In Front of My Lens

In Front of My Lens: It's the Little Things, Like Making Jewelry

When artists unite, amazing art is made. Belleza Mia Jewelry, based in Oregon is a perfect example of talent, beauty and collaborative ideas!  Owner, Kendra Goodrich sent out an invitation to photographers, all varying in styles, to work with her gorgeous pieces of art. Every photographer was given full creative license and the result is awesome. Kendra receives some great advertising material, and each photographer is given a piece or two of her beautiful jewelry in kind!

The shoot: All of these gorgeous pieces were handmade with such craftsmanship!   Great for sweet gifts... for teachers, mothers, grandmothers and even yourself!

Simple. Elegant. Timeless. 
Check out Kendra's company site at  

In Front of My Lens: Building a Legacy, Maggie Parker

Meet Maggie Parker, Vice President of Communications and Community Outreach for Comstock Partners, LC.  

Early in her career, Maggie Parker was one of the top sales leaders for an international tech company with over 30,000 sales people.   She recalls, “I was very fortunate to be in the management program for a Fortune 100 company at a very young age.  Over the years I’ve found myself to be one of the few women ‘at the table’; I prefer to view those situations as learning opportunities rather than challenges.”  

When/how did you decide to take the plunge into your career?  
I re-entered the workforce about ten years ago. Prior to motherhood I’d had a very fulfilling career in high tech sales. I was fortunate to work at home and in the community while my son was in school but was eager to get back in once he was self-sufficient. Communications and business development have always been constants in my life so a role with Comstock as it began to build not one but TWO new neighborhoods was an opportunity of a lifetime.

Where did you grow up/go to school?
I’m not sure I’ve yet grown up, but my formative years were spent in northwestern Connecticut. I went to college in Massachusetts at the College of the Holy Cross.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I think I’m very fortunate to have come from strong leadership stock and to have been encouraged to seize and maximize every opportunity presented. When one is regularly instilled with that type of vigor and expectation, it is easy to feel confident and to push to create those opportunities for oneself. I enjoy leadership roles and thrive in facilitating efforts of others.

What are some highlights and challenges you have faced over your career?
I was very lucky to be one of the top sales leaders for an international tech company with over 30,000 sales people. I was very fortunate to be in the management program for a Fortune 100 company at a very young age, and to have seen most of the United States due to a very heavy travel schedule. Over the years I’ve typically found myself to be one of the few women ‘in the room’ or ‘at the table’; I prefer to view those situations as learning opportunities rather than challenges.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
My first piece of advice would be to ‘come on in’ – the real estate and development industry needs more women! I feel that you can not go wrong by maintaining a sense of humor, being considerate and kind to others, being honest and working hard.

Comstock Partners, LC (“Comstock”) is a privately held real estate enterprise with a focus on urban, mixed-use and transit-oriented developments in the Washington, D.C. region. With a portfolio that includes millions of square feet of stabilized and development assets including mixed-use office, retail, residential and hotels located above and around the Metro station facilities emerging in the Dulles Corridor, Comstock is leading the way in the urbanization of one of America’s best real estate markets.

Read More from our interview with Maggie in this quarter's edition of "Around Reston: Leading Ladies Around Reston".  
Check out the digital edition here!

Visit Comstock Company Websites for more information on the great things they are doing!

If you would like to be featured in a future publication, contact me!

In Front of My Lens: Serenity Smiles, Dr. Hoda Kazemifar

Reston Serenity Smiles is a Family General Dentistry practice, with a strong emphasis on implant and cosmetic dentistry serving all of the communities surrounding Reston, Virginia.   I had the pleasure of photographing and interviewing Dr. Hoda Kazemifar for a local Around Reston magazine article "Leading Ladies of Reston"

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I have always been raised to bring a strong work ethic and put my all into every commitment in life.  While at the Madeira School, an all-girl private school in Mclean, I was able to grow into a strong young woman who goes after all of my ambitions. With the foundation I received there I knew that I could obtain anything that I not only put my mind to but also worked hard at achieving.  This open mindset and lack of boundaries allowed me to go after my dreams of dentistry, being a business owner, and leading my wonderful dental team at Reston Serenity Smiles who contribute daily to our goals of helping people. 

