Adventure is out there (my unabridged summer)

I've been looking up all the old cliches, trying to figure out what to name/how to start this blog post. But the point is – it's about travel. I like to joke, "Sometimes you have to get lost in order to find yourself," but I have found some truth in that. 

When I was in Scotland, two summers ago, I had my palm read by a gypsy at the St. Andrews Highland Games. She (accurately) predicted that I would be doing a lot of traveling soon after that. I think she said in the next year specifically, but let's expand that to the two years following my time in Scotland. Since then, I have visited Washington, D.C., twice. I went to Toronto for New Years that year. I was in New York state briefly. I flew to Orlando to visit a friend last summer. I went to Washington the state (Seattle specifically) and snowboarded in Oregon this past December. 

And when she made that prediction, little did I know that I would have my first big Western adventure two summers after that.

My experience of The West had been limited to Montana and Washington and a brief trip to Oregon before this summer. I already knew I liked Seattle. When I found out I would be in Las Vegas for the whole summer, I was excited but was sort of prepared to hate it. I'm not the biggest party animal. I'm not huge on gambling. But what they don't tell you is that there's so much natural beauty right around Vegas.

I bonded with my boss Kevin over our mutual love of the outdoors. He gave me books, including one called "Base Camp Las Vegas," which shows just how excellent the location of Vegas is. It's a half day's drive from at least half a dozen National Parks and countless more conservation areas, state parks and the like. I feel like I didn't waste a single moment this summer, as I spent a lot of time hiking and traveling when I wasn't working.

Even though I've been back at school for almost three weeks, it's nice to still look back and reflect on this summer. AND some of these (previously unreleased) travel photos get to see the light of day. Here are all the places I visited this summer.

 

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock is probably the closest big outdoor opportunity in proximity to Vegas. From The Strip, one needs only to drive 20 or 30 minutes west to access a vast space of brightly colored rocks and hiking. Red Rock was the reason I first decided to get an "America the Beautiful" pass, which got me into all the national parks and conservation areas for free for a year (after fronting the initial $80). After my first full week of work, I spent one of my off days exploring Red Rock and went back countless more times, including once or twice on assignment for a story. In fact, my very last assignment was flying on a police helicopter and they took us out to Red Rock where they do a lot of rescues. I've included some of those pictures too.

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Kelso Dunes – Mojave National Preserve, CA

The most exciting part about photojournalism is getting to venture out and meet new people all the time. In some cases, I get to be outside adventuring on assignment, or sometimes I'm in a spot that allows me to explore before or after an assignment. During my first week in Vegas, I was sent to Laughlin, which is about an hour south of Vegas. I took photos at the Laughlin Marina, which had new ownership and was making a comeback. After filing my photos, I still had light and time and thought I should go to California. I mean, why not? I had really only been to LAX for a connecting flight in terms of being in California, which isn't really even being in California. So I went to the nearby (ish) Mojave National Preserve and discovered some sand dunes. The Kelso Dunes, they were called. And then I hiked up one of the taller dunes, which was my first time really experiencing sand dunes other than vacation in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I reached the top right as the sun was setting. Well timed, Patrick.

 

Valley of Fire State Park

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An hour and 15 minutes to the northeast of Vegas is the Valley of Fire State Park. Most of the landscape surrounding Las Vegas consists of flat desert that stretches for miles and miles at a time before giving way to towering mountains that surround the desert floor. Such is most of the drive to the Valley of Fire. After exiting the interstate, a lonely desert road (there are lots of those in Nevada and the surrounding states) winds around, and after coming around a bend or through a canyon, suddenly the Valley of Fire appears before your eyes in the form of stunningly bright red rocks. They named it that for a reason.

When I got there, I drove around for a bit before stopping at the short but worthwhile Rainbow Vista Trail. Natural beauty abound in the form of stellar views and varied colors in the rocks.

~ LONG STORY but worth it if you have a minute ~ (or else continue onto the photos, up to you)

~ tl;dr - I got lost and almost messed up but saved my own ass and made it out ay ok)

I then decided to hike the White Domes trail, a purported 45-minute loop. Soon after beginning to hike, I ran into a man named Jan (but not pronounced like you'd think) from the Netherlands. He was traveling the states for several months on holiday. Europeans really know what's up with actually giving people the time and permission to go off and travel, to really take a break and do something personally fulfilling for months at a time. We should really take a hint.

After a while, I decided to part ways with my new friend after walking and talking about politics and society. When I began walking again, I soon realized I was helplessly lost. I had food and water. But I had picked up an evening assignment for work and had to be back for it. And I did not want to have to call my boss in the middle of week two and have to explain my mistake. The element of time was against me.

I got myself up to a higher vantage point and spotted a gravel path that I assumed was some sort of trail, perhaps the one I wanted. After walking along that for a while in the direction I thought was the parking lot, I tried to check my phone map. Google Maps had cached the map of the park from earlier and I had GPS signal, even though I was out of cell service. I figured out that I was halfway along the Prospect Trail, a 5 miler that runs clear through the park. And it's not a loop.

I had two options: I could turn around and try to navigate my way back to my car, which I wasn't confident I could do. Or I could continue hiking back to the main road, which connects with the opposite end of the trail. So that's what I did.

Upon arriving, it was just after 3 and I had to be at my assignment by 6. And I was over an hour away from Vegas. I tried calling the State Park with the smidgen of 4G signal I found.

"Hi, I'm actually in the park now but I got lost and could use a ride back to my car. Is there a ranger available?"

"Sorry, we're actually short staffed today and everyone is on lunch. Can you wait about 40 minutes?"

(thinking to myself - shit)

"I'll try to flag someone else down."

Thankfully, not two minutes later, the first car I flagged down stopped for me. There were two nice people from California and their two visiting friends, plus their dog. With me, the car was packed full. But they were gracious enough to take me not only back to the visitors center, but all the way back to my car. I feel like karma has a way of coming back around, because after leaving the Kelso Dunes earlier that week, I stopped and helped a man get his car unstuck from the sand on the side of the road.

I got back to my car, booked it back to my apartment. Got there just before 5, took one of my quickest showers ever, and left the apartment within 15 minutes. And I got to my assignment with time to spare. Go, me. Now enjoy the photos.

 

Seven Magic Mountains

This one is a bit closer to Vegas – only about half an hour south of the city. It's an art installation by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone and sponsored by the Nevada Museum of Public Art. It's mostly just fun to visit these brightly colored rocks during sunset and take some photos, maybe walk around a bit.

