Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bold Parrot Tulip

Fabulous color. Remarkable flare. And all in the form of this parrot tulip. I'm so grateful that I journeyed to the Netherlands Carillon that spring Sunday with my camera. The tulips that afternoon were truly amazing and it was worth battling with the crowds of tourists and chilly weather.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Positive Attitude

Now, back to the flowers. My apologies to those who were hoping for a different photo subject, but I just can't help myself! I'm reveling in the arrival of Spring, in spite of its crazy high tree pollen levels in the DC area and its destructive thunderstorms and tornadoes.

While my heart breaks for Alabama and the other southern U.S. states decimated by tornadoes on Wednesday, I need to focus on happier, optimistic stories, like the royal wedding in the United Kingdom this morning, to get through this work day. As unimportant to my life as the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton may be, it served as a bright spot in an otherwise sad and dismal week. So, today we are going to focus on these beautiful flowers that look more like lotus flowers than tulips. They are a reminder that like these tulips, we are also adaptable. If we put our mind to it, we can easily change ourselves or our outlook from negative to positive; from trauma to resilience; from hopeless to hopeful.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Modern Glass Castle

In the midst of Pittsburgh's skyscrapers stands this interesting building. Made of locally produced mirror glass panels, the PPG Place buildings resemble a modern glass castle with spires (more than 230) and towers. Its unusual presence in the Pittsburgh skyline draws the eye and reflects on its surface the neighboring structures, sky, hills and river that surrounds it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Finalist in 2011 FotoDC Cherry Blossom Photo Contest

Recently, FotoDC announced that one of my Cherry Blossom photographs, which I featured in my January 1, 2011 post and posted above, was selected as one of 100 finalists in their 2011 Cherry Blossom photo contest! More than 2,100 photos had been entered, and although this photograph did not win or place, it is so exciting and rewarding to be selected as a finalist.

This was the first time that I've entered one of my photographs into a competition. I've always been nervous about my photography being critiqued and judged. I think that this first competition experience has lessened my anxieties and I'll look for other contests to enter photographs from my portfolio. In the meantime, I'll keep sharing my favorite images with you on the blog!

FotoDC just posted the YouTube video below of the winning entries, as well as the finalists. If you advance the video to the 1:25 minute mark, you can see my entry.

Pittsburgh Skyline

After days and days of flower photos, I decided to give you a break and share some photos taken during my recent visit to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A wedding of a dear couple finally got me to Pittsburgh for the first time. We stayed in the Station Square area alongside the Monongahela River and got this glorious view of the downtown Pittsburgh skyline from our hotel after several hours of thunderstorms. While it was a quick weekend trip where travel and wedding festivities kept me from doing much exploring, it was the perfect introduction to a city I look forward to visiting again soon. After being surrounded by so many Pittsburgh people who now live in the DC Metro area, I'm shocked that it took me more than five years to get to Pittsburgh.

Also, this photo is also evidence that windows aren't obstacles to photographing the outdoors from indoors. Depending on how you focus your camera on the outdoor subject, there are always ways to take pictures through glass windows without capturing reflections in your image. If I hadn't mentioned that I took this photograph from inside the hotel, you probably might have guessed that I was standing on the river walk outside when this photograph was taken.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It's Alive

Are you familiar with the off-Broadway musical "Little Shop of Horrors"? Perhaps you saw the film version from the 1980s of the musical with Steve Martin and Rick Moranis? It's a very odd show about a clueless florist shop worker who raises a plant that feeds on human blood. The plant, named Audrey II in honor of the florist's love interest, looks like a large venus fly trap. As the show progresses and Audrey II continues to eat Seymour's blood, he grows larger and his appetite grows out-of-control. It's not one of my favorite musicals for the same reason I'm not fond of the goriness of Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" in spite of my love for its song, "Not While I'm Around." Doesn't this parrot tulip as it opens remind you of Audrey II or a venus fly trap though? While there are similarities, at least we know that this tulip is more beautiful than menacing and probably won't eat unsuspecting human admirers (or photographers). Fingers crossed.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Three of a Kind (Not)

Even though these flowers are the same type of tulip, no bloom is the same as the other. Some of them are more pink than white or more white than pink. Even in a garden, no two blooms are exactly the same. While sharing similar genetic makeup, each tulip is still unique and distinct from each other.

