Blog

The official photo blog of J. David Buerk Photography.

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.

Best of 2017

Each year I publish a year-in-review which shows the highlights of my year in photography.  2017 is a year I am very happy to see end; it has been the most challenging personal year of my life, bringing bad news and personal injury which unquestionably held me and my photography back this year.

As some of you may know, I fell and tore a ligament in my knee in May, which culminated in surgical intervention to replace the ligament in October.  Luckily I have an excellent surgeon (he served as Surgical Team Chief for President George W. Bush while he was in office) and I am still reportedly progressing well through physical therapy.  I am doing well now, but being knocked off my feet for a month after the injury and for two months after surgery took a serious toll on my work and morale.  I am expected to make a full recovery and be back to normal mid 2018, but this injury with such a slow recovery time has been very disheartening, even with a cutting edge new surgical method employed which was less invasive and is allowing for a quicker recovery than previously able with this relatively new ligament reconstruction I've had to have.  This is why I haven't posted too many pictures this year; most of my work has been straightforward photoshoots with existing clients since I've had to be selective with what photoshoots I've taken on during my recoveries.   If my 2017 can teach you anything it is don't dislocate your bones and tear ligaments - 0/10, would not recommend.

This isn't to say 2017 was all bad; I did quite a bit of great photography before, and after (and during, for that matter) my various adventures in knee problems.  I spent about ¼ of the year recovering from knee injury and surgery, but the other ¾ of the year had quite a lot of photography.  2017 was a year about change, and that change began in January, even before the 20th, which began bringing even more change and seemed to set the tone for the rest of the year.  My knee didn't change until five months into the year, but every month held some kind of change; just two months after that quite possibly the biggest thing that has happened in my photographic career happened, pointing to the future from my past; 2018 is here, and I am eager to move forward to that future beginning now.

Washington Dulles International Airport Manager Christopher U. Browne addresses Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority guests as he "Departs the Pattern" and steps down as Airport Manager after 29 years with the Airports Authority.  Chris is now Deputy Director of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Washington Dulles International Airport Manager Christopher U. Browne addresses Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority guests as he "Departs the Pattern" and steps down as Airport Manager after 29 years with the Airports Authority.  Chris is now Deputy Director of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

A protestor gives a white rose to an arriving international passenger.  White roses are traditionally known to represent purity, innocence, sympathy, and spirituality.  Following President Trump’s executive order implementing a travel ban on seven countries, protests initiated at international airports across the United States where individuals affected by the rapidly enacted ban were detained. The Trump administration justified the executive order as part of the “extreme vetting” of immigrants promised during his campaign, while those opposed to the ban question the constitutionality, motives, and execution of the ban. Virginia Senator Tim Kaine (D) was on-site denouncing President Trump’s travel ban in a press conference.

A protestor gives a white rose to an arriving international passenger.  White roses are traditionally known to represent purity, innocence, sympathy, and spirituality.

Following President Trump’s executive order implementing a travel ban on seven countries, protests initiated at international airports across the United States where individuals affected by the rapidly enacted ban were detained. The Trump administration justified the executive order as part of the “extreme vetting” of immigrants promised during his campaign, while those opposed to the ban question the constitutionality, motives, and execution of the ban. Virginia Senator Tim Kaine (D) was on-site denouncing President Trump’s travel ban in a press conference.

Internationally arriving passengers exit the International Arrivals Building to a sea of cheering protestors welcoming their arrival after clearing customs.  Following President Trump’s executive order implementing a travel ban on seven countries, protests initiated at international airports across the United States where individuals affected by the rapidly enacted ban were detained. The Trump administration justified the executive order as part of the “extreme vetting” of immigrants promised during his campaign, while those opposed to the ban question the constitutionality, motives, and execution of the ban. Virginia Senator Tim Kaine (D) was on-site denouncing President Trump’s travel ban in a press conference.

Internationally arriving passengers exit the International Arrivals Building to a sea of cheering protestors welcoming their arrival after clearing customs.

Following President Trump’s executive order implementing a travel ban on seven countries, protests initiated at international airports across the United States where individuals affected by the rapidly enacted ban were detained. The Trump administration justified the executive order as part of the “extreme vetting” of immigrants promised during his campaign, while those opposed to the ban question the constitutionality, motives, and execution of the ban. Virginia Senator Tim Kaine (D) was on-site denouncing President Trump’s travel ban in a press conference.

