Friday, June 24, 2011

Red, Red Wine

Happy Friday! Thank goodness this week is drawing to a close. I wasn't sure it was ever going to arrive! Today, I'm sharing a more random photo to prove that any situation can lead to an interesting photograph.

While sitting and resting my feet at the Chefs Take a Stand to End Domestic Violence on Wednesday, I looked over and saw this lone glass of wine sitting on the table. Its owner was nearby, but seemed to be ignoring it. Something about the way the setting sun's light illuminated the wine in the glass drew my attention, and my camera's lens.

Even though I was not able to photograph the restaurant's view of the Potomac River from my seat or even the lively auction occurring indoors at the time, I did capture this intriguing photograph of a lonely, yet translucent, glass of wine. You just never know what photo opportunities are available in the most ordinary locations.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Key Bridge at Sunset

If I could paint, I would paint sunrises and sunsets all the time. It is breathtaking to visualize the sky with such bold colors. In my humble opinion, it may be easier to capture the full beauty of the rising and the setting of the sun on canvas than in a photograph.

It is difficult with a camera to balance the combination of darkness and light that accompanies that time of day. Often, the image might be too dark and does not capture the vibrancy of dawn or dusk and leaves structures and other background subjects shrouded in shadow.

I battled with this challenge yesterday while attempting to photograph the setting sun's rays at the Georgetown Waterfront. In the distance, but in shadow, is Key Bridge and a single boat sailing on the Potomac River. While not the focus of my composition, the boat and bridge are evident enough to create an interesting layer to my photograph of sunset without stealing the spotlight from Wednesday's spectacular evening sky.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sunset at Georgetown Waterfront

After attending the National Network to End Domestic Violence's fundraiser Chefs Take a Stand to End Domestic Violence, a group of us had dinner along the Georgetown Waterfront. We arrived just as the late sun was setting behind the Key Bridge and the sky was filled with shades of orange, pink and purple. The sunset was so beautiful; I was grateful that I had my camera with me to capture it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Loving (and Leaving) Characters

Ernie the cat is a character, and I love characters. Today while at the hair salon, I met another character -- an older gentleman -- who reminded me about the importance of being oneself, blemishes and all.

I didn't catch his name, but what I do know about him is that he is a 70-year-old man who has worked as a restaurant host for more than 20 years at the same restaurant. If this fact alone didn't make him interesting, when the hairdresser asked him what kind of haircut he wanted, he replied, "Well, I want to look sexy. So, I want you to cut my hair the way you would want your sexy, senior citizen boyfriend to look."

During his haircut, he regaled his stylist and all of the eavesdropping stylists and female customers with his other life philosophies, such as:
  • "If I was your boyfriend, I would take you shopping at the mall. And if you had a boyfriend already, we would buy him something too while we're shopping. I gave three new shirts to my current girlfriend's boyfriend for Father's Day last weekend. I treat them good too."
  • "I'm a player and always have been. My brother was a player too. It runs in our family. When my brother died, his three wives and girlfriend attended his funeral. Now, that was a funeral! Can you imagine that?!"
  • "I know you young ladies are looking for young men. But, it's us older men who have the money and we're willing to give it to you, because we appreciate you. Those young guys are too stupid to know what's right in front of them. I'm old enough to know better."
Wow. That's honesty. We all sat transfixed as shared countless stories and viewpoints on relationships. We learned that he is married and his wife is allergic to perfume ("So, make sure not to put anything on me that smells nice. She'll kick me out of the bed if she smells anything!") and that he is the father of three and already has several grandchildren.

There was nothing about this character that would make you think he was grandfatherly, except his difficulty getting in and out of the salon chair. While the stylist cut his hair, he kept his eyes closed so that he wouldn't see his own reflection in the mirror. "I don't want to look at myself, because when I do, all I see is my father, my uncle, my grandfather looking back at me," he explained. "They're all old men. That's not me. I'm not old."

Now, I'm not condoning his playboy ways or even the way he made his female hairdresser uncomfortable with his romantic declarations. But, I have to admit that I admired his brutal honesty and lack of apology for who he is. As he said at one point during his hair salon soliloquy, "I am who I am. I don't hide it. I just lay it all out there. Women know the score before they get involved with me. I'm a player and always will be."

