Sunday, October 31, 2010

United We Heal

Yesterday's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert was amazing. So glad that I went. To be in the middle of a sea of 215,000 cheering people is indescribable. Many attendees held homemade signs displaying funny slogans and/or political statements. For me, this sign stood out. Its simple statement, which plays off of the often used "United We Stand," encapsulated what I believed the rally was all about.

Our 24/7 news cycle and politicians in Washington, DC and beyond create an aura of divisiveness within the public. Instead of highlighting our commonalities and issues that can bring us together, these elements promote issues and differences that drive us apart. From dealing with challenges, such as the economy, war, the threat of terrorism,  health crises and among others that face this nation, Americans need healing. "United We Heal" illustrates the truth that healing is only possible if we all work together, instead of fighting about who wins and loses. We're all in this together. On Tuesday when voters head to the voting booth, I hope that they will use their votes to bring our nation together and not play along with driving us apart. 

To read Jon Stewart's thoughts regarding the point of yesterday's rally, read his fantastic closing speech.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bright Start

Today, I'm off to the Rally to Restore Sanity with Jon Stewart on the National Mall. I'm taking my camera along and hopefully, tomorrow's post will be inspired by today's adventures.

Until then, here is one of my favorite photos taken at Arlington National Cemetery. It is a silhouette of the top of one of the large arches at the entrance of the cemetery. This image is so optimistic. It often reminds me that a new day is always on the horizon.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Pink Hibiscus

Reviewing my flower photographs, it's clear that I enjoy photographing four specific types of flowers -- orchids, roses, bird of paradise flowers and like today's photo post, hibiscus flowers. These flowers hold sentimental meaning for me, which is why I find it difficult to pass them by with my camera and not photograph them.
  • Orchids -- My mother's favorite flower, although she did not have a knack for keeping them alive at our house.
  • Roses -- Dorothy, my next door neighbor growing up, grew the most beautiful roses in her backyard. She was like a surrogate grandmother to us Borde kids and roses remind me of her.
  • Bird of paradise flowers -- These grew in our front yard of my childhood home. It was the perfect greeting for guests visiting our Trinidadian home, adding a little touch of the Caribbean right by our front door.
  • Hibiscus -- In our backyard, hibiscus flowers grew along the fence line and served as another tropical reminder of us island dwellers at family get-togethers at our home.
Now, my sentimental love for these flowers does not mean they are the primary subjects of my flower photography. Moving to the East Coast has introduced new flower species into my life, such as cherry blossoms and tulips, with new memories and associations with them as well.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Freedom is Not Free

As my mom says, "Nothing in life is ever free." In the case of freedom, she couldn't be more right.

The war memorials on the National Mall and throughout the world exist to remind future generations that our quest for freedom always comes at a high human price. At the Korean War Veterans Memorial, they literally remind visitors of this fact through the inscription of "freedom is not free" on one of the memorial's wall. Near the inscribed wall rests three other reminders of the cost of war -- the dead, wounded, captured and missing statistics of the soldiers who fought in the Korean War.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Blue Tile

I'm not the biggest fan of modern art, particularly abstract art. While I appreciate the modern artist's skill and artistic ability, I usually have difficulty understanding the abstract piece's meaning or message. However, abstract photography is very interesting to me. Finding a single subject and using the camera lens to zoom in to photograph it so it is unidentifiable from its original format is challenging and revealing. Take this close-up of the blue tiles in a courtyard fountain at Union Station in Los Angeles. A full photograph of the fountain would not reveal the beauty of these bright, blue tiles; its color would be completely lost in a larger composition. Only the bubbles at the lower right side of the photograph hint at the presence of water, and the true identity of the subject.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Reflection at Korean War Veterans Memorial

The Korean War Veterans Memorial is in the shape of a triangle. Inside the triangle are 19 statues representing a squad on patrol. The southern side of the triangle is a 164-foot-long black granite wall with photographic images sandblasted into it depicting soldiers, equipment and people involved in the war. Early in the morning, before the tourists descend and stand in between the statues and the wall, the squad  of 19 appear to be 38 military personnel in the reflection. This effect was intended by the wall's architect in order to  symbolize the 38th parallel -- the contentious border between North and South Korea -- in the memorial.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Navy-Merchant Marine Memorial

Some might say that the Washington, DC metro area is littered with monuments and memorials. Lady Bird Johnson Park is not one of the easiest destinations to access, however it is home to another memorial -- the Navy-Merchant Marine Memorial. Surrounded by construction zones, visitors cannot visit by car. The only way is by either walking, biking or riding on Mount Vernon Trail, which I did last autumn. In person, the seagulls look so real, you believe that they are in flight and soaring above this cresting wave.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Washington Monument at Eakins Oval

