maryland

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.

Fall Textures | Photograph Story

Fall Textures | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography Fall regularly comes to a close before I am ready to embrace winter.

Walks outside become a common practice, craving breaks from my desk and the feeling of lovely temperatures. And, of course, the sight of colorful leaves.

Last year I popped into the backyard to see what the leaves were up to. This solo, tiny, yellow leaf was resting on a large tree stump. I was instantly attracted to all the textures and earth tones.

The combination of swirls on the tree trunk, faint lines on the leaf and mixture of browns with a pop of yellow was hard to resist.

I noticed the tiny leaf had moved on from the trunk when venturing out the next day. I learned long ago to always head outside. Fleeting beauty constantly awaits.

Pole Tree | Photograph Story

Pole Tree | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography Photograph stories have returned :)

Thanksgiving leftovers last for days around here. Last year, the temperatures rose a bit, providing a beautiful afternoon and evening for a hometown stroll. My mom and I decided to stretch our legs and full bellies after festivities slowed down at the house.

This small tree, growing along a telephone pole, is a constant reminder of the changing seasons. Newly bare as fall began to shift to winter and the days became shorter, with sunsets kicking off in the afternoon hours.

The open fields with golden fall colors are always beautiful. Most evenings deer may be seen grazing or running after one another. And the hawks are always swooping down for a meal.

I trust we will grab our sneakers in the coming days and walk along this road, seeing the little pole tree looking bare and lovely, ready for winter to arrive.

Sugarloaf Mountain | Travel

Sugarloaf Mountain | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography Sugarloaf Mountain is one of my favorite local Maryland spots. A quick and easy drive from my home with several hiking trails, beautiful farm-filled overlooks and a lovely fall foliage treat of colors.

Sugarloaf Mountain | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

I am a bit excited to hike this little mountain when I return home next month :)

Sugarloaf Mountain | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Mountain Loop Trail - a 2.5 mile hike around the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain.
  2. Northern Peaks Trail - a five mile hike starting from the West View parking area. My favorite for when my mom comes along.
  3. Saddleback Horse Trail - this 7 mile loop is open to both hiker and horses, looping around the base of Sugarloaf Mountain.
  4. Strong Mansion - a lovely mansion on the mountain, available for events and weddings.
  5. Sugarloaf Mountain entrance road - this scenic drive up the mountain is always lovely. Pop in and out of the parking areas to enjoy the overlooks.

Would love to hear all about your favorite spots on Sugarloaf Mountain in the comments below!

Sugarloaf Mountain | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography

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 :)

Deck Squirrel | Photograph Story

Deck Squirrel | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography When I first moved back to Maryland, from Arizona, my heart was quite heavy. Arizona and the western side of the country was my happy place and I never planned to call my hometown home again.

Being close to family and the people who love me most in this great world trumped everything at the time. As I type this today, my heart and mind are in complete agreement, returning to Maryland for a few years was the best decision to make.

After moving in and setting up shop, the first noticeable difference on a daily basis was the view from my desk. There were no mountains. There were many more trees and the color green was vibrant. But I still missed the mountains.

And then one day this healthy squirrel came along. Playing on the deck, locking eyes with me from time to time, having a grand time in his simple play area. Another day rolled in and during the early afternoon my squirrel neighbor returned again. For months, he kept showing up providing a bit of entertainment each day.

It's been just over two years since moving to Maryland and my squirrel friend still stops by from time to time, placing a big smile on my face.

I still miss the mountains and definitely plan to return to the other side of the country. In the meantime, falling back in love with the first place I ever called home has been a lovely adventure.

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" :)

C&O Canal | Photograph Story

C&O Canal | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography Let me start by saying how thankful I am to live so close to the C&O Canal. I need to spend more evenings and mornings walking along these waterways close to home.

After driving home from my annual family reunion in Pennsylvania, my mom and I were feeling the need to stretch our legs. We usually go for a 2.5 to 3 mile walk around town each evening. In an attempt to spice things up a bit, we made our way to the C&O Canal entrance at Great Falls, in Maryland.