 

Lone Rock Beach, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon

I had taken my tent out west and made it a point to go camping. I began floating around some ideas based on what friends had told me and what was most feasible (also most cool!). I looked at my America the Beautiful card and on it was a photo. It looked really beautiful. I thought to myself, "where is that?" and on the back it read, "Glen Canyon NRA" (National Recreation Area). Plus, that was close to the famous Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon. Sounded like the perfect weekend.

We camped on the beach on Lake Powell, which is near Page, Arizona, and Wahweap. Technically, we camped in Utah but the Lake is bisected by the state border. After getting my car stuck in the sand, the weekend proceeded wonderfully and I saw plenty of amazing sights. And there might still be a bit of sand left in the tent...

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Generally speaking, I have been trying to go in chronological order, but this time I've started with Antelope Canyon because it is absolutely gorgeous. I would recommend it to anyone.

 

Extraterrestrial Highway

Believe it or not, the blurbs before this only get us up through May and June. This only begins July. SO. Once upon a time, on a sunny Saturday in July, four brave interns decided to venture out into the desert searching for something. Not like a grand venture out to find a sense of identity or belonging as so many millennials do, but to potentially find creatures from NOT THIS EARTH. That's right, folks. I mean aliens.

Nevada is apparently a great trip for road trips. Among the great road trips is the 98-mile Exterrestrial Highway, otherwise known as Nevada State Route 375. It was really an all day venture, as we left at 1 or so in the afternoon and didn't return until almost 11. It takes a few hours to get to and drive the stretch that has gift shops and things on it. But we definitely spent more time stopping and looking around than driving. We did not actually see any out-of-this-world creatures (at least I didn't), but we did find the gate to Area 51. Pretty cool, right?

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We also stopped by E.T. Fresh Jerky, then the "Alien Research Center" (where the man working there directed us how to get to the real deal, Area 51). We got to have a meal together at the Little "A'Le'Inn" before enjoying an amazing sunset, which featured some beautiful golden light over the desert landscape, some cows in the road and the mysterious "black mailbox" near area 51, which is the subject of a lot of conspiracy stories. All in all, very successful day.

 

Los Angeles

Los Angeles had been on my list. California in general. But after only having been in LAX once, I had to check it out. I've noticed that as I've grown up, I've come to know people in more places as my college colleagues have graduated and spread out. Such was the case with LA, as I knew a handful of Bobcats in the "Summer in LA" program. Among them was my blue-haired friend Sam McCoy, who landed himself a sweet gig with the YouTube channel "Wisecrack" this past summer. Unfortunately I chose to visit the weekend that all the Bobcats were busy producing their student film, but I had a place to stay, got to visit briefly, and had an opportunity to go exploring a new place on my own.

So what did I do in LA? Well, there's a lot more to do and see than could be done in a singular weekend. I had to choose my battles. But since the heat was slightly more bearable than Vegas, I chose to be outside. I went to Griffith Park and checked out the abandoned zoo. I hiked up to the "wisdom tree" and the top of the Hollywood Sign. I spent a bit of time downtown, checking out the Grand Central Market and a cool book store called "The Last Bookstore." I went to Santa Monica Pier and Venice Beach, both of which I loved. The following day, I went to the Getty Museum and then back to Venice Beach for most of the day.

As is common knowledge, the traffic sucked and LA is too expensive. And very sprawling. And yet, too crowded despite that. Could I live there long term? Probably not. But is it fun to visit for a weekend? Certainly.

 

Zion National Park

About two hours and 30 minutes to the northeast of Vegas is Zion National Park. Although it is one of the smaller national parks, it is very popular. Again, I feel like people are pretty good with their names, because Biblically, Zion references a raised up monument, specifically the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which is thought to be the most holy place in the world for Jewish people, the connection between God and humanity. Zion really does feel that incredible when you’re surrounded by it.

I set out for Zion on a Saturday with a few new friends I had made while out west to hike the Narrows trail. The Narrows is second in popularity only to Angel’s Landing, a daunting ascent that ends in a climb to the top while grasping onto a chain for dear life. I did not have a chance to attempt the later, but we did hike the Narrows. It’s a beautiful hike up the Virgin River in the magnificent section of Zion Canyon that is a "slot canyon," which essentially means very narrow and carved out by water, but beautiful. We had the thought to bring inner tubes as well, so after hiking upstream, we floated back. Many envious hikers commented on how they wish they had thought of that. It's a hike that can turn deadly in a sudden rainstorm, but we lucked out.

 

Portland, Oregon

Portland had especially been on my list for a while. Ever since I began watching Portlandia and hearing more people talk about it, I knew I had to go. But it was definitely a place I very much idealized in my head before going. I had a vision of this mecca for hipsters and it being essentially paradise on earth. 

It did live up to expectations, but what they don't tell you is that you have to do a little bit of looking to find what you want to do or where to go. It really helped to talk to locals and ask around, like "what should I do?" And the people are very nice. But as Portland is a place that is built on an underground, hipster culture, nobody is going to say hold your hand and give you directions. It's a place that sells itself, so the tourism bureau definitely doesn't work as hard or at least doesn't have to. And it's kind of fun to do some independent exploring and not be bound by the "top 10 things you need to see in Portland." I used a combination of map, conversation and intuition to get to the places I wanted to see and enjoy. And I rented a bike, which turned out to be a fantastic decision. Plus I got to stay with my pal Jim, who was the Editor-in-Chief at The Post during my freshman year. It was good to catch up with him and one other friend. Plus, I went to see Portugal. The Man!

I really do see why Portland is all the rage after visiting. I would live there in a heartbeat if it weren't so damn expensive. It has many appeals, but one of them being the vast outdoors space both within the city area and in the direct areas surrounding it. There's beautiful wilderness to explore no matter which direction you drive from Portland. The mentality in terms of eco-consciousness is amazing. Consequently, Portlanders are dealing with a huge influx of people moving in, and it's not all good. They don't always like rich folks from California. And make no mistake – the real Portlanders knew about Portland before it was cool. ;) 

 

International Car Forest

While coming back from our night stay in the Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada, which is about 3 1/2 hours to the northwest of Vegas, reporting intern Katelyn and I decided to stop by the International Car Forest of the Last Church, an art installation just outside the old gold town of Goldfield, Nevada. I don't know what it is, but something about art installations and the desert really do go hand in hand. It's like the nephew of Carhenge and the cousin of Cadillac Ranch, but equally as cool as either one. Plus the International Car Forest is the only one of those I've seen.

