Category Archives: A Shutterbug’s Lens

Can We Have One?


I swear, when we spent the day in Mystic at the aquarium, that was all I heard from my three sisters. If an animal were to appear in our living room every time I heard it, we’d have quite the collection of belugas, seals, penguins, sea lions, and various fish and other aquatic creatures.

It was rainy for the first bit, but still a great deal of fun. It was entertaining to see littlest play with my camera and try so patiently to take photos of the sea creatures, especially the penguins and seals. I took some of the photos below, and Tori took some. Just thought I’d share our little aquarium adventures!

Isn't this a great shot by Tori?

Isn’t this a great shot by Tori?


Another shot by Tori - she really liked the penguins.

Another shot by Tori – she really liked the penguins.


She also really liked the frogs! (another shot of Tori's)

She also really liked the frogs! (another shot of Tori’s)


I LOVED shooting these water lilies.

I LOVED shooting these water lilies.


Tori made a little canary friend in the Birds of the Outback exhibit.

Tori made a little canary friend in the Birds of the Outback exhibit.


Aquarium 2013 060


Aquarium 2013 065


I'd definitely be okay with a beluga.

I’d definitely be okay with a beluga.


If you have the opportunity to visit Mystic aquarium, I definitely suggest it. The new exhibits are supremely well done, and it’s always an adventure.







My Life Lately, According to Instagram


I finished up my third year at Southern Virginia.

IMG_20130426_172954I received my mission call.

IMG_20130511_205825Dad, ShayLea, and I traveled to pick up Taylor from Mercyhurst.


I’ve been preparing to serve in California.


941425_10151393152871463_77722193_nAnd generally, have been simply enjoying my family and springtime!



Nauvoo, the Beautiful City

Nauvoo, the Beautiful City

Over spring break a few weeks ago I got to head out to Illinois to visit Nauvoo, a Church historical site. It was such a great time, and I loved absolutely every minute of it, even the 20 hour drive there (we got caught in a snowstorm). It was a strange thing to drive out of Virginia in snowy darkness, to watch the sun rise in West Virginia, see it set in Indiana, and arrive at moonrise in Illinois in the span of a day.

Considering the whole adventure has nearly twenty pages in my journal, I’ll keep it to the short story here. We spent a few days in town, exploring the shops and talking with the missionaries there who showed us the handicrafts and told us about the Saints who lived there. They were all so wonderful and excited to see us. Jenn and I were briefly “kidnapped” (‘student-knapped’?) by a couple from Alberta, because they insisted it was much too cold for us to be waiting outside for another set of senior missionaries to arrive at another shop. It was a blast talking with them, especially because Elder Olsen was telling us his favorite things about Nauvoo and kept saying, “the other day” and finishing the sentence with “in October” (or another month). It was a riot.

We spent a good amount of time in the town, but also spent an afternoon in the temple, which was wonderful, and definitely something I really needed. I loved poking around in Old Nauvoo, but I also needed a bit of a respite from my mind trying to ingest all that I was learning and feeling there. It was a lovely time we had in the temple, and afterwards a bunch of us returned ‘home’ to our condos where Sister Ellsworth made us some yummy soup as we watched a movie. The Ellsworths, who drove from out west to spend the week with us in Illinois, spoiled us to no end. So much food and love, morning, noon, and night.

Our last day in Nauvoo, we drove out to Carthage, which was a pretty emotional journey for me. I was a bit of an emotional wreck (sorry, fellow Nauvoo travelers, I know it was unexpected for me to cry like that), but really walked away with a powerful experience. I went through a lot of tissues that afternoon.

At one point, Jenn, Bev, and I went down to the Trail of Hope, where the Saints left Nauvoo to go west. Jenn and I couldn’t resist stripping off our socks and shoes and rolling up our jeans to wade into the Mississippi (holy crow, was it COLD). It was surreal, to think that so many people passed right over that piece of shore over a hundred years ago. And in February, no less. I can’t ever complain that it was cold in March, I suppose, ever again. It wasn’t snowing, the river wasn’t filled with ice, and the wind wasn’t too terribly strong. We were blessed with beautiful weather for the majority of our stay.

