Blog

The official photo blog of J. David Buerk Photography.

Old Rag Mountain: August, 2018

Lately I’ve been slowly working my way through unedited personal sets in my photo library. This week’s offering is from last Summer, when I finally got to hike Old Rag once again. After my Spring, 2017 knee mishap which led to surgery and a long recovery in PT, this was my first time hiking Old Rag since making a full recovery.

My friend Patrick, who you may recognize from many of my car posts, and I hit the trail on a steamy August mid-morning. I’d come to find out later that day there were other people I know on the mountain at the same time we were, but we simply never crossed paths; funny how that works sometimes.

Old Rag is the tallest peak in Shenandoah National Park, and naturally provides some of the most incredible panoramic views of the Shenandoah Valley. It is known for its extensive granite rock scrambles along the trail with some locations along the trail and at the summit offering opportunities for bouldering or full-on rock climbing for those feeling more daring.

All photos in this post are available for print here.

20180826 - Old Rag Mountain August 2018 1.jpg
20180826 - Old Rag Mountain August 2018 2.jpg
20180826 - Old Rag Mountain August 2018 3.jpg
20180826 - Old Rag Mountain August 2018 4.jpg

If you’re unfamiliar, parts of the trail run through and under the massive granite boulders; here, the trail proceeds up a natural staircase inside the opening between the rocks, in the center of the frame below. As you ascend and eventually descend the mountain, you can changes in foliage, ground composition, and wildlife.

20180826 - Old Rag Mountain August 2018 5.jpg
20180826 - Old Rag Mountain August 2018 6.jpg
20180826 - Old Rag Mountain August 2018 7.jpg
20180826 - Old Rag Mountain August 2018 8.jpg
20180826 - Old Rag Mountain August 2018 9.jpg
20180826 - Old Rag Mountain August 2018 10.jpg
20180826 - Old Rag Mountain August 2018 11.jpg
20180826 - Old Rag Mountain August 2018 12.jpg

Best of 2018

Each year I publish a year-in-review which shows the highlights of my year in photography.

2018 began by closing out 2017’s setbacks; as some of you may recall, I dislocated my kneecap and tore my MPFL in 2017, and underwent surgery to reconstruct my MPFL in October, 2017. This meant that by time 2018 rolled around, although I was back on my feet, I was still in a full-leg brace and only mid-way through physical therapy. The beginning of 2018 was slow, and felt even slower, but that wasn’t a bad thing since it helped me focus on making a full recovery. By February I was out of the leg brace, March I was jogging again, and April I completed physical therapy. By May I was running full-speed again, and June I was fully recovered, hiking Old Rag Mountain and running half-marathons again. Today, 15 months after surgery, I am happy to report that it is almost like nothing ever happened to my knee in 2017.

Fully recovering from knee surgery early allowed 2018 to become my biggest year for travel assignments, giving me back full confidence and ability to go and do anything anywhere that is needed or wanted. In 2018, after spending a week and a half in Rhode Island visiting friends and exploring parts of the state that I hadn’t gotten to in previous visits, this meant a whirlwind week and a half across the entire country, touring airports in cities from coast to coast. Traveling from Washington, DC to Atlanta, to Chicago, to San Francisco, and back to Washington, DC, then back to Chicago again before returning home to DC a few weeks ago, I’ve enjoyed five photoshoots across three cities, not counting photoshoots in the DC metro area. The travel allowed me to sample some cities I’d never visited before, and relish some experiences I’ve looked forward to for years.

2019 already has some more travel planned, and I’m very hopeful to continue taking my photography on the road (correction: in the skies). Although it’s not the first time I’ve travelled for a photoshoot, 2018’s trips have been the largest and most logistical travel assignments I’ve taken on, and I’ve loved every second of it.

Below you’ll see some highlights from 2018, including some photos which are unreleased to-date due to focusing on deliverables rather than personal photos.

Here’s to 2019 and hoping it shapes up to have all the opportunities from 2018 and more!

A driving instructor watches the autocross track during The Kia Stinger Experience Tour, Washington, DC, March 10th, 2018.

A driving instructor watches the autocross track during The Kia Stinger Experience Tour, Washington, DC, March 10th, 2018.

Portrait of Steve Mohyla CFP with podcasting microphone.

Portrait of Steve Mohyla CFP with podcasting microphone.

An aircraft on final approach to DCA’s R/W 19, photographed from Gravelly Point, Arlington, Virginia.

An aircraft on final approach to DCA’s R/W 19, photographed from Gravelly Point, Arlington, Virginia.

Equestrians during the 2018 Virginia Gold Cup.

Equestrians during the 2018 Virginia Gold Cup.

A Summer thunderstorm photographed from beyond the rainfall.