While I enjoyed his entertaining conversation, I was happy when his haircut was finished and he left the salon. The truth is that the best part about characters is that you can enjoy them during brief interludes and then you can send them home somewhere else. Due to my cat allergy, the same truth can be applied to Ernie the cat as well, even though in true character fashion, he was also very entertaining.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Jail Break

While they aren't pigs, these goats at the Centreville farm were such camera hams. This blond-coated goat wanted to get as close to me as possible that he started pulling at the fence to create an escape route.

His neighbor spent time hanging from the top of the fence, staring at me, while this goat spent his time trying to remove the fence that separates us. However, whenever I approached the fence, the fair-haired goat would back away from the fence as if it was trying to avoid me.

Not only are these goats hilarious, they are also extremely confusing. Although I'm pretty good at reading other people's body language, I clearly need to brush up on goat nonverbal communication.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Guest Photo: Playing Carnival

I often mention my mother in my blog posts with few references to my father. Dad has been as influential and inspirational as Mom, but since he is the main reason that I have a photography blog at all, mentioning him all the time isn't necessary.

If talent for photography is in the genes, then I inherited my photographer's eye from my Dad. When I was younger, Dad brought his Konica 35mm single reflex camera with us everywhere. With that camera, he documented significant moments, special occasions, family vacations and portraits of important people in our lives as we grew older.

Later, when my sister and I became photographers ourselves, he relinquished the family photographer role to us. But with the arrival of his new digital SLR camera and my sister and I moving away, Dad is now the family photographer again of the new generation of kids growing up.

Today's photo is one of the thousands taken by my father, depicting me in my cotton candy-themed costume when I played Carnival in Trinidad when I was little. I love the composition and how he played off color and light. Besides my sister, my dad is the only other photographer who knows how to capture my truest self in a photograph. I look at my younger self in this photograph and smile. I'm still Peter's little girl with bright eyes and mischievous spirit, dancing to the rhythm of a drum beat. I just need to bring her out more often.

Happy Father's Day, Dad. Thanks for beginning my journey with photography.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Maryland or Kansas?

I am by no means a world traveler. Work trips have provided opportunities to visit new places around the country, but other than a day in Chicago and a weekend visit to Milwaukee, I have not spent much time in the Midwest. From what I have seen from photographs of the great plains, this view from the farm in Maryland could have easily been taken in Kansas, Nebraska or another Midwestern state. It is amazing how many different landscapes America offers nature photographers, sometimes several within the same state.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Farmhouse Lily

Don't you love surprises? I certainly do. Part of my summer weekend photography challenge is to uncover as many "surprises" or unexpected beauty of locations I'm photographing. So while at the farm in Centreville, I spotted this lily growing in the small garden near the front of the house. It wasn't an attractive specimen or even large in size, but I knew that if I moved the camera lens in closer, I could make the lily appear more distinct and perhaps, more beautiful.

After photographing around the farmhouse and field areas, I escaped the humid weather and rejoined my friends inside to enjoy the air conditioning. When asked to see the photographs I had taken so far, I handed my camera over and allowed them to view the images.

When this photograph appeared on the preview screen, my admirers were confused. "Where did you photograph this beautiful flower?" they inquired. "Just outside," I responded. Confused by my response, I explained that this lily was growing in the garden in front of the house. "I never even knew there were lilies there! What a beautiful flower!" they remarked.

That's what's great about seeing the world through a camera's viewfinder. Through the camera, we are able to discover and see the beauty in objects we might have overlooked or dismissed as ordinary. What seemed like a boring flower at a distance appears entirely different, even striking, up close.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Crafty Guard Cats

Meet Ernie and Meow. These are two of the craftiest cats that I've ever encountered. Last Saturday, I witnessed them outmaneuver (and scare half to death) a dog about four times their size.

Ernie (on the left) and Meow (on the right) are not fond of dogs, and they are especially not fond of visiting Jack the dalmatian. During most of our visit at the farm, the cats stayed clear of Jack and he avoided them. However, when we all went outside to play and explore, the peace between the cats and dog was broken.

While Ernie was sunning himself on the lawn, Jack saw this as his opportunity to sneak up on him. Jack is not known for his subtlety, so Ernie heard him coming and took off. Jack chased Ernie around the yard, the trees and even along the house, until Ernie disappeared into a bush growing near the front entrance of the house.

