Thursday, March 31, 2011

Almost Sunset

This was the closest I got to capturing a Hawaiian sunset during my stay on Kaua'i. I took today's post facing the Na Pali Coast from the Hanalei Bay Resort. Due to the rain clouds in the sky, the sun's rays appear to be exploding as it dips behind the Na Pali Coast's cliffs. There are no roads along this coastline, so to see this stunning and rugged site, visitors must either hike through it, sail along it or fly over it. The fifteen-mile stretch of Na Pali coastline on Kaua'i's northwest shore literally means "the Cliffs," due to the sheer cliffs that drop straight down thousands of feet into the Pacific. It was such a spectacular sight watching this kaleidoscope of colors reflect off of the clouds, mountains and water to create this beautiful sunset painting in the sky.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pink Plumeria

Growing up in California spoils you when it comes to tropical plants and flowers. While the state is not as tropical an environment as the Hawaiian islands, California landscaping includes such tropical flowers as hibiscus, bougainvillea, and orchids typically found at island locales like Hawai'i. As a result, I did not photograph many of these flowers during my Kaua'i vacation, since I am able to capture them in pictures on the mainland. Instead, I sought out unusual flowers which became quite a challenge to find during my stay on the island. After visiting Queens Bath, I came across these hot pink plumeria flowers near the parking lot. I loved how they seemed to soak in the sunlight and shine brightly in its high tree perch.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Wailua Falls in Kaua'i

Feeding the Wailua River near the East Shore of Kaua'i, Wailua Falls' claim to fame was for being featured in the opening credits of the 1970s television show, "Fantasy Island." While the pool below the  looked tempting, we avoided temptation and instead, marveled at these twin 80-foot falls from above. The trails to the pool are steep and slippery when wet and offers visitors a treacherous journey to the base of the falls. In ancient times, Hawaaian men would prove their manhood by diving off its cliff. Thankfully, no one attempted these feat during our visit.

The authors of The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook: Kauai Revealed (which I highly recommend, by the way) measured the falls themselves and disagreed with the official 80-ft height measurement. They claim that the Wailua Falls are actually 173-feet tall. After seeing it in person, I would side with the shorter measurement, but regardless of the falls' actual height, it is still a breathtaking sight.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Hanalei Bay

Can you imagine a more beautiful backdrop for a wedding ceremony? When we arrived to our friends' wedding site at the Hanalei Bay Resort, my breath caught at the panoramic view of Hanalei Bay before us. Towering mountains with majestic waterfalls, lush foilage, and pristine beaches surround the bay and in the right light, the water sparkles. Although a rouge rain cloud dropped rain sprinkles on the wedding party, the scene provided such an incredible setting for this special ceremony. Watching my friends commit to each other enveloped by this heavenly-designed environment was so moving that I spent most of the time brushing away tears along with the rain drops. However, I never allowed my tears or rain to prevent me from enjoying the tropical scene around me.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Hawaiian Girl

During my Hawaiian vacation, I took photographs of almost everything. I used my camera to capture memories of this special trip. The only thing that I stopped short of doing was taking pictures of the food I ate. Even I have to draw the line somewhere.

While waiting to take my island hopper flight from Oahu airport to my vacation final destination, Kaua'i, I took photographs of the Hawaiian Airlines plane that would take us there. Of all of the airline logos, Hawaiian Airlines most typifies its brand and communicates to its passengers the beauty and peace of Hawai'i's aloha. Before even arriving in Kaua'i, I was already living aloha and feeling as Hawaiian as the striking woman illustrated in the Hawaiian Airlines logo on the tail of their planes.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Unusual Sunset

During my stay on Kaua'i, I tried multiple times to photograph the famous Hawaiian sunset. However after ten days on the island, the sunset photograph proved elusive. I was just never in the right place on the island at sunset time. To still capitalize on these moments, I would try to find alternative ways to capture sunset without the typical multi-colored streaks in the sky. I loved how the Po'ipu coast appeared in silhouette as the sun set; another byproduct of sunset in the Hawaiian islands.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Real Black Swan

While Natalie Portman may have won the Academy Award for Best Actress this year for portraying a black swan, she had nothing on the performance of this real black swan at the Grand Hyatt Kaua'i Resort and Spa in Po'ipu. As if it knew it was being photographed, the swan struck one pose after another, including this iconic swan position, for my camera. After I took one photograph, the swan would move into another position to be photographed. Perhaps a trained swan model was all part of the Grand Hyatt's plan to create a surreal tropical destination for its guests or maybe this black swan just knows how to milk an encore.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Big Waves

After a slippery hike down to Princeville's rocky coast in Kaua'i, I was treated to this spectacular view. This area is called Queen's Bath and consists of swimming pools of water surrounded by black lava rocks along the shoreline. Due to high winds, the surf was wild and high, generating large sprays of water as the waves pounded Queen's Bath. It was an amazing sight, but the power and height of the waves made you want to stay as far away from the cliffs as possible. Many visitors have been washed out to sea by standing to close to the edge when an unexpected wave washed over the rocks and lava pools. Don't worry; I took this photograph from a safe distance from these big waves.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Waimea Canyon in Perspective

Once again, I was reminded of the adage: when in doubt, always listen to the wisdom of others.