A Summer thunderstorm photographed from beyond the rainfall.

The Honorable Elaine Chao, United States Secretary of Transportation, addresses guests at The Aero Club of Washington's "When Ingenuity and Innovation Come Together" luncheon, June, 2018.

The Honorable Elaine Chao, United States Secretary of Transportation, addresses guests at The Aero Club of Washington's "When Ingenuity and Innovation Come Together" luncheon, June, 2018.

Bayard proposes to Margaret upon her arrival and clearance through Customs at Washington Dulles International Airport.

Bayard proposes to Margaret upon her arrival and clearance through Customs at Washington Dulles International Airport.

Nighttime view of the former location of New York City’s World Trade Center Twin Towers through the Empty Sky Memorial in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Nighttime view of the former location of New York City’s World Trade Center Twin Towers through the Empty Sky Memorial in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Headstones in the fog, seen in Union Cemetery, North Smithfield, Rhode Island.

Headstones in the fog, seen in Union Cemetery, North Smithfield, Rhode Island.

Historic Downtown Woonsocket, Rhode Island.

Historic Downtown Woonsocket, Rhode Island.

TF Green Airport ARFF Station as seen from airside.

TF Green Airport ARFF Station as seen from airside.

Southern face of the Rhode Island State House, Providence, Rhode Island.

Southern face of the Rhode Island State House, Providence, Rhode Island.

“She Never Came” by Bezt from Etam Cru and Natalia Rak; a mural in downtown Providence, Rhode Island.

“She Never Came” by Bezt from Etam Cru and Natalia Rak; a mural in downtown Providence, Rhode Island.

The Providence Biltmore Hotel as seen in the film  27 Dresses .

The Providence Biltmore Hotel as seen in the film 27 Dresses.

Hennessy the pit bull playing in a river stream.

Hennessy the pit bull playing in a river stream.

Easton Point, Newport, Rhode Island.

Easton Point, Newport, Rhode Island.

At the Museum of Work and Culture in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, a French-Candian immigrant worker tends to a loom.

At the Museum of Work and Culture in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, a French-Candian immigrant worker tends to a loom.

My September, 2000 print of New York City’s World Trade Center Twin Towers held and photographed in the exact same spot in present-day Liberty State Park, Jersey City, New Jersey.

My September, 2000 print of New York City’s World Trade Center Twin Towers held and photographed in the exact same spot in present-day Liberty State Park, Jersey City, New Jersey.

View of Manhattan from Liberty State Park, Jersey City, New Jersey.

View of Manhattan from Liberty State Park, Jersey City, New Jersey.

View of Manhattan from Liberty State Park, Jersey City, New Jersey.

View of Manhattan from Liberty State Park, Jersey City, New Jersey.

View from atop Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah, Virginia. This would mark the first time I hiked Old Rag since my knee injury over a year prior.

View from atop Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah, Virginia. This would mark the first time I hiked Old Rag since my knee injury over a year prior.

A stream in Shenandoah National Park.

A stream in Shenandoah National Park.

The Shenandoah River with a thunderstorm rolling in in the distance. Shot and edited entirely on iPhone 6.

The Shenandoah River with a thunderstorm rolling in in the distance. Shot and edited entirely on iPhone 6.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar speaking at The American Heart Association’s Value in Healthcare Initiative Meeting at Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Total Health in Washington, DC.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar speaking at The American Heart Association’s Value in Healthcare Initiative Meeting at Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Total Health in Washington, DC.

Nikon President and CEO Yasuyuki Okamoto welcomes guests to the Nikon Z 7 release event at the Newseum in Washington, DC.

Nikon President and CEO Yasuyuki Okamoto welcomes guests to the Nikon Z 7 release event at the Newseum in Washington, DC.

Capital Area Photographers gather for a group photo at the Nikon Z 7 release event at the Newseum in Washington, DC. Shot and edited entirely on iPhone 6.

Capital Area Photographers gather for a group photo at the Nikon Z 7 release event at the Newseum in Washington, DC. Shot and edited entirely on iPhone 6.

Food photography for a marketing campaign.

Food photography for a marketing campaign.

Bayard and Margaret stroll during their engagement session in Alexandria, Virginia.

Bayard and Margaret stroll during their engagement session in Alexandria, Virginia.

Downtown Chicago, Illinois at night, aerial.

Downtown Chicago, Illinois at night, aerial.

Alexander Calder’s  Flamingo  in Chicago, Illinois.

Alexander Calder’s Flamingo in Chicago, Illinois.

Sir Anish Mikhail Kapoor’s  Cloud Gate , colloquially known as “The Bean,” in Chicago, Illinois. Shot and edited entirely on iPhone XS.

