Sunday, August 28, 2011

Seagull and the Fountain

Over the weekend, I spent time in San Pedro, California. Located near Long Beach, much of San Pedro overlooks the Port of Los Angeles. While sitting in a restaurant patio near the marina, this seagull joined our party. It perched on the top of a patio fountain and lingered as if listening to our conversation.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hollywood Postcard

Wouldn't this image make the perfect Hollywood postcard? Blue skies, green palm trees and mission style architecture are the epitome of California style. Throw in a little Hollywood glamor and you are looking at an iconic image. These are the kind of beautiful California days that make it hard to live elsewhere.

Bronson Gate

I'm pretty lucky that I have a job that takes me to such unusual, interesting places. This week, work took me back to California to the famous Paramount Studios lot on Hollywood Boulevard to help produce the Voice Awards.

One of the landmarks at Paramount Studios is the Bronson Gate. It was the original entrance to the studio lot and the inspiration for actor Charles Bronson's last name. It was originally Buchinsky before his agent recommended that he drop the Eastern European-sounding surname during the Sen. Joseph McCarthy and House Un-American Activities Committee-era.

Behind this gate is the Paramount back lot, filled with sound stages that film productions, such as "Glee," "Community" and "Star Trek." Although the iPhone camera didn't pick it up, behind the sound stage 4 is the Hollywood hills. From this vantage point, visitors can see the famous Hollywood sign in the distance.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Smog Sunrise

I'm in Los Angeles for work this week. I greeted the new day today with my iPhone camera and captured sunrise from my hotel balcony in Century City.

Sunrises and sunsets in Southern California are beautiful for an odd reason -- air pollution or "smog." Apparently, the layer of smog that sits over much of Los Angeles reflects the sun's rays, creating the brilliant orange, pink and purple color patterns in the sky when the sun rises and sets.

Thankfully, since air quality in Southern California has been improving due to the state's tighter air emission standards, these sunrises and sunsets have become less colorful. It's a change I'm happy to record with my camera.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Characters Leaving the Scene

I've learned a great deal from my father about photography. He loves nature photography, as I do.His photographs tend to tell stories, which is appropriate since he loves telling stories in person. While I lean toward simple compositions, my father's eye focuses in on interesting characteristics in a scene or moment.

Last year at the Tidal Basin during the Cherry Blossom Festival, I was channeling my Dad's eye for composition in this image. Instead of focusing on the Cherry Blossom branch hanging over the water, I tried to draw the viewer's eye to the fleeing ducks in the top left-hand corner of the photograph. They are the real characters in this piece.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Rose for a Rose

Birthdays are special days in my family. We Bordes are always looking for a reason to celebrate, but birthdays are king. Regardless of what is going on in our lives, it's family tradition to pause for a birthday phone call, birthday visit, birthday dinner and/or even birthday party to celebrate the day we arrived into the world together. Birthdays are moments that help us keep time with one another and acknowledge the blessing and accomplishment of another year of life, another year of life as a family.

Today is my Aunt Kathy's birthday. I won't disclose her age, but I will say that while each birthday is special this one and each birthday after this one is very special for all of us. For the past few months, she has been battling a very aggressive colon cancer. After rounds of surgeries, chemotherapy, and other challenges, my aunt is still fighting on with grace, optimism and peace. It's her peace that I find so inspiring.

We are all rooting for more time with her, for her healing. However, whether or not that is in the cards for our family, she has inspired us by how she embraces each day since her diagnosis with joy, humor and a willingness to be present. She wants to see people and go places, even when it physically exhausts her. There isn't a hug that doesn't linger longer than it did before or an "I love you" that is said with deep meaning.

So in honor of her special day, I wanted to post a photo that reminds me of her. She is like this summer rose -- colorful and bold in spite of the brutal sun. While this photograph makes the rose appear as if it stands alone, it was actually surrounded by other roses and flowers encouraging and supporting its stand. Just like in life, and especially on birthdays, we never stand alone.