The thing I really loved about Nauvoo is that it’s so completely different, but extremely familiar all the same. It feels a bit empty, but so welcoming and beautiful. It’s always windy in the winter/spring, apparently, but I spotted a few crocuses pushing out of the ground, and each of the buildings were warm. It was really something to sit there and think about the experience that the people of Nauvoo had years and years ago in this exact area.

I love history, and always have, but really cherish those places where I can stand in a certain spot, touch something and know that something of immense importance in the history not only of a religion or a nation happened there, but also that the history of the world was changed to some extent. So standing in Nauvoo, along the banks of the Mississippi or outside the temple, or in Carthage had a powerful and amazing significance to me.

What made the trip as wonderful as it could have been was definitely the people. There were nine of us students from the university, Brother and Sister Rasmussen (Brother Rasmussen teaches Institute here in BV, and I’m in 2 of his classes this semester), Bishop and Sister Olsen, the Ellsworths, as well as their daughter and two awesome grandsons, Tanner and Spencer. We became close quickly – especially considering we were packed so tightly in a van for every drive – and got to know each other well by the end of the week. It was a privilege to see the usually hidden side of my classmates (and teachers!), the quirky sense of humor at terrible hours of the morning, the dorky po-jammies that we  wear, the strange music we listen to… it was a treasure trove of the human discovery.

I wish I had been able to take more photographs, but I kept being distracted by all the things I was learning, the conversations I was having (or simply overhearing…), but that really just means that I get to go back again. Anywho. Enjoy them!

We stopped at Gross’ Burgers on the way. It was an experience.

This is Bev. I love her, she’s so happy and the best traveling companion.

The view of the Nauvoo Temple from the visitors’ center.

One of my favorite pieces in the sculpture garden.

The first flowers I found in Nauvoo, little snowdrops!

The view of the Mississippi River from the Smith home.

The story of the trip. Burke (Bishop Olsen) shoving cameras in our faces. :)

A moment of heartbreak for me. Having read the plaque, but finding hope in the by-chance glance at the temple.

The view of the Temple from the Trail of Hope.

Jenn standing in the Mississippi where the Saints crossed from Illinois into Iowa.

The spires are my favorite part of the architecture of temples. This is no exception.

The front of the temple. I love this wonderful place.

My absolute favorite shot of the trip. And my favorite view.

Joseph and Hyrum looking at the temple. Love it.

Photographer in me being in love with the water pattern. Sorry guys.

Seriously. Lying in the middle of the road with a camera. Meet Burke.

Temple! Love.

Crocuses outside the tin shop. They made me happy.

Old Nauvoo.

Half the lot of us.

One half of one of the teams we met in the carriage and wagon rides.

Just a shot in Dan Jones’ Hollow.

Another temple shot.

I just loved the juxtaposition of the hat and the suit. :)

Most nights in the condos. The adults talking around the table, kids on the floor joking around.

The quarry where the stone for the temple was cut.

The Rasmussens. I love them.

One of my favorite quotes from Carthage (by Joseph and Hyrum Smith).

I love these people!!!!!

Washington, DC {Part 3}


Because 2 parts of adventure is never enough, here is part three of the Washington, DC epic. :)

The next leg of our journey through the Capitol brought us to the Korean War Veterans Memorial. This is a pretty powerful memorial, even when there is a ton of people around.

I think my favorite part of the memorial are the 19 steel statues representative of a squad going on patrol, with men from each branch of the service: fourteen are from the US Army, three from the Marine Corps, one a Navy corpsman (oorah!) and one an Airforce forward air observer. The really amazing thing is the fact that those 19 men are reflected on the cool black granite wall, casting just so that it appears to be thirty-eight soldiers representing the 38th parallel among the sandblasted images of hundreds of American faces.

{looking back}

{follow your comrades}

{looking in the distance}


I’ve always found the statues extremely poignant, but the aspect of the memorial that catches me the most are the faces engraved in the black marble. They are diverse and haunting, representative of Americans from all walks of life. They are young and old, from every inch of the American spectrum. I can’t help but imagine the life behind every solemn portrait – who each person was, what they believed, who they loved, their hopes and dreams, the stories of their youth, who they were and who they became.

