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.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Honoring Veterans

Americans today celebrate Veterans Day to honor the men and women who served in the military today and in the past. Originally this observance marked another occasion, Armistice Day, where the United States and other nations stopped to acknowledge the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. President Woodrow Wilson, who ordered the observance of Armistice Day, hoped it would be a celebration of world peace, a celebration of WWI being the first and final World War.

But a shoe store owner in Kansas in the 1950s felt that Armistice Day was limited. Alfred King campaigned Congress to expand Armistice Day in the United States and honor all military veterans, not just those who served in the first World War. In 1954, Congress with the support of President Dwight D. Eisenhower turned Armistice Day into today's Veterans Day.

While the National Mall has many striking structures to pay daily tribute to the sacrifices and service of those who serve in uniform, Veterans Day reminds us to thank family members, friends, coworkers and neighbors for their role in protecting our borders and freedoms. Although they often stand watch alone, Veterans Day reminds veterans and our nation that we are standing with them as well.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Here Comes the Sun

Maybe I shouldn't out myself, but I love taking photos of the sun peaking out from behind trees. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, out comes my camera to capture the bright spot of sunlight between branches. My fascination is similar to photographers who love photographing sun rays through clouds or spectacular sunrises or sunsets. While a challenging shot to compose and light correctly, the bright spot in the image serves as visual proof of Creator's presence in that moment, illuminating the beauty of the scene for my camera.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


At the top of the Korean War Veterans Memorial is a small reflecting pond encircled by a grove of trees. The Pool of Remembrance is lined with black granite with inscriptions listing the numbers killed, wounded, missing in action, and held as prisoners of war during the conflict. in this image, the pond's stillness and reflection of the trees deceive the eye, confusing reality with reflection.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Serenity Now

We've all had those blood pressure-raising days when we feel compelled to yell to the universe "Serenity now!!" as Frank Costanza often did on the TV show, Seinfeld. When shouting out loud isn't possible, I try to remove myself from the stressful situation and relocate to an environment which brings serenity and peace. For me, one of those peaceful places is Arlington National Cemetery.

While there is much sadness at Arlington, especially in newer Section 60 where our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are laid to rest, the cemetery's silence is soothing to a weary soul. After a long week, strolling through the cemetery's beautifully landscaped scenery brings solace and calm to my frayed nerves. Even watching the Honor Guard guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is calming. In my office at work, I framed the image above of Arlington National Cemetery in autumn and placed it on the wall near my computer and telephone. During stressful moments, I look up and remember the solace and peace of this sacred burial ground, lowering my blood pressure and helping me refocus on the challenge at hand.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Autumn in Annapolis

For those unfamiliar with Maryland, its capital, Annapolis, is just a short 50-minute drive from where I live. It's one of my favorite places to visit due to its old colonial-style buildings and homes; unique shops and delicious seafood restaurants. Annapolis is also home to the picturesque United States Naval Academy. In fall, the old town Annapolis is a lovely spot for a stroll, especially the area near The Maryland State House pictured above.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Scattered Leaves on the National Mall

Winter is coming and I'm not happy about it. It has been pretty chilly in Washington, DC this week. It was the first time this season, I've had to wear a winter coat every day to work. Needing winter coats, scarves and gloves to stay warm is the first indication that autumn is coming to a close and winter with its snow, ice and wind chill is on the horizon. Urgh.

In memory and in observance of the passing of autumn, I'm going to keep posting my autumn-related photos. I'm going to take an "if you build it, they will come" approach to holding winter at bay a little longer. This photo of a lone tree near the Washington Monument with its autumn leaves scattered on the ground is one of my favorites from last year's autumn photo expeditions.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Tree in Yellow

The Washington, DC metro area is known for its scenic drives. During fall, my favorite drive is the George Washington Memorial Parkway. In between Key Bridge and the Beltway, GW Parkway is lined with trees on one side and the Potomac River on the other. In autumn, it is hard to pay attention when driving due to the distraction of so many beautiful trees with their yellow, red and orange leaves. Thankfully, Potomac Overlook Regional Park allows visitors to walk through these trees and enjoy views like this one without endangering ourselves and other drivers.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Honoring Korean War Veterans

One of the inscriptions at the Korean War Veterans Memorial reads:
"Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met."
Unlike the other war memorials on the National Mall, the Korean War Veterans Memorial is full of life, a fitting tribute to those it is meant to honor. The statues, like the one in this post, are active, moving elements of the memorial. The statues are talking, gesturing and/or interacting with each other on their morning march. It was as if these men were frozen in time, right in the middle of their routine during the war. While many military men and women did not survive this conflict, they once lived. War memorials should celebrate that as well.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Lone Sailor

Keeping watch over the United States Navy Memorial in Washington, DC is The Lone Sailor. This bronze sculpture is a tribute to all personnel of the sea services. I love this quote about the sculpture:
"You would want this guy at your battle station when it's not a drill," former Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Billy C. Sanders says of The Lone Sailor©. "He is the classic American sailor. That statue looks like bronze, but there is plenty of salt, paint, sweat, fuel oil and courage stirred in." 
Replicas of this statue also watch over 12 locations throughout the United States in such places as Connecticut, South Carolina, California and Illinois. He looks so life-like especially when you examine his face.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Unexpected Trees

All of the Korean War Veterans Memorial photos I've been featuring on the blog in October and November were all taken on a crisp, clear autumn morning last year. The light was perfect and each photographic moment felt surprising and new, even though I had filmed this memorial many times before.

This image of the red-leafed trees reflected in the memorial wall was unexpected. Only a moment before, I had taken a shot of the statues reflected in the wall. Then I shifted body and the camera slightly, the statues disappeared and were replaced by the trees surrounding the memorial. It's amazing what a little shift in perspective can do.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Daylight Moon

While walking through Potomac Overlook Regional Park on Sunday enjoying the autumn leaves, I looked up and noticed that the moon was still in the sky. Luckily, I found the perfect vantage point to capture it with my camera and this photograph is the result.