Now, this is when Jack made a serious miscalculation. He assumed that he had Ernie corned. For a few moments, Ernie allowed Jack to feel smug and victorious. What Jack did not know, and what we human companions were unaware of, was that Ernie was not alone in the bush. Meow, the more hostile of the two cats, sat hidden in the bush, waiting for Ernie to arrive and tag Meow into the fight.

What happened next seemed to go in slow motion and reminded me of a WWE tag team fight. Just moments after Ernie jumped into the bush to escape, Meow jumped out with claws unfurled and attacked a very startled and confused Jack. As you can tell from this photograph, which was taken after the attack, there is a definite size differential between this dynamic duo. Meow is a much bigger cat who also has anger management issues with her canine counterparts.

I was unable to photograph Jack following this incident. After being jumped by an angry cat, he disappeared and hid behind the farmhouse. Even though his new location was full of buzzing bees, Jack seemed more comfortable to take his chances with the bees than face these ferocious (and crafty) guard cats.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

He said, "Hello there."

Goats are hilarious, although I'm not sure why. This goat at the Centreville farm was no exception. Every time I approached the pen, he would climb up the fence and look straight into the camera. After taking a few photos of him, the goat would then move his head, as if he was flicking his hair backward and then fall off the fence. We did this dance several times during my visit at the goat pen. His neighbor, a blonde-colored goat, chose a different approach to the photo session and I'll share that close-up on the blog soon.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Deer in the Distance

Just before sunset while photographing around the farm house, I looked off into the distance and saw a herd of deer grazing.

Normally, I don't complain about my Kodak EasyShare Z710 camera. With 10X optical zoom, it usually  overcomes the limitations of a typical digital point-and-shoot camera. This moment was not one of those occasions.

As I struggled to capture the deer grazing in the distance, I longed for a digital single lens reflex camera with a lens that allowed me to get closer to the subject without moving from my position and capture clear, sharp images of the herd. In the absence of that ability, I was satisfied with this more artistic composition of a single deer in the distance in front of the forest of trees. It looks so small in comparison to its surroundings -- a fragile beauty.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Just Us Chickens

When I think of farms, I always think of chickens. And my friend's place in Centreville has lots of them. Each day, he collects dozens of fresh eggs which he sells in the community or gives away to lucky visitors like me. Apologies to my vegetarian readers, but the flavor of his farm-raised chicken is distinctively different from store-bought factory farm-raised poultry.

While I love living near the city, my one regret is that other than visits to local farmers' markets, I wish I had easier access to farms and their good food. At times, urban areas make it difficult for city dwellers to grow or raise food.

Boston, Massachusetts is trying to prevent people from keeping chickens in their backyards. If we city people wish to be greener and support local food production, we need to encourage local governments to allow for backyard chickens, community gardens and other urban programs that allow us to bring farming into our cities. By doing so, we can provide more sustainable, healthier food for our families and communities. Find out what you can do to support the Boston backyard chickens by joining the Legalize Chickens in Boston Facebook community page and get involved.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Over the summer, I'm challenging myself to photograph at least one location each weekend. This weekend, I traveled to a friend's farm in Centreville, Maryland, and made sure to bring my camera along. I've photographed the farm before, but as you can imagine, there is always something new to see and photograph. This week, I'll share several photos from my visit.

Jack, my friend's Dalmatian, accompanied us on the visit. I've known Jack for quite some time now and in spite of his age, he is unable to stay still when people are around. But while at the farm on Saturday, Jack stayed in one spot long enough for me to photograph him.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saint Francis of Assisi

Any time I encounter a statue of Saint Francis of Assisi and I have my camera, I must stop and photograph it. This habit is due to my mother, of course. If she had been Catholic and had to pick a saint during the Sacrament of Confirmation, I pretty confident she would have picked St. Francis. As an aside, I picked Joan of Arc, but I'll talk about that in another post.

Saint Francis of Assisi was an Italian Catholic friar and preacher during the 12th and 13th centuries, who founded the Franciscan order. Born to a wealthy family, he gave up his worldly possessions for a life of poverty following a vision while fighting in a war. He is known as the patron saint of animals and the environment, which is probably why his statue in Middleburg shown in today's post was in close proximity to the statue of a fox in an earlier post.

