botanical

Six Rivers National Forest | Travel (122/556)

Six Rivers National Forest | Travel (122/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6) Wildfire season was in full force during my visit to Six Rivers National Forest in California. Smoke was in the air, distant views were hazy and the wildflowers were bright and beautiful.

Six Rivers National Forest | Travel (122/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Bull Creek Flats Trail - a 7.6 mile moderate hike. Enjoy a relatively flat, long stroll through giant trees with frequent visits from wildlife.
  2. Founders Grove Nature Trail - an easy hike, a little over half a mile, through an old growth redwood forest.
  3. High Dome Trail - a four mile moderate trail to the overlook on High Dome Mountain. Enjoy views of surrounding mountains and the ocean.
  4. Marble Mountain Wilderness - aside from having a fantastic name, this wilderness area is known for having rugged terrain with high elevation lakes and streams.
  5. Smith River National Recreation Area - filled with stunning mountains, river canyons, unique rock formations, wildflowers and ample opportunity for hiking and exploring.

What are some of your favorite hikes and places to explore in Six Rivers National Forest?

Redwood National Park | Travel (121/556)

Redwood National Park | Travel (121/556) | Alaina Ann Photography Redwood National Park, and state parks in California, is one of the most magical places I have ever been. The early morning fog, overwhelming silence and trees beyond belief all add to the surreal feelings experienced while hiking and driving through the park.

A raven flew by at one point. It's wings flapping against the thick air was heard long before he appeared into sight and long after he vanished into the mist.

Goosebumps and peace were felt over and over again while exploring.

Redwood National Park | Travel (121/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Avenue of the Giants - a scenic 32 mile drive through the heart of Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
  2. Fern Canyon - enjoy being surrounded by ferns on all sides of the canyon walls. This canyon was a filming location in the recent Jurassic Park movie.
  3. Howland Hill Road - drive through Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park for close views of redwood trees.
  4. Prairie Creek - enjoy a hiking trail by some of the larges redwood trees.
  5. Requa Road - overlooks the mouth of the Klamath River where whales are sometimes visible from above.

Tell me all about your favorite hikes and places to explore in Redwood National Park!

Redwood National Park | Travel (121/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Redwood National Park | Travel (121/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Redwood National Park | Travel (121/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Redwood National Park | Travel (121/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Niobrara National Scenic River | Travel (90/556)

Niobrara National Scenic River | Travel (90/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6) Nebraska was the final continental state on my list to visit. Niobrara National Scenic River was a lovely area and a perfect introduction to Nebraska. Filled with waterfalls, sandstone cliffs, numerous hikes and beautiful views, this scenic river is definitely worth exploring.

Niobrara National Scenic River | Travel (90/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Float the River - the best way to experience the river is in a canoe, kayak, raft or tube.
  2. Berry Bridge - offers a great view of the river and a family owned campground is nearby.
  3. Berry Falls - a small waterfall along the Niobrara River, east of Valentine.
  4. River Road - paved and unpaved road along the Niobrara River. May be impassable on the unpaved portion when wet.
  5. Smith Falls - the tallest waterfall in Nebraska at 63 feet.

Tell me all about your favorite spots along the Niobrara National Scenic River in the comments below!

Niobrara National Scenic River | Travel (90/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial | Travel (76/556)

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial | Travel (76/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6) The Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) Memorial is along the western shore of the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. Spring, when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, is my favorite time to visit.

I have included a few of my favorite photographs from walking through the memorial. There were few people around, providing a quiet stroll.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial | Travel (76/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial | Travel (76/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Charles Pinckney National Historic Site | Travel (72/556)

Charles Pinckney National Historic Site | Travel (72/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6) Spring is a lovely time to visit Charles Pinckney National Historic Site, in South Carolina. Green grass and trees beside bright, blooming flowers. An afternoon stroll is perfect for exploring the grounds. My visit was peaceful, quiet and beautiful.

Charles Pinckney National Historic Site | Travel (72/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Boardwalk - One of my favorite spots in the park, this boardwalk overlooks Wampacheone Creek.
  2. Historic Road Trace - walk along the original road, once connecting Snee Farm to the public road. You will find yourself beneath beautiful cedars.
  3. Lowcountry Farmhouse - dated back to circa 1828, this visitor center is filled with information and the surrounding gardens are lovely.
  4. Nature Trail - a secluded path allows for exploring along a tidal wetland. Do keep an eye out for poison ivy.
  5. Self Guided Tour - an easy half mile walk takes you by exhibits, describing the house, history and surrounding environment.

