Friday, December 31, 2010

Lounging Orangutan

What is the best way to end a year and start a new one? Bring in the new year laughing with the ones you love. That's how I'll be bringing in 2011 tonight -- surrounded by my family laughing with each other. So to start off New Year's Eve on the right foot. Here is one of nature's comedians, the orangutan, hanging out (and hamming it up) at the San Diego Zoo. Can't help but chuckle when looking at this photograph. What a character!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sleeping Koalas

On Tuesday, I visited the San Diego Zoo for the first time and took a digital camera along to document the day. Today's photograph is one of several taken at the zoo that I will be sharing on the blog. These koala bear cubs' sleeping position reminded me of a stuffed animal toy I had as a kid called a Popple. They resemble brightly colored animals with pouches on their backs for the Popples to go into and transform into colored balls. Perhaps koala bears inspired the toy's ball-shaped design.

For the record, I hold mixed feelings about zoos. While I love being able to visit and photograph different types of wildlife at one location, it saddens me to see these animals kept in fenced areas and not free to live in their natural environments. It's good to know that the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) administers a rigorous accreditation program for zoos. To become accredited, zoos must meet standards and requirements which demonstrate their commitment to quality care and conservation of animals and plants in their facilities. The San Diego Zoo, the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, DC, the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens and many others around the country are accredited members. Next time you decide to visit a zoo or aquarium, seek out and support AZA-accredited facilities.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

First Snowfall

As the Northeast digs out of a fierce snowstorm, I can't help but reminisce about my first snowfall five years ago. A Southern California native, my only experience with snow before moving to the East Coast was 2-3 trips to Big Bear or the Mount San Jacinto Mountains when only a few inches of snow lay on the ground.

While my first snowstorm as a DC area resident only left a few inches of snow, I delighted in strolling around my neighborhood with my camera the next morning. Today's post is one of my favorite photos from that walk. It combines two of my favorite photo subjects -- a path and snow-covered trees. Little did I know then that eventually around the proverbial bend in my journey as a East Coast dweller would be many more snowfalls, including two blizzards that would leave me housebound for a week. Yet, I still remember the joy of my first snowfall and I hope that others felt that emotion as well during this week's storms. However, I'm guessing stranded travelers stuck at airports and train stations due to the weather felt little joy about the storm this week.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Photographer's View

Unbeknown to my friend, as she photographed the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, I photographed her. As a general rule, I keep people out of my nature photography since they can be a distraction or noise in the image. However, at times allowing 1-2 people to be a part of a landscape photograph can add an interesting and compelling element to the overall composition. Including my friend in this panorama gave the viewer the chance to visualize the true size and scope of the valley and its mountains. Plus, it's always an unique moment to capture a photographer in the wild.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Snow Highlighter

Last winter's snowfall in DC metro area was one for the record books. In spite of federal government closings and transportation headaches, the record-breaking snow season did bring some beautiful photo opportunities. For example, check out this tree in my apartment building's courtyard. The fallen snow accumulated on the tree's branches looked as if it was highlighting each branch. This is a rare sight, since often wind follows snow storms and knocks fallen snow off of the branches. Luckily, I was in the right place, at the right time, to photograph this tree with its snow highlights.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sunset Shadows

Since I'm in California for a visit, it is fitting to post a local photo today. Last Christmas, I took this sunset shot near Mount Baldy in the Inland Empire. I was so pleased to capture both the color of the sky and the silhouette of the wildlife in the same image. It's a striking combination and reminder of the beauty of California twilights.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Counting Blessings

Merry Christmas! Every Christmas season, I always watch my three favorite holiday movies -- "Elf," "Love Actually" and the classic Christmas musical, "White Christmas" with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney. I was shocked at Christmas Eve dinner this year to learn some have never seen "White Christmas." Ridiculous! With music and lyrics by the great songwriter Irving Berlin and entertaining performances by talented singers and comedians, it always gets me in the holiday spirit. While I love the songs "White Christmas," "Sisters," and "Snow," my favorite song in the film is "Count Your Blessings" sung as a duet by Crosby and Clooney.