What are some highlights and challenges you have faced over your career?
As a woman there have been times where people look at me in surprise when I mention running my own dental practice. This reaction is quite shocking to me, more than anything else I’ve achieved up to this point in my life. Raising my two rambunctious, beautiful daughters has been more hard work than anything else I can say I’ve achieved up to this point. They are definitely the highlights of my life and I work every day to show them that having gratification as a mom and business owner is quite possible.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
I would advise any woman who wants to go after a career in dentistry to give themselves 100% and not let anyone tell them that they can never be dentists AND business owners. The passion and drive that females bring to healthcare is what makes them very unique and successful in their areas of interest. I will give my two daughters the same advice and make sure they do not give into any of the hurdles that may pop up along their paths.

When/How did you decide to take the plunge into owning your own business?
Four years after getting out of dental school and working for a few dentists, I realized that I can make the largest difference for my patients by running my practice the way I have always envisioned it.  I was fortunate enough to have literally grown up as a daughter of a dentist within the four walls of his practice. The genuine care and consideration given to each patient by my father was unique to them and made me want to continue my practice in this similar fashion. I wanted to be in control of the care and attention given to my patients without the boundaries of another business owner.

What is most important to you and keeps you going?
The most important thing for me is that I make sure that I am providing my patients with the best care possible to help them improve their oral health. If I can really make a difference and help them achieve improvement and maintenance with their dental health I know that we are contributing to their overall great health.

Read More from our interview in this quarter's edition of "Around Reston: Leading Ladies Around Reston".  Check out the digital edition here!
Visit Dr. Kazemifar and her staff online at

Visit again soon for another "In Front of My Lens" addition featuring local businesses and artists!  If you would like to be featured in a future publication, contact me!

In Front of My Lens: A Christmas Tree Farmer

Reston has been a host to this wonderful Christmas Tree lot for 8 years.  The owner and operator, Travis of Hopkins Farms was nice enough to let me wander and just take in all the nostalgia these beautiful douglas firs bring.  From the trees (including a few HUGE 8-9 foot ones), to the fresh wreaths, the strung lights and old RV, this Christmas tree lot made me wish Christmas was already here...  and wish it would never end!

There is nothing like a fresh Christmas tree!  Surround yourself with all the magical wonder of scents, lights and treats of the season, and think back on all your Christmas memories and traditions!

You can find Travis's fresh trees and wreaths (awesome prices, BTW!) until Christmas week in the lot at the corner of Reston Parkway and Sunrise Valley.

Enjoy your holidays and stay safe!

In Front of My Lens: The Chocolatier

Lake Anne Plaza in Reston, VA is full of lovely shops with uniques artisans.  One of these artists is Doris Tyler, owner of Chesapeake Chocolates.  Her shop is filled with a wonderful selection of wine, gifts and more... including freshly made chocolate. Read on to learn a little more about Doris and her business...

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today? 
I am the oldest of five siblings and a mom of three boys…that required learning to take charge and be flexible. I’ve had great role models including parents who viewed community as key, and bosses who were teachers and mentors. As a teacher for kids with special needs and a trainer for teachers and care givers, I learned to listen and evaluate, take initiative, and to build on others’ strengths.


My husband, George has been a soundboard, a suggestion box, a tech wiz, and he has two strong shoulders that I can lean on. With his support, along with that of family and friends, I had the opportunity to create Chesapeake Chocolates, Wine, Gifts and More. I work with great people, and together we have built a team that is effective and reliable, making it a pleasure to come to work every day.

What are some highlights and challenges you have faced over your career?
Starting a new business with my sister-in-law while caring for 3 children was challenging, but so much fun! We could take breaks from taking orders and making chocolate (yes, breaks are necessary) to chase Alex, Will, and Greg around the yard, help them with homework, or play in the hammock. The boys were accustomed to the whir of the chocolate machine, and visiting friends were awed and eager to enjoy any “mistakes”.

I made the move from a home based business to brick and mortar at the Lake Anne Village Center in 2007, joining Linda from Lake Anne Florist. After she retired, I’ve renovated and remodeled the store several times, each with very tight deadlines. The last (and I hope, final) renovation was completed one day before the grand opening of the Bob Simon Lake Anne Contract Postal Unit. It was stressful, but the community of Lake Anne supported the opening with funding, paint brushes, and encouragement.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
Learn as much as you can about your craft…and don’t stop. Ask questions and practice. Experiment, try new products and ideas. Be flexible. Create an environment in which you are comfortable. Work with people you admire and enjoy. And remain calm. There will be power outages, water leaks, deadlines, mistakes, and the child who falls out of a tree and breaks his wrist during your busiest time.