Tom Veirs, in his glassblowing studio, giving a demonstration on how patterns are made in extruded glass, such as wine glass stems. Tom retired in May, 2017.

Tom Veirs, in his glassblowing studio, giving a demonstration on how patterns are made in extruded glass, such as wine glass stems. Tom retired in May, 2017.

Captain John Prater with a ceremonial cigar in the cockpit of his United 787 Dreamliner upon landing his final commercial flight before retiring.

Captain John Prater with a ceremonial cigar in the cockpit of his United 787 Dreamliner upon landing his final commercial flight before retiring.

Adrianna McVay graduates with a Bachelors of Arts in Biology from George Mason University.

Adrianna McVay graduates with a Bachelors of Arts in Biology from George Mason University.

Jockies on the main straightaway approach the finish line at the Virginia Gold Cup.  2017 hosted one of the rainiest, muddiest Gold Cups of recent history.

Jockies on the main straightaway approach the finish line at the Virginia Gold Cup.  2017 hosted one of the rainiest, muddiest Gold Cups of recent history.

Myself wearing a knee immobilizer at a portrait photoshoot two days after my initial knee injury.  The next day I would meet my orthopedist and find out the extent of the damage.  The doctor told me I was truly lucky that I'd only torn one ligament and had no other damage; the MRI showed no loose bodies, no damaged cartilage, and no torn menisci; all extremely common injuries with the type of fall and injury I experienced, but was able to avoid from sheer luck.  In October, later in the year, I would undergo a successful MPFL reconstruction surgery to stabilize the kneecap and prevent future dislocations, instability, and additional damage.  While this picture may be a personal low point ironically placed in a "Best of" post, this was a life-altering event, and more than qualifies in this "Year in Review."

Myself wearing a knee immobilizer at a portrait photoshoot two days after my initial knee injury.  The next day I would meet my orthopedist and find out the extent of the damage.

The doctor told me I was truly lucky that I'd only torn one ligament and had no other damage; the MRI showed no loose bodies, no damaged cartilage, and no torn menisci; all extremely common injuries with the type of fall and injury I experienced, but was able to avoid from sheer luck.

In October, later in the year, I would undergo a successful MPFL reconstruction surgery to stabilize the kneecap and prevent future dislocations, instability, and additional damage.

While this picture may be a personal low point ironically placed in a "Best of" post, this was a life-altering event, and more than qualifies in this "Year in Review."

Michaelangelo Pistoletto's "Venus of the Rags" on display at the Smithsonian's Hirshorn Museum.

Michaelangelo Pistoletto's "Venus of the Rags" on display at the Smithsonian's Hirshorn Museum.

Succulents growing in a flowerpot in Washington, DC.

Succulents growing in a flowerpot in Washington, DC.

Bokeh of exhibit lighting inside the National Museum of the American Indian.

Bokeh of exhibit lighting inside the National Museum of the American Indian.

An Operations Manager listens to an airfield radio while walking between two Plane Mates at Washington Dulles International Airport.

An Operations Manager listens to an airfield radio while walking between two Plane Mates at Washington Dulles International Airport.

Terry McAuliffe, Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, speaking at Air India's inaugural event at Washington Dulles International Airport; "We don't believe in walls; we believe in bridges."  The comment alluded to President Trump's recent efforts to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico.

Terry McAuliffe, Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, speaking at Air India's inaugural event at Washington Dulles International Airport; "We don't believe in walls; we believe in bridges."  The comment alluded to President Trump's recent efforts to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico.

Air India's 777-200LR departing Washington Dulles International Airport for the first time.

Air India's 777-200LR departing Washington Dulles International Airport for the first time.

Polo players competing at the Great Meadow Polo Club.

Polo players competing at the Great Meadow Polo Club.

"A Planespotter’s Dream Gig: A Look into the Life of an Airport Photographer;" an article on AirlineGeeks.com profiling my work as an aviation marketing photographer.  Although my photography has been featured in many articles and publications, this marks the first time a publication has written an article specifically about me and my work.

"A Planespotter’s Dream Gig: A Look into the Life of an Airport Photographer;" an article on AirlineGeeks.com profiling my work as an aviation marketing photographer.  Although my photography has been featured in many articles and publications, this marks the first time a publication has written an article specifically about me and my work.