As you mark this day with gift opening, church attending, movie watching, Chinese food ordering or other Christmas and/or Saturday activities (depending on your spiritual viewpoint), I leave you with the thoughtful lyrics of this song. May your day be filled with much joy, laughter, love and numerous blessings as there are stars in the sky.
When I'm worried and I can't sleep,
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings.
When my bankroll is getting small,
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings.
I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds.
If you're worried and you can't sleep,
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Missing Misty

While the holidays are full of cheer and joy, it can also be a time for quiet reflection on old friends and family members who are unable to join in the festivities. This holiday season will be particularly difficult for my family, since it will be the first Christmas and New Year's without my Grandma Winnie who passed away earlier this year. I thought about posting a photo of her today, but decided against it. In my head, I could hear her chastising me for doing it, so I found another photo option instead. Today, I'll share a photo of another member of the family who is no longer with us -- our family dog, Misty.

I know there are people who believe that pets are just animals and should be treated and thought of as thus. But we didn't think of Misty that way. Instead, she was a full-fledged member of the Borde clan and could be as moody, demanding, stubborn, fiercely loyal and loving -as the other human members of our family. She passed away from cancer after I had moved to Washington, DC and I didn't get to say goodbye. When I visit my parents, I sometimes hear her paws on the kitchen linoleum or her metal tags jangling. There will be a flash of sadness at the sounds, but then I quickly replace it with smile or chuckle. Misty's hello is a friendly reminder that while a loved one may not be physically with us, they are still present in our lives, our hearts, our souls, our memories.

Grandma Winnie hated to be the center of attention, hence her dislike of her photo being taken. Out of respect for her wishes, I won't post her photo on this blog. However Grandma, freedom of speech allows me to talk about you and the loss of you in a-round-about-way on this blog. Literally, the post is about Misty, but I still slipped you in. Sneaky, I know. What can I say. I'm stubborn and bull-headed. Wonder who I inherited that from?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Federal Triangle Flowers

On the Woodrow Wilson Plaza of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in downtown Washington, DC rests two cast-aluminum flower sculptures. Until I prepared today's blog post, I didn't know that another flower sculpture existed in the plaza. Apparently, the Federal Triangle Flowers -- named after nearby the Federal Triangle Metro station -- are a pair with a single stem rose (today's photo) and a lily on the opposite side of the plaza.

It just goes to show how you can visit a place many times and still not fully see it. Although I frequent the Ronald Reagan Building for work, I am so focused on getting from the Metro station to the building that I don't take in my surroundings unless it is directly in path. I'm planning to work on this issue in 2011.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rule of Thirds

Whenever someone asks me for photography tips, I always share the same one -- the rule of thirds. It's probably the only photography rule that I follow during photo excursions. Shared by my college photography instructor, the rule of thirds relates to where your subject or focus of your photograph is positioned in your composition.

The rule states that an image theoretically should be divided into nine equal parts by two horizontal lines and two vertical lines. Then, the photographer would place the subject, focus or important elements along these imaginary lines or their intersection. Most people just center their subject in the image. However, like in today's photo of one of the Smithsonian Museum gardens, placing your focus along the rule of thirds' lines or intersections can create energy and action to tell your photo story. Often I take several photos of one subject, placing it on different lines or intersections, to discover the most interesting position and composition for the subject. The rule of thirds can also be applied to other arts, such as painting, film-making and design.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Oh Shenandoah

My parents, who did not grow up in the United States, felt it was important for their children to understand and appreciate being American. Growing up, they would take us to visit U.S. historical places, read books about famous American stories and fables, watch movies and documentaries about U.S. history and even listen to traditional American folk songs and music. As a child, one of our favorite music albums featuring American folk music was by Wee Sing. It wasn't until I started traveling around  the country that I learned the significance and back story for many of our favorite childhood songs.