When/how did you decide to take the plunge into owning your own business?
With three young boys, inconsistent child care, and a hectic life, it was hard to be a reliable, effective employee. Reluctantly, I resigned and took on the new role of stay at home mom. My sister-in-law, Bernadette recently moved to the area, and we decided to take on a new challenge, creating a business that could one day employ people with disabilities in a community based setting. We worked together for six years, building Chesapeake Chocolates into a small business, before she relocated and turned the business over to me.

What is most important to you and keeps you going?
I am fortunate to have four very special men in my life, and they continue to support, challenge, entertain, and love me, and I hope I do the same for them. Crab feasts with my extended family, a visit to the local garden shops with friends, and the occasional baseball game are some of my simpler pleasures. And I hope to continue to grow Chesapeake Chocolates, Wine, Gifts and More into a thriving business in the wonderful community of Lake Anne.

To place an order for the holidays, visit Doris's shop at Lake Anne Plaza in Reston, VA or online:
Twitter: @cheschocolate
Instagram: chesapeakechocolates

You will also find Doris featured in this quarter's edition of "Around Reston: Leading Ladies Around Reston".  
Check out the digital edition here!

In Front of My Lens: The Escape Room Artist

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be IN a game?   Well, now you can!

A clue flashes up on the LCD screen...  you begin to look around the room first at your teammates, then past a mirror seeing your own puzzled look and then you realize... the timer is started and you better look for more clues and fast!  You have 60 minutes and counting to solve riddles, unlock safes, locks and cabinets and work out codes. The name of this game? “Escape Room” 

The Escape Room Herndon was opened this past Summer with three themed rooms ranging from beginner to advanced.  The rooms are decorated in timely fashion with nods to Agatha Christie and Hannibal Lecter among others.  My experience there was fast paced and so much fun watching my family work together, sometimes bumbling over clues and over-analyzing them to get to our main goal... find the key and Escape!

This installment of In Front of My Lens features Omer Aru, owner of Escape Room Herndon.

Where are you from originally?  I was born in Istanbul Turkey but I’ve lived in Northern Virginia most of my life. 

What is your fondest memory growing up?  We would spend our summers at my Grandmother's house on an island off the coast of Istanbul.  My fondest memories come from there.  My brother and I would race down winding stone steps to the beach 100 yards below our house.  From there we would run off the dock and dive into the ocean.  It was the type of magically experience that took decades later to truly appreciate how special it was.

When/how did you decide to take the plunge into owning your own business?
  I was on a family vacation last summer.  My brother-in-law and I were discussing possible business ideas.  I had grown fond of starting a 3D printer supply company.  He encouraged me to visit him in Richmond to play his Escape Room RVA before trying anything.  So early Fall I went down to play the original MindTrap room.  After 60 minutes, I left high-fiving strangers and was hooked immediately.  I agreed this was all I wanted to do, and I immediately started designing our first room, Mary In The Black.

What is most important to you?  
As a business, it’s providing a unique experience that friends, co-workers, and family can relive well after it’s over.  We’ve become fixated on screens sometimes texting with the person sitting right next to you, or socializing with people across the globe.   It’s rare to find an opportunity where true interaction takes place.  I like to think Escape Rooms help people gain back a few moments of wonder.  We like to say, nothing bonds like being locked up in a room for a game of wit, wisdom and adventure!

Who inspires you?   
I’m inspired by the people around me.  My wife has been an inspiration since I met her.  She’s created a career for herself from something she loved.  I’ve been inspired in kind by friends and family who have done the same.  They choose a life in purpose of their passions.  Our customers inspire me to make great games.  Listening to them laugh and cheer lets me know we are doing something right, but also helps me to create more of those moments.

Escape Room Herndon

Can you escape in sixty minutes?
Solve the codes, crack the safe, and find the secret passages to win the game.
Think you and your friends have what it takes?

Book online at:
404 Elden St. Herndon, VA 20170

Visit again soon for another "In Front of My Lens" addition featuring local
businesses and artists!  
If you would like to be featured in a future publication, contact me soon!

Apple & Pear Wardrobe Design Feature: How to Look and Feel Comfortable in Front of the Lens

Last month I was so honored to be featured in the Apple and Pear Wardrobe Design publication focusing on something so many struggle with.  Most people have great selfies or hide behind others in group pictures, self conscious of everything from our hair to our clothes to our weight.  Apple and Pear Wardrobe Design is a styling company that can help determine what looks best in your wardrobe, and I contributed a list of tips to help ease your mind and show confidence when in front of the lens, no matter who the photographer may be!


How to Feel Comfortable In Front of the Lens

by Samantha S. Marshall
(The following are excerpts of this article. Check out the full article at Apple & Pear Wardrobe Design's blog.)