These three flowers remind me of my siblings and myself. All three of us share the same parents, same DNA, and yet we are still three completely different individuals. Although we share some similar facial features and personality traits, we look more like ourselves than each other. Once we open our mouths and share our thoughts, the differences become more apparent. Like these white and pink tulips, my sister, brother and I share the same roots, but even in our sameness, we still grew into different flowers.

People assume that it is our similarities that make us a family; I disagree. I think that it is our differences and uniqueness that form the foundation of our connection more so than shared genetic strands. We need our family members' unique qualities and traits to complement and/or challenge our own characteristics and tendencies and help us grow into the people we are meant to be. It is the blending of what makes us different that creates a family and allows families to be formed many ways including by marriage, adoption, foster care and/or even friendship. Imagine how different our family dynamics would be if we celebrated the differences that bring us together, instead of being frustrated by them.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

Springtime always feels more official on Easter Sunday. Easter is all about rebirth, revival, resurrection. Spring symbolizes those characteristics too. Flowers that hibernate during the winter months sprout and bloom come the spring and the cycle begins again. Regardless of what happens during the rest of the year, there will always be another spring, another Easter.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Earth Day's Possibilities

How did you celebrate Earth Day yesterday? You might not have even known it was yesterday, because Earth Day fell in the middle of a significant religious week for Christians and Jews. While it was unfortunate that Earth Day's attention was superseded by Good Friday, maybe the two observances sharing the same day was actually a form of divine intervention.

Christians around the world observe Good Friday, because the day commemorates the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. It is a day meant to spend in reflection, contemplating Jesus sacrificing his life for the humanity's salvation. Isn't that what Earth Day represents as well? A day every year to reflect on how the Earth is suffering and dying due to human interference and complacency?

Earth Day should be a day in which we show gratitude for all that the Earth has provided us and contemplate ways in our own life we can show appreciation for its gift by protecting and saving the environment from additional damage. The possiblilities of what we can each do are endless, such as:
  • expand your recycling program in your home and workplace,
  • check with your electricity utility company about participating renewable energy and energy efficiency programs,
  • visit and care for our National Parks and other green areas in your community,
  • use public transportation, or even car sharing programs, whenever possible, to reduce carbon emissions from personal vehicles,
  • buy sustainable food by doing your grocery shopping at local farms and neighborhood farmers' markets,
  • stop buying bottled water and invest in reusable aluminum water bottles and fill it with filtered water from your refrigerator or sink, and
  • read about more ways to adapt your behavior into a more environmentally friendly one.
Like Good Friday is an annual reminder for Christians of their savior's sacrifice for them, Earth Day is an annual reminder for citizens of Earth of the fragility of our environment and how every day we must take steps in our lives to reduce our damage and help heal the planet. Like today's photo of a bright yellow tulip, our possibilities for protecting and healing the environment are endless. While extensive damage has been done, we still have time to change pollution's course and save our environment.

Hopefully in the future, Earth Day will evolve into a celebration of what humanity has done to fix our ecosystems, instead of just an annual reminder of the symbolic crucifixion of Earth's land, water and air by our neglect, greed and ignorance. Start today to do more, so nature will continue to be so photogenic and fruitful.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Yellow and White Tulip

You can see so much more when you move your camera lens very close to a flower. While I'm not a big fan of macro photography, when a photographer moves his or her camera as close as possible to a subject, there is something to be said for getting up-close and personal with a single flower.

At a distance, this tulip might appear as just a yellow flower with white edges. However upon closer inspection, observers will be able to see how the tulip's petals are either growing toward the sunlight or perhaps the incessant wind in this area has forced the bud to grow towards its side. Either way, the contortion of the petals helps this flower stand out from its neighbors in the Netherlands Carillon flower bed. I never would have noticed its unique figure if I had not used the camera as a magnifying glass, moving closer to the flower and eliminating the other flowers from my view.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Pink Gerbera Daisy

Q: What does a landscape photographer shoot during a wedding reception?
A: The flower table centerpieces, of course.

Don't be alarmed; I also took photos of the blissful bride and groom and good friends attending the wedding. But, the centerpieces and bouquets of pink and magenta gerbera daisies drew my attention and became the photo subject of several images.