 

Mount Charleston

Mount Charleston, about an hour to the north of Las Vegas, in some ways became my saving grace for the summer. Who knew that there could be a place so green and lush but an hour from the hot and barren desert? I didn’t at first. In some ways, Mount Charleston sort of became my saving grace. I went up there at least 4 or 5 times throughout the summer. Here’s my co-worker Ben.

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Las Vegas sits at about 2,000 feet or so. The base of Charleston is at 7,000 feet, and the summit at almost 12,000. Needless to say, there was a distinct and much welcomed temperature difference. On some days, there could be a 30+ degree difference in temperature. Say it was 110º in Vegas, it might be 75º on Mount Charleston. It was very nice.

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My main story will focus on the day that interns Katelyn, Bailey and I hiked 8 miles each way and ascended upward of 4,500 feet in reaching the peak. We knew it was no easy task. I grew up hiking and spending time in the great outdoors. Plus, I had just gotten my new Camelbak about two months earlier and was itching to test its full daypack capabilities. So we did our best to prepare and woke up at 4:30 a.m. (yikes!) one fateful morning to set out on our trek. We began hiking about 5:45 and watched the sunrise.

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We climbed switchback after switchback, as most of the elevation gain happens in the first few miles. But none of it is very sudden. Just gradual, gradual climbing.

I like to keep a pace when I'm hiking and sometimes felt like we were stopping too frequently, but I never minded a stop to take in the views. After all, my hiking buddies both hailed from flat states (Florida and Iowa), and had just gotten into hiking during the summer. Once we got up to about 10,000 feet, where there's a flat-ish meadow for a while, it was close to 10. But we were making decent time. We began to hike past a lot of remnants of a wildfire a few years ago that closed down the trail for a little while.

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At that point, it was hike, hike, hike, then stop. Feel tired. Question decision to embark on this hike. Sip water. Eat part of a Cliff Bar. Wash, rinse, repeat. But as the unofficial cheerleader for our hike, I said that if we put one foot in front of the other for long enough, we'd eventually get there. Closer to the peak, it was time to ascend again. But we could see our goal in sight.

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Did I mention there's also a plane wreck near the peak? In 1955, a plane bound for Area 51 crashed and the case was shrouded in mystery for years. Now, some remnants remain.

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Soon after, we made it! 11,916 feet. The time was 12:40 p.m., PDT. The views were breathtaking. My longest and highest climb to date. Although I fully expect to surpass that eventually. ;) 

But as they say, what goes up must come down. And ascending such a distance can also take a while. We spent about an hour at the peak, departing again around 1:45. Once we got across the meadow, we all came to the unfortunate realization that while we had packed sunscreen, we were all too determined or tired or something to remember to put it on. And at a higher altitude, we were getting extra fried. We all came back with surefire signs that we had, in fact, been out in the sun all day. And we had forgotten to use sunscreen. We were beginning to lose light while descending the switchbacks. There was talk of getting burgers. We were all exhausted. I kept on cheerleading. Finally, we arrived back at the car. The time was just before 7 p.m. It had been a 13 hour hike.

 

My Random Morning Hike

So once upon a time, I came home from work and took a nap around 4:30 p.m. I had been busy and burning the candle at all ends. I woke up in the 7 o'clock hour, but still felt tired. Went back to sleep. Woke up again at about 3:30 a.m. mildly confused, but well rested. After all, I had slept for about 11 hours and had no huge desire to go back to sleep again. I don't think I could if I tried. So I decided to go head out to Lone Mountain before heading into work. As the name suggests, it's a lonely peak in the middle of the suburbs, close to the cliffs and peaks of Red Rock Canyon. Not quite as tall, but close in proximity. And those suburbs probably weren't there 15 or 20 years ago to surround Lone Mountain. But it was very tranquil to be out before sunrise in the city that never sleeps, and to get up to the peak in plenty of time to watch the sun rise.

 

The Grand Canyon

Few places on earth are more well known than the Grand Canyon. Go to any country, say the words "Grand Canyon" in the native tongue, and most any person would immediately get a picture in their mind. And let me be clear: the photos do not do it justice. Millions of people dream of going that have never been. And that's on top of the 5+ million visitors the park already does get every year.

I went for my first time at the beginning of this summer on the way out to Vegas. It was truly incredible. When you look out at it, you sort of stare in disbelief and want to think that it's not actually real. How could something be so vast and majestic? You have to continually pinch yourself and remind yourself that it is real.

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As my friend from Malaysia reminded me, some people only have the chance to go once. I actually had the fortune to go again at the end of the summer. I had about the same experience of disbelief the second time as I did the first, but I knew a little better what to anticipate. On each occasion, I hiked part of the Bright Angel Trail, which helps it to feel more real as you descend into the canyon. The only thing I could think about as I left for the second time was when I could feasibly get back again.

 

Well, that's a wrap, folks! If you stayed with me til the end, that's a small miracle. Part of this is sharing my photos and experiences with others. The other part is that as long as the internet is around, I can have my own personal chronicle of this summer.

And as you can see, I don't think I could have feasibly fit much more into one summer. That's not even quite everything. But I can't sit still. In a new place, I need to get out and explore. Preferably somewhere outdoors. If you couldn't tell, I caught the western bug and I want to go back like ASAP. I already go through hiking withdrawal any weekend that I can't get out and do something. I miss the mountains. But mark my words – I will be back!

As I'm finishing up my last semester, I can't even begin to imagine all the places I will travel within the next few years. After all, adventure is out there. Go find your own.

Beer Pong, Weddings, Poker, & Flood Tunnels

Some of my colleagues in photojournalism – fellow students, people that graduated a year or two ahead of me – like to make blog posts monthly. As soon as the first of the next month hits, they have their blog post up (I'm looking at you, Isaac Hale). That's admirable, but here I am – again a few days late in making this blog post.

This is a result of a few things.

1. I am truly very busy between work, socializing and going on little adventures out here. I don't necessarily leave myself with too much "down time," but that's alright. I am thankful every day for the other interns, my awesome co-workers and new friends I've made out here. I'm glad that I don't have much time to be bored. 

and 2. I didn't even know where to start! The thought of even trying to encompass the crazy and action-packed month of June into one blog post seemed unfathomable to me. But I will sure as hell try. Let's start at the beginning and end at the end (well, more or less).

One one of the first days of the month of June, I worked a Saturday. I don't usually work Saturdays, but I needed to make up a day and the opportunity seemed too good to pass up. I had the opportunity to spend a whole day at a wedding chapel with a reporter and videographer. I was there from 11am - 8pm and photographed about 13 or 14 weddings. It was really a marathon of a day and we even ordered a pizza to the chapel at one point. The themes ranged from Liberace to Star Trek, from Rocky Horror to Elvis, and Gladiator to traditional. 