The trail was relatively quiet for a Sunday evening. And the weather was quite delightful for late July. We strolled along for three to four miles, enjoying each great blue heron sighting along the way.

As the sun began to cast golden light, we came across this lock. I loved the way the sun lit the trees and cast shadows around the building. This capture comes from my handy iPhone 4s.

The more I look at this photograph, the more I crave an evening walk along the C&O Canal.

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 :)

Yellow Sugar Maple | Photograph Story

Yellow Sugar Maple | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography Sitting beneath trees, filled with beautiful fall leaves, is one of my favorite afternoon activities :) It's not uncommon for me to finish my day a little early and head for a nearby park with my camera and a good book.

It was Halloween day and since I do not have little ones and someone else was covering the trick-or-treaters, I decided to finish my work day and scoot. Finding myself in an empty Greenbrier State Park, I walked from tree to tree, enjoying the fall colors.

Quiet, relaxing and beautiful come to mind.

Since fall was coming to a close in the area, most of the leaves were on the ground. This was the final tree I popped under during my visit. Instead of reading a book, I simply relaxed and watched the wind move the leaves around in the parking lot and nearby field.

I'm hoping to spend more time with my back against trees in 2015. Breathing in fresh air and enjoying all the goodness nature has to offer :)

Stages of Fall | Photograph Story

Stages of Fall | Photograph Story | Alaina Ann Photography Even though fall was quickly fading, I grabbed my camera and drove to Greenbrier State Park to see how the maple trees and leaves were holding up. Upon arriving, most of the leaves were on the ground, with a few lingering on a handful of trees.

I was disappointed to miss out on a full maple tree capture, but decided to hang around, play in the leaves a bit and see where my creativity took me.

While parked beneath a maple tree, I noticed the lower branches filled with orange leaves nicely framed a distant tree, completely bare of leaves. A true representation of the stages of fall.

Part of the beauty from my favorite season is the unpredictable and unrepeatable dynamic of fall goodness. You and I could visit the same spot every year, on the same day, and the view would likely take on a different look and feel each time. I LOVE this about fall. We never know what's waiting for us. It's part of the fun that comes with exploring in September, October and November :)

The winding up, and down, of peak fall foliage is sometimes just as beautiful as catching an entire landscape at its prime.

George Washington Memorial Parkway | Travel (25/556)

Great Falls Park | Alaina Ann Photography Once upon a time, I drove on the George Washington Memorial Parkway daily, traveling to and from work. Although an obvious scenic road, it was years before I realized it was a national park unit, designed to connect and link sites throughout the area, commemorating important events in history.

Hiking Recommendations
  • Haul Road Trail - located in the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, this trail follows an old mining road for 3/4 of a mile.
  • Interpretive Trail - located in Jones Point Park, this gravel trail takes you through the fresh water marsh area.
  • Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail - a national park unit of its own, this trail offers diverse routes through Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

Glen Echo Park | Alaina Ann Photography

Resources

Glen Echo Park and Great Falls Park are my most frequented stops along the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Have you been on the parkway or visited any of the local sites? I would love to hear about your experience and tips in the comments below!

Clara Barton National Historic Site | Travel (24/556)

Clara Barton National Historic Site | Travel (24/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s) The Clara Barton National Historic Site, located in Glen Echo, Maryland is another spot close to my home. Clara Barton's home during the last fifteen years of her life is preserved and available for guided tours.

She was a pioneer in humanitarian efforts and the founder of the American Red Cross. Quite the lady, if you ask me!

Clara Barton National Historic Site | Travel (24/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s)

The home is open for tours, each day beginning at 10:00 am until 4:00 pm. There are some temporary closures, due to an upcoming renovation.

Walking the grounds of the home, beneath the large trees, is a lovely experience.

Have you made your way to the Clara Barton house? I would love to hear about your experience in the comments below!

Clara Barton National Historic Site | Travel (24/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 4s)