When I visited the Shenandoah National Park a few years ago, I couldn't help but recall one of the folk songs connected to this region:
Oh Shenandoah,
I long to see you,
And hear your rolling river,
Oh Shenandoah,
I long to see you,
Away, we're bound away
Across the wide Missouri.
Oh Shenandoah,
I love your daughter
Away, you rolling river.
For her I'd cross,
Your roaming waters.
Away, I'm bound away,
Cross the wide Missouri. 
'Tis seven years since last I've seen you,
And hear your rolling river,
'Tis seven years since last I've seen you,
Away, we're bound away
Across the wide Missouri.

Oh Shenandoah,
I long to see you,
And hear your rolling river,
Oh Shenandoah,
I long to see you,
Away, we're bound away
Across the wide Missouri. 
According to historians, while many in Virginia presumed that the song was referencing the Shenandoah Valley or River, it was actually in reference to an native American chief. Regardless of its basis, one can't deny that the majestic vista of the Shenandoah Valley and its Blue Ridge Mountains could inspire songs in its tribute.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Lincoln Memorial at Night

If you didn't know better, you might think that I took this photo in Greece. Nope, I've never been. This is a side view of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC at night. During the day, it is so recognizable as the Lincoln Memorial that onlookers may overlook its similarity to the Greek's Parthenon in design and architectural attributes. But, there is no mistaking its Greek roots at night. Like the Parthenon, this structure was designed to be a temple, a tribute to the 16th President of the United States. Along with Lincoln's statue inside, walls are inscribed with his words and accomplishments. Alight at night, it stands as a beacon along the Potomac River and a classic national landmark on the National Mall.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Marching Washington

Every morning on my way to work, I pass by Washington Circle where a statue of General George Washington riding his horse in the Battle of Trenton during the Revolutionary War resides. It was only after the snowstorm last year that I actually walked through the circle -- instead of around -- and studied this beautiful statue by sculptor Clark Mills. The Battle of Trenton took place on the day after Christmas in 1776, when Washington and the Continental Army crossed the frozen Delaware River to surprise the sleeping Hessian soldiers recovering from their Christmas night festivities. The colonial army captured 2/3 of the Hessian forces. The victory, though small, served as inspiration to the wavering colonial rebels and helped pave the way for defeating the British and securing America's independence. I imagine that Washington and his horse may have actually resembled this image, covered with snow as he marched into Trenton. Now when I pass by the circle, I'm drawn to this great bronze statue of a victorious general marching toward independence.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


As I walked home through the snow last night, the quiet of my snow-covered neighborhood prompted deep thoughts. (Me deep thoughts? Shocker, I know! LOL) As I walked, I thought about the new year ahead and what I would like it to be like, what I would like to happen, etc. I decided that I would like 2011 to be a significant year in my life and am willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

While the past thirty-two years have served me very well and I'm grateful, I would like this new year to be all about possibilities. A year not ruled by negativity and fear. A year totally focused on possibilities.

My best photographs are the ones where I removed my expectations and just let the composition happen. I could art direct my photography and end up with good pictures, but often the unexpected moments and images are the most moving and memorable. I didn't plan today's photo, but look at how beautiful it is with the sunlight in the trees and the trees' shadows on the snow.

In 2011, I'll be applying this principle to my life and my photography. Want to join me in this new year challenge? Start thinking about how you can integrate possibilities into your life and I'll share more about my strategies in my blog post on January 1, 2011. Until then, savor the beauty, joy and stillness of the winter season and allow yourself to dream and start thinking about possibilities.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sunrise After Snowfall

Here's the view from my apartment this morning. What a spectacular way to start off the day and the weekend! Sunrises are even more pristine following a storm. When those colors break across the sky as the sun rises, you can't help but feel in your soul the new day's clean slate -- the promise of a new day with no mistakes in it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Snow-covered Path

Today, we're going to receive 1-3 inches of snow throughout the DC metro area. While this is a pretty mild winter storm in comparison to what is happened in the Midwest this weekend, it will be the first real snowfall in the region for the season.