Eakins Oval is located in front of the steps leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In its center is a fountain and tribute to George Washington, The Washington Monument. It was commissioned and designed by German sculptor Rudolf Siemering and the bronze and granite sculpture features a uniformed George Washington mounted on a horse poised on top of the fountain. However, I was more captivated by the sculpture around the base of the fountain. How often do you see elk and bison depicted in sculpture?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

In Tribute

Vietnam Veterans Memorial is the most emotional of the monuments on the National Mall. It might be because this monument honors the most recent conflict compared to the other ones which honor older veterans from World War II and Korean War. The main element of this memorial is the reflective wall with the 58,175 names of military service members lost during the conflict. The wall is made of two black granite walls in which you can see your reflection as you read the names of the men and women who gave their lives during the Vietnam War. Maya Lin, the memorial's architect, wanted the monument to be a personal experience. By seeing your own image among the names, visitors can get a sense that they are not unlike those people on the wall. Like you, those on the wall was someone's child, parent, spouse and/or friend.

Visitors often leave personal tokens and mementos at the wall, like the United States Army 199th Infantry Brigade patch in this photo. Left-behind letters are always difficult to read without crying. If you are unable to visit the memorial on the National Mall, find out when The Moving Wall -- a traveling replica of Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall -- is coming to your area. It's worth visiting and sharing with your family. Just remember to bring tissues.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sitting Among the Blossoms

Wildlife moves too fast, or at least moves too fast for my amateur photography skills. When I spot animals in a photographic position, I usually take too long to compose the shot. While I'm still composing, the animal moves and the moment disappears. So, imagine my surprise two years ago when reviewing my Cherry Blossoms photos, I discovered these two birds beautifully sitting in one of my photos! I remember attempting the shot, but thinking that the final result would probably be blurry or the birds would be looking the wrong direction. Basically, I thought it was a bust. Instead, in the midst of the Cherry Blossom crowds and noise along the Tidal Basin, these birds sat and posed for me. Photography may require skill and a good camera, but photographers need faith and luck as well, to capture fleeting moments like this one.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Solemn Army Gunner

In the fourth position of the Korean War Veterans Memorial stands a depiction of an African American U.S. Army BAR Gunner. Having no idea what a BAR gunner was, I had to look it up. BAR is the acronym for the Browning Automatic Rifle, which was designed to be carried by advancing infantrymen, slung over the shoulder and fired from the hip, otherwise known as "walking fire."

After reading about BAR, it made me think about how technology has so drastically changed warfare. While even one death during war is one too many, imagine what the military casualties would have been in recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan had the military not had the weaponry and advanced protective gear we have now. More than 35,000 U.S. military members were killed during the Korean War in just three years. Since the start of the War of Terror in 2001 on battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq, we've lost nearly 6,000 U.S. military members. That's a significant difference. On the flip side, while advances in technology keeps our service members safer, weapon and warfare advances inevitably create more destruction, cost more civilian lives. I guess the bottom line when it comes to war is that no one really wins, because someone always ends up getting hurt.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lounging Lion

Since starting this blog, I've started carrying my camera around with me. I often can't predict when a photo opportunity will present itself, so I've started to keeping a camera close-by just in case. This photo is a perfect example for my new "always be prepared" photo motto.

While strolling by the Corcoran Gallery of Art near the White House, I noticed that its entrance was flanked by stone lions. I'm very fond of lions. If I could be an animal, I would pick to be a lioness. Even though my zodiac sign is Leo, I think that I would have picked the African Lion as my animal anyway. While lionesses are the primary hunters for their pride, they are collaborators and work in complex teams to accomplish tasks. They are instinctive animals and use their natural instinct to guide them to food sources, as well as alert them to threats. Each day, I strive to embody these traits -- to be a strong leader who works well in teams and listens to my gut instinct for guidance. And like the lounging depiction of these lions at the Corcoran, I hope that in between leading the pride and accomplishing tasks, I too can catch a few siestas here and there.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

At the Ready

Last week, I posted a full view of this Korean War Veterans Memorial statue. Here's a close-up of the Air Ground Controller's right hand holding his M-1/2Carbine weapon.

In my humble opinion (as I am no great art expert), great sculptors of the human figure are artists who can provide minor details or characteristics that add depth or motion to a figure. Looking closely at the statue's hand, I sense the readiness of this soldier and the strength of his grip on his weapon. It's believable that at a moment's notice, he would be able to aim and fire his weapon at the approaching enemy. Even the muscles on the top of his hand appear taut to give us a sense of the tension he must be feeling during his march.