Sir Anish Mikhail Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, colloquially known as “The Bean,” in Chicago, Illinois. Shot and edited entirely on iPhone XS.

Pacifica Beach, Pacifica, California at sunset. My first full West coast sunset. Shot and edited entirely on iPhone XS.

Pacifica Beach, Pacifica, California at sunset. My first full West coast sunset. Shot and edited entirely on iPhone XS.

Cyclists biking down the chicanes of Lombard Street, San Francisco, California.

Cyclists biking down the chicanes of Lombard Street, San Francisco, California.

Aerial view of San Francisco, California from Christmas Tree Point, Twin Peaks, San Francisco, California.

Aerial view of San Francisco, California from Christmas Tree Point, Twin Peaks, San Francisco, California.

Cabernet Franc grapes on the vine in Napa, California.

Cabernet Franc grapes on the vine in Napa, California.

Myself atop the Panoramic peak above Muir Woods, Mill Valley, California. Shot and edited entirely on iPhone XS.

Myself atop the Panoramic peak above Muir Woods, Mill Valley, California. Shot and edited entirely on iPhone XS.

A bobcat crosses a road atop the Panoramic peak above Muir Woods, Mill Valley, California.

A bobcat crosses a road atop the Panoramic peak above Muir Woods, Mill Valley, California.

View of the Muir Woods canopy from midway above the forest floor.

View of the Muir Woods canopy from midway above the forest floor.

San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge at sunset.

San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge at sunset.

Aerial view of wildfire in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Aerial view of wildfire in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Composite image of the moon and Milky Way galaxy. Moon and stars are not to scale or sky position, but were photographed in the same night sky.

Composite image of the moon and Milky Way galaxy. Moon and stars are not to scale or sky position, but were photographed in the same night sky.

Myself standing in Willis Tower’s “Sky Deck Ledge,” the tallest point above Chicago, Illinois.

Myself standing in Willis Tower’s “Sky Deck Ledge,” the tallest point above Chicago, Illinois.

David and Tiffany during their engagement session in Shenandoah, Virginia.

David and Tiffany during their engagement session in Shenandoah, Virginia.

David and Tiffany during their engagement session in Shenandoah, Virginia.

David and Tiffany during their engagement session in Shenandoah, Virginia.

David and Tiffany during their engagement session in Shenandoah, Virginia.

David and Tiffany during their engagement session in Shenandoah, Virginia.

And assortment of mannequins gathered for closeout sale in a liquidating Sears department store. Shot and edited entirely on iPhone XS.

And assortment of mannequins gathered for closeout sale in a liquidating Sears department store. Shot and edited entirely on iPhone XS.

Chicago O'Hare International Airport’s iconic Terminal 3 decorated for Christmas as seen in  Home Alone 2: Lost in New York .

Chicago O'Hare International Airport’s iconic Terminal 3 decorated for Christmas as seen in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.

My first photoshoot with Canon’s new EOS R mirrorless full-frame camera, in Chicago O'Hare International Airport. Shot and edited entirely on iPhone XS.

My first photoshoot with Canon’s new EOS R mirrorless full-frame camera, in Chicago O'Hare International Airport. Shot and edited entirely on iPhone XS.

Sir Anish Mikhail Kapoor’s  Cloud Gate , colloquially known as “The Bean,” in Chicago, Illinois, as seen from inside / below.

Sir Anish Mikhail Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, colloquially known as “The Bean,” in Chicago, Illinois, as seen from inside / below.

The Chicago, Illinois cityscape skyline at night as seen from atop 875 North Michigan Avenue, colloquially known as the John Hancock Center. Willis Tower (formerly known as Sears Tower) can be seen on the far left lit in red and blue uplighting.

The Chicago, Illinois cityscape skyline at night as seen from atop 875 North Michigan Avenue, colloquially known as the John Hancock Center. Willis Tower (formerly known as Sears Tower) can be seen on the far left lit in red and blue uplighting.

Bayard and Margaret: Engaged

This October has been the busiest month for me all year (if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know what I’ve been up to and all the places I’ve been the last few weeks). I am very glad, however, that I was able to get October started by spending an evening with Bay and Maggie photographing their engagement in downtown Alexandria.

You might remember Bay and Maggie from their July 4th airport proposal as Margaret arrived home from a stay overseas. Bay and Maggie met at William and Mary, and now call Alexandria, portions of which closely resemble Williamsburg, home. With the beautiful cobblestone streets and lines of lights, the old city is warm and beautiful even on a cool evening as dusk rolls in.

20181006 - Bayard and Margaret - Engaged 1.jpg
20181006 - Bayard and Margaret - Engaged 2.jpg
20181006 - Bayard and Margaret - Engaged 3.jpg
20181006 - Bayard and Margaret - Engaged 4.jpg

These two are just adorkable and I love it.