Can't help but think back to last year and Snowpocalypse 2010 in February. In one month, 2-3 feet of snow fell, shutting down the Federal Government for a week and keeping most of us homebound until the snow was cleaned up. On the upside, I took some of the best snow photography ever, including today's image, during those three winter blizzards.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lots of Blossoms

During peak bloom of the Cherry Blossoms at the Tidal Basin, one can rarely see the branches of the trees. When fully open, the blossoms can conceal its branches. The blossoms' weight makes the trees dip and bend a little. Often, onlookers must lower their heads as they pass beneath the heavy branches. The morning this photograph was taken, I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the rising sun between this tree's branches. It's not an easy shot to get when the Cherry Blossoms are at their fullest.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Washington's Farm

No winter photos today, folks. It's too cold in Washington, DC today to even glance at a snowy scene. Instead let's look at photo taken in a warmer month, shall we?

Did you know that George Washington was a farmer? Well like most of our founding fathers, Washington owned and managed a farm on his Mount Vernon estate. Most likely, he didn't do much manual labor himself -- an extended community of slaves and servants that numbered about 315 people at its peak, lived and worked on Mount Vernon plantation. According to the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, Washington's plantation was divided into five farms, each of which had a separate overseer who was responsible for that farm, and managed an active fishery. Many dirt roads and wooden fences like this one appeared throughout the estate and helped those that worked Mount Vernon take care of Washington's farms and livelihood.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Nativity Scene

One of the photography skills that I'm still working on is when and how to use flash. In low light situations or at night, flash is essential to help sharpen your subject. However, it can blow out the subject as well, so it must be used appropriately.

When visiting the National Christmas Tree last year, I photographed the nearby Nativity scene. I took several photos with and without flash. Today's image with a fill flash was the best of the series. While it's not perfect -- Baby Jesus is a bit too bright and there's some flash reflection off of Joseph's sleeve -- some might think its unintended imperfections are poetic and appropriate for the subject of the photograph. Christians believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the light, right? This is just another reason why I love photography. Sometimes your best photographs are the ones where you made mistakes or miscalculated. At times, the camera might know more about what's best for your subject than you do.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Lake Tahoe in Winter

Here's another image from last year's trip to Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Lake Tahoe offers photographers a combination of elements in one vista which is usually not possible in other locations. In one image, you can capture the sky, mountains, water, beach and forest. In January, I was also able to add snow to the Lake Tahoe laundry list of natural elements. I would love to visit again, but next time go in summer when the lake is a crisp blue and the mountains green. I'm sure that combination is just as breathtaking as this panorama here.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Tahoe Snowman

If I designed my own holiday card this year, this photo would have been the cover. Last year, I brought in 2010 (and Genevieve's 30th birthday) with friends in snowy Lake Tahoe in Northern California. We found this snowman in the backyard of our rental house when we arrived. My favorite holiday characters are snowmen (a close second is Buddy the Elf), so this photo had to be taken of our backyard Frosty. He's really a Californian snowman with those eyes made of oranges, instead of coal.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bright Star

Looks like this year's National Christmas Tree is a beauty. Looking forward to seeing it in person next week. Here's another look at the 2009 National Christmas Tree which was decorated with white twinkle lights and large red and white stars like the one in this photograph.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

National Christmas Tree

Tonight is an important night in Washington, DC. This evening, the President and his family will "flip the switch" and light the National Christmas Tree near the White House as part of the annual Pageant of Peace celebration. Other than the one in Rockefeller Center in New York City, this Christmas tree is the second most important one in the country.

While I didn't get tickets to the official lighting, I did visit the Christmas tree and its displays -- a small Christmas tree decorated by each state and a large toy train display -- last year. What a magnificent sight, especially from this perspective with the White House in the background. It was one of the moments when I felt so blessed to be living near the nation's capital.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tall Trees

This week, I'm in the mood for trees apparently. Here's another photograph from one of my walks at Burke Lake Park in Farifax, Virginia. The trees that surround the lake are tall and skinny, but their canopy creates covered paths like this one. It's a delightful Saturday morning walk in summer and I look forward to seeing it in winter once the snow covers the ground.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Go Ducks

I am definitely my father's daughter when it comes to photography. When Dad was growing up in Trinidad, he used to raise pigeons. Since then, his love of birds grew and eventually he passed it along to me. Now, we aren't birdwatchers who go on hikes to observe birds. Instead, we go about our daily routine and take note  of the birds that cross our paths.