Charles Pinckney National Historic Site | Travel (72/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Tell me all about your favorite areas in the park, in the comments below :)

Charles Pinckney National Historic Site | Travel (72/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Expiring Flower | Photograph Story

Expiring Flower | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography Flowers during late fall and winter months are always quite intriguing. As much as I love the surprise late and early blooms, the expiring, nearly colorless leftover flowers are my favorite.

While walking by a patch of dead grass and flower bed that had seen better days, this bloom grabbed all my attention. The brown colors, crisp petals and fine details are fantastic. And to be honest, I struggled to remember what this beauty looked like during prime time.

It's always easy to stay inside during cold months. Each year I challenge myself to throw on a jacket, boots and head outside to see what may be waiting. Brown and nearly expired beauty tends to be around every corner.

Natural Bridge Park | Travel

Natural Bridge Park | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography While looking at a map, planning my route home, I saw a little park symbol for the Natural Bridge Park in Alabama. After a few minutes of research, this new find became part of my whirlwind around the country trip. An excellent last minute addition!

Natural Bridge Park | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

The park is small with an easy, short trail to the natural bridge. The bridge measures in at 60 feet tall and 148 feet long. This is the longest known natural bridge east of the Rockies.

Natural Bridge Park | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

In addition to the hike, there are picnic areas and a gift shop. Have you ever made your way to the Natural Bridge Park in Alabama? Would love to hear about your visit!

Natural Bridge Park | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

Take a close look at the final photograph to spot my hiking friend. This Jack Russell Terrier gave me the grand tour of the bridge :)

Frozen Leaves | Photograph Story

Frozen Leaves | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography Sometimes, when it's below zero, I like to bundle up and venture into the brisk outdoors. Seeing what I may find, or what may find me.

Stepping outside onto the frozen grass filled the quiet yard with loud crunching noises. Each step reminded me of breaking glass beneath my boots.

I turned around the front corner of the house and saw frozen leaves suspended from a bush and began to smile. The entire branch and all the leaves were encased in ice. So beautiful.

After capturing a few photographs I continued on my backyard exploration. A few other sights caught my eye, but none were quite as intriguing as these lovely leaves.

Two winters in, after living in lovely Arizona, and people keep saying the upcoming winter is going to be even worse than the last. I may have more frozen leaves to photograph in the near future :)

Flower Bee | Photograph Story

Flower Bee | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography This photograph comes from one of my favorite places in Tucson, Arizona. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum was visited monthly, if not more often, while calling Arizona home. Saying I'm excited to stop by in October is an understatement :)

During my final visit, just two weeks before moving to Maryland, I came across these pastel, delicate flowers, humming with bees. A lovely photograph opportunity, if you ask me.

Bees require a bit of patience. They are swift and rarely interested in being models. Instead of chasing bees around the flowers, I decided to lock in on this particular bunch of goodness and waited for a bee to briefly stop by. One appeased me, for a few seconds, and I captured this photograph.

This was long before my macro lens joined the gear bag. Instead, a telephoto lens was used showing a bit more of the flower scene.

I quickly retreated to enjoy the rest of my stroll in the desert, and celebrated another non-bee sting moment surrounded by flowers.

Sunlit Creosote | Photograph Story

Sunlit Creosote | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography Oh how I LOVE light during the magic hours of the day. This capture comes from the end of the day in Saguaro National Park, Arizona.

So much goodness.

Evening drives have been part of my life since the age of seventeen. Well, with me behind the wheel :) I trust there were glorious drives sooner.

My heart and mind are always happy while out for a drive, whether cruising through open farm land with the windows down, along a coastal road or inside a national park.

Evening drives in Arizona happened almost nightly. I was so eager to explore and there was a national park just a handful of miles down the road.

The creosote bushes were just starting to bloom and this one caught my eye a little way down a dirt trail. The sun was just about done for the day, so I grabbed a headlamp for my walk back to the car.

Although the creosote was stunning the entire time I was on the trail, this moment was my favorite. The beams of light were softly pouring over the horizon line, giving the branches and blooms a gentle glow.

Looking at this photograph makes me want to be outside for the golden hours, every single day, taking in nature's goodness :)

Inside a Flower | Photograph Story

Inside a Flower | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography Friends frequently ask for my list of favorites when it comes to photography subjects.

My answer is twofold.

One: Traveling is a HUGE passion and every landscape, animal, city and moment captured along the way is both special and exciting. All live at the top of my list.

Two: Sitting inside a flower with a macro lens is my go to goodness. The tiny details, magnified before my eyes, is a bit of a love affair for me. And where I spend most of my non travel days.

If flowers are in bloom, there's a good chance you will find me, my camera and a macro lens perched in the grass/garden/field/anywhere flowers exist :)

Oddly, my first macro lens was purchased in late 2014. A game changer, for sure, but one that took a bit of time to come along. Before the 105 mm lens entered my gear kit, most of my macro photography was accomplished using an Olloclip (photograph above) on my iPhone or through a zoom lens, trying to get as close as possible with steady hands.

