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- AboutMy interest in photography started with influence from my dad. Wherever we went, he took pictures of my family and the scenery around us. As I grew up, more and more times, he let me be the camera man. Maybe the habit just stuck. I took up photography in the summer of 2006. I really am not sure what spurred the idea, but since then I have made a hobby of taking photos of what I find to be beautiful. What do I find to be beautiful? Mostly, nature. I find beauty in the subtleties of the Earth. When I take the time to think through the complexity of the Earth and the life within it, I conclude that there must be a reason to existence. However, Earth is only one small piece of the larger puzzle; much more beauty exists in places and shapes we have never imagined. What is that larger puzzle? What other beauty lies out in the Universe? What is the driving force behind life? These are questions that run through my mind when I witness nature. What makes the Earth beautiful to me? I can’t really say. I feel a quiet passion as a crisp…
This week, I spent two nights in Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia. Words cannot describe how beautiful that landscape is! I never knew it existed before, before a friend and fellow photographer clued me in on West Virginia as an option for the fall.
I’ll go into many details about the park itself, but today I wanted to give you a glimpse of the DRIVE THERE! Wow, what an adventure. I left DC at 9:30pm, thinking that I wouldn’t hit traffic at all, and would be at the park by 12:30am or 1. Not bad, I thought, since I would get about 4.5 hours sleep before I had to wake for sunrise.
Oh, but that was not to be. First, I got stuck in bumper to bumper traffic just outside of McLean. This ended up taking 1.5 hours to pass a stretch of 5 miles. After I cleared that hurdle, I pushed on West, thinking I could coast on 8 lane highways until Blackwater.
Again, I was wrong. The road quickly turned from 8 lanes to 2, and stretched paper thin onto rolling mountains. I knew I was going through the mountains, but not because they were outwardly visible, but because an ominous shadow of mass loomed over the night horizon. Dense fog began to set on the road. For a while, this made driving a very serious job, as I stretched my eyes to see just past 15 feet, and to the left and right, where deer eyes peered perilously towards my car.
Despite my hardship in driving through it, the fog was quite a serene sight. Time after time, I would see the road descend into a cloud, and then came 360 degrees of whiteness. As I looked around me, the road and the nearby trees looked covered in snow as the misty air packed valleys between peaks.
Towards the middle of my night drive (say 2:30am), I just passed another cloud valley when the moon pushed through the clouds. The full reflection of the sun provided just slightly visible light on the scene I had just drove past, so I decided to stop and take it all in.
This shot shows just a few miles foggy roads that connect DC to Blackwater Falls. But it gives you a sense of the serenity and beauty of the area:
“Foggy Road to Blackwater Falls”
Stars emerge on a moonlit scene of autumn trees and fog on the road to Blackwater Falls, West Virginia.
A mini crisis (where I pulled over to help a a girl who hit and killed a deer, and disabled her car, was stranded without cell service and who was waiting with me until the Courtesy Police arrived!) and lot more driving later and I finally arrived at the park at 3:30am. Two hours afterwards, I was up and out, on for my two days of hiking (aka scrapping, clawing, and climbing!) and photographing Blackwater Falls.
Stay tuned for the images
The past few months, I’ve concentrated my efforts on capturing Great Falls National Park. It’s simply the most beautiful and majestic natural wonder in the DC area. It surprised me (and continues to surprise those I meet) that such a sight can be seen just 10 miles outside the Nation’s Capital. If you live in the area and have not yet visited the park, I highly recommend you do so! You will not regret it.
As a landscape photographer, one must frequent an area to ‘scout’ the best possible compositions of photographs. This includes visualizing a future image based on conditions that may not be present during one visit. Over the course of the last few months, I’ve come up with some spots I hope to return to based on changes in weather and water level (e.g., fall foliage or snowfall). In the meantime, I wanted to share a few views of the falls I found most beautiful.
This first image was taken early in the summer, from the walkways on the Maryland side of the falls. An easily accessible location, I enjoy this image because of the soft tones and subtle clouds that filled the scene just past sunset:
Sunset at the Maryland side of Great Falls. The Potomac River fills from water from these rapids. [Purchase Print]
This next image was taken that same day. As you climb down the Maryland side towards the water, there are flooded brooks along the river that graceful, Great Blue Herons congregate and hunt at. Though this particular Great Blue Heron was right in the middle of the action near those violent rapids, he was not taking as much risk as his brothers and sisters, who were daringly skipping between dry areas in rock, searching for fish.