During a visit to the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific" -- Waimea Canyon -- on Kaua'i yesterday, I struggled to capture its breadth and expanse with my camera. While the human eye understood the huge size and awesomeness of the canyon, my photographs of its ridges and valleys just did not seem to paint the whole picture. So one of my travel companions, who is a great photographer himself, suggested that I include dreaded people in my photograph to provide the needed perspective. Now, you are all familiar with how I intensely dislike including people in my nature photographs, however, out of desperation to get a good shot before leaving the canyon, I allowed a few of the tourists on the observation deck into the image. The resulting photograph, and today's post, provides viewers with enough visual cues to understand why travelers are in awe of this tremendous sight.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Multi-colored Ocean

What incredible colors the ocean can contain! Yesterday, Kaua'i dwellers were treated to jewel-toned colors in their ocean views. I'm so used to the dark blue and green surf off the coast of California that I was surprised and delighted by Kaua'i's bright blue-green water. In these Pacific waters, swimmers, boaters and surfers move through translucent waves. Ah, what bliss!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Paradise by Design

Photographs of natural tropical scenes will be forthcoming on the blog, however, I could not resist sharing this image taken at the Hanalei Bay Resort. Even paradise by human design can be stunning as well. The resort was the location for my friend's wedding this past weekend and it overlooked the beautiful Hanalei Bay. If I didn't have a wedding to attend, I would have found my way to this alcove for some sun and relaxation.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

In Honor of Great Uncle Bob

My Grandma Winnie had only one sibling, Bob, and during World War II, he served as a Navy submariner on the U.S.S. Bowfin, also known as the Pearl Harbor avenger. It was such a treat visiting the World War II Valor in the Pacific memorial this week and getting to see his submarine in person. Another treat -- seeing Great Uncle Bob's name included on a crew roster plaque near the vessel. The Bowfin was launched one year to the day of the Pearl Harbor attacks and played an important role during the Pacific offensive against the Empire of Japan.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

U.S.S. Arizona Anchor

Before traveling to Kaua'i, I visited Oahu for a day just to visit the World War II Valor in the Pacific memorial where the U.S.S. Arizona memorial is located. A longtime WWII history buff, I could not resist the opportunity to visit Pearl Harbor where the surprise attack by the Japanese occurred and prompted the United States to enter the war. More than 2,000 people died during the attacks, including more than a thousand sailors on the U.S.S. Arizona alone. While I didn't make it out to see the memorial over the sunken battleship in the harbor, I did get to visit the exhibits and displays, which included this anchor from the Arizona. While other visitors photographed the anchor from the front, I loved this perspective with the sun behind it.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Rooster Country

This week, I'm visiting rooster country, otherwise known as the island of Kaua'i in Hawai'i. Thankfully, a dear college friend's wedding has brought me to Hawai'i at last. It is as beautiful in person as I imagined, but there are roosters everywhere. I had heard rumors about early morning wake-up calls from wandering roosters, but after my arrival to Kaua'i, I was overwhelmed by the number strolling around town. Initially, this rooster in the Costco parking lot was sitting on the ground and appeared ready to be photographed. However, when my camera came out, the rooster got up and saluted me with his behind. Who would have known that Kaua'i roosters have diva-like tendencies.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bronzed Sandal

Another interesting characteristic of the Albert Einstein statue near the National Mall -- Einstein is depicted wearing sandals. I don't think that I have ever seen another sculpture of a famous person wearing bronzed scandals. Since Einstein was well-known for being eccentric, I would imagine it is an an accurate depiction of his attire.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Einstein, Up Close

There's something about Albert. Very few sculptures of famous people are able to capture the wisdom in their faces as well as this one of Albert Einstein. The sculptor, Robert Berks, known for his portrait bust of John F. Kennedy at Kennedy Center, based the work on a bust of Einstein he sculpted from life in 1953. It is evident in Berks' attention to detail found in the sculpture's face.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Landscape v. Portrait

