Monday, February 28, 2011

Forest Reflection

During my Sunday morning walk around Burke Lake, I was enthralled by the stillness of the water. Due to the lack of wind and birds, the lake water held few ripples, thus turning into a mirror clearly reflecting its surroundings. At times, the reflection was so crisp that it was difficult through the camera lens to discern where the real forest and sky ended and its lake reflection began.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tulip Gazing

Yesterday's post featured a higher view of the blooming tulips near the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan Metro station. When I lowered my camera and moved closer, I got a completely different perspective. Instead of a sea of tulips, from this vantage point, the camera lens captured a forest of tulips. This must be what a dog or cat might see when walking through a tulip garden.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sea of Tulips

Metro station entrances and exits in the DC metro area are not known for being attractive. However, I was pleasantly surprised a few years ago when I exited the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan Metro station and was greeted by this sea of blooming tulips.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Lily Pond

Botanic gardens (which you can find almost anywhere) are great locations for flower photography, however landscape photographers can find ideal subjects for their work there as well. Botanic or botanical gardens display its flowers and plants in their natural habitats, thus creating multiple unique gardens in one location. Garden visitors can travel from a lily pond scene to a sparse desert landscape in just a few steps.

In my photography course in college, we had to create for our final project a series of images connected by a single theme. Since I loved photographing natural landscapes, I chose landscapes as my theme. However, I didn't have the time to travel to multiple locations to photograph five completely different scenes. My solution? I made one trip to The Huntington Library in Pasadena, California, which features 14 different themed gardens. I was able to complete my entire class assignment in one afternoon and enjoyed the beauty and versatility of botanic gardens.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Color Variations

A week from today, the National Parks Service will reveal the peak bloom date of the Cherry Blossoms on the National Mall. I can't wait! While I know spring means allergies and sneezing, it also prompts the arrival of the breathtaking blooms I look forward to all year long.

This March and April will be particularly fruitful photography months for me. Besides photographing the Cherry Blossoms, tulips and Blossom Kite Festival, I will also be journeying to Hawaii and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the first time and bringing my camera along. So, stay tuned for some spectacular vistas. I know I said this earlier, but it is worth repeating -- I can't wait!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Oh Canada!

No, this photograph was not taken in Canada. Hopefully, visits to America's northern neighbor will be in my future, but this photograph was actually taken of the Canadian Embassy and the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC. The Newseum is right next door to the Canadian Embassy, so from its observation deck, you can see both the embassy and the Capitol. Without the proper context and only seeing Canadian flags in this vista, viewers might assume that this image was taken in Ottawa instead of the District of Columbia. I love that we keep our Canadian friends so close to our government and definitely makes for a memorable photograph.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Snack Time with Giant Pandas

The highlight of my visit to the National Zoo this weekend was getting to see giant pandas. I missed seeing the pandas at the San Diego Zoo in December due to the ridiculous long lines to enter the exhibit. So, I made a point of hanging around the one at the National Zoo to catch a glimpse of their giant pandas, Mei Xiang or Tian Tian.

Patience and persistence paid off and during snack time, I photographed both pandas enjoying their popsicle treats close to the enclosure's railing. I joined the throng of their delighted fans crowding the railings to get a better look. Not sure whether the panda in today's photograph is Mei Xiang or Tian Tian, but I enjoyed observing and photographing both of them during their snack break.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Eyes of the Tiger

Remember the rock song, "Eye of the Tiger," by Survivor? For several seasons of Charter Oak High School football, it was played to welcome the team on the field. Now, I can't look at tigers without thinking of that song. Although this Sumatran tiger's gaze did temporarily distract my memory on Saturday at the National Zoo. 

Looking through the camera's viewfinder, the tiger's eyes appeared black. I was so pleased to see that in the final image, the tiger's eyes appeared golden amber. It just shows that sometimes instinct is a better guide for photography than what appears on your camera's viewfinder or LCD screen.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Lion King Moment

Yesterday, I braved the high winds (60 miles an hour in places, believe it or not) and visited the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park, or the National Zoo, for the first time. It's strange that it took more than five years to get me to the zoo in DC, but when I finally visited, I was not disappointed.