“Living on the Edge”
A Great Blue Heron scales a strip of bedrock alongside the violent currents of Great Falls. [Purchase Print]
This next shot was taken right after some intense flooding in the DC region at the beginning of September. Just below one of the main overlooks, this shot shows how the rocks in the distance were inundated with especially brackish floodwater. I wanted to highlight the textures of the water and the daunting rock when presenting this image.
“Great Flooded Falls”
Brown floodwater overwhelms the falls, and spins in furious circles at Great Falls Park in Virginia.
This last image was taken right at the end of summer. Up near the main Virginia side gorge, this image shows how the river cuts right through the textured bedrock and down the falls. The lines of the intense rock lead you upstream, to where the water bashes through large sections of stone.
“Forces Through Stone”
The fierce Potomac River cuts through bedrock as it makes its way down through Great Falls to the Atlantic Ocean. [Purchase Print]
I hope you enjoyed my past few months of images of Great Falls National Park. For as long as I’m in the region, I hope to continue building out a portfolio of unique and high quality images of this gem of the mid-Atlantic. Please drop me a line and let me know how you liked this set!
Until next time!
By now we’re a few days into the Fall season of 2011. While Fall can be a somber time for folks (the end of summer and possibly vacations, shorter days, cold weather, the harkening of an ending year), it is probably my favorite season. The two reasons I think that is so is because the humidity (that sticks in the air around the Washington, D.C. region starting mid-June) begins to dissipate, leading to crisp and cool 70ish days, and, obviously because of the transformation into fall foliage.
Most everyone appreciates the rustic colors of autumn. In the DC area, many people travel to Shenandoah and to witness the coalescence of reds and oranges with the cool hues of the Blue Ridge mountains. Closer to the city, Great Falls National Park gives great views of the foliage. Besides the two locations already mentioned, another of my favorite locations to witness and photograph the fall colors is Arlington Cemetery.
Oaks, maples, and many other types of trees adorn the well-known white headstones, tombs, and obelisks of the Cemetery. The vibrant color provides a striking contrast to the grounds, and provide me a more captivating and solemn feeling.
Here’s a shot from the Cemetary from last fall that I just recently processed. I hope this year, I can continue to grow my portfolio of Autumn images.
During a fall sunset, vistors walk the passageways of the Arlington Cemetery, and pause with solace.
The effect of a long exposure shows visitors streaking along the walkway. Their ghostly figures are a metaphor for the burial grounds: that each one of the headstones represents a person who once stood tall and independent, but has since passed. The separation between the walkway and the grounds echo the differing worlds of the living and the passed. Though darkness has fallen on the scene and on what we can understand, the transition to the vivid pink sky, behind a high hill of ornate memorials, suggests optimism in the afterlife.
I hope you enjoy the upcoming Fall season as much as I will. Until next time!
First, I want to apologize for my lack of writing recently! I’ve been busy with work these past few weeks (photography and non-photography related), but I will definitely make an effort to share more of my thoughts. Lord knows there are many, and all at the same time .
I was recently published in an electronic nature and landscape photography magazine, aptly titled Landscape Photography Magazine. The publication showcases portfolios, and publishes stories and informative articles provided by nature photographers across the world.
Well, this is a pretty exciting development for me. I’m glad that this article will allow more people to see my work! One of my most rewarding experiences about photography is sharing my captured moments with others.
Landscape Photography Magazine is by paid subscription ($9 annually — not a bad price for a great resource on photography). But, if you’d like to see a low-resolution version of my article, shoot me a note!
Till next time, when I can show you some of my in-progress images
As you may know, today the Martin Luther King (MLK) Memorial, The Stone of Hope, opened on the Tidal Basin, in Southwest Washington, D.C. While it’s official “coronation” doesn’t happen until August 28th, the public finally got its first look at the long-awaited memorial today. Of course, I scouted it myself and took this image of the MLK memorial.
(FYI – When you get there, try to park at down near West Potomac Park. You have to park pretty far down on Ohio, then walk back up to Independence to gain access to the Memorial.)
While I was there, I felt mixed emotions. I was happy to see a memorial to a man who meant so much to American History finally present itself in grandeur. When I looked around to the crowd, I noticed so many more African-Americans than others. I realized then that although myself and the non-African Americans have the right to feel pride in a memorial that illustrates our path to freedom and equality, African Americans and their ancestors must feel a much closer appreciation for and understanding of this achievement. Nevertheless, I still owe Dr. King so much. As a man of color, I am a product of Dr. King’s dream and owe many of my opportunities and liberty to him.