A nighttime aerial image of T. F. Green Airport in Rhode Island.

A nighttime aerial image of T. F. Green Airport in Rhode Island.

Grapes growing on 200 year old vine at Newport Vineyards, a winery in Newport, Rhode Island.

Grapes growing on 200 year old vine at Newport Vineyards, a winery in Newport, Rhode Island.

Fishing vessels docked at Galilee Salt Pond Harbor in Narragansett, Rhode Island.

Fishing vessels docked at Galilee Salt Pond Harbor in Narragansett, Rhode Island.

Alyssa McGuire posing with a moped on her birthday on Block Island, Rhode Island.

Alyssa McGuire posing with a moped on her birthday on Block Island, Rhode Island.

A blood red sky at sunset in Fairfax County, Virginia.

A blood red sky at sunset in Fairfax County, Virginia.

In Niotta, Tennassee a man uses a paper plate to safely view the projection of the 2017 solar eclipse after the solar filter for his telescope broke mere days before the eclipse.  Solar filters were in high demand, and became unavailable months prior to the day of the eclipse.  The ray of sunlight emitted from his telescope's eyepiece was hot on the skin when placed in the beam.

In Niotta, Tennassee a man uses a paper plate to safely view the projection of the 2017 solar eclipse after the solar filter for his telescope broke mere days before the eclipse.  Solar filters were in high demand, and became unavailable months prior to the day of the eclipse.  The ray of sunlight emitted from his telescope's eyepiece was hot on the skin when placed in the beam.

The sun half eclipsed by the moon as seen from Niotta, Tennessee.

The sun half eclipsed by the moon as seen from Niotta, Tennessee.

Totality of the 2017 solar eclipse as seen from Niotta, Tennessee.

Totality of the 2017 solar eclipse as seen from Niotta, Tennessee.

The Washington Redskins Burgundy & Gold Club restaurant and bar at Washington Dulles International Airport.

The Washington Redskins Burgundy & Gold Club restaurant and bar at Washington Dulles International Airport.

Portrait of Ryan Ewing, owner and founder of  AirlineGeeks.com .

Portrait of Ryan Ewing, owner and founder of AirlineGeeks.com.

Ryan Ewing, owner and founder of AirlineGeeks.com, walks on the airfield at Washington Dulles International Airport.

Ryan Ewing, owner and founder of AirlineGeeks.com, walks on the airfield at Washington Dulles International Airport.

Local DC Brau and Atlas District Common beers on display for sale at Ronald Reagan National Airport.

Local DC Brau and Atlas District Common beers on display for sale at Ronald Reagan National Airport.

Portrait of Cyrina Yarbrough, Marketplace Development Marketing and Customer Service Manager at Ronald Reagan National Airport.

Portrait of Cyrina Yarbrough, Marketplace Development Marketing and Customer Service Manager at Ronald Reagan National Airport.

Orville, NASA's flying squirrel mascot, marshals in a Southwest Airlines 737 at Washington Dulles International Airport.

Orville, NASA's flying squirrel mascot, marshals in a Southwest Airlines 737 at Washington Dulles International Airport.

Happy Thanksgiving and an Update!

Mná na hÉireann: Fall of 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

I know I’ve been absent lately; as some of you may know, the first week of October I underwent knee surgery to replace a ligament I tore in May, and I’ve been recovering since then. I am 7 weeks post-op as of yesterday, and today I am thankful for a successful surgery (and hopeful for a continued successful recovery).

Last week I had my first two photoshoots since the surgery; I am walking and taking photoshoots again, though I’m currently being selective to ensure the shoots I take are safe for me while my knee continues to heal up. After having to skip hiking and a lot of other things this Summer, I’m looking forward to starting 2018 with a healthy, strong, and stable knee just like new.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Twilight Polo at Great Meadow Polo Club

Last week, after countless invites to attend, I finally went to my first polo match at Great Meadow Polo Club.  This same venue hosts the Virginia Gold Cup, and holds their twilight polo matches in an arena near the main grandstands.

Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn

Prior to polo, we visited Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn.  Aspen Dale is one of my most visited local wineries, and is home of the Rockawalkin;' the best red wine I've found from Virginia to-date.  Go pick up a bottle; it's well worth the premium pricetag.

Great Meadow Twilight Polo

Twilight polo is much more relaxed than the Virginia Gold Cup (which I will attend again, even though my first experience was pretty dreadful), and I look forward to visiting again better prepared for picnicking and dressed a little cooler for the Virginia Summer humidity.

