Greetings from Beyond the DMV

While our website normally focuses on people, sights, and events from the Washington DC metropolitan area, this week we are catching up with three photographers who used to live in our area but have since moved to more northerly climes, New York State and Minnesota to be specific. Brenton Davis, Stacey Lewis, and Lorie Shaull share some of their work and observations from their new locales.

Brenton Davis

[Editor’s note: Brenton is writing from Rome, NY. Brenton’s surreal photos are created from images he’s taken combined with his creative phone editing skills – making them much more personal and complex than AI-generated photos]

I found leaving DC to be both exhausting and liberating.

It was extremely hard to learn how to slow down.

If not for the virus, I fear I may have returned too soon.

Now, I am thankful and making art every day, and, am incredibly grateful for that.

DC will always be my home, but, sometimes you have to jump from the nest and trust your wings.

©Brenton Davis
©Brenton Davis
©Brenton Davis
©Brenton Davis

©Brenton Davis

©Brenton Davis

©Brenton Davis

©Brenton Davis

Stacey Lewis

I was born and raised in Schenectady, NY. My hometown is in eastern New York, near the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson rivers. It is in the same metropolitan as the state capital, Albany, which is about 15 miles southeast. Schenectady was founded on the south side of the Mohawk River by Dutch colonists in the 17th century, many of whom came from the Albany area. The name “Schenectady” is derived from the Mohawk word skahnéhtati, meaning “beyond the pines” and used for the area around Albany, NY. You may remember the movie The Place Beyond the Pines with Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes; it was shot on location right here in Schenectady. My parents were so excited because, up until then, Schenectady was mostly known as the HQ for General Electric and, in the late ’80s and early ’90s, for being the “Compton of Upstate, NY.”

I have many fond memories of growing up here. People were less in a hurry, we played outside all day in the summer, rode bikes, swam at the local pool, and only had to be home when the street lights came on. I wouldn’t say Schenectady is a small town, but in many ways it felt like it. After living in the Metro DC area for the past 20 years, I returned home after the sudden passing of my mother and it was definitely culture shock. I miss the diversity and activism of DC. I could get in my car (or Metro) and in 1/2 hr be right in the thick of the action. Not to say there aren’t great things about coming back home – smallish towns do have their advantages – but I miss the hustle and bustle of our nation’s capital.

Here are some photos I’m happy with since I’ve moved back home to be the primary caregiver for my grandmother (she’ll be 100 in April!!).

Chasing 100: My grandmother, just shy of 100, staring out a window during the first snowfall of our very very long winter season. ©Stacey Lewis
Fire In The Sky: Beautiful fall colors at dawn in Thacher State Park. ©Stacey Lewis
Hoop Dreaming: Jumpin’ Jacks is a local favorite hangout in the summer and the light was just perfect to capture these kids shooting some hoops. ©Stacey Lewis
Open Daily: Folks lining up to get some homemade Jumpin’ Jacks ice cream. ©Stacey Lewis
Pixie Lights At Dawn: I’m the primary caregiver for my grandmother, so the only time I get to myself is between 6-10am. When I’m feeling motivated (which is very difficult when its bitterly cold in the winter), I get up early to drive down to my favorite neighborhood during blue hour. I got lucky here. ©Stacey Lewis
The Walk: Like a maniac, I was out driving around when the first major snowstorm in our area hit. I was driving through a local park when I noticed this man get out of his car and walk. He wasn’t entirely dressed for the cold and it was slippery so I was worried he was going to fall, but he walked around a little bit and seemed perfectly content. ©Stacey Lewis
Don’t Forget to Look Up: Same snowstorm, different area. ©Stacey Lewis
Red Maple? I’m not an arborist, but I wish I knew what kind of tree this was. It’s like ‘ Stumpy’ in DC. The smallest tree around but it has the most character. ©Stacey Lewis

Lorie Shaull

I’ve been living in Minnesota full-time for a bit over 5 years now. My partner Tresa, who grew up in Northern Minnesota, and I originally intended to get away from the DC heat and spend our summers here. Oh, those wickedly steamy DC summer days! I have memories of heading off to work and standing in a packed Metro car in a damp, sweaty shirt with the occasional mild panic attack when the car went dim and stopped moving (remember ismetroonfire.com?). 

Our Minnesota summers grew into fall into winter. Tresa thought she was doing me a favor when she warned we should leave after the holidays because of the unbearably long, cold winters. But to me, a thick, dramatic blanket of snow seemed the most enchanting and intriguing season of them all and she agreed to rough it out for the sake of my curiosity. 

Winter explorations began to include winter activities like ice skating, cross country skiing and fat-tire winter mountain biking. Tresa indulged me in my winter curiosities and I threw boiling water in the air on subzero days to watch it turn into snowflakes, pounded a nail with a frozen banana, blew soap bubbles that turned into lovely crystal balls and even made an ice sword!

Photographing Soap Bubbles. ©Lorie Shaull

Minnesota winters are the best! Yes, some subzero days can be finger biting freezing and breath-taking cold but finding ways to get out to explore the dramatic magic often brings joy and exhilaration in the accomplishment. I take a certain amount of pride in knowing how to prepare and have finally found the right gloves for photography (battery-operated liners with chunky batteries that last for hours). 

The season I miss most are the beautiful spring days in DC when the cherry blossoms look like poofs of cotton candy. Sitting on the grass under those clouds of pastel pink is a favorite DC memory. I seem to have traded wandering through the museums on the mall for wandering in the northern woods but those daffodils and wisteria in DC can’t be beat.

Following is a little collection of photos from some of my winter explorations in Minnesota with a couple from nearby Wisconsin.

Crashed Ice. ©Lorie Shaull
Lonely Tree in Wisconsin. ©Lorie Shaull
Nelson’s on Rush River. ©Lorie Shaull
Rime Ice and Yellow Sign. ©Lorie Shaull
Sea Smoke in Two Harbors. ©Lorie Shaull
Ski Jump Competition. ©Lorie Shaull
The Brainerd Jaycees’ Ice Fishing Extravaganza. ©Lorie Shaull
Zug Zug the Caveman. ©Lorie Shaull

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2 Comments

  1. What a terrific idea for a theme! I enjoyed seeing the excellent images from all 3 photographers but, even more, I loved reading their stories about leaving DC for far different environments. Thanks for keeping our community together.

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