When I explored the San Diego Zoo in December, the lions (my favorite mammal) refused to be photographed. They spent my entire visit with their backs to my camera. This was not the case for the African lion, Luke, at the National Zoo. He seemed drawn to me and posed multiple times. His position in this photo with the wind blowing his mane reminded me of the final scene in Disney's The Lion King when adult Simba takes his place at the top of Pride Rock. I lingered at the Great Cats area, captivated. Luke's stare was almost hypnotic. While I just missed seeing the new lion cubs, it was still a very fruitful afternoon with the lions.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Like Cotton Candy

With my allergies telling me that spring is just around the corner, I'm starting to get excited for this year's National Cherry Blossom Festival. The two-week festival is always scheduled for the same time every year -- the last week in March through the first week in April. While the National Parks Service uses a variable science to determine when the Cherry Blossoms will bloom, peak bloom seems to line up perfectly with the festival celebrations each year. I can't wait to schedule my early morning walks beneath the blooming Cherry Blossom canopy, which I find resemble pink and white cotton candy at peak bloom.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Single Bloom

Although the National Mall region is known for its Cherry Blossoms, there are other types of blooming trees in the area as well. I'm not sure what this blooming tree is called, but during my spring visits, I take many photographs of these dark pink and purple blossoms. This tree is located in the beautiful James Mason Memorial on the south side of the Tidal Basin. The garden is a tribute to Mason, a founding father who attended the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and authored the Virginia Declaration of Rights.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tidal Basin at Sunset

Practicing photography around the National Mall can be overwhelming. There are so many interesting landmarks and subjects to include in a photograph regardless of where you point your camera lens. As a result, it can be difficult to edit the composition so the resulting image is not cluttered. For example, today's photograph features three distinctive elements of the National Mall region -- the Washington Monument, the Tidal Basin and a blooming Cherry Blossom tree. The challenge for photographers in this situation is determining how best to set up the composition so that the subjects complement each other. To accomplish this feat, I decided to use the rule of thirds and place the monument and the Cherry Blossoms in opposing thirds to create balance in the final image. Also, I kept the water of the Tidal Basin level as to not disrupt the balance achieved by the other two elements. The final product is a calming, reflective photograph that captures the iconic nature of the National Mall, yet promotes the peacefulness of the area at sunset as well.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Snowy Sidewalk

In my neighborhood, winter is passing into spring. Just ask my allergies. While I'm happy that our sidewalks are no longer covered in snow and ice, I'll miss the interesting patterns and scenes created by winter weather. However at the same time, I'm looking forward to spring's beauty.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Creepy Cactus

Golden Rat Tail Cactus is pretty creepy-looking in person. It is native to South America and the United States Botanic Garden displays a specimen of it. I'm not fond of insects, so anything that has insect-like qualities is disturbing. Since this cactus appears like tentacles crawling along the ground, I'm not a fan. However, it does make an interesting subject for photographs.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Purple Tulip

Happy Valentine's Day! Today is a celebration of all kinds of love -- love of significant others, love of family, love of friends. But today we should also celebrate loving one's self. Without self-love, we will never truly be able to love others or feel their love. The Rascal Flatts song, "Bless the Broken Road," best summarizes this life journey to be able to love ourselves and love others. Basically, every success and misstep is worthwhile and leads us to where we are today.

I wish you a Valentine's Day where you are overwhelmed by love. If that's not the case, please don't give up. Continue down life's road with a open, loving heart. Much love, happiness and joy await.
"Bless the Broken Road"
by Rascal Flatts

I set out on a narrow way many years ago
Hoping I would find true love along the broken road
But I got lost a time or two
Wiped my brow and kept pushing through
I couldn't see how every sign pointed straight to you

Every long lost dream led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart they were like Northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you

I think about the years I spent just passing through
I'd like to have the time I lost and give it back to you
But you just smile and take my hand
You've been there you understand
It's all part of a grander plan that is coming true

Every long lost dream led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart they were like Northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you

Now I'm just rolling home
Into my lover's arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you

That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

At the End of Pennsylvania Avenue NW

We are so focused on the famous residence located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW that we forget there is another important building at the end of this street, the United States Capitol building. Yesterday, I visited another Pennsylvania Avenue NW address, the Newseum -- a fantastic interactive museum of news with behind-the-scenes views of how and why news is made. I took this photo of the U.S. Capitol at the end of the street from their amazing observation deck. It is such a majestic, iconic structure and it actually does sit on a hill overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue NW and the National Mall. One of these days, I'm going to need to arrange a tour of the building. I would love to see and photograph its famous rotunda.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Meet Poopsie

So Valentine's Day came a little early at my house. Meet Poopsie, the Build-A-Bear Workshop puppy that my family put together for me for Valentine's Day. Super cute, right? I'm pretty sure that my sister was the mastermind behind this gift.