I learned a lot that day. Marriage knows no age or boundaries. Some people were getting married for the second or third time at age 50 or 60. I saw multiple gay couples be wed. Love is kind of inexplicable. I really don't get it, but it can come in many, many forms. Also – Elvis isn't dead.

Las Vegas is a wild place. The very next day, I had an assignment to go and photograph the World Series of Beer Pong. Who knew that was a thing? I didn't, but my time at OU prepared me well for such an assignment.

The World Series of Poker has also been ongoing since late May. I feel like most people misunderstand exactly the scope of the events and the longevity of the Series, as they ask me "you're going back to that again?" Well, with over 70 events, play goes on for a long time. Through mid-July, actually. We have a reporter there almost every day. So I've now been to WSOP about five or six times for various features.

A new display came to the Bellagio's conservatory and botanical gardens on June 12.

I had a pretty refreshing assignment: family yoga outside at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park. I wasn't even the one doing the yoga, but it was a fun one.

Skip ahead about a week. The temperature hit a record-tying 117˚. It was brutal, I went out onto the Strip to look for "hot weather photos.” 

Skip ahead a few days and I'm covering the Vans Warped Tour at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. It was still brutally hot on that day, probably topping out around 113˚. But I came prepared with my CamelBak and some salty snacks, so I survived the day just fine. Plus the Hard Rock is literally the perfect venue for such an event. Most Warped Tour stops are solely outside. At the Hard Rock, there was one stage by the pool and three inside.

During the last week of June, intern Briana Erickson and I (the #WINterns) pursued a story together about how the monsoon season in July and August affects homeless people living in the flood tunnels. We followed around a group called HELP of Southern Nevada during two early mornings to tell this story. The organization checks on homeless people in the city and provides basic necessities and services. I think it really turned out between my visuals and Briana's excellent writing.

It's not that I feel like my work hasn't been important so far, but until this story, I felt like I was telling stories that were fun or entertaining, but not the most important stories. As I've driven around, I've noticed the homeless struggling on the streets and wanted an opportunity to tell a meaningful story with impact. I saw a stark contrast between the high rollers of the Strip and the people who have next to nothing. It felt good to dig into a story such as this. Here's the video I made, which I also composed originally guitar music for:

Recently, I was also assigned a story about street signs in Las Vegas. How they've been named after resorts and changed over the years. How do you make a street sign look interesting? Wait until night and catch light trails from cars, I guess. I sure tried, at least.

A few more random briefs and singles from the past month. 

 Boulder City High School seniors high five elementary schoolers in an annual Grad Walk to celebrate the seniors' accomplishments and encourage young students to finish high school.

Boulder City High School seniors high five elementary schoolers in an annual Grad Walk to celebrate the seniors' accomplishments and encourage young students to finish high school.

 Lisa Tenner, who has worked in branding and marketing for bands and the music industry for over 30 years, in her house.

Lisa Tenner, who has worked in branding and marketing for bands and the music industry for over 30 years, in her house.

 A thrill seeker falls to the earth while riding SkyJump at the Stratosphere on Monday, June 12, 2017. Golden Entertainment is acquiring a company that owns four Nevada casinos, including the Stratosphere, for $850 million.

A thrill seeker falls to the earth while riding SkyJump at the Stratosphere on Monday, June 12, 2017. Golden Entertainment is acquiring a company that owns four Nevada casinos, including the Stratosphere, for $850 million.

 Kelvin Ray, an elder of the Portals to Glory church, in the North Las Vegas church on Thursday, June 15, 2017. Ray received the missing "Baby Girl Jackson" the night before after police conducted a multiple state search for her.

Kelvin Ray, an elder of the Portals to Glory church, in the North Las Vegas church on Thursday, June 15, 2017. Ray received the missing "Baby Girl Jackson" the night before after police conducted a multiple state search for her.

 Dillon Truman, 4, races for the ball with his father Jared during father and child catch, an annual tradition, before the Las Vegas 51s game at Cashman Field on Friday, June 16, 2017.

Dillon Truman, 4, races for the ball with his father Jared during father and child catch, an annual tradition, before the Las Vegas 51s game at Cashman Field on Friday, June 16, 2017.

 Carter Grimes, a swimmer with the Sandpipers of Nevada, practices at the Desert Breeze Aquatic Center.

Carter Grimes, a swimmer with the Sandpipers of Nevada, practices at the Desert Breeze Aquatic Center.

 Ava Neidermeyer, a longtime casino employee, celebrates after the unveiling of the Palace Station train and signs, the latest contribution to the Neon Museum, on Thursday, June 22, 2017, with Scott Nelson, vice president and general manager at Palace Station, left, and Craig Randall, a longtime casino employee.

Ava Neidermeyer, a longtime casino employee, celebrates after the unveiling of the Palace Station train and signs, the latest contribution to the Neon Museum, on Thursday, June 22, 2017, with Scott Nelson, vice president and general manager at Palace Station, left, and Craig Randall, a longtime casino employee.

 River Apfel, 2, tries out a space sleeping bag at the Astronaut exhibit at the Springs Preserve.

River Apfel, 2, tries out a space sleeping bag at the Astronaut exhibit at the Springs Preserve.

I also put together an interesting video on how two professional bowlers in the 50+ division use exercise to remain competitive.

Las Vegas has proven itself to be a very interesting news town, as people have reminded me time and time again. In some ways, it's like a normal city, but in many ways it really isn't. But it has been a great environment to learn in and I think that I've been improving a bit every week here. All I try to do is keep rising to the challenge each assignment brings and proving myself, and that's all I can do.

I hope to get one or two more longer term stories under my belt here before my time is done. I'm just beyond the halfway point of my internship, which is hard to believe. It can be hard to focus on one story in particular with all of my daily assignments, but I will see what I can do!

One more note: as of July 1, pot is legal in Nevada. To close things out, here are a few moments from press conference leading up to the first recreational sales. Featuring a special appearance from state Sen. Tick Segerblom, who was a big proponent of legal marijuana.

What Happens in Vegas... (My First Month)

As they say, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." Until I take a picture of it, that is. Here's my hot takes from my time in Las Vegas, Nevada, working for the Review-Journal so far.