I agree with the following assessment of daisies, especially gerbera daisies, featured in the movie You've Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan:
Kathleen Kelly: I love daisies.
Joe Fox: You told me.
Kathleen Kelly: They're so friendly. Don't you think daisies are the friendliest flower? 
Yes, Kathleen, I do. These pink gerbera daisies were so welcoming and seemed to encourage us to linger at our table during the reception gazing at them. Gerbera daisies were one of my parents' favorite flowers to plant in our front and back yards. I grew up with garden beds full of yellow, orange and red gerbera daisies, but somehow, my parents never managed to plant pink ones, like the ones in Becky and Lou's wedding reception centerpieces. It's a shame really; pink is such a happy color for these flowers.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Open Tulip Bloom

Would you believe that this is a tulip? We're so used to seeing its more common cup-shaped appearance that it's surprising to see its open bloom form. At this stage in the bloom cycle, tulips can look more like peonies (one of my favorite flowers) than its familiar tulip bud beginnings. Stay tuned for more posts in the coming days featuring other open tulip blooms growing at the Netherlands Carillon. I have lots more photographs of gorgeous blossoms to share.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Springtime Look at the National Mall

Did you know that the National Mall is arranged in the shape of a cross? From this view of DC from the Netherlands Carillon on the other side of the Potomac River, you can see the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol Building appearing in a row. It's actually an illusion, since those three landmarks form the vertical bar of the National Mall "cross" -- Lincoln Memorial is the base, the Washington Monument is the middle, and U.S. Capitol Building is the top. The White House and Jefferson Memorial make up the far points of the horizontal bar.

A city designed and led by Free Masons, their symbols and icons appear throughout Washington, DC. If author Dan Brown is to be believed, Masonic iconography is the key to understanding the design of the National Mall. I'm no expect on the topic, but I do find the repetition of shapes and symbols in the city's architecture, monuments and layout fascinating and worth studying further.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Standing Out in the Crowd

In between the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery is the Netherlands Carillon. The 49 bell carillon was a gift from the Netherlands to the people of the United States in the 1950s. In front of the bell tower is a garden of Dutch tulips. For most of the year, the garden appears barren and then once spring arrives, it erupts into thousands of colorful tulips. Here's an example of how Mother Nature is taking over the tending of this plot. While the landscape designers may have intended for the tulips to grow grouped together by color, the wind helped this yellow tulip take root  in the white tulip section.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mom's Favorite Tree

I've been visiting the Cherry Blossoms along the Tidal Basin for six years now and I don't have a favorite tree. I love them all. My mother, on the other hand, only visited once and picked a favorite on her first trip. We were just walking on the path around the Basin and she exclaimed, "That's my favorite one!" and pointed to this tree. Today's image is a close-up of one of its branches stretched over the water. After photographing this tree and moving on, I fully expected her to name more trees as her favorite, but she held firm. I can't fault her choice though. It is a very beautiful Cherry Blossom tree that is well-positioned on the Basin.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Red and Yellow Tulip

Last week, we focused on the inside of this tulip. Today, let's enjoy its exquisite exterior. While single color tulips are simple and striking, I love the multicolor tulips best. This one seems as if yellow was hand-painted on its red petal edges. So beautiful.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Among the Yellow Tulips

Spring is here in Washington, DC, which means I'm taking my camera everywhere. Whether I'm just going out to run errands or to work, since I never know what spring photographic moments will present itself along my journey, my camera is always with me. Yesterday on my way to a well-deserved happy hour with co-workers, these yellow tulips caused a detour in our itinerary. In the light from the setting sun, the tulips seem to sparkle, especially when I lowered the camera lens to their level in the sidewalk planter.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cherry Blossom Row

I'm in a musical mood this week. When I gaze at this image of the Cherry Blossoms in the early morning light, I can't help but sing to myself:
Oh, what a beautiful mornin’,
Oh, what a beautiful day.
I got a beautiful feelin’
Ev’erything’s goin’ my way.
Even though the clouds were gray and rain sprinkles fell that morning, when the sun final rose, its sunlight was  able to lend a gorgeous blue hue to the gray skies above the Tidal Basin. Sigh.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Previously on the blog, I've shared my love and admiration for Eleanor Roosevelt. I'm also a great admirer of her husband, the 32nd President of the United States Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as well. The only U.S. president to be elected for more than two terms (voters later added presidential term limits to the U.S. Constitution following his presidency), FDR lead the nation through one of its most trying periods -- the Great Depression and World War II. I often think of FDR these days as America faces today's economic and national security crises. There are many similarities between what Americans are facing today and challenges of the 1930s. Also, we share a similar type of leader in the White House. Both Presidents Obama and Roosevelt faced adversities in their lives, which shaped the kind of men, and U.S. presidents, they became.

