Although I had visited Texas on a few occasions over the last two decades, most of the visits were brief spent with family and a few friends. Ever since I left Texas, I reminisce about the spring blue bonnets that carpet their highways and byways. I remember in the early days of living in Virginia wondering how I grow those lovely lupines on the east coast. And as the years passed, my memories of those blue bonnets waned and my floral passion was replaced white images of the snowy delicate Washington cherry blossoms. However, this past Easter weekend I got the surprise chance to re-experience one of my first floral loves the Texas blue bonnets.
So the early Easter Saturday pre-dawn drive, I was hoping I would be seeking a chance to photograph them. It was the Sam Houston statue along highway I-45 that prompted me to pull off the side of the highway, and find my first patch of blue bonnets. True to Texas style, the statue was an eye-catcher for the little town of Huntsville, Texas - not to be mistaken for the Alabama city. There is a nice little shop and museum to check out if you have the time.
An occasional break in the clouds allowed me to get this spectacular shot of sun flare kissing the tops of the flowers. Along with the blue bonnets the pop of contrasting red that dots the fields are the "Indian Paintbrush" wild flowers and a some dainty yellow flowers called Tickseeds, or by their latin name Coreopsis.
As impressive the statue was my eyes kept scanning the highway for my blue carpet of blue bonnets or any iconic Texas scenes - like these grazing cows! And there was a turn off where I was able to get close enough to the bovines. I always have a funny dynamic with farm animals. Maybe because I am not used to their looks, but when I seem to catch their attention I have the feeling that they are eyeing at me like - "What do you think you're doing?" stare.
I still didn't have the image that I was hoping to capture of the a hillside blanketed with the blue bonnets. As I got closer to Dallas I was sure I would find a hill with them. And to my delight, I found a tall hill cascading with the waves of lush bonnets. As precarious it was to pull off the side of the highway as speedy semi-trucks whizzed by, I was able to photograph the iconic wildflowers fluttering in the morning breeze.
A few weeks ago I had a blast taking maternity portraits for Jen & Robert. Since I am not familiar with the area, I asked Jen to pick out some spots for me. She choose two locations down the street from their home. And it was perfect for that Sunday afternoon session, especially when we get to be joined by their young pup Max. Since it was a maternity session, I did want to capture some classic poses in their home. After some scoping around their home, I was pleased to find a nice corner with a window light for a few initial portraits with the both of them.
It was so fun to be able to incorporate little baby shoes into the portrait.
And of course, there has to be a shot of soon-to-be daddy kissing the baby belly!
After our home session, we drove to a little park near their home. It was such a fabulous location with a little rustic farm-like houses, plenty of woodsy grasses and overgrown ivy covered trees.
Now we get to introduce Max, their energetic pup. The second outdoor location was only a mile away in their neighborhood walking trail. Max was quite happy in his natural element.
With this trio it wasn't hard for me get to get a number of handsome family portraits whether it was standing next to the walking path, rummaging through the woods to get to the creek or resting on a big rock.
I came to find out that Max, being the protector - as his breed is known for, always jumps to get in the middle of Jen & Robert whenever Robert goes in for the kiss.
At the time of their maternity session, the baby was about four weeks due. Luckily for them, they had already chosen a name for their precious baby girl. I am so excited that they got to welcome an early arrival for baby Jocelyn this last week! Congratulations to Jen & Robert, lots of love to your new beautiful baby and family!
Valentine's Day is coming up soon and it almost coincides with the Vietnamese New Year. And for one of my couples that I photographed before, they will be having their wedding in Vietnam close to the most celebrated holiday for that country. I wanted to celebrate their upcoming wedding by sharing a few of their cheery engagement portraits in Georgetown. Many blessings and joy to Dao & Justin!
This was an unseasonably warm weekend at the end of December for this family portrait shoot. I ventured down south to Stafford County to a lovely little gem on the grounds of Belmont Estates. It is the home to the home and studio for Gari and Corinne Melchers. The estate is nestled right off of I-95 near Fredericksburg. And though it is winter there is so much character on the grounds of the colonial estate. The extended family portraits for this day included three sets of families. My friend, Winn wanted to give the portraits as a gift for her brother, her parents and her brother's in-law's family. Since they were all coming together for Christmas it was a perfect time to shoot their portraits.
Like many busy families, this session would be the first formal portraits for her brother since their wedding. Initially hesitant that their daughters will be so energetic they would not be able to get a perfect portrait. Assuring them this is exactly what I hoped to capture, these images show the essence of these two lively girls. Indeed, their daughter had so much energy, spunk and sass. The younger daughter would just get up with such explorative attitude or when she running after their Pop-Pop. On the other hand her older sister had such sweet shyness jumping along the cobbled path.
It is easy to see how the love from both sets of grandparents overflows to the entire family. All the couples were amused by my request for them to give each of their spouses the little love pecks.
Yet one of my favorite couples portrait came from Winn's parents where there's just a confident ease, connection and joy that exudes from the two.
Coming from a large family myself, I find it rare to have just a portrait with each of my siblings. So it was nice to sneak in a few portraits with the sisters together and the brother-sister portraits.