Before I even saw Miss Poopsie in the shipping box, I was greeted by a Valentine's Day card from my mom sharing her hope that Poopsie would "create many lighthearted moments, bring smiles to your face, and most importantly, always remind you that you are very loved." [I'm tearing up again while retyping.] As if this wasn't enough, the gift also included photographs (probably taken by my sister) of Mom building Poopsie at Build-A-Bear Workshop. [More tears again.] It just goes to show that the best gifts are the ones that are made with love and reflect our talents. Mom is a beautiful, thoughtful writer and I've treasured all of her cards. My sister has a remarkable eye for photography and I've already placed some of these photos on my refrigerator. All in all, this Valentine's Day is looking up after receiving one of the best gifts ever.

If you're wondering why this stuffed animal was named Poopsie by my mother, it's her nickname for us kids. But when we were growing up, she was forbidden from using it in public because it was so embarrassing. I still remember seeing Disney's The Little Mermaid at the movie theater with her and Mom getting so excited when Ursula referred to her eels as her "poopsies." I think I got bruises on my arm from Mom repeatedly jabbing me in her excitement. However, I did point out at the time that it was the evil sea queen that used the term. After this thoughtful gift though, I think I need to give Mom a break on the Poopsie thing.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Winter on the National Mall

Although often mistaken by tourists for a national shopping mall, the National Mall is actually home to our nation's historic monuments, such as the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Spanning from the U.S Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial and bordered by Independence and Constitution avenues, this open-area national park covers more than 300 acres.

But, the National Mall contains more than just national monuments. Along its 1.9 mile length are many of the Smithsonian museums and art galleries, as well as scenic gardens, ponds, paths and trees. The area is so large that at times, like in today's image, the iconic symbols of the area are not visible. At times when strolling through parts of the National Mall, you might forget that you are in the nation's capital. Until you turn a corner or arrive at a clearing, all of the National Mall's majesty will be at your feet and there is no mistaking where you are. However, the National Mall is in dire need of repairs. Visit the Trust for the National Mall to find out more information about how you can help restore this historic park and preserve its beauty for future generations.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Inducing Happiness

Aren't these cheery flowers? I feel so happy when I look at them. I took this photograph at the United States Botanic Gardens near the U.S. Capitol several years ago. Now, it happily hangs on my wall in my apartment.

While we often photograph subjects that inspire us or intrigue us or even sadden us, we should also take photos of things that just make us happy. Those happiness-inducing images could be of people we love, but it could also be places or things that bring us joy as well. Yesterday on my way to work, I saw the most beautiful sunrise and it filled my heart with great joy. I'm still kicking myself that I did not have my camera with me to capture it for later viewings.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Focused Beaver

I've debated about whether I wanted to post this photograph. In spite of capturing my first sighting of a beaver meticulously gathering materials to build a dam in Rock Creek, the image makes me very sad. Look at the human debris around the beaver. The creek water and banks were littered with paper, plastic bottles and other trash. From a distance, the scene appeared serene and beautiful with white snow resting on the ground and tree branches. Upon closer inspection, however, you discover that the snow hid evidence of our contaminating presence in this beaver's neighborhood. The focused behavior of this beaver demonstrated how animals have  adapted to our destructive presence in their space and try to live with the waste we leave behind.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Seeing What's Coming

Here's another example of how a switch in perspective can change a photograph's story. The Lincoln in Bronze statue is located in a circle in front of the cottage at Soldiers' Home, allowing visitors to walk around and appreciate the statue from different perspectives. As I photographed the statue, I took photos from every angle. This is one of my favorite photos from my Soldiers' Home visit. It tells the story of Lincoln just arriving home on his horse, Old Bob, and looking expectantly off into the distance, perhaps his son greeting his arrival or the somber future ahead.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Old Bob

When the Lincolns lived at Soldiers' Home, President Lincoln would often travel to the White House for meetings and other engagements. Washington, DC was still a young city at that time and the president would travel by horseback on his trusty horse, Old Bob. During Lincoln's state funeral in Illinois in 1865, Old Bob followed his casket as the riderless horse, symbolizing a fallen warrior who will never ride again.