I started on Monday, May 8. Well, sort of. I went in to do HR stuff and get oriented for the new job. After going through some of the nitty gritty, I finally met my boss, Kevin, in person. I was immediately welcomed with a plate of cookies from my "RJ family" and a staff who immediately made me feel at home. It's been a great place to work, as it's a paper that has a lot of resources too. 

I came in the next day and pretty much hit the ground running. My first day involved shooting a mock trial with elementary schoolers, and later, I photographed a woman who had been attacked by a dog. It was a pretty wild assignment to have on day 1, an interesting introduction to Las Vegas.

 Christopher Pandelis, chief deputy district attorney, talks with Zitlalic Salinas, the plaintiff and a fifth grader from C.P. Squires Elementary School, following a mock trial as a part of the "Kids in the Court" program at the North Las Vegas Justice Court on Tuesday, May 9, 2017. Salinas said she hopes to become a lawyer someday. Patrick Connolly Las Vegas Review-Journal @PConnPie
 Joan Hobbs, 53, holds photos of herself outside of her home before she was bitten by a dog in northeast Las Vegas Tuesday, May 9, 2017. Patrick Connolly Las Vegas Review-Journal @PConnPie

Most of my assignments I get the day before. Some of them I have further notice on, but a lot of the time, I don't have a clear idea of what I'll be doing on a given day. But I'm someone who appreciates variety and spontaneity, so it works for me. One example of this was when I came into the office and my editors said "Hey, the World Series of Poker is starting today. We heard Michael Phelps is going to be there. Go shoot it." Did you know he played poker? I didn't. 

 Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps shares a moment with poker star Maurice Hawkins during a tag team event in the opening of the World Series of Poker at the Rio Convention Center on Wednesday, May 31, 2017. Patrick Connolly Las Vegas Review-Journal @PConnPie

Among other celebrities I've gotten to photograph are Steve Forbes and the singer Jewel.

 Steve Forbes speaks about "What Should Trump Do Now for a Great Economy?" at the MoneyShow at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on Monday, May 15, 2017. Patrick Connolly Las Vegas Review-Journal @PConnPie
 Singer-songwriter Jewel on the red carpet before a a charity concert event presented by Sands Cares at the Palazzo on Friday, May 19, 2017. Patrick Connolly Las Vegas Review-Journal @PConnPie

I'm not really a huge sports guy, but I've had a few sports assignments.

 This was a playoff game in which Basic (team of the catcher) beat Coronado 7-3. Basic advanced to become the state champs. I thought this moment told the story of that game particularly well.

This was a playoff game in which Basic (team of the catcher) beat Coronado 7-3. Basic advanced to become the state champs. I thought this moment told the story of that game particularly well.

 Basic players are reflected in sunglasses during a post-game huddle after their victory against Coronado, 7-3, at Basic High School in Henderson on Thursday, May 11, 2017. Patrick Connolly Las Vegas Review-Journal @PConnPie
 Jonathan Rukujzo of Illinois practices punting during the Chris Sailer Kicking National Camp in Las Vegas on Sunday, May 14, 2017. Patrick Connolly Las Vegas Review-Journal @PConnPie
 51s pitcher Josh Smoker demonstrates his slider grip at Cashman Field on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Patrick Connolly Las Vegas Review-Journal @PConnPie

Another cool story I worked on was about Gist Specialties, a custom fabrication shop that makes lots of creations you might see on The Strip or in festivals that come to Vegas like the Electric Daisy Carnival.

 Ryan Bieman works on some welding at Gist Specialties, which makes custom wood and metal fabrications, in North Las Vegas on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. Patrick Connolly Las Vegas Review-Journal @PConnPie
 Oscar Perez-Casiano, right, and Carlos Barragan work on finishing a piece Gist Specialties, which makes custom wood and metal fabrications, in North Las Vegas on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. Patrick Connolly Las Vegas Review-Journal @PConnPie

Spring is also commencement season. I only photographed one, and they're always hit or miss, but I got a few good shots from this one in particular.

 A College of Southern Nevada graduate talks with an audience member on the phone before the start of commencement at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas on Monday, May 15, 2017. Patrick Connolly Las Vegas Review-Journal @PConnPie
 College of Southern Nevada commencement at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas on Monday, May 15, 2017. Patrick Connolly Las Vegas Review-Journal @PConnPie

One of my favorite writers to work with has been Paul Harasim, a seasoned storyteller who has perfected his craft over many years. He always finds excellent stories and writes about them in his columns, which run a few times a week. 

Candace Kawatsu fell 30 feet in a hiking accident 2 years later and required months and months of hospitalization and recovery. Some things have never been quite the same, but Candace is back out and hiking again. It was a great story to work on, especially because I got to go hiking while I was at it!

He wrote another column about Nevada's only female cardiothoracic surgeon. I got to be in the OR for the first time and it was pretty cool.

Did you also know that May 25 was the 40th anniversary of the first Star Wars film? Fans celebrated at the Millennium Fandom Bar in the Arts District.

Among the other lighthearted and fun assignments I've had are fidget spinners. They're all the rage among the kids now. A reporter and I went out and found some kids on the playground with their new favorite toys.

Some days, when there isn't as much going on, we'll go around and look for "wild art," which are essentially standalone feature photos. I've been especially fascinated by street performers and Fremont Street downtown.

I've also been producing a lot of videos. The Review-Journal tries to be very web friendly and largely succeeds, I think. They're big on video and like to see videos with most assignments if possible. As my boss Kevin says, "they don't have to be Emmy award winning," as most videos I'm shooting on top of stills and trying to produce quickly. Here are a few of my favorites.

For being a mere intern, I've gotten some good access to things so far, as they've entrusted me with the bigger assignments like Michael Phelps at Poker, an assignment with a rare tour of the Nellis Air Force Base (yet to run, will post later) and more recently, a feature package about chapel weddings (will post in June recap). I've been treated as a part of the staff since day one, with my editors looking to give me opportunities and trusting me with those. I haven't gotten the shit assignments because I'm an intern – I've had a whole variety of things.

So overall, it's been a good experience so far! Vegas can be a whacky and weird place at times, but that's also why I love it. There's never a dull moment. There's always something happening, something to cover. Everyone on staff is very friendly and helpful, and the paper has resources too. I'm on a photo staff of about 10 (it's hard to keep track of everyone), plus a few video producers. That's kind of unheard of for most papers. Stay tuned for more things in the works soon!

"When We Said We Were Gonna Move to Vegas..."

The other day, as I was driving around and listening to my Blink-182 mix CD, there's a song with a line about moving to Vegas. I laughed a bit when I heard it.