“Out of the Mountain of Despair, a Stone of Hope”
Martin Luther King Memorial Image
Photography is a way for me to express my spirituality and belief in something beyond this world. In every shot of mine, I try to include elements of nature so that they evoke emotion & wonder from you, the viewer, as it did me when I clicked the shutter.
The natural world is amazing for so many reasons — one such reason is the mystery of what lies beyond it. The structure of birth, life, and death that is evident in every facet of this world is so certain, yet so hard to grasp. Every being on the Earth knows its time on the planet is limited, and therefore strives for a healthy and productive life. And, I believe that we feel a simmering from our subconscious that reminds that life is fleeting, and makes especially us humans appreciate the good, bad, and complexities of it.
Death is never a happy milestone in the course of natural order, but, it is not unhappy either. It’s the necessary process required to continue the sustenance of our planet, and breathe new life into all types of organic relatives. It also is necessary in preserving the sanctity and value of life on Earth. After all, what would life even mean if there weren’t an opposite in death?
The question that remains is what happens to the soul that was carried in the organic body once alive on the Earth. The wonder and awe I have in the perfect chaos of the Universe and our planet hints to me that the soul, of which I cannot describe in words, lives on. I believe the soul, which every being in the earth has, fits into another natural order which we have yet to see or cannot remember.
So while we cannot ever celebrate death, I pray for the souls of the Earth. I pray that the signs I have seen from this planet are true: that souls truly exist. I pray that they are taken to a place of ultimate understanding and peace: where questions don’t exist, where time is irrelevant, where all is pliable.
I pray for you, for me, for all of us. And for those who have departed the Earth.
Just a quick plug here
Two of my shots from my trip last year to Shenandoah National Park were chosen as finalists in the Views of Shenandoah Contest. My shots, among others, will be printed and hung in the Charlottesville Community Design Center in Downtown Charlottesville, VA and has a chance of winning the contest.
The winner will be chosen on August 5th during the reception ceremony. More details can be found here.
Unfortunately, I’ll be out of town that day! In any case, I hope for a good result.
Here are the two images that were chosen as finalists:
Fall colors show on rolling hills of the Shenandoah Mountains at sunset
Recently, I posted some images from my family’s trip to India in April.
During my trip, I spent some time in the south of India (where my family is from), Chennai. There, I stayed at a local alumni club and visited my parent’s friends and family. Also, while in the south, I attended my cousin’s wedding at a temple near Chennai.
Overall, I found the south to feel very welcoming. Maybe it is because I can speak the language, but I felt a little less rush and rumble as the rest of India.
For example, I wandered outside the temple where my cousin got married and found myself in a small, friendly, and vibrant community.
I went exploring a courtyard of temples, hoping they would be empty and I could some of the architecture and light flowing in from the windows. As I walked into the temple, I noticed young boys walking around with ‘poonals’ and ‘vaishtees’, Indian spiritual and comfort garb, respectively. I knew right then it was a temple school for Hindu priests.
One by one they noticed me walk into the school, and scaled curiously towards me. After 30 seconds, about 12 boys crowded around me like I was a movie star. They must have been taken with my obvious western style: ray-bans, a yellow polo shirt, and white cargo shorts. Shortly after, the elder of the school showed his face and cooly beckoned me into his office.
As the 5 or 6 mostly pre-teen and teenage boys poured into the office and listened intently, the elder asked me where I was from and otherwise about me. Through my broken Tamil, I conversed with him. After a brief time, I asked politely if I could take some photos of the students. He respectfully obliged and led me out to the main room of the school. Once the boys figured out what was going on, they started streaming from up and down the halls, so excited to get a picture.
After some portraits, I packed up back towards my cousin’s wedding. When I bid them goodbye, it was a warm but humble feeling. I couldn’t imagine a life where I would get so excited to see someone just like me. Yet, in another life, the life of those kids could have been my own, if I were to have been raised where my ancestors had.
A school of young Rishis crowd around for a portrait, while one is just a little late to the party.
A little later that day, I came back to explore the courtyard of temples. There, a young student grabbed me, excited to show me something a little further down the way.
I followed him past the temples, and was taken aback by a large domesticated male asian elephant. After I took some shots of him, I conversed a bit with the elephant’s owners or stewards. One of the boys suggested I take a photo of the steward and he meekly accepted everyone’s encouragement. I think the warmth of this man shows through his portrait, along with evidence of a different type of life:
A friendly steward of a domesticated elephant in a temple near Chennai, India
While south India and India in general is often a warm and welcoming place, there are elements that still remind that it’s still lacking in some ways.