Monday, October 18, 2010


Last fall, I walked several miles on the Mount Vernon Trail between Rosslyn and Alexandria. This section of the trail runs alongside the Potomac River and is lined by beautiful trees and scenery. During autumn, the trees appear to be on fire, with leaves of orange, red and yellow. Right before the leaves fall, there is one last flash of color similar to the flash before a flame goes out.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunbathing Sunflower

Sunflowers are so well-named, don't you think? If the sun was a flower, it would definitely look as colorful and bright as sunflowers. While we move deeper into autumn, I can't help reminiscing about summer's bright sunny days with blooming sunflowers like this one.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Autumn Reflections of Washington Monument

I think that the Washington Monument is probably the most photographed landmark in Washington, DC. In my own DC photos, it's a headliner. So, I'm always trying to find new ways to capture it in photographs. This photo of its reflection in the Tidal Basin is one of my favorites.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Watchful Nurse

There are many memorials scattered throughout Arlington National Cemetery. This 10-foot marble statue -- located in Section 21 of the cemetery -- commemorates nurses who died during military service. Many military nurses are buried in the earth beneath The Nurse's Memorial's gaze. Often we forget the sacrifices of those who care for our service members on the battlefield and the dangers they face as well.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Alert Air Ground Controller

Whenever I visit the Korean War Veterans Memorial, I'm always drawn to this statue in position 11. It depicts a United States Air Force Air Ground Controller carrying a M-1/2Carbine weapon. I often imagine that he is staring off into the distance to watch for enemy aircraft. He rests his weight on his left foot with his right foot slightly raised off the ground as he keeps his watchful gaze on the horizon. I frequently photograph him in the hope I'll catch him one day out of position because he seems so real. So far, no such luck.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Rodin's The Thinker

It was Grandma Winnie who first introduced me to the work of Auguste Rodin. She loved his sculptures. While she wasn't really an art connoisseur, Grandma did appreciate the arts and literature. There was something about how Rodin captured the human figure that seemed to speak to her, and later to me as well.

When visiting Philadelphia for my 30th birthday, I discovered that there was a Rodin Museum near the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Filled with many originals, I loved every minute spent touring the Rodin Museum. His famous "The Thinker" sculpture greeted visitors at the museum's entrance. After taking this photo as we left the museum, I felt a very strong connection with Grandma Winnie even though we were miles apart. As I continue to grieve her loss this year -- she passed away in January at the grand age of 97 -- I know that these shared interests and moments will continue to keep us connected.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Advancing Up the Hill

One of the elements I love about the Korean War Veterans Memorial is how the soldiers appear to be marching up a hill. The memorial's architects created this effect by building tiers in the ground with strips of granite and juniper bushes. Even the positioning of their bodies demonstrate their motion up the hill. It makes the statues seem so alive.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Purple Sunrise

This photograph is the first photo I've posted of the blooming Cherry Blossom trees around the Tidal Basin. I've been holding back. I'm obssessed with photographing the Cherry Blossoms each spring. Since moving to DC in 2005, I've spent at least 2-3 days each spring walking around the Tidal Basin in late March/early April and taking hundreds of photos of these breathtaking blossoms. Over time, I've developed the following Cherry Blossom rituals: track the peak bloom date, avoid weekends and always go at sunrise.

This photo of a lone Cherry Blossom branch backlit by a purple sunrise is one of my all time favorite photos. No color enhancement was necessary for this image; nature provided it all. It made trekking to the National Mall on a cold, dark morning on a work day worth it.

Be prepared. This post is only the beginning. There will be many more Cherry Blossom posts to come.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Summer Reading

George Washington is known for many things -- creating a stellar military career, being the first President of the United States, wearing a set of wooden teeth. What you may not know is that he also had a fantastic backyard.

From his porch at Mount Vernon, his home in Alexandria, Washington enjoyed this spectacular view of the Potomac River. It was the beloved home of George and Martha Washington from the time of their marriage in 1759 until his death in 1799. Washington once said of Mount Vernon: "No estate in United America is more pleasantly situated than this." I wonder if the Washingtons also lounged on this lawn, like the young woman reading here, looking over the river on a similar summer afternoon.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Water and Light

Last year, while waiting for the Metrolink train at Union Station in Los Angeles, I strolled over to newly restored courtyard and discovered this fountain. There was something about how the morning light seemed to dance with the fountain's falling water. It was captivating. Capturing rushing water is a challenge for photographers, however I love the combination of water and light in this close-up image.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Court of Neptune Fountain

If you ever visit Washington, DC, you should make time to visit the Library of Congress which is located across the street from Capitol Hill. Its decorated interiors are spectacular and full of rich symbolism and American history. Before visitors even step into the Thomas Jefferson Building, visitors are greeted by a large fountain depicting Roman god of the sea Neptune's court. This 55-foot long fountain by American sculptor and painter Roland Hinton Perry is reminiscent of the Trevi Fountain in Rome. While falling water may be the only real sound to be heard when visiting the fountain, the realistic depiction of this herald blowing on conch shell helps spectators imagine his silent tribute.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Guarded Rifleman

As I mentioned earlier this week, each Tuesday and Thursday in October and November, I will be posting a new photo from last fall's photo excursion to the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Located near the Lincoln Memorial and tucked away from the main National Mall thoroughfare sits this monument in tribute to the U.S. and U.N. soldiers who served in Korean War.