" When we said we were gonna move to Vegas
I remember the look her mother gave us
17 without a purpose or direction
We don't owe anyone a f**king explanation "

I'm 20 (almost 21) and my move to Vegas was a lot more intentional than the scenario the song portrayed. I never really planned to be out here for any time at all, let alone a whole summer. It wasn't too high up on my travel list, but here I am! I really don't mind it though, don't get me wrong. More on that later... Let's start at the beginning. May 2, almost exactly a month ago – I packed up the car and began the drive out west. 

I picked up my partner in crime and fellow photojournalist, Lauren, in Columbus. She accompanied me on the road trip. Thankfully, we were able to stay with friends and family most of the drive out there, which definitely saved some money. And it's nice to visit people.

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 Visiting with our pal Sarah in Dayton, Ohio.

Visiting with our pal Sarah in Dayton, Ohio.

Things were pretty boring until we got to Colorado. I mean, there is a certain beauty in the prairies of the midwest, it's just... flat and there's nothing really to see. Plus, one day was fairly rainy, but we got through it. We saw the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

The most interesting in Kansas was a giant reproduction of a Van Gogh painting.

When we stopped in Denver, a family friend took us out to get Bison Burgers. Our long trip across the midwest had paid off.

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After that, the landscape changed drastically. After a visit to Red Rock Amphitheater, we quickly found ourselves surrounded by mountains. The Rocky Mountains.

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Per that family friend's recommendation, we skirted part of I-70 in favor of the Loveland Pass. He wasn't even sure if it was open with recent snowfall. Luckily, it was. And it was totally worth the trip.

 Lauren brought her drone along and it definitely came in handy.

Lauren brought her drone along and it definitely came in handy.

In Utah, the speed limit changed to 80. Using the app Roadtrippers, we found what was supposed to be an abandoned ghost town called Cisco. I love abandoned places. After a while of walking around, we learned that a woman, Eileen, still lives there and owns a good portion of the town.

We flew by massive mountains and through vast canyons. The photos don't do it justice.

Our last stop before Vegas was the Grand Canyon. It was the first time there for both of us. Truly breathtaking beauty. I had fallen for the west.

We got into Vegas on a Sunday. We came from the south on a sunny May afternoon. It wasn't scorching hot yet. As we crested a hill, we could see the whole Las Vegas valley laid out before us. We were both tired, so we crashed after getting In-N-Out Burger and doing some shopping for household basics. The following night, we went to the strip. I began to see the parts of Vegas people always talk about.

The following day, I officially started at the Review-Journal, but not before sending Lauren off at the airport. Tears were almost shed, but not quite.

It's been interesting getting to know this place so far. I pretty much like it. It's just interesting. I always wonder about people's motivations for coming here. I've learned to differentiate between temporary pleasure and sustainable happiness. This is a place built on material excess, which I don't particularly enjoy. I don't need an abundance of things. I need my cameras, bikes and outdoor gear to be happy. I don't need expensive clothes or goods. I don't have a huge desire to gamble. I never intended on spending much time in Vegas, if at all. It's so gaudy and overdone. But there's a certain beauty in it.

And it's different for me. I'm not on vacation, I'm here to work. I can explore this new and interesting (and highly unique place - there's nowhere quite like it) with my camera and learn about it through my work. I've become a visual anthropologist for a brand new culture, at least brand new to me. And that's why I've come to love it. My method of exploring is different than most.

And the Review-Journal has been great so far. I've decided to split my first blog into two (or maybe three). In the next one, on Monday, I'll talk about my work so far. I've had some pretty good assignments in my short time here so far. I also have a road trip video I never quite finished... Stay tuned.

Some photos by Lauren Bacho

Context is Everything

A lot can be said in a single photo. As the old cliche says, “a picture is worth 1,000 words.” Certain famous images have had some impact in shaping the public perception of an event, such as Nick Ut’s “Napalm Girl” photo, which ran in many newspapers and changed how people thought about the Vietnam War.

While a picture can say a lot, it is possible to have a powerful photo that excludes some context. Shooting at 200mm could crop out an important aspect of context from the frame. And because a photo is a moment in time, the viewer misses what happened before and after that given moment. The whole story, before and after, can contribute a lot to the understanding of one photo.

I traveled to Washington, D.C. with a few close photojournalist classmates from Ohio University to document President Trump’s inauguration and the women’s march. When we found ourselves in the middle of a riot that weekend, we realized how some people felt about the new administration. Recognizing the importance of this time in history, we stood by, ready to document more protests and news whenever they came up.

Shortly after we got back from D.C., we saw a Facebook in Columbus, scheduled for about 10 days into Trump’s administration.  It was called “Resist Trump • Rally For The 99%: No Ban! No Wall! Stand with Immigrants!” We were excited about photographing another protest and decided to make the trek of just over an hour to Columbus from OU, to document how people are reacting to big change in America.

The gathering started peacefully around 6:30 p.m. on January 30, with about 2,000 demonstrators meeting at the Statehouse to give speeches and rally. After almost an hour, protesters took to the streets to march to the Franklin County Courthouse. Police tried to confine protesters to the sidewalk and one lane.

After gathering at the courthouse, they marched back toward the Statehouse and decided to sit in the middle of the street. The protest ended around the time the following photo was taken.

When I shared this photo on Instagram and Facebook, I relayed the facts of the situation, as a journalist or photojournalist does. I didn’t express my feelings about the image, but stated that Connor Lefevers had been holding the peace sign up for about half an hour and that the police had waited out the situation for about 40 minutes before resorting to pepper spray. This photo was taken at 9:03 p.m.

Friends on Facebook commented that it was a powerful photo, or re-shared with words like “heartbreaking” or sad face reactions. It’s a pretty extreme situation to witness without any background knowledge of what was happening. It’s easily interpreted as the police needlessly reacting to a peaceful protester, let’s back up and examine the context.

I was shooting with two Canon bodies with times that differed by 20 or 30 seconds, if that. Here are the photos leading up to that moment.

  8:15 p.m. – Protesters begin to stand and sit in the middle of the intersection of South High and State streets near the Columbus Statehouse.

8:15 p.m. – Protesters begin to stand and sit in the middle of the intersection of South High and State streets near the Columbus Statehouse.

  8:18 p.m. – Bicycle patrol and other officers with cruisers gather near the protesters. They are just standing there, essentially.

8:18 p.m. – Bicycle patrol and other officers with cruisers gather near the protesters. They are just standing there, essentially.

  8:18 p.m. – Interaction between police and protesters seems cordial. Another photographer friend, Lauren, said she witnessed police high fiving protesters.