Lastly, the amazing woman who orchestrated this portrait session for her family and her brother's in-laws family portrait needed to have a few portrait shots for herself. She's one of the most generous hearted people I personally know and has one of the best smiles anywhere, and as I recall another friend once quoted "wished she could bottle the sunshine" of her smile. I was glad to be able to give her a few well deserved portraits for this awesome woman!
Within a few hours we have access to spectacular and scenic parks. The most popular is the Shenandoah Skyline drive. Last weekend was the start of the peak season.
Luckily I got to join one of my friends when she was showing some visitors our great National parks. One of those visitors came to visit from Vietnam so it was especially exciting for him as a photographer to experience the fall in America. As any photographer has experienced visiting a place like the Shenadoah you can easily spend 30 mins one spot and that's before you leave the rest stop!
Getting the backlighting on this one leaf alone would fascinate a photographer for endless minutes.
It was also to great to get pointers from a fashion photographer. Here my friend got to be the model for our amusement. The backdrop of the fall colors are irresistible.
Although we had some ambitious plans to hike the Hawksbill Mountain trail, due to time left we opted for the Dark Hollows Falls trail. With the number of falls along the path it was a challenge to explore where the light would best illuminate the scene. For an image below, I was able to recover the shadows through post-processing.
Even with the best technology and skill, nothing beats experiencing the outdoors for yourself. The blue skies, the rustle of the leaves in the breeze, and the smell of the fallen leaves. I wish I was like this woman in this photo who enjoy this beautiful waterfall.
The good and bad thing about landscape photography is that you have to bring a tripod to capture steady images. And the guys on this trip was kind enough to carry my tripod for me. This helped to allow me to experiment and take a few of these beautiful waterfall shots.
On our way home we were chasing the light hoping to catch the best view of the valleys lit by the sunset. These are some of the last few images from the day, and for some reason I love framing the image with these deadwood trees.
After a good long sleep and taking a few Advil, I decided to join my friends to visit one of my favorite little towns - Harper's Ferry, WV. The last time I was there, I did not get to fully climb the Maryland Heights overlook trail with my small group. This time I was determined to make it up to the overlook. My favorite part of the trail was a grove of these tall trees which were in the midst of turning from green to yellow.
With much anticipation, we finally arrived at the overlook along with a dozen of other hikers. And this was the gorgeous view that awarded us.
In today's age of over-the-top engagement proposals, I find it so sweet when a young couple holds the traditional Vietnamese engagement ceremony. Earlier this month one such young couple reached out me to photograph their special day. Justin and Dao was hosting a simple ceremony up in Owings Mills, Maryland. Even though the morning started off a little bit foggy, I could tell it will be a nice sunny day for the event. I love the cute archway outside the door for the guests and the sign that Dao's friend wrote for them - it was a perfect blend of the traditional and a little of the rustic trendy style of the chalkboard.
What I enjoyed most about the day was the real ease and laid-back this couple was all morning. There was a peace in both homes as I photographed the bride-to-be and with Justin as he prepared to go to her house. And you can really sense this ease and sweetness in the both of them in these series of portraits of the two.
In every engagement ceremony the bride-to-be has to ask a number of young ladies to represent the bride's side to receive all the gift's of the groom-to-be. What I always find so delightful are the beautiful traditional ao dai's (long dresses) they are just so colorful and youthful. I love this sassy shot of these beautiful young women and the big group hug for the couple.
Another favorite, is of the mother-and-daughter portrait which have so much sentiment. Dao's mom flew in from Vietnam for the engagement and you can just see the joy and pride in her eyes.
Speaking of joy, I love a group picture of Justin's extended family raising the roof. They were so happy for the couple I know that surely laughter is a big part of this family. What I enjoy about these traditional engagement ceremonies is the intimacy of the event, the introductions of two families, and chance to honor the relatives families of the couple. Best wishes to Justin & Dao!
Bowne Printers on Water Street NYC
In a recent visit to New York, I had a chance to stroll to the South Street Seaport just past Wall Street. I had only briefly visited this area once before and wanted to revisit it. This was when I walked past this quaint press printing shop and museum.
I love the texture of fine paper and have an appreciation for classic prints like what I discovered in this little shop. Seeing that they had a few presses on display, I could not resist taking a few snaps of the ornate presses. I love wrought iron eagle and the worn patina of such an industrial equipment.
Hoping to see a demonstration of the press in action, one of their employees - Ally - obliged my curiosity. He explained how the typeset were wooden, and that this press was setup for test prints or small batch printing. I was hoping to find a nice gift for my niece so he set the type with her name. And I remember my days in art class of inking and hearing the ink crackle once you've rolled over the type block a few times.
And as simple as that you've got a test print. He shows me the characteristics of the print how some letters have that salted look and what they would need to do to fix it. So fascinating to me this entire process. I love the tactile nature of an art form like press printing. The mechanics of placing spacers between the letters, and setting up the roller properly and even the risk that each print isn't exactly the same. I hope that this little print shop will see better days ahead and that it can be appreciated by future generations. If you want to visit for yourself, here's a link with some information about their shop at the South Street Museum website.