... Do you avoid being front of the camera?  Have you looked back on family photos regretting that you are always the one taking the photos (on purpose)?  Many times we don't "like" having our photos taken, but if you could learn how to feel more comfortable in front of the lens you may just invite the opportunity more often!

Practice in Front of the Mirror!  Practice does make perfect, or close to it and will also allow confidence to shine through.  Smiling in the mirror; learn to smile BIG (even open your mouth a little – a laughing smile is wonderful!) Notice where your chin should be, open your eyes: practice these while brushing your teeth... no one is watching but you!

Listen to the Professional!  Listening to the photographer is important.  Since I work with all types of clients from families to corporate, I understand the nervous and worried looks, and I try and defuse this early in the session. I see what is going to be captured and can use light to help hid what you don't like about yourself or enhance the features you do like!  Do you have a "best side"?  I ask this to every person I photograph, and if they don't know which one they prefer, then we take photos of each side.  I can usually tell immediately which one I prefer, and allow my client to peek at my viewfinder and see for themselves... 99% of the time we agree.


Shhhh – Here is a Modeling "Secret"  In front of the lens, you can use this in most photo opportunities, and it will help you to look more relaxed and confident.  This trick can be used for headshots or full body photos.  Basically, you turn 90 degrees showing your best side to the camera.  Next, put your hand on your hip and twist at the waist leaving your feet planted. You can lean forward slightly, and tilt your head or look straight on. Leaning forward may feel unnatural, at first, but looks great on anyone!  Once in place you can drop your arm, but keep the shoulder back and remember to stand up straight! 

Relax Relax Relax!  Has anyone had to remind you to relax!?  Allow the photographer to direct you, and to help with this process, here are a few things you can do...

Click here to read the rest of the article!  

Apple & Pear Wardrobe Design was founded in 2012 by Jennifer Mackey-Mary with the belief that all women
deserve to feel and look fabulous.  Look for a future "In Front of My Lens" to learn more about Jennifer and her team!

In Front of My Lens: Master Pianist

What do you get when you  combine a fourth degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do with a Masters Degree in Pedagogy? Master Heidi.  Heidi Williams began her career as an award winning teacher to all ages more than 20 years ago.  She is sought out to judge music competitions all over the country and has traveled internationally for her other passion... Tae Kwon Do.  Heidi achieved her Master level 4th degree black belt this past Spring and has developed an educational lecture series comparing and contrasting the discipline between martial arts and music.  She introduced this new series to her local education board and is planning on taking it to the Annual National Piano Conference this season.

Where are you from originally?  I was born in Ohio right outside of Dayton, but my parents moved to Virginia when I was two.  My dad was in the Marine Corps and was stationed in Quantico, Virginia, and when I was 4, we moved into the house where my parents still live today.  As soon as I moved out for college, my Mom turned my room into her clothes closet.

How did you become interested in martial arts?  
After I graduated from college, I had this crazy idea that I would start martial arts to keep my fitness up, but I was extremely worried about injuring my hands (I'm a professional pianist), so I never followed through with it.  After I moved to Cleveland and got my Masters Degree, I used to drive by this Tae Kwon Do school on my way to teaching and think "That looks really fun.  I wish that I could do something like that."  Several years later, one of my piano teacher friends called me and told me that one of her students' parents was taking Tae Kwon Do and had invited her to come to a class.  My friend had a blast and signed up for lessons.  She was much calmer, more focused, and she got into great shape.  For an entire year, she begged me to sign up - she said that the Master at the school was very understanding of her need to protect her hands and wouldn't let her do anything that might hurt them.  My schedule didn't allow me to take lessons at that time, but I listened to my friend rave about how much she loved the class, and I saw her personal and physical transformation.  Then, in the summer of 2006, I was visiting my parents in Virginia when my best friend called and invited me to a family class at the Hapkido school where she and her daughter were taking lessons.  I went because I wanted to spend time with my friend and her daughter, but I ended up enjoying it so much that I couldn't stop talking about it after the class ended.  I showed my parents everything that I had learned in that class, and when I returned to Ohio, I called up my piano teacher friend and told her I was ready to sign up for classes.  I started going to Tae Kwon Do classes 2 times a week, and by the next summer, I had upped my attendance to 4 times a week.  My schedule has gotten more demanding, so I now go three times a week.  I'll celebrate 10 years of Tae Kwon Do study this September!  What's really funny is that the school I attend is the same school that I used to drive by all those years ago. 