As nice as I felt after interacting with the students and the elephant stewards, I felt bad for the state of the earth and life in India.
For example, while it was nice to see an elephant, it was NOT nice seeing it captured, chained by the leg, and writhing with discomfort. I don’t know whether the elephant was always in such a foul mood, or that he was distressed by my presence. But it seemed to me that the elephant didn’t have the most tenable living conditions: an open shack that rose slightly above him, no moving let alone running space, and no social interaction. This portrait shows the intensity in his eyes and reminds of his status in his ‘innoculated’ tusk:
At a temple near Chennai, a domesticated elephant, chained by the leg, writhes and bellows with vigor.
Also, the environment across India is not treated with respect. This photo, taken just outside the spiritual temples and right next door small houses, is worth a million words:
A cow wades for food in an ad-hoc landfill near a Chennai temple.
This scene is repeated across India. And when this next-door, makeshift landfill is full, residents will walk next door to burn it to make more room.
I can do little more to describe this. It seems to me a bit hypocritical when compared to the basic Hindu values of sanctity in the earth and life.
After spending time in south India with my extended family, we headed north to tour the famous cities of Agra, Jaipur, and New Delhi.
I enjoyed visiting the ancient and adorned cities, when I could deal with the searing heat. In comparison to the south’s green, humid lush, the north was tinted a hazy sepia, and was drier on land but seemingly not in air:
Sunrise brings light to the depths of the the Pink City: Jaipur, India.
Of course, the tours of the Taj Mahal and the several palaces of Jaipur and Delhi were engaging. I think of all the sights I saw across north India, my favorite is the Akshardham temple. Ye s, yes, the Taj was great, but I really have never seen anything as beautiful in structure than this temple. Too bad no photography was allowed. Here are my favorites from the north:
The Taj reflects a rusty orange from the rising sun.
At sunrise, the entrance of Taj reflects clearly in pools.
A snake charmer lures a gold-eyed King Cobra.
One of the many rhesus macaques that surround the Taj Mahal.
Check out the rest of my India images in the Asia gallery.
Oh and as always, let me know if you’re interested in a high-quality print .
Until next time!
At this point in my trip, I concentrated my sunrise and sunset shots at Second Beach, a sea stack and tide pool rich shore near Forks, Washington. During the daytime, I spent time touring the interior of the park, and visiting areas that were accessible during the winter month of March. While some spectacular vistas like Hurricane Ridge were closed, there were other alpine areas that were accessible by road that I was to visit. Over this last post, you’ll see images from both the coast at Second Beach and within some of the interior areas.
This first shot is one of the many amazing tide pools that are revealed during low tides. This particular tide pool was reflecting the image of a large rock and two vibrantly colored starfish. The tide pool also reflected a brilliant blue sky, with a few nicely placed white clouds, and the trees of a nearby towering sea stack:
As the sun continued to rise, clouds continued to separate and give way to the sky. This next shot shows that sky, which again was reflected in a nearby tide pool. This is one of my favorite shots from the trip, because of the contrasting angles between the sky and the sea stack on the right, the balance in subjects throughout the frame, and the lines that lead out through the bottom left hand corner:
To this point in the beach shots at Shi Shi and Second Beach, you’ve probably noticed how violent the water is. As I looked back to the south end of the beach, I noticed that the crashing waves created a mist that was rising back into the air. That mist was nicely contained in an opening between the coast and sea stack and in front of a wooded hill. The leaning tree from the coast adds a bit more interest to the scene:
As the sun started to take hold of the day, I started looking for varied subjects other than the tide pools and sea stacks. As I looked closer into the sand, I noticed fine textures that seemed to follow no clear pattern. Winding in loops and circles, these textures were the trails of wandering sea snails. This shot was taken with a macro lens and the original (not web version you see here) has some extreme detail down to individual grains of sand:
There were other interesting items on the beach, including several small rocks that carved out paths for water to dig through the sand as it receded to the sea. The angle of the carvings in the sand contrasted with the angle of the clouds in the sky brings some interest. Also, notice the snail trails from the previous image that cover nearly the entire beach:
After I took those last shots, I decided to tour the nearby areas of the park by car. On the way out from Second Beach, though, I saw a sight that was too familiar to me during my time at Olympic National Park:
Yes, that’s a chopped down tree. While I like the image, with the brilliant red-colored tree and its spilled guts framed by varied greenery in the foreground and the bokeh background, the real-life ramification is sobering. I was actually quite shocked at how many cleared forests populated the “Olympic Wilderness” as it is called. At first, I didn’t quite know what I was looking at, until I saw lumber truck after lumber truck and noticed several lumber mills. While I was out camping, I confirmed the sad state of things with a few of the locals, who recognized the forest-chopping almost with shame.