This photograph, Inside a Flower, makes me giggle. When asked where I'm headed for the morning, when blooms are all around, my answer is usually "I'll be inside a flower today" :)

White Sands National Monument | Travel (47/556)

White Sands National Monument | Travel (47/556) | Alaina Ann Photography Sand dunes have a way of taking my breath away. Every single time.

It begins in my car, when they first appear on the horizon. And then my heart begins to pound a bit, as I get closer and their grand size if revealed. Once I step on the sand and begin walking along the ridges, my heart soars. Simply put, sand dunes are incredible.

White Sands National Monument | Travel (47/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Why are they so intriguing?

Perhaps the endless view of goodness. The contrast between sand and mountains. How the sun makes the individual grains of sand glitter. Maybe the ripples, smooth spots and everything in between. Or, more likely, everything about them.

White Sands National Monument | Travel (47/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

White Sands National Monument, in New Mexico, was impressive, as expected. I met tarantulas, crazy looking bugs and enjoyed hours walking across the dunes, watching the sun disappear for the day while the moon rose.

White Sands National Monument | Travel (47/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

It's safe to say I will be going back. Soon.

White Sands National Monument | Travel (47/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Favorite Hikes + Places to Explore
  • Alkali Flat Trail - a 4.6 mile, round-trip, wilderness hike with little vegetation in sight. The trail leads to the Alkali Flat, the dried lakebed of Lake Otero.
  • Amphitheater - evening program area in the dunes.
  • Heart of the Sands - picnic area near the end of Dunes Drive.
  • Interdune Boardwalk - this quick, 650 yard walk takes you to a scenic view on top of a dune.
  • The Dunes Drive - drive eight miles from the visitor center into the heart of the dunes. Allow ample time for stopping to explore on foot.

Tell me all about your favorites spots at White Sands National Monument!

Birthday Sunflowers | Photograph Story

Birthday Sunflowers | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography Each year on my birthday, I head to a local sunflower field to capture photographs. It's been a fun little tradition the last several years :)

In Poolesville, Maryland (my hometown) there are usually two or three large fields filled with bright yellow goodness.

Early morning visits, while there's still dew on the grass, are my favorite. Fewer people seem to visit at the start of the day than the end, keeping the fields relatively quiet. Being able to hear the tall flowers sway in the wind is always a nice little bonus.

I'm generally good for two to three visits during peak bloom. Last year my mom joined me and loved taking in all the tall, bright flowers. This year I am hoping to bring my niece and nephew along. I have a feeling they will love the flowers just as much as I do.

Macro Bee | Photograph Story

Macro Bee | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography This is one of my all time favorite captures.

A macro lens was on my gear list for quite some time. After receiving a gentle nudge from a photography friend, I finally made the purchase. And I am SO glad I did. The 105 mm lens is a new favorite and it travels with me everywhere.

As soon as the lens arrived, I gave it a quick look over to make sure all was right and immediately placed it on my camera, threw on some shoes and went to the flowerbed :)

Bees were everywhere. Timid, friendly little bees.

I sat in the dirt, tied my hair into a ponytail and stuck my face + camera into the purple flowers. This flower was about the size of a quarter and since I was so close, I had to manual focus the lens. After a few tries, I achieved the desired focus on the bee.

It's been a fun year experimenting with this lens. Spring is in full bloom and I am becoming a bit more covered in dirt and pollen :)

Lotus Flower | Photograph Story

Lotus Flower | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography Lotus flowers are magnificent. The bright colors and how the light seems to soak in perfectly is well worth all the dragonfly kisses.

Thinking back on previous botanical moments, last summer turned out to be my first experience with lotus flowers. I have meant to see and photograph these pink beauties before, but never managed to make the time or trip.

I am certain these blooms will be part of every summer, so long as the flowers are within driving distance. And let's face it, this little lady will drive anywhere ;)

My morning visit was dew filled, quickly turning into a standard humid scene for the area. Dragonflies were fluttering around, landing on me, my camera, the flowers and anything else available. A bird may have done a little business on my foot.

So much summer goodness!

Aside from this gorgeous flower, another highlight from my visit was a chance meeting with a new photography friend. He was kind enough to tell me locations where lotus flowers will bloom this coming summer (I was a tad late in the season). And we have kept in touch, sharing recent travel stories, and getting together with our cameras when time allows.

Photography mornings are always a delight. The light is perfection in my mind and I always seems to meet the most kind people.

Photographing lotus flowers for the first time was the perfect mix of both.