How did you become interested in piano/music?  I can't remember a time when I didn't play piano.  When I was three years old, I had a little green toy piano - it was a miniature replica of a baby grand and had about 8 notes on it.  I used to sit and pick out nursery tunes on that piano.  My brothers and I also used that piano as a stool, and we broke the legs so often that they ultimately couldn't be repaired any more.  I still remember the agony of seeing my dad throwing that piano into the fire when it became broken beyond repair.  What I didn't know was that we were getting a console piano from my Great Aunt.  We drove to Ohio to pick it up and toted it in a U-Haul trailer all the way back to Virginia.  When I was 6 years old, my Mom signed me up for piano lessons with a wonderful and extremely patient teacher in our area.  When I was in 4th grade and it looked like I was going to stay with piano lessons for a while, my parents bought a beautiful Kawai baby grand piano - I have that piano in my house in Cleveland now.  I played the piano all the time in high school, but it wasn't the music that I was supposed to be practicing.  I would sit with the tape player on the piano bench and listen over and over again to 4 measures of a pop song on the tape until I could play it; then I'd move on to the next four measures, until I learned the entire song.  I also accompanied the show choir in high school and my church choir.  I wasn't expecting to go into music as a career and wasn't even entertaining the idea of going to college for music, but that's exactly what happened.  I fell into a career that I absolutely love, and I still take lessons to this day to improve my skills and continue my learning. 

When/how did you decide to take the plunge into owning your own business?  When I was in graduate school, I was hired as a music director for a summer performing arts camp.  I led music classes every day and accompanied the show that the campers put on at the end of the camp.  One of the camper's parents came up to me at the end of camp and asked it I taught piano lessons because she'd like her daughters to start learning piano.  I told her that I had taught in both North Carolina and Virginia when I lived in each of these places, but I'd have to come to her house if she wanted lessons; I lived in the dorm and practiced at the conservatory and we weren't allowed to use the practice rooms to teach private students.  She was thrilled to have a teacher come to her house, and by the end of the week, two of her neighbors had already called me wanting lessons at their homes for their children.  By the time I taught my first lessons to the girls I had in camp, I had 8 students scheduled.  Within 6 months, I had 15 students and a waiting list.  When I graduated from the conservatory in Cleveland, I thought to myself "I've already got a business up and running!  Why not stay here and build it?"  I've been teaching full-time ever since.  I couldn't ask for a better career.

What is most important to you?  Time.  It is precious and can't be saved up - once it's gone, it's gone.  Spending time with the people I love - my family and friends - is one of my favorite ways to spend time.  One of the perks of owning my own business is that I can arrange my schedule to take time off to see family and friends (I love being independent and creating my own work schedule).  I also think it is very important to continue life-long learning, refining one's skills and developing new skills.  I was in my 30's when I started taking Tae Kwon Do lessons, and I was not athletically gifted in the least.  I used to dread gym class in middle school and high school - now I run 5Ks and go to Tae Kwon Do competitions.  I also think that it is extremely important to take care of one's body - it is the finest gift that our Creator has given to us.  I started taking yoga classes a year ago to help improve my mental and physical awareness at the piano and in Tae Kwon Do and it has helped immensely.

Who inspires you?   I am always inspired by the music of Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach.  These compositions transcend mere mortal talent and give us glimpses into the Divine.  I can't listen to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony without experiencing such joy that it makes me want to weep.  Mozart's piano concerti show us the beauty of refinement and elegance while breaking our hearts with their harmonic simplicity.  Bach's fugues are evidence that there is a God - no human could come up with such masterful complexity on his/her own. 

Info about your lecture series:
I have been developing a lecture on the influence my Tae Kwon Do study has had on my piano playing and teaching.  Tae Kwon Do and piano are both performing arts and must be practiced often for improvement and increased understanding.  I realized that I was receiving the same corrections in Tae Kwon Do ("relax your shoulders," "don't hold your breath," "let the movements flow") that I was getting in my piano lessons.  By focusing on these corrections in one discipline, I improved in both.  These disciplines both rely on an understanding of body mechanics and physics to reach one's highest potential.  They both also rely on discipline, inner calm, and a structured approach to learning.  Even learning how to break boards properly has a direct correlation to playing with dynamic range on the piano.  I gave this lecture at a piano conference last fall, and I am continuing to develop it further for upcoming projects. 

Visit again soon for another "In Front of My Lens" addition featuring local businesses and artists!  If you would like to be featured in a future publication, contact me soon!