Last year on one of my weekend walks at Burke Lake Park, I stopped and took a photo of these ducks swimming in the lake. Dad would be so proud. Ducks are my favorite birds to photograph, because they are a bit vain. They are willing subjects, lingering in a scene to give me enough time to adjust and focus the camera and capture them in action.

Special Note: This post is also in honor of the 12-0 Oregon Ducks football team who will be representing the PAC-10 in this year's College Football National Championship game against Auburn. While I'm a UCLA fan, I always support the PAC-10 team in the National Championship and Rose Bowl games. Unless the team is Stanford and then I just can't do it. Go Ducks!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tree Veins

Next time you're standing beneath a tree, look up. From that vantage point, don't you think the tree's branches look like veins? Against the leaves and sky, the branches always makes me think of the web-like veins in leaves or blood vessels in our bodies. It's an unusual perspective for photographing trees, since most photographers focus on capturing the whole tree in the composition. For me, I love the view underneath a tree's canopy. It's a great way to illustrate the life and beauty of trees.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

100 and Counting

This is my 100th post on Via My Viewfinder. Unbelievable! I started this blog on a whim on a Saturday night and now 100 consecutive days of daily posts later, I've displayed 100 of my photographs to the world (or at least the handful of you who keep track). What a freeing (and slightly scary) accomplishment!

Since starting this blog, I've discovered quite a few things about myself during this experience and I look forward to what the next 100 days of blog posts hold. There will be photographs from weekend excursions, like this one taken in Atlantic City in November, in the next 100 posts. Also, a trip to Hawaii is on the horizon and I'll be definitely taking my camera along.

Thank you for reading and stay tuned. I promise there will be another post and photograph tomorrow.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas Star, Up Close

This is a close-up of my very first Christmas tree in my first apartment. Other than some white lights, gold garland and red ornaments, it was a pretty basic Christmas tree. At the time, I couldn't afford anything fancy. Standing at a distance, my Christmas tree did not look impressive, but up close as in this photograph, you really could not tell. Instead of dwelling on what was missing, I used my camera to focus on what my tree did have on its branches and see its beauty.

During the holidays, we are often reminded that while we may have possessions this year, we may not the next. There are many people this Christmas who will celebrate the season with so little. We should take a strength-based approach and celebrate and enjoy what we do have, in order to truly appreciate the season and its many gifts even if it is only a sparsely, decorated Christmas tree.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Red Dawn

Another photograph taken at the park across from my apartment building. This time, I was able to catch the rising sun between the trees. Filming sun beams through tree branches always make me feel centered and in tune with nature around me.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Last of the Yellow Leaves

It's freezing outside. Winter has definitely descended on the East Coast. Luckily, there is still a hint of autumn in the park across the street from my apartment building. While most of the trees have lost their leaves and branches stand bare, there are still some whose bright yellow leaves linger and defy the impending frost. In a few days, they will turn from yellow to brown and fall, joining its peers on the grass. Although in this photograph, its once vibrant color will be preserved, just like when we capturing an old friend's image in a photograph to remember what they look like as time moves on.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Water's Stillness

Peace. It's this week's secret word. After a traumatic start to the week due to a horrible incident next to my childhood home in California, I'm ready for some peace and quiet, like the water's stillness at the Tidal Basin at dawn. Thankfully, peace is one of the themes of the holiday season (if you avoid the mall, right?) and I'm embracing it fully this year. I'm so grateful for the safety of my family and hope that the new year will bring us all less sadness and pain and more joy, laughter and most importantly, peace.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Final Tribute

Today marks the end of November and the final day of my Korean War Veterans Memorial retrospective.