Alyssa in DC: 2016

I must admit to having an (arguably) bad habit; I place my personal photography behind my work photography.  That's not a bad thing; the bad thing is how far behind I place my own work.  In something that's become almost as much a tradition as a Summer vacation with Alyssa, this is the second time in a row I've taken more than 8 months to edit the photos I shot on Alyssa's trip to DC.

This time around I insisted that we take things a little slower than the previous year; doing something every single day for a week in 2015 really wore me out, so 2016 was a more relaxed trip.  Plus, that allowed us to catch some of the Rio Olympic Games!

We didn't do anything worthy of photos the first two days (it was mostly spent fixing her computer), so this blog starts on Day 3!

Day 3: Luray Caverns • Skyline Drive • Stony Man Mountain

Luray Caverns, Luray, Virginia

Alyssa is always jealous of my hiking pictures when she sees them, so we always plan at least one hike when she's here; since I thought Luray Caverns would be something she'd enjoy, I planned our entire day in the Shenandoah Valley, starting with Luray Caverns.

It'd been a few years since I'd been to Luray Caverns, but of course Alyssa had never been.  Things have clearly changed since the last time I'd visited; of all the times I've visited, I've never actually been given a tour before.  Actually, I've never even had to stand in line to get in.  Every time I've been you've just paid for entry and you're given free reign to walk around the cavern at your own pace.  Not this time though; we actually had to wait in line, and once inside we were part of a guided tour with around 30 people.

A very different experience than my previous visits, but still enjoyable.  I've previously taken the audio tour, but I found the guided tour more educational and much more enjoyable.  The only reason I can guess for getting a guided tour this time and not my other visits is this is the only time I've been to Luray Caverns during Summer, which is of course peak tourism season, plus all those students are out of school and available to intern at the Caverns.

Something that really, REALLY bothered me was that the intern bringing up the caboose of the group had a serious disrespect for the nature and longevity of Luray's formations.  On several occasions I spotted him touching the stalagmites and stalactites with his bare hands.  He clearly knew he wasn't supposed to be doing it because he stopped when he noticed me watching him and our eyes met.  Incredibly disrespectful to the 64 acre underground natural phenomenon.  Just touching the mineral deposits that compose the stalagmites and stalactites leaves skin oil and other contaminants that halts their growth.  Currently most of the formations in Luray Caverns grow at a rate of 1" every 120 years, but that permanently stops when contaminants destroy the fragile conditions required for the formations to grow.  It has been argued that it's bad that (a small) part of the caverns has been opened to the public - I mostly disagree with this because I think more-or-less sacrificing only a small portion of the cavern is the best way to display and educate the public about the natural phenomonon.  That being said, it makes me angry that Luray Caverns staff themselves can be found palming the formations and at one point even dragging his palm against the wall while walking.

But let's get back to some positive.  Luray Caverns is home to The Great Stalagpipe Organ.  Although it's called an organ, the instrument is actually a lithophone; that is, a percussion instrument using rock to create tones.  The "organ" was designed and installed by Leland W. Sprinkle, who found two in-tune formations, and shaved down an additional 35, to create the instrument with 37 notes spread across 3.5 acres, making it the world's largest musical instrument.  Each limestone formation is fitted with an electrically actuated rubber mallet and electric pickup (similar to an acoustic-electric guitar pickup), and the tones are amplified through a PA system.  Performances of the organ are live, but automated / pre-arranged just like a player piano.  The organ keyboard itself is locked-out except for special occasions such as weddings and other events.  The Great Stalagpipe Organ can be heard on Pepe Deluxé's album Queen of the Wave played by Paul Malmström.

The organ has a playlist of songs it can play at random; here is my video of the organ playing during our visit.  If you know the name and composer of the song, please let me know in the comments!

Stony Man Mountain

Next stop was Stony Man Mountain.  You of course have to take Skyline Drive to get there, so I hopped on at the Thorton Gap entrance, and more or less drove South to the trailhead, stopping here and there for the occasional overlook; I've seen pretty much all of them, but Alyssa of course hasn't seen any.