I've often discussed on the blog the power of perspective when composing memorable photographs. One of the easiest ways to quickly alter the perspective of a photo subject by positioning it in a landscape (horizontal) or portrait (vertical) alignment. Yesterday's post featured a lone tree on the National Mall. But was it actually alone? Not really. By photographing the tree in a portrait position, the viewer's eye is focuses in on the subject and the tree appears isolated from its surroundings. Portrait orientation creates a more intimate image. However, landscape orientations, as seen in today's photograph, emphasize space and scope. In this orientation, the lone winter tree is now one of several barren trees on the National Mall.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lone Tree

The starkness of winter's trees fascinate me. Other than the colors of autumn, the barren trees during the winter months are my favorite to photograph and keep my camera and creativity riveted. Walking through the National Mall just after dawn last week, I enjoyed how the gray overcast skies made this leafless tree look so isolated and solitary.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Vietnam Women's Memorial

While Washington, DC has many monuments and memorials, there are not many in honor of American women and their contributions to the nation. However, the Vietnam Women's Memorial Foundation worked to fix this oversight and honor the more than 11,500 American women who served in Vietnam War with this sculpture on the National Mall. About 90 percent of women Vietnam veterans served as medical personnel, providing medical treatment and comfort to an estimated 300,000 wounded military service members during the conflict. The memorial consists of four figures -- three nurses and a wounded soldier. Designed as a sculpture in the round, the third nurse is not visible in this photograph. Here's what its sculptor, Glenna Goodacre, shared about the memorial's design:
My first concern in designing this sculpture was to arrange the four figures in a composition that is interesting from all angles: a true sculpture in the round. The photos from Vietnam often included stacks of sandbags. It seemed natural for a nurse – in a moment of crisis – to be supported by sandbags as she serves as the life support for a wounded soldier lying across her lap. The standing woman looks up, in search of a med-i-vac helicopter or, perhaps, in search of help from God.
The kneeling figure has been called “the heart and soul” of the piece because so many vets see themselves in her.She stares at any empty helmet, her posture reflecting her despair, frustrations, and all the horrors of war. The soldier’s face is half-covered by a bandage, creating an anonymous figure with which veterans can identify. Even though he is wounded, he will live. I want this to be a monument for the living.
Located near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial which is a memorial honoring the dead, this tribute to the living is the perfect juxtaposition. It beautifully expresses their emotions of compassion, anxiety, fatigue, and dedication during this conflict.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Single Wreath

What a sad Friday. My heart hurts watching footage of Japan's destruction and loss due to an 8.9 earthquake, tsunamis and subsequent aftershocks. As we saw in Haiti, Chile, New Zealand, Pakistan, Mississippi, Louisiana, among other places, nature is a powerful force and natural disasters can happen anywhere. We, humans, are merely pieces on the Earth's chess board. Today, I will honor those still trapped in Japan's rubble, in danger due to the failure of damaged nuclear plants, and those already lost in my thoughts and prayers. This moment is a reminder that while we cannot stop natural disasters from occurring, we must prevent human-caused disasters we have control over, such as ongoing conflicts in Libya and Sudan.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Peaceful Colors

After the sad news from Japan and Libya this morning, we all need some peaceful images. The nave of the Washington National Cathedral is one of my favorite places to sit and be quiet. Filtered by such beautiful stained glass windows, distilled daylight fills the open space and envelops visitors with peace and calm. While I don't believe that connecting to a higher power requires a structure, such as a cathedral, I do understand how such artistry and majesty can inspire spiritual contemplation.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Such Great Heights

This is what the Washington National Cathedral looks like if you lie on the ground and point the camera lens toward the sky. The cathedral is so tall, I needed to lie quite a distance away from the building in order to capture this tower in the frame. Even at that distance, I could only photograph part of one of its sides. After reading Ken Follet's Pillars of the Earth historical novel about building a cathedral, I have a deeper appreciation for the skill and artistry involved in designing and building these soaring towers and elaborate buttresses. They truly seem as if they are reaching up and touching the bright blue heavens.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ghostly View

I started my morning today with a quick stroll on the National Mall for a photo project I'm working on, and discovered a new photo perspective at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I've always loved that the material used for the wall acts as a mirror, reflecting the image of the people looking at the names on its surface. It was an innovative way for the memorial's architect Maya Lin to humanize the monument and make it a more personal experience for visitors. We, or our loved ones, could easily have been names on this wall.

Since it was too early for tourists to be visiting the wall this morning, I got an unobstructed view of the wall's reflection and noticed that it can reflect the landscape around it as well. What a haunting way to see the trees on the National Mall and the Washington Monument. And yet, even while admiring the reflected vista, you can still see the thousands of names etched on the black granite and not miss the impact of its solemn tribute.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Silent Monument

Here's another look at the North Carolina Monument at Gettysburg National Military Park. What spectacular faces! These North Carolina regiment soldiers' faces express so much real emotion and  action. As a photographer, I much prefer sculpture of the human figure to be realistic instead of abstract. Realistic depictions of the human form express so much more when photographed than more modern art approaches to sculpture of human figures. What's your preference -- realistic or abstract?