Paraylzed from the waist down by polio early in his political career, FDR did not allow his inability to walk undermine his ability to lead, first as governor of New York and then later as President of the United States for more than 12 years. FDR never appeared in public or was photographed in his wheelchair and with the help of his son, even devised a way to appear as if he was walking for film shoots and speaking engagements. He did not use a regular wheelchair; instead he modified a regular chair by adding wheels so when seated at conference tables, FDR looked as if he was sitting on just a chair like everyone else. While some disability advocates argued that FDR's actions to hide his paralysis was hurtful to disabled Americans and wanted this statue at his memorial on the National Mall to depict him in a wheelchair, I don't necessarily agree.

I understand the power of visuals and appreciate how a depiction of a great world leader with a disability can be inspirational to those facing similar challenges, or how seeing an African American President of the United States gives hope to people of color that they to can achieve such accomplishments. However, it is also important for these symbols of resilience and strength to also not be defined by these circumstances. While his paralysis was part of who FDR was and influenced his domestic policies, such as expanded the role of the federal government to provide social services to all, he never let it define him as a person or his work. FDR's personal challenges were part of the picture, not the whole picture. By keeping this in perspective, he was able to model strength and courage to the American people at a time when they needed a daily reminder.

On a side note, the FDR Memorial designers came up with a compromise for the wheelchair v. no wheelchair debate. They depicted President Roosevelt in a seated position with his cape covering his chair. Thus, giving the illusion that he might be sitting in his wheelchair or just a regular chair.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Early Morning Swim

During calm weather, the water of the Tidal Basin serves as a mirror, reflecting on its surface the national monuments and foliage surrounding it. Before the rain began to fall during my early morning visit to the Cherry Blossom this year, I captured this moment of a duck during an early morning swim, disturbing the still surface of the Tidal Basin. I love how the duck's motion and ripples also alters the reflection of the Washington Monument on the Basin's surface.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Peaceful Respite

What's the cure for manic Mondays? Looking at photos like this one. Oh, how I wish I could be sitting on this bench right now, looking at these bright white Cherry Blossoms. Not one person in sight. Just me, the trees and this bench. What a peaceful place to rest and ponder! While tackling Monday's long to-do list, keep this image in the back of your mind. Somewhere there is a bench like this one waiting for us.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Inside a Tulip

While April brings showers and Cherry Blossoms, it also heralds the arrival of tulips in Washington, DC. Colorful tulips sprinkle flower beds throughout the city, including this one outside the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor. Today's post is a different look at a blooming tulip from overhead instead of from the side.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Cloudy Skies

Are you familiar with the Irving Berlin-penned song, "Blue Skies"? Frequently, I find myself singing the song's bridge and chorus:
Never saw the sun shining so bright/Never saw things going so right/Noticing the days hurrying by/When you're in love, my how they fly./Blue days/All of them gone/Nothing but blue skies/From now on.
Although I do love to sing about, and photograph, blue skies, slightly overcast skies can be a more appealing canvas for photographers. For example, this cloudy sky during my recent Cherry Blossom visit created a very interesting post for today. Surrounded by clouds, a little of the sun's rays peaked out and cast a hazy light on these blossoms. Some of my favorite images feature blue skies, but today's photo illustrates how cloudy skies are also prove fruitful for photographers and produce memorable moments as well.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Low Hanging Blossoms

The branches of the Cherry Blossom trees on the Potomac River side of the Tidal Basin area hang much lower than the ones around the actual Basin. Since this area receives less pedestrian traffic, the branches are rarely pruned back during the off season and hang over sidewalks and the river water.

