National Harbor, Maryland

Scenes in National Harbor, Maryland

While the east coast of the U.S. is known for having beautiful sunrises, anyone who has visited the west coast will say the sunsets here pale in comparison to those in west coast cities like San Diego. 

This adage was proven wrong during my recent visit to National Harbor, Maryland, part of the greater Washington, D.C. area. I was in National Harbor for my first in-person professional development conference since February of 2020, days before the COVID-19 pandemic started shutting things down.

During our brief stay in this 300-acre waterfront development along the Potomac River, I had a chance to see for myself why Expedia has ranked National Harbor as one of “The Best Places to Catch Astounding Sunsets” in the United States.

With views of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and the Washington monument, National Harbor is packed with 40 restaurants, a marina, public art displays, the largest casino outside of Las Vegas, and attractions such as an outdoor theater, and a 36-foot carousel. The area even has a circus.

My personal favorite thing to do was ride the Capital Wheel. This 15-minute experience takes riders 180 feet into the air, treating them to unique waterfront views of Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. 

Like the professional development opportunity that brought me to the area, the Capital Wheel ride provided me with a much-needed lift and a new perspective. When I was firmly back on the ground, I was inspired to capture the scenery around the Wheel in a different way.

San Diego, California

A cliff overlooking the aqua and navy blue water of the Pacific Ocean.

La Jolla, California

Traveling has always been a priority for our family of three. As someone from a small town who had barely left my home state before going to college, I wanted my daughter to grow up knowing through first-hand experience that the world is vastly bigger than her immediate day-to-day surroundings.

Beginning when she was four years old, we started planning summer adventures in the U.S. and abroad. Our travels have included Hawaii, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Jamaica.

Since 2020, the pandemic has forced us to take a hiatus from our annual summer trips. As we look forward to possibly traveling again this summer, this post reflects on our last family trip in July 2019. 

San Diego, California was our destination. We unknowingly booked the trip for dates that coincided with the last few days of ComicCon. We were thrilled, upon our arrival, to get a flavor of the hoopla surrounding this international event. During our stay, we visited the famous San Diego Zoo, took a day trip to La Jolla, and went to a Padres game, our first-ever Major League Baseball game.

Sunset at San Diego State Park

Besides glimpses of ComicCon and experiencing one of the best zoos in the world, I will never forget the incredible sunsets we saw. This trip was my first time visiting the West Coast of the U.S. – and I’d always heard about the epic sunsets there. The nightly sunset views from Coronado Island where we stayed, and from Pacific Beach, where we went to see the sun set over the famous cliffs, were some of the best I’ll probably ever see in my lifetime.

To see more views of San Diego, check out the San Diego gallery on my photography web site.

What I Learned in My First 6 Months of Blogging

This month, I am celebrating my 6-month anniversary as a book and photography blogger. Sixty posts, 2,012 views, and 880 visitors later, what do I have to show for this milestone?

Well, I’ve had fun, explored my creative side, and made lots of connections with other writers, book lovers, bloggers, and photographers. But, most importantly for you, I’ve learned a few lessons you can benefit from if you’re planning to start a new blog or relaunch a stalled one.

So, before I break out the balloons and champagne to celebrate, here are a few words of advice for you.

Have some content banked before you start.

My bank of original photos has been a source of inspiration for post ideas.

At first, you are likely to be bursting with ideas and energy for your new blog. That’s a great place to be in, but be sure to pace yourself with posts. Resist the urge to post everything you create immediately and bank some of those ideas and posts for later. Trust me – you are going to hit a time when you’re short on inspiration or time to create new posts and you’re going to need to draw on your content bank in order to be consistent with your posting. When those times have hit for me, I have been grateful to have had a reserve of book reviews and photography to lean on.

Just start.

This one is for all of the overthinkers and over-analyzers out there who have a tendency to get stuck revving your engine at the starting line. Don’t wait until you have years and years of content stored up or until some magical date in the distant future. Why? The danger of waiting too long is that you run the risk of never getting started – and it would be a loss for your audiences not to get to read your perspective. This almost happened to me. I first had the idea for a blog in the mid-2000s but was overwhelmed by the idea of starting. I sometimes wonder where my blog would be had I just jumped in then. Don’t wait for the perfect time to get started – just get going already.

Speaking of perfection – it is highly overrated.

There will be things you can’t get perfect at first, no matter how hard you try. You may want to get into blogging because of a love of writing and connecting with others, but your technical skills aren’t the best. Or maybe you love showing off your web development and design skills but the writing part doesn’t come naturally.  For me, I struggle with troubleshooting formatting issues in WordPress. If I waited until I could figure out how to fix every minor alignment issue before posting, I’d never get anything posted. I’ve had to learn to get posts up to the best of my ability and accept I will make mistakes and that’s okay. It’s part of the learning process. The only way to get better at the parts that are a struggle is to do them.

For the wanna-be bloggers who haven’t taken the leap, what’s holding you back?

For the more experienced bloggers out there, what would you add? 

The Great Outdoors

Photo by Flash Mama Photography

I have a confession to make: I’m not really an outdoorsy person. Odd, I know, considering I’m a landscape photographer. But, up until I started taking nature photos in 2019, I was much more comfortable in the cozy, temperature-controlled indoors. I’d take occasional walks with my family and friends, and enjoy a few beach days here and there. However, if given the choice between spending time inside or outdoors, I could always find a reason to stay inside. 

In the summer, it’s too hot out there, I’d say. Alternatively, in the winter, my excuse was “I don’t own a coat.” The fall months always seemed too busy, while spring was written off as too pollen-y.

Over the last few years, I’ve realized how much I was missing out on by staying inside. The beauty of sunrises and sunsets are the most obvious things I wasn’t experiencing regularly. I was also missing out on endlessly interesting cloud formations. On butterflies dancing among wildflowers. On how a great blue heron presides over different spots at a local lake. On the way their unique bark patterns make each tree seem like it has its own personality.

Learning to love and enjoy time outside and in nature has been one of the greatest rewards of becoming a landscape photographer. I’ve replaced my excuses with photos of thousands of these wonderful moments — so many that a quick scroll through my phone would make you wonder if I actually live in a forest.

What has been the most unexpected reward for you as an artist?

Sunday Scene: Spontaneous Sunset View

Sunset on Topsail Island

This image was taken on Topsail Island on Mother’s Day weekend. My parents booked a stay there without realizing it meant they would be away on Mother’s Day. 

Feeling down after a particularly stressful week, I decided at the last minute to make the 6-hour round trip drive to see them so I could wake up with my Mama on Mother’s Day. 

We had so much fun during that brief visit that almost didn’t happen. One of my favorite parts was walking around the island with my Mama in search of the perfect sunset view. She doesn’t care anything about photography, but she knows how much joy it brings me to explore new places with my camera. We had so much fun talking to the people we met on the street and laughing at ourselves while we tried not to get lost. I’m so grateful for our photo walk and for the time we spent together on that quick trip. 

On this holiday weekend, I hope this striking sunset helps remind us all of the beautiful memories that can come from being spontaneous in big and small ways.

Canon Rebel T7i, ISO 400, f9.0, s 1/500