8:18 p.m. – Interaction between police and protesters seems cordial. Another photographer friend, Lauren, said she witnessed police high fiving protesters.

  8:24 p.m. – A protester yells at police, who stand relatively silently and talk among themselves occasionally. Police are not reacting to protesters.     Soon after, Lauren motions to me not to come down from my high vantage point on a newsstand type box, as police are readying their pepper spray and beginning to warn protesters multiple times that “chemical agents will be used” if they do not leave.

8:24 p.m. – A protester yells at police, who stand relatively silently and talk among themselves occasionally. Police are not reacting to protesters.

Soon after, Lauren motions to me not to come down from my high vantage point on a newsstand type box, as police are readying their pepper spray and beginning to warn protesters multiple times that “chemical agents will be used” if they do not leave.

  8:37 p.m. – Police supervisors are present, discussing with each other what to do. After many   warnings to clear the area, protesters continue to chant, sing and raise peace signs, middle fingers or fists.     Demonstrators begin to cover their mouths. Many are live streaming on Facebook or recording video. Officers begin to put on their gas masks at 8:45 p.m., according to the timestamps on my photos. Warnings continue from police.

8:37 p.m. – Police supervisors are present, discussing with each other what to do. After many warnings to clear the area, protesters continue to chant, sing and raise peace signs, middle fingers or fists.

Demonstrators begin to cover their mouths. Many are live streaming on Facebook or recording video. Officers begin to put on their gas masks at 8:45 p.m., according to the timestamps on my photos. Warnings continue from police.

  9:02 p.m. – I don’t have many pictures of protesters in between, as there wasn’t much “happening” other than police and protesters standing on their respective sides of the line.    Some protesters are attempting to confront police. Others sing and stand together. Police are still waiting, over 15 minutes after putting on their gas masks, not really speaking with or interacting with protesters in any major capacity (other than giving continue warnings to clear the area over loudspeaker).

9:02 p.m. – I don’t have many pictures of protesters in between, as there wasn’t much “happening” other than police and protesters standing on their respective sides of the line.

Some protesters are attempting to confront police. Others sing and stand together. Police are still waiting, over 15 minutes after putting on their gas masks, not really speaking with or interacting with protesters in any major capacity (other than giving continue warnings to clear the area over loudspeaker).

9:03 p.m. – Police unleash the pepper spray (see first photo at top). Lauren told me that the order she heard was to “spray in two meter spurts above the crowd.” It seemed like a tactic to break up the crowd and clear the street rather than actually injure any protester at point blank range.

  9:04 p.m. – Police continue to clear the streets and remain until protesters are back onto the sidewalks.

9:04 p.m. – Police continue to clear the streets and remain until protesters are back onto the sidewalks.

  9:10 p.m. – “Medics” for the protesters help the peace sign guy, Connor Lefevers, who is obviously in pain. Actual medics, EMTs, are on the scene within about five minutes to assist victims of pepper spray. Everyone else disperses over time.

9:10 p.m. – “Medics” for the protesters help the peace sign guy, Connor Lefevers, who is obviously in pain. Actual medics, EMTs, are on the scene within about five minutes to assist victims of pepper spray. Everyone else disperses over time.

It’s not my job to say if the police or the protesters were in the right or wrong. People could argue all day and take sides. It is my job to convey the most accurate information that I can. After people reacted to this photo, I realized that it’s important to know what led up to that moment and that police did not immediately begin spraying protesters. It took them a long time to actually make that call.

While blocking traffic is unlawful, technically, it’s also important to note that protesters never got “violent” in the sense that they did not throw things or physically confront the police. When viewing the image of Connor with his peace sign raised while being pepper sprayed, it’s easy to paint the police as uncaring monsters and take sides. But when one understands more sides than one and the context, it promotes mutual understanding.

This might be speculation, but I don’t think that the police went out that night with the aim of pepper spraying citizens voicing their opinion. Protesters, I would guess, did not mean to inconvenience motorists or break the law, but wanted to make a demonstration and make their voices heard. Nobody is ever fully right or wrong, but the more people work together to understand each other, the more we can heal the division in our society.

 

Best Signs of Inauguration Weekend

Although we (as journalists) are supposed to remain unbiased in what we do, there's no mistaking a good sign. Signmaking is an art. I saw signs that probably took 5 minutes to make, and signs that probably took 5 hours and several trips to Joann Fabrics to make. Here are some of the best from the inauguration:

The next day was the women's march. My signs edit included more from the march, considering the sheer number of people. Also, women are smart, clever and crafty! Here's that collection.

One more: an interesting double-side flare.

That's about it. Props to the world's clever sign makers. In documenting more protests soon, I can only hope to see the same level of inginuity. 

Chronicling History

This past weekend, I feel like I had a big experience in sprouting my photojournalism wings... while eating a lot of chicken wings. The two aren't necessarily related, but I did eat wings three days in a row before and while in Washington, D.C., to document what seems to be a historic moment for America.

There were a number of firsts this weekend. First president in office with no political experience, first women's march of such scale perhaps ever and the first time several of my close friends got pepper sprayed.

 Protesters clash with police, who sprayed pepper spray and yelled "move back," following the inauguration of Donald Trump on Jan. 20.

Protesters clash with police, who sprayed pepper spray and yelled "move back," following the inauguration of Donald Trump on Jan. 20.

Back up a bit. After Trump was elected president, one of my fellow photojournalism majors, Matt Starkey (who's still a freshman but shoots like he's a senior), photographed two women getting married on the courthouse steps in Athens. They were worried they wouldn't be able to marry under the new president, so they decided in a quick decision to go ahead and do it. Matt wrote a blog about his experience and ended it with, "I definitely want to cover more political events in the future and could even see myself going to D.C. to cover Trump’s inauguration — and the protests that will likely go with it." 

Little did Matt know how right he would be about the protests and everything, and that he would have the opportunity to go to D.C. after all. When I saw that, I got the inkling of an idea, "what if I went too?" Then I began asking other photographer friends and before we knew it, we had two cars with seven people total (5 of whom shot the entire weekend, myself included) heading to D.C. this past weekend.

We left Athens around 8 on Thursday night and didn't actually get into D.C. until 2 or 2:30 a.m. We didn't anticipate much sleep, but woke up excited for the day's happenings (if not at least a little groggy). We took the metro into town and started from near the end of the line, but it was surprisingly not packed. 

 Matt in his Ohio gear as the metro rushes past.

Matt in his Ohio gear as the metro rushes past.