Have you ever noticed how some flowers grow towards sunlight? Well, the Cherry Blossoms seem to grow toward water. I've always thought it strange how the branches appear to be willing itself to touch the surface of the Tidal Basin or river water. National Park rangers may contend that the branches appear that way because of the heavy weight of the blossoms, but I believe the stillness of the water below them is what is really the attraction.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Full Trees

The reason Washington, DC area is full of tourists during the Cherry Blossoms' peak bloom is because these trees are the most beautiful when they are completely full of flowers. While they are also attractive just before and after peak bloom, nothing can prepare you for how spectacular the trees appear when its branches are covered with white blossoms. This was the sixth year I've visited the Cherry Blossoms in peak bloom and its abundance still takes my breath away. Don't they make you want to sit on this bench and look up for hours?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

FDR Memorial in Bloom

Ever since my Waimea Canyon photo excursion, I've been playing around with adding people into my photo compositions in order to illustrate perspective. Although the fountains were not running when we arrived at the FDR Memorial, they turned on unexpectedly halfway through our visit. I couldn't resist trying to capture the blooming blossoms with one of the many waterfalls throughout the memorial, but needed to create perspective to show the height and power of these water features. Once I added my mother admiring one of the waterfalls into the frame, I created the right juxtaposition in the image. Plus, doesn't she look cute wearing her over-sized UCLA stadium jacket?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cherry Blossoms Near Potomac River

The often overlooked Cherry Blossoms along the Potomac River are as plentiful and beautiful as their more famous siblings around the Tidal Basin. Since these trees receive less foot traffic by visitors, the blossoms stay undisturbed longer and the trees' branches are fuller. Like the Tidal Basin, the water of the river also acts as a mirror to reflect the beauty of the trees in bloom. They should not be forgotten on sightseeing trips to the Cherry Blossoms.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cherry Blossoms and the Jefferson Memorial

I'm interrupting the Hawai'i photo montage to share some images from this year's Cherry Blossoms. This year, I got to enjoy the blossoms with a special guest -- my Mom. A long lover of my Cherry Blossom photos year after year, this was the first time she got to see the Cherry Blossoms in person. What a treat! During the sunrise journey among the blossoms this weekend, observers would not know that it was past the projected peak. In spite of rain showers and wind, the blossoms were still abundant on the Cherry Blossom tress around the Tidal Basin. Here's a great image of a Cherry Blossom branch with the Jefferson Memorial in the background.

On another note, Google just launched a new way to view blogs like mine on Blogger. If you visit, readers will get a chance to read my blog in five different ways. Called dynamic viewing, you can display and enjoy Via My Viewfinder in either Flipcard, Mosaic, Snapshot, Sidebar or Timeline formats. If you like the current display of the blog, don't worry; you can still view it in the traditional format at If you're adventurous, I recommend the Flipcard, Mosaic or Snapshot dynamic formats, which are really great layouts for photo blogs. Play around and enjoy!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Muse at Sunset

So, I've already talked about how the Hawaiian sunset evaded my camera during my trip. However, there were moments when I inadvertently caught a glimpse of a sunset in a photograph. Here's another example, featuring my Kaua'i muse Gladys. The Na Pali Coast is behind her with the final rays of the setting sun lighting the evening sky. We had taken a photograph with Gladys looking directly at the camera, but I really loved this image of her profile. Using non-traditional poses, such as this one,  can create more intriguing compositions.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Muse at the Beach

All artists, especially painters and sculptors, need a muse. And even though I am only a humble photographer, sometimes I need muses for inspiration and perspective as well. During my Hawaiian adventures, my friend Gladys became my muse. I can't tell you how many photos she ended up in during my week-and-a-half photo excursion. She complemented this tropical paradise and became a great addition to my Kaua'i compositions.

This photograph was the most unexpected. While hanging out at Po'ipu Beach, I was playing around with perspective and decided to point my camera towards the sky while lying on my beach blanket. All of a sudden Gladys, who was sitting in a beach chair next to me, appeared in the frame and I took this image. It contains all of the characteristics of a perfect beach scene -- relaxed sunbather, colorful beach towel, swaying palm tree and clear blue sky.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Hanalei Valley

Kaua'i is known as the Garden Isle, but I was unprepared for just how green it is there. After several months of the wintery East Coast, I had gotten used to bare trees and gray skies. Upon landing in Kaua'i, I went into sensory overload due to the island's lush foliage and green mountainsides. It seems as if the island just bypasses winter and fall and lingers in the spring and summer seasons all year-round. Along the central highway around island, there are several pullouts for visitors to stop and admire Kaua'i's beauty.

Today's post was taken at the Hanalei Valley Overlook, featuring the patchwork of taro farms that sprinkle the island. Taro is a food staple for Hawaiians and is grown as a root vegetable for its edible starchy corm, which looks like a potato, and as a leaf vegetable too. In Hawai'i, it is typically grown in pondfields, or lo'i, which provides consistent irrigation for the taro to yield the best crop.