A typical morning rush hour in Rosslyn is a cacophony of sight and sound. Whistles shriek as ACPD directs traffic and pedestrians at Wilson and Lynn. Jets departing and arriving to DCA reflect and reverberate off the tall glass towers. Construction up the hill at 1500 Wilson. Traffic. Pedestrians. Metrobuses.
Monday, Mar. 16 was the first work day after the region began teleworking in earnest and schools were closed. The intersection of Wilson and Lynn felt like the opening scene to the movie “I Am Legend.” In an hour’s time I saw less than 10 pedestrians. To call this surreal is an understatement.
But that was the first morning. As the weather has warmed, people are venturing out more and more, and people are being really cavalier about social distancing. This is not a time for picnics in the park or group bike rides. And people don’t seem to realize how far six feet actually is. Sure, you may be six feet behind someone ahead of you on the trail, but people coming at you from the other way are passing within a foot of you. You have to remember this virus can live in the air for 3 hours. You can’t bump into people, you can’t try to squeeze past someone in the grocery store. You have to actively pay attention to your surroundings and people just don’t seem to be doing that.
Around Arlington, rush hour seems to be non-existent. Don’t get me wrong, people are still out driving around, but from what I have been seeing traffic at 8:30 a.m. is no different than traffic at 1 p.m. or 6 p.m. From my place in Shirlington to the Key Bridge takes less than 15 minutes. I can’t help but imagine what it would be like if the majority of people that can do so continue working from home as much as possible after this pandemic has been contained.
Seeing the COVID-19 test site open up on Quincy St. N was both welcome and frightening. 60 tests a day. 60. That is a lot, right? Is it enough?
I am encouraged to see businesses find new and creative ways to continue operating through this, like Acme Pie and El Pollo Rico offering delivery. I had El Pollo Rico last week and if there was ever a comfort food to have in a time like this, it’s their amazing chicken.
I hope my fellow Arlingtonians take this seriously. I have a friend in Colorado that has COVID-19. He flew through Seattle for work at the end of February and likely picked it up there. He’s now two weeks into the illness. His fever hit 103 last week, and he went to the ER on Friday with pneumonia-like symptoms. He is retired military, physically fit and it’s wiped him out. Before the ER trip he was in bed for three days straight. “It’s no joke,” he said.
Please, stay safe. Stay home. Stay away from people.
In April of this year, I left my staff job at the News & Record in Greensboro, NC. I had been there just 8 months. Honestly, I’m still processing my thoughts on my time there, and my nearly 4 years with BH Media, so I’ll save that story for another day. I moved back to Arlington, Virginia at the end of April, ready to be back “home.”
I spent 14 years in Northern Virginia and DC, and of all the places I have lived in my life, it’s felt the most like home. I like not needing GPS to get around. I like having local knowledge on the best parking spots in case I need my car. I like not needing my car for most things, too! I love taking my daughter to Nationals games, and to our favorite lunch spots. I love the bike trails, and the greater DC bike community. Mostly, though, I’m thankful to be back amongst so many amazing friends and colleagues that I’ve known over the years. I have an amazing opportunity ahead of me that starts in September, and I can’t talk about it right now, but I wanted to give an update with what I’ve been up to so far since moving back to the DC area.
2018 was filled with peaks and valleys for me. One of the peaks, though, has continued into 2019. I am continuing to work with The Devil Makes Three and it’s been just amazing. They are some of the most talented, most genuine people I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. Watching them work, and watching how hard they work at their craft, is just inspiring. I push myself every time I shoot for them, because they deserve no less than my very best. They are talented storytellers, fun people to be around, and oh yeah, the music is incredible. Here are a few pics from their show in DC, along with a couple videos I’ve put together. I have another video in the works at the moment, so stay tuned to @thedevilmakes3 and @jwestcottphoto on Instagram !
One of the valleys, however, has been dealing with my left hip. In early 2018 I started experiencing an all too familiar pain. X-rays and an MRI confirmed that bone had grown back in my hip and more tissue was torn in my hip socket. I also had inflammation where bones were colliding. I literally worked myself to the bone last year. (You gotta let me get one dad joke in there, ok?) I had surgery in December 2018 in Raleigh, NC. Recovery has been difficult. I was in a brace, 23 hours a day, for 7 weeks. I had to sleep with my leg locked straight. Moving in April set me back; I overworked muscles that weren’t ready for that level of intensity. I am back in physical therapy, twice a week, and working out every day trying like hell to get my hip right before my new job starts.
My plan for the summer was to freelance intermittently and work at a bike shop 30+ hours a week. I wanted to shoot enough to keep my skills sharp but I really wanted a break from a newsroom and the news cycle for a little while. I love bikes, and cycling is a big part of my life. Because of my hip, though, I can’t work the bike shop job. I tried. It was too much on my hip. I physically can’t do it yet, it’s too taxing on my body. I am having to rely on freelancing only, and to be perfectly honest, things are slow. If you need a photographer in the DC area, please give me a call. I’d love to work for you.
I have had a few assignments for The Washington Post, the Military Officers Association magazine, and the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star. Here are some favorite pics from my recent work.
Back in November I had an opportunity to photograph Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr. for the Washington Post Sunday Magazine. After spending nearly 3 years in Lynchburg working for the News & Advance, I am quite familiar with Liberty, their comms staff, and of course Jerry Jr., but I never had a chance for a portrait session with him until now.
Mr. Falwell is beloved by the Evangelical community and is known outside of that community for his allegiance to President Donald Trump. He was the first spiritual leader to openly support Mr. Trump and is well aware of the criticism that comes along with that.
The assigning editor’s guidance was for a “power portrait,” and he let me interpret that as I saw fit. I’d have 10-15 minutes with Mr. Falwell, and I’d have to set up lights and whatnot. I brought a grey seamless backdrop and stand and my Elinchrom Ranger RX AS two light kit with two flash heads and my 48″ Westcott Rapid Box.
I got there a little later than I had hoped, heavy rain slowed my drive, but with help from their comms staff, I was able to load in and get set up with no problem. In a large conference room with one giant window, I set up against a wall with the backdrop, and had a secondary position planned that would involve a quick repositioning of my lights.
A great thing about the Elinchrom pack is it’s 1100 watt/seconds in two channels split asymmetrically with a 2:1 ratio. Basically that means there’s less math involved in setting up when you don’t have much time. I put one light behind Mr. Falwell aimed at the background, and the other in my Westcott 48″ Rapid Box elevated above Mr. Falwell (who’s 6’2 btw) and at a down angle and 45 degrees to my right.
When you point a light at a background you get a fading circle behind your subject. If you look back at a lot of medieval and early Renaissance portraits of Jesus, often you will see a golden or lighter color circle behind his head. My goal for this portrait was to create an homage to that while getting an engaging expression with Mr. Falwell, and then a secondary image with him seated.
I find Mr. Falwell absolutely fascinating. I have great respect for him while also reviling his alignment to the President. He is so different from his father, while remaining true to his father’s mission and values, whether or not you agree with them. He has overseen a HUGE expansion of the University; the campus has been continuously under construction for years. During the shoot I suggested he build a velodrome; cycling is an Olympic sport, after all, I assured him. I told him it’d be a huge hit. I congratulated him on the completion of the football stadium, something I documented during my time in Lynchburg. He was easy to work with and open to direction. He’s a delight to photograph.