Here’s another image that put it all in perspective for me. This is a cleared forest near a road sign pointing to the Hoh, Forks and inland. In the near distance, you can see one of the culprits: a yellow bulldozer near a series of sanijohns. Then in the foreground and on far in the distance, you can see stump after stump of the remains of trees:
This sight is repeated over and over during the drives in Olympic National Park… a sad thing to report back to you. Until I stop buying myself wood tables, I’ll count myself as one person to blame for the state of things.
While there were vast areas of cleared trees, there also were more areas of still thriving forestry. This next one is of an alpine forest. This was beautiful to me for several reasons. The sun broke out through the clouds to illuminate a set of trees on the bottom part of the image, and illuminate the couple of trees near the top of the mountain. That couple of trees was made more prominent by a mist that whispered behind it. It was quite a serene moment:
As I traveled deeper into the park and up its mountains, I saw a different scene, but one that continued with the alpine forest. Much of the park was still under snowfall during the time I visited. In this shot, you can see how the weather changes as altitude declines. As your eye climbs up the mountain, you will notice layers and that snow slowly increases where the sunlight begins to shine, and has fully covered the trees and ground on the peak. If you look closely, you can also see exposed rock and boulders at the summit of the mountain. I framed the image on the left and bottom with other low-altitude trees:
While I didn’t have access to many of the lakes during the trip, I did get this one shot that was beautiful to me. It highlights the difference in color and texture of the trees of Olympic National Park, with the reds in the foreground, the greens bearing over them, and the blueish green of the forest in the distance. This scene is reflected in the water, and is framed by the gray sky and the ripples in the water:
My time wandering the roads of Olympic National Park was coming to a close. Before I made it back to my hotel to prepare for one last morning on Second Beach, I noticed again the variations between trees, especially as they peered over the winding pavement:
The next few pictures are the last of my trip. This sunrise, I hoped to get a few more compelling shots of Second Beach before I headed to the airport. God had to comply, though, and provide some intrigue by way of weather. She did not disappoint.
As the sun rose, the radiance of light began to highlight menacing clouds that were forming over the coast. The clouds seemed to be gathering quickly into rain, so I knew I had to work quickly before all of the vibrant light diminished. Using the long, flat coastline of Second Beach, the water left a thin film of moisture to create a perfect mirror of the intense sky. As the sun pushed forward, it also illuminated in orange a shower out at sea:
Of course, up to this time in my tenure at Shi Shi and Second Beaches, I had been employing long exposure techniques to paint movement of the dynamic tides. This last morning, I continued a bit of that but varied it with some fast shutter images as well. This next shot is similar to the last, but trades the reflection of the sky for a misty sweep of water from a wave:
After those shots, I decided to hone in on the intricacies of Second Beach as I had for Shi Shi Beach. As the storm that was brewing in the distance finally arrived over my head, rain droplets led to a faster exposure opportunity. In this next shot, I framed the varied textures of Second Beach to show layers leading up to the land, with raindrops falling into a tide pool, to the ridges of sand against water, to the rocks leading up to the sea stacks. This was another one of my favorite images from the trip:
Framing the subject a bit higher on the horizon, this next shot shows the gathering of several rocks leading up to the sea stacks at the shore of Second Beach. It also reminds of the violent nature of the tides, as splashes from a crashing wave fly over rocks in the distance:
As the rain dissipated a bit, I decided to capture my last two shots at longer exposure with an ND filter. In this first one, I was drawn to the vibrant color that arrived in the clouds and the green vat of still water at the base of the sea stack. Also, I was drawn to the partially hidden orange starfish and framing of the sea stacks in the distance:
In this last image, I used the ND filter to bring a bit more of the pink color of the sunrise and passing storm to the image. The long exposure settled the movement of water against the rocks so that it almost looks like a serene lake surrounding these giant sea stacks:
That marks the end of my images from Olympic National Park! I hope you enjoyed looking through the photos. Remember, most of these images are available for sale in the highest quality, professional grade prints. Look for a Facebook contest within the next couple days where you may just WIN one..!
I love hearing your comments, so please keep them coming. Thanks!