We got into Chinatown around 9:45. Inauguration activities were set to really start when the swearing-in began at 11:30. So we wandered around and immediately saw the signs. Heavy security, red hats, people selling shirts and cashing in on the day's events. 

We found ourselves over near a particularly active security checkpoint, where there were many people waiting to get in. A majority seemed to be protesters. We heard there were more Trump supporters at other gates, but we found ourselves around a lot of signs and varying opinions.

Matt got in before Lauren, Mia and I. We didn't find Liz until dinner. Marlena was doing her own thing all weekend. So the three of us finally decided to get in line at the security checkpoint. It was very congested at our point. Liz texted and said she got in, which ended up being at least an hour before we did. She got in line after us, just at a different point. We waited for so long that we missed the actual inauguration and address. But what I captured in line around noon when Trump was sworn in was worth it.

 Austin Phillips and Kristy Lowenkron of Baltimore kiss in celebration after Donald Trump was sworn in as president.

Austin Phillips and Kristy Lowenkron of Baltimore kiss in celebration after Donald Trump was sworn in as president.

After about 2 1/2 hours of waiting, we got into the area where the parade was to come through on Pennsylvania Avenue. It was a lot of waiting, but in the meantime, I talked with a few other budding photojournalists, a protesters and a few other students. Finally the parade came through.

Trump got out of the car and walked later in the parade route, but about all I saw/captured was a limp hand in a dark limo.

That was met with some cheers, some boos and such responses as these:

After the parade festivities wrapped up around 4:15 or so, we were hungry. We hadn't eaten a proper meal all day, so we decided to go get Pho in Chinatown. Walking around, I spotted an interesting juxtaposition.

While eating a much needed meal, I remembered what another photographer had told me during the parade – there had been ongoing riots near 12th and K street. When I looked on Twitter, K Street was a trending topic. I got a New York Times news alert saying that riots had been occurring throughout the day. Protesters smashed windows and burned a car.

Now, in that situation, most people would say, "Hey, we should stay far away from that," right? Well, in order to be a photojournalist, you have to be a certain degree of crazy. So I suggested we go check it out. Everyone was on board. Let me just say this: this job is not for the faint of heart.

When we showed up, it looked as though protests were winding down. Police redirected us from the area. So naturally, we went around the block. 

Initially, I saw protesters with arms linked across the road with police standing nearby, monitoring the situation and waiting. But we soon found that a fire had been started in the street nearby, and a crowd was starting to gather.

Protesters soon began throwing more and more on the fire. Some decided to take photos with (or on) the fire or use it to light cigarettes.

As much as anyone at the protest would have wanted to continue the fire all night, I knew that inevitably the police were just playing a waiting game and would eventually shut it down. Skip ahead about 20 minutes. That's actually what brings us back to where this post started and the photo up top.

The riot police are lined up and they mean business. They start marching down the street yelling, "move back!" I moved at about the pace of the protesters, trying to stay off to the sides and out of the way. They were not discerning between protesters and press, but rather treating all as equally obstructive and moving indiscriminately. 

I started to smell and taste the pepper spray in the air and covered my mouth with my jacket, coughing lightly. I was far enough away that it didn't affect me much. Taking a cue from another camera man, who said, "press, move!" – I started moving away.

Little did I know, my friends were in the front lines. Matt got the worst of the pepper spray, Lauren got some side effects and Mia was hit with the spray from another man getting hit next to her.

It was around then we were starting to get separated. Lauren and Matt's phones were dead and while I saw them at one point after the pepper spray, that was short lived. I was distracted by protesters helping the victims of pepper spray and another fire. I found Liz and Mia and continued to search the area for Lauren and Matt.

Liz, Mia and I eventually left the area and tried to head away from the protest spot generally. Unsurprisingly, we happened across more protests happening a few blocks away. When we tried to get past, Mia and Liz made it. I stopped to photograph the protesters when an officer stopped me and said, "hey, get back over there!" with the protesters. I tried to say that I was never over there but I couldn't reason with him in the heat of the moment. That's when I happened across Matt again.

After we got out of the thick of it, Matt and I cleared the protest area and headed for the metro station in Chinatown – the meeting point we had set. Mia (whose phone was still alive) said she had been corralled with the nicely dressed ball goers, who the police had barricaded in to keep safe. When she got out, she found us at Chinatown station. Liz had gone back to her cousin's place.

So three of the four were together again. The only problem was we didn't have Lauren... and her phone was dead. We waited for at least 20 minutes at the station before the protests made their way into Chinatown. We decided to leave, worried about our friend but figured we should get the heck out before things got crazier. Little did we know she had actually run right past us in the group of protesters.

So we got back to Silver Spring where we were staying, only to find that Lauren's car was still in the parking garage. A bit dismayed, we took an Uber back to where we were staying and figured out what to do next. It wouldn't be worth it to go back downtown. I decided to call the police to see if Lauren had been detained. Thankfully, she hadn't been. But where was she? Some time passed and 45 minutes later, I called again. She hadn't been detained, but we got some good news soon after that. Lauren's phone was back on and she was on her way. It was a big relief.

So we ordered a pizza and pigged out after a stressful day of shooting. We were exhausted (after walking almost 8 miles throughout the day!) but excited to start looking through images.

The next day, we slept in a bit and then went down for the Women's March on Washington. The turnout was huge. Never have I seen so many people in one place.

One of the first things we saw upon arriving were people making their voices heard in front of the fenced off Trump hotel.

Thankfully I don't have a long-winded story from all of the crazy happenings and mishaps from the day. It was just amazing to see such a display of people and passion all in one area. So much energy.

And while nobody can really disagree that women deserve to be equal (well, you could but hello – more than half the population!), there were a few varying opinions, even at the women's march. Some pro-life protesters were present in the middle of the parade route, plus a man named Kenny Stripling, who was singing a song about "Big Hands Don" in his Trump van in support of a president he supported a lot. But he recognized that everyone's rights to free speech were equal and said he loved all the protesters.

Someone even had a Trump voodoo doll, which was interesting.

I don't have too much else to say about the Women's March other than it was cool to see such a strong turnout and feel the energy. Here are a few more highlights.

So that's about it! We were exhausted after two long days but I felt like I shot well and was thankful to have witnessed such an interesting moment in history. And as much as photojournalists and journalists try to remain unbiased, I can't be in such situations and not feel some sort of emotion. It was a lot to take in and it's just now catching up to me. I'm going to need some time to process what I felt in D.C. and what's happening in our nation. But one thing's for sure - I'm ready to document whatever comes next.