There is a moment when you’re reflected in history – you are caught in the gaze of the engraved portraits and find your own face staring back amidst the faces of yesterday. That is the moment when you realize the truth of the four words carved into the wall at the entrance to the memorial. Freedom is not free.

{prices paid}

{touching history}

{sons of america}

The Korean War memorial is surrounded by huge magnolia trees dominating from a distance, a splash of soft color amidst the dark green, grey and black of the memorial. It shines back from the small reflecting pool, and the petals carpeted the stone walkway. We brushed them off the bench as the three of us settled for a rest and to talk quietly (and share gummies).



The Vietnam and Korean War memorials are joined by a few winding paths that cut across the ground between the two. There are small stands of young trees and webs of paved walkways with a few sculptures planted within the cobbles. They capture the emotions so simply, but the emotions are deep and at times unfathomable in the questions they raise and the bonds they testify of.

{brothers in arms}

This sculpture is perhaps my favorite in this little by-the-way memorial. It captures not only the role of women in war at that time, but also the raw emotion behind they felt.




{women of the war}

I think that the Vietnam memorial is one of my favorite memorials because it is so profoundly personal. At first glance, it seems that it would not be. It is two pieces of stone set into the ground, simple in its design and aesthetic. What makes it personal are the 58,267 names engraved on the wall and the crosses, diamonds and circles beside each name.

The three soldiers across the way appear to be looking at the wall. To juxtapose these two separate forms of memoriam is to have the soldiers stand in memory of their fallen comrades, perhaps sharing a memory together of those brothers they’d lost.

The Vietnam memorial is so powerful in that simplicty. Each name, carefully engraved in stone to last. It’s heartbreaking to see the small flags and flowers left at the base of the memorial, to watch as old women lean forward and press their fingers against the letters, to listen as children ask their parents what it all means and to hear that pause before they’re answered.

{left in memory}

{reflection in repose}

{in memory}

As we headed towards the FDR memorial and the Tidal Basin, we passed this lovely little pond with an island and a connecting bridge. Enamored by the magnolias, we went to see what was on the tiny island. It turned out to be a small memorial for those who signed the Declaration of Independence. I failed to get any photos of the memorial itself because I was so caught up snapping photos of the blossoms.

One of my favorite parts was that Bruce spotted a tiny bracelet hanging from one of the branches right beside the bridge – a little wish bracelet. :)

{make a wish!}

{looking through the blossoms}

{white blossoms}

{island willow}

{blossom on the water}

{through the cherry blossoms}

Up next, the FDR memorial and the Tidal Basin (also known as ‘more cherry blossoms!’)! Till then,


Memorial Day


Few things catch my attention like an American flag. I adore it in any capacity: clinking gently high upon a flag pole, drawn by little kids, hanging on a short pole beside someone’s front porch. I love every star, every stripe, every bit of red, white and blue it has. It has always makes my heart thrum with a certain patriotic tune and my thoughts are always drawn to the sacrifices that have been made for this beautiful nation.

Today being Memorial Day, I was especially thoughtful. It seemed like flags sprouted up over night, appearing along the roads in all sizes, hanging from the lampposts in towns, and buntings seem to adorn every window. It makes me a little sad to never see them aside from Memorial Day and July 4th, really. I think flags should be flown everywhere until we don’t have any more soldiers deployed and we no longer need weapons.

One of the saddest things in the world for me to see is a flag flying at half-mast. It’s heartbreaking.

But one of my favorite things is to see the American flag in unexpected places. I can guarantee, it will make my day. For me, it’s beautiful and idyllic and reminds me of everything I love about this wonderful nation.

Today as we were driving past a farm I’ve always loved (they raise sheep and Halflinger horses there), I noticed that they had carefully pinned a huge American Flag to their barn. I begged my dad that we could go home by the same road so I could capture a picture. I can easily say this simple act of patriotism and gratitude for those men and women who have sacrificed their lives for our beloved nation made me smile, and most definitely made my day. 

{old glory}