Other than the Serenity Prayer, the Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi is the only scripted prayer I pray. Its words remind me of the role I should play in my family, my workplace, my community and our world. Like Saint Francis, I believe that we are each a channel for good will and good works. Within us, we have the capability and tools to change the world and life's circumstances, bringing more peace and love and less hatred and destruction.

If I ever was a contestant in a beauty pageant and was asked, "How would you bring about world peace?," instead of responding with complicated solutions, such as eradicating global poverty or demilitarizing global powers, I would just simply say, "Through me."

I would start with me and then hopefully, living a life of love, integrity and compassion would catch on and others would live similar lives as well. Before we knew it, the world would be at peace. Yes, it is idealistic and eternally optimistic answer, but while change beginning with just me may be small, it is definitely better than no change at all.
Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury,pardon;
here there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Pure Imagination

The song "Pure Imagination" from the original film, Willa Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, has been playing in my head all week. I can't seem to shake it. I tend to obsess about songs with beautiful or haunting melodies, like "Pure Imagination." Plus, cast members in a recent episode of Fox's "Glee" sang it in a poignant moment on the show.

Its lyrics remind us the importance of keeping our eyes open and taking in all around us. For example, during my visit to Middleburg, I passed by this tree and thought nothing of it. Externally, this tree covered in plain green leaves just seemed so ordinary. However upon closer inspection, I discovered this magnolia flower hiding beneath the tree's foliage. As the song suggests, we really can see paradise just by looking around us.
"Pure Imagination"
from the film, Willa Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Come with me
And you'll be
In a world of
Pure imagination
Take a look
And you'll see
Into your imagination.

We'll begin
With a spin
Traveling in
The world of my creation.
What we'll see
Will defy

If you want to view paradise
Simply look around and view it
Anything you want to, do it
Wanta change the world?
There's nothing
To it.

There is no
Life I know
To compare with
Pure imagination.
Living there
You'll be free
If you truly wish to be.

If you want to view paradise
Simply look around and view it.
Anything you want to, do it
Wanta change the world?
There's nothing
To it.

There is no
Life I know
To compare with
Pure imagination.
Living there
You'll be free
If you truly
Wish to be.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Drinking versus Gargling

Through friends, we get introduced to their really cool friends who make you stop and say, "Hey, can I friend you on Facebook?" Weddings are always a great place to collect these new people. In Kaua'i earlier this year, I made a new Facebook friend who often posts very insightful status updates on his page.

Since it's been a long day and inspiration escapes me, I've decided to share one of Peter Malek's great pearls of wisdom from his Facebook page:
"Some people drink from the fountain of knowledge. Others just gargle and spit."
Oh, how true! His status update is a variation of a quotation made famous by self-help author Dr. Robert Anthony, and demonstrates why I'm collect knowledge drinkers as friends instead of those who insist on spitting it out all the time. As I get older, I have less patience or time for knowledge "gargle-ers" who are unwilling to explore and embrace life's teaching moments and wisdom.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tree Sign

Along Route 50 which runs through Middleburg's city center, there are several old churches, including the one mentioned in Monday's post. Outside of the doors of the Emmanuel Episcopal Church is this tree. Doesn't it look like a Christian cross? I don't think I've ever seen a tree with such symmetrical and aligned branches like this one. I wonder if it was intentionally placed, or if its unusual growth was inspired by its spiritual environment.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

To Err is Human, To Lie About It is Stupid

We've all had that moment (or several) where we questioned whether we should tell the truth or not. At the time, we might convince ourselves that telling the lie would be easier, simpler. In reality, nothing can be further from the truth.

Ask Representative Anthony Weiner. Or Arnold Schwarzenegger. Or John Edwards. Or Tiger Woods. Or Newt Gingrich. Or Bill Clinton. The list of public figures caught in lies could go on and on. The news cycle is littered with them. They all falsely believed that their position, their power, their influence or even their untarnished reputation would protect them from the truth becoming public. What they failed to understand is that the truth always, without fail, comes out. It might take fifteen years (just ask Arnold Schwarzenegger), but the truth is always leaked or dug up.

Alexander Pope said, "To err is human; to forgive is divine," and he was right. We are not perfect and make mistakes; it's part of human nature. It is also part of our nature to forgive, but forgiveness must be earned. In order for us to forgive another, we must believe that they are worthy of our forgiveness. What is the best way to ensure worthiness? Admit your mistake. Claim responsibility for your actions. And most importantly, do not lie or be deceptive.

