away from downtown DC, yet if you're passing through the Rosslyn and Georgetown area, L2 Lounge is a good stop. At certain times they can also have food served from Kafe Leopold Konditorei, which has delicious food and desserts.


20141214 - Holiday for Hope DC - I was invited to take pictures of the Holiday for Hope event in DC, which is put on by Dreams for Kids Inc. Dream for Kids DC (DFKDC) provides empowerment opportunities for at-risk and isolated youth. Tom Tuohy, the founder of Dreams for Kids Inc., built Dream for Kids Inc. off of his event Holiday for Hope. This annual holiday event provides hundreds of homeless and underprivileged youth the opportunity to experience a one of a kind holiday experience. Children who attend this event often form a bond with volunteers and build a connection with their volunteer that can turn into a mentorship of sorts for a long time. There was a variety of arts and crafts, food, drinks and snacks, and various forms of fun and entertainment for everyone.


20141218 - In recent years I've found it more fun and convenient to make my own Christmas and New Year's greeting card, and for this year I combined them into one card. The appeal of obtaining people's mailing addresses and mailing them a card has waned and it takes a lot of time to do it. Making your own holiday card has become very popular and we've seen many examples of them, from traditional ones to ones done in a full-on photo shoot style. I put my camera on a timer and took this picture. I took a separate picture of the poinsettia and digitally merged it in the image. It's been quite a year for me with photography, and I appreciate having been able to photograph so many things and support causes. I'm always trying to improve on my craft, so I'll keep photographing.