Often the grandness and emotion of its monument neighbors -- the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial -- draw visitors away. However, the Korean War Veterans Memorial is quietly grand and emotional in its own way. Its focus is the 19 larger than life-sized stainless steel statues of a squad on patrol in full combat gear. Each branch of the military is depicted here as they climb the simulated rugged terrain of Korea. In position 16, this statue depicts a Army Rifleman carrying a M-1 Garand Rifle. While from this vantage point, his helmet hides his eyes, his tense body is able to express what his guarded face cannot.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Big Blue Sky

Silhouettes of trees against a bright blue sky. What a combination! While in Seattle, I happened to look up at the sky and was struck by the juxtaposition of these darkened trees against such a clear, bright blue sky. The sun shining through the wispy clouds in the left top corner of the image adds "a touch of God" to the photo. How I wish our days were filled with more skies like this one. It's the kind of sky that makes you want to find a nice piece of grass to lay on and just watch the sky all day long.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Korean War Veterans Memorial in Fall

In my first photography class in college, one of our assignments was to select one object and take pictures of it from 20 different perspectives. Each photo needed to be completely different in order to be counted. After taking about 12 unique photos of a garden fountain, I began believing that this assignment was too easy. Then, I got to photo #13. Creating a new perspective of a subject I had been filming for at least an hour became very challenging. After 20 minutes in vain, frustration set in; the new photos started looking like the older ones and I was still stuck on photo #13.

Then, I remembered something the professor had shared when he gave the assignment. In order to complete this task, we would have to become inventive and creative. Through our camera's viewfinder, we would have to find new ways to see this object. We needed to keep moving the camera, lens and ourselves and adjust the focus and distance to uncover the hidden aspects of the fountain which would be missed by convention alone. By changing our perspective of the subject, we transform and reinvent it for the photo's viewer. Once I altered my perspective, I took photo #13. And after another hour, I completed the assignment. My final photos were the best of the bunch. It taught me how to become a photographer who invents new ways to film a subject and as a result, generates more interesting photographs.

As one will note on this blog so far, I love revisiting subjects. Each visit with an inventive, creative spirit and camera viewfinder, I'm able to always discover something new about a familiar subject. Last year on a crisp Autumn morning at dawn, I ventured to the National Mall to photograph my Mom's favorite memorial -- the Korean War Veterans Memorial -- for her Christmas gift. Using this same photographic tactic, I rediscovered the beauty of a monument I had visited many times before. The resulting photos are some of the best I've ever taken. Each Tuesday and Thursday during October and November, I'll be posting a new photo from that session. As a starting point, today's post is the standard postcard shot of the memorial. Hopefully by the end of November, you'll see this memorial in a new way too.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Tudor House Fountain

Ah, the peacefulness of a garden fountain. Wouldn't it be great if your backyard looked like this one? And if you are an apartment dweller like me, don't you wish you even had a backyard?

Ever since Alan, Charlie and Tommy from BBC's Ground Force entered my life, I can only refer to garden fountains by its British and rightful name -- water features. Fountains, like this one at Tudor Place Historic House and Garden in Georgetown, delightfully add sound and movement to outside places. Its sound and motion are symbolic of life, always moving and constant.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hello Mr. Lincoln

The Lincoln Memorial is everyone's default favorite monument on the National Mall. It's easy to understand why. One can't help but be moved by the large marble statue of President Lincoln sitting and looking over the Reflecting Pool. The monument is even more impressive at night, which was when I took this close-up. I love the solemnity in his face.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Arch, Framed

After visiting the St. Louis Gateway Arch at the riverfront, we explored the surrounding neighborhood looking for a great BBQ place for lunch. As we crossed a street, I turned to my left and saw this image. The buildings along the street beautifully framed the arch and created a great long distance image. It's one of my favorites from this trip.

Friday, October 1, 2010

St. Louis Gateway Arch

Around this time last year, I visited St. Louis for the first time to volunteer at the Farm Aid concert. On a side note, Farm Aid is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. To learn why helping America's family farmers and growing the good food movement is so important, watch this video.

Now back to the photo ... Before returning to DC, I had a few hours to see the city. Of course, I headed straight for the St. Louis Gateway Arch. After spending about an hour photographing the arch, I was unable to take a photo with the whole arch in the frame. The structure was so large that probably the best way to get it all in one frame would be by air. This photograph was the best I could manage from the ground. It's an incredible structure in person and worth the trip to the riverfront before heading to the airport.