Critics of monuments, such as this one, often claim that erecting war memorials celebrates -- and encourages -- the violence, death and destruction of war. I disagree. One day, I hope to live in a world where people will make peace and not war, a world where we resolve our conflicts with words and not weapons. But, this world does not exist yet. Until that peaceful day, we will still need people to serve and protect our freedoms and borders. It's their duty and sacrifice we celebrate and honor in these memorials. They are physical reminders of the price of war, the cost of peace through violence.

Soon a new national monument will be dedicated on the National Mall in honor of the nonviolence civil rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. One of my favorite of Dr. King's speeches was his last. He delivered it in Memphis the night before his assassination. His closing words have always stayed with me:
Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
Dr. King was right; we will get to "the promised land," a world of peace. I hope that it will be in my lifetime, or at least in my children's lifetime. Let these monuments remind and encourage us to get to this promised land sooner rather than later.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Before Sunrise

If you thought I might be blogging about the Ethan Hawke movie, Before Sunrise due to the title of this post, sorry to disappoint you. Today's title is a reference to my yearly ritual photographing Tidal Basin's blooming Cherry Blossoms at sunrise. While it's usually very cold (gloves are required to hold the camera steady) and dark (need to arrive at least 20 minutes before sunrise in order to get a good spot), the sight of rising sun's rays lighting the blossoms is worth it.

One of the outcomes of this year's sunrise visit is this photograph capturing the setting moon and its reflection in the Tidal Basin just before sunrise. After five years of photographing the Cherry Blossoms, this image is one of the best from my collection.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Time for the Holidays

While out shopping at Pentagon Row last night, I came across this tree of lights near the skating rink. Since I was only holiday shopping, my digital camera was not with me. But, I did have my cell phone. I love the proximity of the clock tower to the Christmas tree. Even though the image quality is not as good as my usual camera, the cell phone camera got the job done and captured a new photo for the blog.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Transparent Tulips

Sunlight can do funny things in nature. This effect is one of my favorites --  the translucent flower. Light behind a flower turns its petals see-through, changing the petal from a solid form into a colored filter.

While Washington, DC is known for it blooming Cherry Blossoms in spring, as you can see above, the city's blooming tulips are a fantastic sight to see in spring as well.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Deck the Halls

Today, the day after Thanksgiving, is the official start of the holiday season. Finally! I've been waiting all year for the holidays to begin. It's my favorite time of year. I love the vibrant colors, generosity and cheer. I try to ignore the materialism and commercialism that often accompanies the holidays and focus on the beauty of the season instead.

Last Christmas, I visited the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Memorial Continental Hall in Washington, DC during their Christmas open house. This photo was taken of one of the many decorated Christmas trees throughout the historic building. This year's open house will be on December 8 from 5:30-8 p.m. and shouldn't be missed. Can't wait to start decorating my Christmas tree. "Tis the season to be jolly. Fa la la la la, la la la la ..."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Blessed and Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! Today, instead of blogging about the usual stuff (enjoy another image of the Korean War Veterans Memorial above), I would like to take this opportunity to share what I am thankful for this year. I have many blessings, so here are a few highlights:
  1. Family and friends -- Whether near or far, related or adopted, family and friends make living a joy and I'm so grateful for their support, encouragement, and love. They often remind me of God's compassion and grace through their words, gestures and thoughts.
  2. Freedom -- To speak my mind, to believe what I believe is true, to execute my ability to cast a ballot, and so many more, I'm grateful for the foresight of our Founding Fathers and the oversight of those that followed to perfect the Constitution and extend so many freedoms to Americans. Each news broadcast, remind us that there are other global citizens who do not have those rights. Thank you to those who place their lives on the line -- men and women in uniform -- to protect our freedoms every day.
  3. Employment -- I'm grateful that I have a job that does a little good in the world and affords me to live in Washington, DC and stay sheltered and fed and able to travel to visit family or celebrate with friends. During these difficult economic times, I'm particularly grateful for this blessing this year.
  4. Senses -- My senses of sight, sound and touch help make photography and all that I do so much easier and the senses of taste and smell make enjoying life's pleasures easier as well. I'm grateful for the fullness of my life and the role that these senses play in making that possible.
  5. Peacemakers -- I'm grateful for those individuals here in the United States and around the world who toil and strive to make this world a better place. They give a voice to the voiceless and force those who can only hear their own voice to listen to others. In times of war, terror, poverty and struggle, their work brings us closer to the ideal -- a world filled with only love and peace. Blessed are they and us for their tireless efforts.
  6. Nature -- In spring, summer, autumn and winter, I'm daily reminded of the beauty and miracle of nature. I'm grateful for its majesty and willingness to be a subject for my photographs. I hope we will become better caretakers of the Earth, so that future generations can witness its wonder in person and not need to rely on archival footage to see nature in its former glory.
  7. Time -- It is fragile and fleeting, but a valuable treasure. At times it seems like have too little. However, in truth, we often have an abundance of time. We just don't use it well or appreciate fully when we have it. Each day I live, I'm grateful for the life (and time) between the dash. 
The Dash
 I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning to the end.