Years ago I hiked Little Stony Man, so when we went up Stony Man I was very surprised how much shorter and easier the trail was to get to the summit.  Stony Man's summit trail is pretty much a straight shot up the mountain, taking very little effort or time from the parking lot.  The trail is lightyears easier than the Maryland Heights Trail in Harper's Ferry I took Alyssa to in 2015 - that one's difficulty, despite my warning her, really caught her off-guard.  This one was much easier than I'd planned on.  Beautiful overlook at the top, and by chance we found some cool rocks on the edge of the trail that made for some awesome outdoorsy portraits as the fog began to roll into the valley below us.

And thanks to Alyssa for catching this photo of me.  (Edits are mine.)

Skyline Drive

We still had a few hours of daylight left, and before continuing South on Skyline drive, we dropped in on the nearby Skyland Lodge to check out the gift shop if anything caught Alyssa's eye - I eyeballed a marbled coffee mug that I ended up getting a few months later during my annual Fall trip along Skyline Drive.

We went for a leisurely drive as the fog got thicker, running through the gears with the windows down in the beautiful, and surprisingly dry, weather that day.  I've never seen fog on Skyline Drive before (maybe because I've only visited in Fall before this?), and between that, the thick tree cover, and golden setting sun, it was a very surreal drive back by time we decided to turn around and head back.  I insisted on stopping at one overlook just after sunset to catch a cool toned photo of my car - it's much easier to do this sort of thing in the Summer when there are practically no other people and cars to contend with.

Day 4: International Spy Museum • National Portrait Gallery • PostSecret: The Power of a Postcard at The National Postal Museum • Washington Nationals vs San Francisco Giants

International Spy Museum

Oh, the International Spy Museum.  A museum I've walked past more times than I can count, yet had never visited.  I'd even been to the now-closed-for-relocation Crime & Punishment museum, which, by the way, I can't recommend enough.  Day 4 was the longest day of our adventures because we squeezed the most in, beginning with a reservation to Operation Spy at the International Spy Museum... unfortunately we arrived 2 minutes late, and they wouldn't let us into that or rebook us to a later time even being 2 minutes late!  With a little, um, prompting... they at least refunded us.  The day didn't start off very well, but that was the only hiccup for the rest of the day.  We did get into the rest of the museum, and frankly I'd like to go back, because even after spending hours exploring, I'm pretty sure I still didn't see everything or get to read and learn as much as I'd like since it was packed with Summer tourism.

The second half of the museum is whatever rotating exhibit they have visiting; it was the spy tech from the James Bond universe.  Really cool stuff, being a Bond fan as most people are.  The only suggestion I'd make is better separation between fact and fiction; all of the "artifacts" are fictional, and I'd have enjoyed seeing more explanation of how the fictional items tie into factual technologies; there was a little bit of that, but I was still left with a little unease knowing that a lot of the people visiting probably thought some of the movie props were real-world artifacts.  Awesome Bond collection exhibit nonetheless.

National Portrait Gallery

Next we went a few blocks over to what has always been my favorite museum in DC; the National Portrait Gallery.  I unfortunately missed the portrait of Colbert over the water fountain a few years back, but one of my couples was fortunate enough to see it; that's actually where James popped Danielle the question!

PostSecret: The Power of a Postcard at The National Postal Museum

We spent a good portion of time in the National Portrait Gallery, but we didn't dilly dally too much since I was making sure we had enough time to make it to the National Postal Museum.  Visiting here was a complete surprise for Alyssa, because I'd eagerly been awaiting the exhibit's opening, and I had purposely never mentioned it, waiting for Alyssa to get into town before seeing it.

I've followed PostSecret since Frank Warren began the project from his Germantown home in 2005.  I don't look up the newest secrets every Sunday they are posted, but I do read them once or twice a month; Feedly catches everything for me to read later on.

For the uninitiated, PostSecret doesn't need much more introduction than this: people across the World anonymously send in handmade postcards bearing their secrets and their souls.  Usually the cards have original artwork or photographs, other times they're relevant imagery that highlights location or timing.  And on some occasions, entire items are mailed, such as wedding rings, dolls, and other mementos leftover from past relationships and events.  (Full Disclosure: The Museum of Broken Relationships in LA is in my top five of locations I want to visit on the West Coast.)  Mailing a secret is an outlet to creatively share your secret when you may not have the strength or ability to share it with anyone else.  PostSecret quickly amassed a worldwide following and subsequent support community, as it unites everyone with their own personal struggles through shared humanity.