Monday, March 7, 2011

North Carolina Monument at Gettysburg

Gettysburg National Military Park features hundreds of monuments and tributes to those who fought and perished during this critical Civil War battle. North Carolina's sacrifice at the Battle of Gettysburg was humbling. It is estimated that one in every four Confederate soldiers who fell at Gettysburg was from North Carolina. This monument is dedicated to the forty-two regiments and batteries from North Carolina which served at Gettysburg.

Sculpted by Gutzon Borglum, who also designed the four presidents' faces on Mount Rushmore, the monument represents a group of North Carolina soldiers in "Pickett's Charge." Of all of the sites visited during our tour of the park, the faces of the North Carolina Monument have stayed with me, illustrating Borglum's moving artistry with faces.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Raising the Flag

Recently, the last surviving American World War I veteran passed away at the age of 110. Frank Buckles of West Virginia lied about his age to join the army at age 16 and served as an ambulance driver in WWI with nearly 5 million American service members in 1917 and 1918. As if one war experience in a lifetime was not enough, Buckles was captured by the Japanese as a civilian in the Philippines during World War II.

Whenever I look upon military memorials like the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, I pause and think of Buckles and all our war veterans and thank them for their service and sacrifices.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

To the Moon

Do not be deceived by today's post. I did not travel to the moon recently and forgot to mention it on the blog. Actually, this is a photograph of the Apollo Lunar Module on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. This is a real lunar module -- one of 12 built for the Apollo Project -- whose mission was cancelled due to the success of the first Apollo Lunar Module test vehicle. According to the museum, lunar modules are meant to be used in low Earth orbit to test the techniques of separation, rendezvous, and docking with the command and service module. During moon missions, the lunar module is released when the astronauts enter the command module to return to Earth, leaving the lunar module to remain on the moon.

Now with the end of NASA space shuttle missions -- the last shuttle launch occurred last week -- there is no need for this type of space vehicle. Like the other air and space relics displayed at the Air and Space Museum, this lunar module becomes just a reminder of America's ambitious space exploration program and that once upon a time, Americans traveled in space.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Green, Blue & Gold

People often ask what are good conditions for great nature photographs. The answer to that question really depends on the photographer. For me, I love crisp, but slightly overcast, days for great photos. My barometer for good photo excursions is looking at the color of the sky. If it is a bright blue, like in today's image, I usually grab my camera when heading out the door. Clear, partly sunny conditions really create vibrant colors in photographs, even if the photo subject is as plain and simple as a park bench or city building. Plus, a few clouds in the sky add drama to the composition. However, if wind accompanies the bright blue sky, you may want to keep the camera at home unless you have a tripod or shoot at a fast shutter speed. Wind often makes either the photographer, camera and/or photo subject move and create blurry images.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Scarlet Ibis

The beautiful Scarlet Ibis is one of the national birds of Trinidad & Tobago, the Caribbean nation where my parents were born and raised. When I lived in Trinidad as I child, I remember visiting Caroni Bird Sanctuary and seeing the thousands of Scarlet Ibis roosting and flying around the mangroves. Imagine my surprise during my recent visit to the National Zoo to see they had Scarlet Ibises! Like Flamingos, their plumage color is the result of their diet. Scarlet Ibises eat red crabs in tropical swamps which gradually turns its grey and white feathers to scarlet. In the wild, its color is much redder, probably due to increased access to their natural diet.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Last Conversation Piece

The Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is one of the modern art Smithsonian art galleries. The other day I was passing by the museum and one of its outdoor sculptures caught my attention. An installation piece by Spanish artist Juan Munoz, the Last Conversation Piece in the Hirshorn sculpture garden consists of 5 human-like figures with rounded bases, resembling punching bags, scattered across the lawn. Only four of the sculpted people appear in this photograph. The fifth person is located out of frame to the left of the cluster of three. Munoz's sculpture reminds me of life in high school, when gossip was delivered in groups while the object of their talk, like the person on the right, were left outside and isolated. Oh, how I wish these tactics were just isolated to high school. Unfortunately for some, old habits can die hard.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Stark Lines

Here's another image from my Sunday walk at Burke Lake. While I find the fullness of spring and summer so interesting as a photographer, the starkness of nature's winter also creates appealing compositions. The bare trees along the lake have such elegant silhouettes. This image reminds me of  ballerinas grouped together along the shore with their arms raised and moving back and forth. I love how cameras allow us to see common or even unattractive subjects in new beautiful perspectives.