He noted that first came the date of her birth
And spoke of the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own,
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard;
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
That can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect
And more often wear a smile,
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.

So when your eulogy is being read
With your life’s actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?

© 1996 Linda Ellis

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Surprise Visitor

Be very, very careful not to startle photographers when filming. You never know what they're taking a picture of. Bottom line: Distracting the photographer may inadvertently place YOU in the center of their photograph.

Case in point, my co-worker Joe appearing in this photograph. While practicing close-ups on this holiday wreath at work last week, Joe thought it would be funny to wave at me from the conference room while I was busy with my camera. Little did he know that I was able to frame my next shot to include him in mid-wave. Ha! In spite of my amateur action photography skill, he's in pretty good focus and adds an interesting element to an otherwise basic holiday photo. And now I've posted this photo with a mischievous Joe on my blog. Not sure who the joke is on now. Bet if I asked Joe, he would say this was all part of his master plan and I fell for it. Oh well. At least the resulting photo makes me laugh, making the exercise totally worth it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Solid Footing

Taking the close-up of the marines' hands raising the flag at the Marine Corps War Memorial -- one of my favorite photos I've taken -- was a revelation. Until then, I didn't realize the emotional power of isolating elements of a subject through close-ups and tell viewers an entirely different story in the photograph.

Now, I enjoy discovering new elements to focus on on photo excursions, such as these soldier's boots at the Korean War Veterans Memorial. By zooming in, we can see that the memorial's sculptor left no foot or in this case, boot, undefined. Look how solidly the foot is positioned in the gravel and among the juniper bushes. A close-up of the soldier's boot illustrates his strength without needing to see his whole body in the photograph. It offers viewers a new perspective to view and understand your intended subject.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sunrise at the Jefferson Memorial

Wow ... a purple-hued sunrise. A sunrise aficionado, I've only ever seen purple ones on the East Coast. However, California may have purple sunrises too and I just missed them. I wake up earlier since moving east than when I lived on the West Coast.

Sunrise at the Tidal Basin with the Jefferson Memorial in the background is not to be missed. But, it requires a very early wake-up call to enjoy it. As you can see, it's totally worth it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Peaceful Lane

Here's another image of Arlington National Cemetery, but in the spring. Trees that are covered with red, yellow and orange leaves in autumn are filled with white, pink and yellow blossoms in spring. As the weather changes, moving from fall to winter, images of spring's color and vitality will be my beacon during a cold, snowy season.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Coast Guard Memorial

In honor of the U.S. Coast Guard lives lost during World War I, this Coast Guard Memorial was erected and dedicated in Arlington National Cemetery. While it is not one of the more impressive monuments in the cemetery, its use of a bronze seagull is fitting and symbolic of the Coast Guard's tireless watch over and protection of America's maritime territory. Semper Paratus (Always Ready).

Friday, November 19, 2010

Washington Monument

During my first visit to the Tidal Basin to see the Cherry Blossoms in bloom, I took this photo of the Washington Monument in the distance. To this day, it is still one of my favorite photos of Washington, DC.