It's sweet that they included Old Bob in this bronze statue of Lincoln at Soldiers' Home. Relationships between riders and their horses can be special, unique friendships. I'm sure on their solitary rides to and from Soldiers' Home, Old Bob helped carry the burden of worry, war and sadness that weighed down on Lincoln's shoulders.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Soldiers' Home

The cottage at Soldiers' Home was a refuge for the Lincolns during President Lincoln's first term in the White House. This house is one of several buildings that now make up one of America's oldest veteran military retirement homes that was first established in 1851. Lincoln wasn't the only president to reside here. Several presidents -- Chester Arthur, Rutherford B. Hayes, and James Buchanan -- all used Soldiers' Home as a summer retreat to avoid Washington, DC's oppressive humidity and heat due to its higher elevation in the city.

However, Lincoln stayed here the longest -- spending at least one fourth of his presidency at the cottage. His time at Soldiers' Home gave Lincoln the opportunity to visit with the wounded Union soldiers being treated there during the Civil War, as well as the peace and solitude to focus on important executive orders, such as the writing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which proclaimed the freedom of more than 3 million slaves in the United States.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Lincoln in Bronze

Life in Washington, DC was difficult for President Abraham Lincoln and his family. Just months after becoming the 16th President of the United States, the southern states seceded and America's union of states was broken. As if dealing with a civil war was not enough, in his third son Willie died of fever in 1862. Lost in their grief, the Lincolns fled the confusion of the White House for a more peaceful life at a cottage at Soldiers' Home in northeast DC. The Lincolns lived there for more than a year and President Lincoln would travel between the cottage and the White House on horseback.

Today, the Lincoln's cottage at Soldiers' Home has been restored and in tribute to Lincoln, this bronze statue of the president and his faithful horse, Old Bob, greet visitors. Lincoln was such a remarkable man. Even though he must have felt as if the sky was always falling, he still found the determination and ways to move himself, his family and our fragile nation forward.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Shadows in the Snow

Did you ever consider the opportunities the ground at our feet offers for great photographs? Often, we focus our camera lens on just what is in front of of us or above us and miss photo options by not looking down.

During my stroll through Rock Creek Park, I admired and photographed the snowscapes all around me, not bothering to capture images of just the snow on the ground. Right before leaving, I looked down and caught a glimpse of the trees' shadows scattered across the snow. "What a cool image!" I thought and started taking pictures. Unexpectedly, this image became my favorite from my Rock Creek Park visit.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ice Swimming, Anyone?

Due to freezing temperatures, I didn't expect to see any wildlife walking around Rock Creek Park during my visit last weekend. However, in spite of the weather, these ducks decided to take a swim in the icy creek. All I can say is better them than me. Just the frigid wind alone would have sent me into hibernation.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sunlight in Rock Creek Park

Virginia and Maryland are known for their forests while DC is known for its monuments and classic architecture. However, the District also boasts a beautiful forested area as well called Rock Creek Park. Surrounded by residential neighborhoods and located near the center of the city, Rock Creek Park offers visitors winding roads, creeks, stone bridges, wildlife, horse stables and of course, scenic treescapes. Luckily, my first visit to the area followed a snowstorm, and thus I was able to enjoy the sunlight cascading through the trees and reflecting off the snow-covered ground. Looking at scenes like this one just makes me want breathe deeply and savor the chilly, yet crisp air.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Adams Memorial

Whereas yesterday's post featured a more joyful headstone at Rock Creek Cemetery, the site is known for a more solemn tribute, the Adams Memorial grave marker. American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens created this bronzed seated figure of a woman cloaked in cloth named The Mystery of the Hereafter and The Peace of God that Passeth Understanding. It was commissioned by historian and author Henry Adams -- a direct descendant of Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams -- as a memorial to his wife, Marian, who by died by completing suicide after suffering from depression following her father's passing.

I first came across this haunting sculpture at the Smithsonian American Art Museum which exhibits a replica of the statue. However, I was unprepared for the emotion of seeing it at Rock Creek. Even before learning the sad story behind its creation, I felt such melancholy reverberating from the memorial. In spite of Saint-Gaudens official title for the work, the gravestone understandably became known as Grief to spectators. At Rock Creek, the statue is seated in front of a granite block surrounded by large hedges and a granite bench. The design sets it apart from the other graves and envelops itself in sorrow. During my visit, I wondered if Adams commissioned the bench for his visits to his wife's grave. Since then, I've read that Adams spent the remaining three decades of his life traveling the world following his wife's death and probably spent little time in Rock Creek. Adams died at the age of 80 and is interred with Marian beneath this statue.