20181006 - Bayard and Margaret - Engaged 5.jpg
20181006 - Bayard and Margaret - Engaged 6.jpg

The New York City Empty Sky Memorial

All photos from this post, and more, can be viewed fullscreen here.

View photos of my 2015 visit to The National September 11th Memorial & Museum here.

September, 2000

In September, 2000 my family had gone on a trip making its way North along the Eastern seaboard.  One of the stops was in Liberty, New Jersey to see The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island - we never went into Manhattan proper much to my disappointment.

This was WAY before I knew anything about photography - I just liked taking pictures on my little Kodak Advantix.

This is a picture I shot at age 12 in the year 2000 from the Northern side of Liberty State Park, Jersey City, New Jersey - now the current site of the Empty Sky Memorial.  I remember my parents bickering over whether "those two tall buildings are the Twin Towers or the World Trade Center."  I said I thought they were both; the same thing.  Fast forward a year, and everyone in the World knew the answer without a doubt.

It's incredible to me that I even have this picture, that I shot it myself.  I was 12.  The majority of my life has been post-9/11, working at IAD and DCA.  My entire aviation related career arc has directly resulted from that day in 2001.  This photo is a relic of a time before that; before the TSA and DHS existed, before all the post-9/11 security and societal changes that resulted.

Here is that photo I unwittingly took at age 12.

20180811 Empty Sky NYC 1.jpg

September, 2018

This August I travelled to Rhode Island to visit my friend Alyssa on her birthday, however due to a need for flexible scheduling, I made the journey by car rather than flying this time. It occurred to me by doing this I could make a quick stop at Liberty State Park in Liberty, New Jersey and see the Empty Sky memorial, which I’d only learned of its existence about a year prior thanks to my friend Natalie (who happens to live just 5mi away in Weehawken - I got to visit her on my stop as well :-D). I knew it was the same spot I’d taken that photo as a 12 year old, but it wasn’t until the night before leaving I realized I could try and replicate that photo and compare the New York City skyline across 18 years of history. Before going to bed, I printed a scale copy of my 18 year old photo of the New York skyline (the original print would stay safely at home).

Remarkably, the weather was visually similar to that day in 2000. Textured overcast, but no fog obscuring skyscrapers’ upper floors. Inspecting the original picture, I counted 12 light poles visible, which would give me a good starting point to get me close to the same spot for that matching perspective. To my surprise, the park benches and even the trash cans hadn’t changed in all this time. In order to fit all 12 light posts in-frame, I walked back parallel to 13th light post from the end, and incredibly the perspective aligned almost perfectly - even the park benches lined up, though some trash cans moved, as you’d expect they would over the course of 18 years.

20180811 Empty Sky NYC 2.jpg

I’d come here with a purpose, and to my surprise it took me longer to walk to this spot from my car than it did to fight the wind in correctly lining up my photograph in the shot. Next, I wanted to capture a modern view of the same angle. Taking these photos even required me a lower my camera a little bit to account for my shorter 12 year old stature.

20180811 Empty Sky NYC 3.jpg

And here are the photos, 2000 and 2018, side-by-side. History in both pictures; the Twin Towers visible in 2000, and One World Trade Center erected adjacent to the empty sky where they once stood. Many other buildings have also sprung up across the skyline, and the freshly planted trees in my original picture are all grown up today.

Continue reading for more views of the New York City skyline later in this post.

Empty Sky

Next stop was the Empty Sky memorial, just steps away, visible in the righthand side of the photos above. Empty Sky was dedicated on September 10, 2011, the day before 9/11’s 10th anniversary. Designed by Jessica Jamroz and Frederic Schwartz, Empty Sky is comprised of twin 30ft tall walls spanning 208ft 10in engraved with the names of all 746 victims of the September 11th attacks; on one side, I beams from the Twin Towers stand solemnly - on the other, directly across the Hudson, lies Ground Zero, and the empty sky in the New York skyline where the Twin Towers had stood. The memorial is impressive at all times of day.

20180811 Empty Sky NYC 4.jpg
20180811 Empty Sky NYC 5.jpg
20180811 Empty Sky NYC 6.jpg

New York City

New York’s sky today is still beautiful, just different. New buildings have sprung up, and One World Trade Center now watches over the city, with the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, and 432 Park Avenue all overlooking the city uptown. The last five times I’ve been to this city, I’ve been in the city, so this was also happened to be my first opportunity to photograph New York’s cityscape since I was here at age 12.

20180811 Empty Sky NYC 7.jpg
20180811 Empty Sky NYC 8.jpg
20180811 Empty Sky NYC 9.jpg
20180811 Empty Sky NYC 10.jpg