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.