Fun fact: every single postcard Frank has ever received, all 500,000, was present at the exhibit.  So, if you've ever sent in a secret, you can rest assured it is somewhere in the photograph below...

I captured most of the secrets on display, and I've included a small gallery of some select secrets you can scroll through and read below.

Washington Nationals vs San Francisco Giants

After a long day of museum hopping, it was time to sit back and relax with some half-smokes and "doughboys" at Nats Park.  I neglected to tell Alyssa that I'd gotten us seats in the N-A-T-S-NATS-NATS-NATS-WOO! section.  The Nats beat the Giants 5-1, so section 313's reaction caught her off guard the first run or two.  Those were pretty great seats, right on the rail.  That said, the only seats I've had at Nats park I didn't like were in the outfield; Nats Park provides a great view of the game pretty much anywhere you sit, regardless of level.

After the game we went over to check out who was playing at The Bullpen on Half Street.  People were playing soccer, inspired by the Rio Olympics, in front of Jeff from Accounting performing.

Day 6: Imran and Hina's Wedding • Brine Oyster Bar

Imran and Hina's Wedding

The next morning was Imran and Hina's wedding in Virginia; the weekend before I'd been in Houston for their wedding based there.  The wedding here was much smaller as usual.  I just relaxed and enjoyed with Jake and Alyssa; I'd referred Imran to Eddie early that year to shoot his wedding.

Imran Hina Wedding.jpg

Brine Oyster Bar

After the wedding, Jake, Alyssa, Eddie, and I head over to Brine in Mosaic District and met up with Loreal for our own little wedding after-party.  I ended up trying raw oysters for the first time, and found that I love them.  I'd had steamed oysters plenty of times, but never found a raw bar I trusted and been in the mood to try it at the same time until then.  I'm looking forward to next time I get them; maybe the next time Natalie is in town we'll have to go back to the oyster bar in National Harbor since that's the place we first met each other.

Dramophone: Summer of 2016

Some fun backstory here is that at this point Eddie had been brainstorming his proposal to Loreal with me.  He pretty much had it planned out at this point, and just an hour earlier while shooting the wedding, he pulled me aside to show me a picture of the ring he had for her.  He popped the question a few weeks later on a trip to Hawaii, and the rest is history!  Now I’m hearing all the wedding planning brainstorming lol.

Day 7: Stone Tower Winery • Departure

Stone Tower Winery

For Alyssa's last day, I *had* to take her to a winery.  She'd been begging me the entire trip, and we kept putting it off and putting it off.  So with just a few hours before her flight, we made it happen; I took her to my favorite winery around here, which also happens to be probably the classiest and closest to a Napa vineyard in the Northern Virginia Region (Potomac Point Winery is a very, very close second in my book, if you're curious).  Alyssa's the biggest lightweight I've ever met, so after just a tasting she's tipsy in all these pictures.

But give her just one glass of wine on top of the tasting and she was... super-tipsy?  Tipsy enough that she zapped herself on an electric fence while petting the horses in a neighboring pasture.  At least she wasn't naming them like Patrick famously named the goats at Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn...

Departure

I did a stupid on the way to the airport.  Alyssa had gotten a wine glass from Stone Tower to take home with her; it was wrapped up, placed "safely" on the back floorboard where nothing could get to it.  Well, after Alyssa was done scrolling through the pictures on my camera, I reached back and dropped my camera onto the back floorboard... where "nothing can get to it!"  *CLINK!*  Well at least it sounded pretty when I shattered it!

Stone Tower's wineglasses are oversized, laser cut and engraved, and most importantly for this story, they're crystal.  I don't know of any other vineyard that uses crystal wine glasses.  The winery was closed; there was no time to go back even if they were open.  I told her to relax; I had one of their glasses at home and I ended up mailing it to her... along with the bag of broken wine glass shards, just to screw with her.

The sun set as we arrived to the airport.  We got there early enough to get dinner before her flight began boarding - I think I've turned her on to Five Guys - I'm a bad influence I guess.

Alyssa has a bit of a granola obsession, which I learned the first time she came (I was finding granola wrappers and crumbs in my car a month after she'd left 2015!) but this year wasn't as bad.  I still found granola!... but at least everything I found was unopened, and the crumbs were relegated to the passenger side leg bolster.  Improvement!

Who knows what our next set of adventures will be, but I'm looking forward to them!