Even if you admit fault later, it may be too late to save your credibility or reputation. The revelation of the lie corrupts and undermines future words and actions. If Weiner had claimed responsibility when first asked about that Twitter photo and just admitted sending that inappropriate image, he might have survived the threat of resignation. Now, it seems like a forgone conclusion.

Oh,when we will learn that what seems easier in the short-term often costs us more in the long-term? Following mistakes, we should be as transparent as this flower in daylight. We must speak the truth early and often, and accept the consequences as they come knowing they would have been worse or more costly when perceived as a liar.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Church Garden Walk

This past weekend, the weather in Virginia was perfect -- sunny, but not too hot or humid. But, it wasn't the best photography weather. Clear skies and lots of sun can play tricks on cameras and tends to drown out color and detail of your photo subject.

The sun was definitely not my friend during my photo walk in Middleburg. While this photograph of the flowering plant-lined sidewalk along old Middleburg United Methodist Church is attractive, the sunshine dulled the impact of the bright green foliage and charm of the area in the image. Still learning how to "trick" the camera by adjusting its settings to counter this effect on sunny days. All challenges aside, it is still a pretty composition. Wouldn't you like your backyard or neighborhood to look like this?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Fox Hunt Country

Living so close to the city, it is easy to forget that just an hour drive away in eastern Virginia is farmland with fields of food and grazing livestock.

On Saturday, I drove out to Middleburg in Loudoun County which is a rural area just 40 miles away from DC. It is home to polo matches, horse jumping competitions, wineries, antique shopping, and even controversial fox hunting. Residents of Middleburg prefer horse riding attire than more formal city attire.

In the city center, there is a statue of a fox poised to run at the sound of the fox hunt's hounds and riders. To say it is like another world there would be an understatement. I enjoyed the break from city life and the slower pace in Middlebury, but I'm glad that I missed the fox hunt.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Summer Bench

Park benches are one of my favorite locations for summer reading. When I'm reading a book that I can't put down, I seek out park benches, like this one in Clarendon Market Commons, that offers the right combination of sunshine and shade and a welcoming environment for people-watching during my reading breaks.

This month for our First Wednesdays Book Club, we are reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot about true tale of the black woman "whose cells -- taken without her knowledge in 1951 -- became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more," as stated on the book's website. It is an incredible story that is so beautifully written, I cannot put the book down. I am constantly looking for any excuse to continue reading it during the week and then on the weekend, I'm on the lookout for inviting park benches for marathon reading sessions.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Dinner by Candlelight

Each table at Lincoln Restaurant was lit by candles in these glass lanterns. They gave off the perfect amount of light and created such a beautiful glow off of all of the copper elements in the dining room.

Photographing candles can be tricky. In my experience, it is best to turn off your flash before taking the picture. Not using the automatic flash allows the true color of the scene and the glow of the candle appear closer to how you saw it. While your final image may be darker, the candlelight will look more authentic and appealing than if you used flash photography.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Lots of Pennies

Yesterday, I enjoyed dinner at a new restaurant in DC -- Lincoln Restaurant. The small plate dishes were delightful. The wine list was interesting. But, the best part of the whole experience was the restaurant's decor, which was inspired by the images and words of President Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln's entire dinning room floor, and some of the walls, are covered in real pennies. Such an innovative design approach! According to their website, the restaurant designer used more than a million pennies to create its copper-colored tiled floor. They even utilized pennies to create these stars on the wall.

The lights outside the restaurant created this interesting reflection on one of the penny-tiled walls. Oh, how I love originality! Vision like that can create such beautiful environments.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Patriotic Stop

Like yesterday's photo post, here is another perspective of the American flag on the AUSA Building for Memorial Day. I liked the juxtaposition of the stop sign with the American flag when I took this photo. The stop sign in this image is actually located across the street from the building.

The photograph represents how I would like people to treat federal holidays. Although these national observances give us days off from work, there is a higher purpose for day-long government and business closures. Holidays, such as Memorial Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day, offer us the opportunity to stop and reflect on the contributions and service of others who have helped shape our country and secure its future. We should all stop and reflect during these occasions on what it means to live in the United States and enjoy its many blessings.