Scarlett’s recital

This year Scarlett did hip hop as her dance class and the instructor selected a Pink Ladies meets Hip Hop sort of outfit for the kids. Like last year I did a portrait session with Scarlett in her costume. Unlike last year, it actually came out nice this year. (Last year I rushed it and the lighting was off)

After seeing another dad do it last year, I decided to rent a lens this year so I could have much better low light performance. I rented the 70-200 II IS L lens. On the plus side, I was very happy with how close I was able to zoom to Scarlett without having to push the ISO past the limits of my camear. On the minus side, I just don’t have that much experience with dance photography and this year Scarlett’s class only had one dance. So although the lens was a reasonable $100 to rent, I am not sure if I’m going to do it again next year (assuming Scarlett does dance class again) since I only got 3 photos worth sharing.

“School’s OUT!” – Scarlett’s Recital Photos

Their song this year was School’s Out by the Disney-affiliated Kyra Christiaan.

The part above is Scarlett shouting “SCHOOL’S OUT!”

Scarlett’s Recital Photos

I love how dynamic Scarlett is in this photo. And you can tell it’s in focus if you look at her shoes or bow. She’s just moving faster than the shutter speed.

Scarlett’s Recital Photos

Mt. Vernon

Danielle and I went to Mount Vernon back when we first moved here and were exploring new things to do in our free time that were unique to the area.

Scarlett at Mt. Vernon
Scarlett at Mt. Vernon

We’d thought of bringing our parents to see Washington’s house and property, but the timing never quite worked out – you really want to visit in the Spring or Fall, not during the Summer or Winter. So it remained a place we’d only been to once even as we made multiple trips to the same couple Smithsonian museums and zoos.

Scarlett with mature dandelion

Last year, in pre-school, Scarlett learned a bit about the presidents: mostly that we have one and that some of the old ones are on Mt. Rushmore. This year, they still aren’t learning too much civics (they’re too busy teaching them how to read, write, and math), but Scarlett listens around the house as we’ve spoken about the current president. Which reminded her there were some famous ones and I think the school made a big deal of President’s Day in February.

Stella with mature dandelion

That said, Scarlett’s only six – 4 years ago she was just starting to talk and 5 years ago she could just barely walk. So she kept getting confused between Mt. Vernon and the White House. On the day of the trip she asked if we were going to Donald Trump’s house.

So many dandelions!

Once we got there, Scarlett marveled at the giant “doll house” model of Washington’s house. But what she enjoyed most was being our navigator. She got the map and she was in charge of telling us which way to go.


It was a very busy day, with lots of tourists there so the pace was a bit fast and the docents didn’t get to explain things about the house as much as I remember them doing the last time I went there.

Dandelion seeds fly away (you may need to open at 100%)
Dandelion seeds fly away (you may need to open the photo at 100%)

We didn’t explain slavery to Scarlett. She got a mini-crash course on it at school because she asked me some interesting questions in February. But the concept is so alien that she didn’t quite understand what she’d learned. Personally, I think it’s a deep enough and screwed up enough concept that I’m content to wait another year or two for her to be able to understand what it meant, what it said about us, etc. It’ll also be interesting to see how they teach it here. In Florida (when I was in school) they didn’t shy away from it like I ehar in other southern States, but I didn’t understand it completely until AP American History.

Stellal up against the wall

On the subject of Washington’s mansion, I tried to point out to Scarlett the ways in which the house was different from ours – the kitchen separate from the house, etc. But it’s only been 1-2 years since she could understand the concept of Danielle and I as kids. And, from what she’s said, I don’t think she thinks the world is much older than her great-grandparents. So it might take a bit more for her to appreciate those types of things.

Scarlett and young dandelion
Scarlett and young dandelion

You guys know I like to just post one interpretation of a photo, but sometimes I can’t decide. Which do you think is better? Color (above) or black and white (below):

Scarlett and young dandelion
Scarlett and young dandelion

As far as stuff like mortality goes, our current line is that only old people die. We will sometimes mention disease, but don’t want her to freak out at a bad cold. So she was able to understand the Washington crypt on the site.

Dandelion Sword

We ended the day with the photos you see here in a field where the kids wanted to pick dandelions.

Lots of Young Dandelions

I don’t blame them. Even as an adult, I do find it fun to blow the seeds away. What a beautiful way to pollinate.