The monument is so tall, it often appears in the background of landscape photographs of the downtown DC area. It is shaped like an Egyptian obelisk, stands 555’ 5 1/8” tall. From the top, visitors can see city views of more than thirty miles. Like the American President it honors, it's the trademark image of the National Capital and a frequent subject of my annual Cherry Blossom photographs.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Reimagining

We always want what we don't have. Take our hair, for example. People with straight hair wish they had curly hair and those with curly (like myself) pay a lot of money for straight hair.

The same can be true of artistic ability. Oh how I wish I could create art from nothing, like those who can draw, paint or sculpt. However, the reality is that my artistic ability is to take what is already created and make a new creation. While there are some that look at emptiness and are inspired to create, I look what currently exists and then try to re-invent it, making it better than its current state.

No doubt the artist behind the Korean War Veterans Memorial intended for the squad of statues to be reflected in this wall. But, I suspect he didn't imagine a photo composition like this of his work. Two different approaches, but both reaching the same result -- a moving image honoring the men and women who served in the Korean War.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bright Red

This past weekend, I visited Atlantic City for the first time. It was a breathtaking drive; I-95 and the New Jersey Turnpike were both lined with trees in full autumn color. As my Aunty In would say, "It was gor-GEOUS!!"

In fall, New Jersey trees have the most vibrant red I've ever seen. While this photo features a beautiful red-orange tree in Annapolis a few autumns ago, I wish I took photos of those red Jersey trees. Unfortunately, I haven't mastered how to take photos from a moving vehicle. Oh well, maybe next fall.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Looking Through Me

Seems like he's looking through you, right? That's what I thought too when I visited the Korean War Veterans Memorial last year. The intensity of his stare is so unsettling and compelling. There's something about this Army Rifleman, which drew me spend a lot of time studying  him that morning. If I were to create a story to accompany this image, it would be that during patrol, he heard something near him and turned to discover me there with my camera. His look is sizing me up, determining if my presence is a threat to the squad. He keeps his gun at the ready, just in case I make any wrong moves. Thankfully, for both of us, my admiration is not dangerous.

Monday, November 15, 2010

George Washington Revealed

Believe it or not, this statue depicts the first President of the United States, George Washington. Strange, right? Located at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, the George Washington Statue, 1841 is not a common representation of Washington.

Art renderings of Washington usually look like this, or even this, or one of my personal favorites, like this. Seeing Washington in this pose and toga seems inappropriate rather than classic, as the artist and Congress may have intended in the 1840s. Perhaps future generations will judge this sculpture differently and appreciate its more classic references instead of desiring a more realistic depiction of this founding father.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Peace Monument

When I visited the United States Capitol for the first time, I was surprised to find so many monuments on the grounds. The Peace Monument in honor of the naval deaths suffered during the Civil War is the most striking of the collection. The two robed women at the top of the monument represent Grief who is weeping on the shoulder of History. Below them is a statue representing Peace holding a symbolic olive branch. Symbolism in sculpture can effectively express to the public the sculptor's intent and/or message. This monument is a great example of how symbolism can be so moving and memorable.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Stop and Enjoy the View

Instinct is an important human GPS navigation tool. Last year while visiting family in Los Angeles, I went out to complete an errand and instinct suggested taking a detour from the usual route. As a result, I ended up facing Mount Baldy on this deserted road at sunset. The panorama view was breathtaking. The mountains were so crisp and not obstructed by smog and pollution. I love that the stop sign is in this image. It's a subtle reminder that sometimes we must stop and listen to that inner voice, because who knows what adventures we miss if we keep following the same old route.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Welcome to the Peaceful Garden

One of the first things you see when you enter my home is a framed version of this photograph on the wall. It was taken at the Enid A. Haupt Moongate Garden near the Smithsonian Castle on the National Mall during my first visit to Washington, DC. It's a close-up of one of the four granite gates that line the garden. At the time, I was drawn to the symmetry of the gate against the backdrop of lush green plants and trees. Years later, I still feel centered and calm when I look at it. When decorating my home with my favorite photographs, I knew this image would be the best photograph to peacefully welcome to guests to my home.