Easter at the Farm

This Easter we went to the farm so they kids could hunt for eggs there and then enjoy the farm. Unlike my childhood, Easter’s pretty cold up here as you can see.

Stella and the Goat
With Aunt Dina’s help, Stella gets over her fear of petting goats.

It’s pretty ridiculous to me, considering almost my entire childhood consisted of going to the local park.

Stella’s been enjoying horseback riding for a bit now, but this was the first time she was old enough to do it on her own without me holding onto her the entire time.

Stella on Horseback
Stella on Horseback

Sam made big strides this time by actually allowing us to put him onto a horse.

Sam gets over his fear of riding horses to the degree that I can stand far away to take the photo.

And no trip to the farm would be complete without a session of feeding the goats. This time with Stella losing her fear of feeding them.

Feeding goats
Feeding goats

Fat Cat Happy Meal Toy

Fat Cat Happy Meal Car
Fat Cat Happy Meal Car

I brought out all my old cars for the kids to play with. They’re having a blast even if they don’t know who any of the old McDonald’s toys are representing. I have the Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers DVDs, but the kids haven’t shown interest in it yet. (They find it way scarier than Duck Tales)

Eagles at Conowingo Dam (Jan 2018)

For the past couple years (ever since my mom got back into photography), I’ve been trying to get her to come in the winter to go photograph American Bald Eagles at Conowingo Dam. They tend to be there from around November to about early January and I usually go in December. This year at the semi-last moment she decided to visit and I suggested we go try and photograph some eagles. So she brought her long lens and we took off. Of course, the one day we had available to do this also happened to be the coldest day of the 2017-2018 winter so we were physically being tortured. I had told her ahead of time to make sure to get long johns, so we didn’t get hypothermia.

Mom, bundled up for the frigid temperatures
Mom, bundled up for the frigid temperatures

I’d read that this was just about the tail end of the eagles’ time here so I wasn’t sure we’d have anything to show for our freezing butts and 2-hour round trip commute. And at first it seemed my fears were credible. All we saw were some seagulls and ducks.

I asked one of the other photographers there if he’d seen any eagles and he told me they hadn’t been active for at least an hour and had flown off into the woods. I usually get there with the sun, but we had arrived pretty late. I was really getting worried.

Mom checking her seagull photos
Mom checking her seagull photos

But then we spotted an Eagle!

And we would spend as long as we could tolerate outside. When our fingers and toes no longer had any feeling, we would go back into the car until we defrosted.

Mom shooting eagles
Mom shooting eagles

I was a little disappointed with my photos. I was rusty on wildlife photos. I remembered to do a high shutter speed (greater than 1/2000). But the photos just weren’t as clear as I wanted. Probably partially the lens, partially not fully in focus, and eagles are very fast-moving. That said, I got this series of shots:

“yeah, I got it”

And, again, it’s not as clear and in focus as it could be. But I’ve wanted this shot for about five years. I never was able to get an eagle grabbing a fish out of water. What was amazing was how quickly it happened! And to be able to get that photographed, even if not perfect, was amazing for me. Next time I’ll try renting a longer lens and beefing up on my technique and try to get that again.

There was also this goose-like bird.

I shot over 1100 photos to get to these 30ish photos – of which I’d probably print a couple – one of them being one of the goose photos.

Overall, the trip was VERY worth it. I got 4 hours of bonding time with mom (and she’s SO busy that’s a rarity worth so much) and I finally got an eagle grabbing a fish out of water. Next time – when it’s warmer and there are more eagles – some time in December – should be great.

Some Self-Portraits from Sept 2017

I had been experimenting with a Van Dyke and I would soon be shaving it off, so I took a few self-portraits with the facial hair. First a straight-forward one:

Self-Portrait with Van Dyke

Then I couldn’t decide between a high key (which I rarely do) or a straight-forward black and white, so here are both:

Self-Portrait with Van Dyke (High Key)


Self-Portrait with Van Dyke

Baltimore Orioles vs Detroit Tigers

Going back to where I was before posting Halloween costume photos, a baseball game I went to as part of Dan’s wedding festivities. Got some good shots relative to my usual luck. Had to push things a bit to be able to get the shutter speed I needed so the ISO’s a bit higher than I would have preferred.