Cheers Aunty K. Here's to today and many more birthdays together. I'm so grateful that we have grown together in the same family garden.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Crystal Chandelier

I'm not a gaudy girl, but I do love items that sparkle such as this crystal chandelier at The Madison Hotel in Washington, DC. Even though Marilyn Monroe sang that diamonds are a girl's best friend, my love of sparkle doesn't actually extend to diamonds. The sparklers that I love the most are crystals that act as prisms and reflect light. In photographs, while diamonds can create a similar effect, they lack the bright brilliance of crystals especially in soft light settings.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Happy World Photography Day!

Today is World Photography Day. Amateur and professional photographers will be out-and-about with their cameras celebrating this intriguing art form and documenting the sights and actions of August 19, 2011. To peruse what photographers around the world are sharing today, visit the World Photography Day gallery.

Recently, I just added a new camera to my photography mix -- an iPhone. I'm probably one of the last people in my circles to succumb to smart phone technology, but I was philosophically adverse to receiving email on my cell phone. Knowing my obsessive compulsive tendencies, I knew that I would be checking and sending email all the time if I had access to a smarter cell phone.

Well, my concerns have proven accurate as I now obsessively use (and check) my new iPhone. But on the upside, the iPhone provided access to a decent camera phone. My past cell phones also had a camera feature, but photographs taken with my phone were rarely worthy of posting on this blog (except this one). Such accessible photo technology is expanding the number of amateur photographers exponentially and probably increasing the number of people participating in today's photography celebration.

My next challenge is figuring out how to use the iPhone camera to take really great photographs. At a wedding last weekend, I took this photograph during the reception in the crystal chandelier-lit ballroom. I had just used the iPhone camera and was placing it back in my handbag when I accidentally took this image. It's a beautiful mistake, right?

While I didn't intend to capture this image, the iPhone camera's movement caught the light, energy and happiness in the abstract. James Joyce once said, "Mistakes are the portals of discovery." I'm looking forward to what these "camera mistakes" lead me to discover about photography and advancing my technique and composition

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Spring Always Follows Winter

On my way home from work today with my iPod in my ear, the perfect song began to play that summarized my mood. I won't bore you with the all of the lyrics, but just highlight my favorite part of the song. Its words remind us to never forget that spring always follows winter.
Excerpt from "The Rose"
Performed by Bette Midler
Lyrics by Amanda McBroom

When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long,
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong,
Just remember, in the winter,
Far beneath the bitter snow,
Lies the seed that with the sun's love
In the spring becomes the rose.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Gold Spire

This is the top of one of the pillars framing the entrance to the Jefferson Family Cemetery at Monticello. At a distance, this gate spire seemed ordinary. But after moving closer, I became intrigued by it.

Jefferson was a collector of ornate objects. He filled his estate with architectural characteristics and decorative items that would tell a story to onlookers, whether pieces were from Lewis and Clark's explorations of the American frontier or portraits of important figures, such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin or Isaac Newton.

Thus, it isn't surprising that his love of ornate elements would be extended to his final resting place as well. This gate spire is gold-tipped. Gold is a repeated design element on the cemetery fencing, and a featured part of the family crest of the front of the gate. Even in death, Jefferson still rested in luxury.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Will Dailey & The Rivals Rocked Vienna for Family Farmers

Last night, I got a sneak preview of Farm Aid 26 when I went to see Will Dailey & The Rivals perform in Vienna, Virginia. Mixing old songs with new music, it was a great set. I felt lucky that the band included our neighborhood on their Road to Farm Aid tour. It was a great way to start off the week.

Before the band's set began, a volunteer from the local chapter of Food & Water Watch -- a grassroots organization working to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainably produced -- talked about their efforts to create a "fair farm bill" to replace the factory farm-benefiting Farm Bill hurting family farms. Like Will and the band, Food & Water Watch is also taking to the road soon, covering 20 states in 34 days to raise awareness and gains support for this important legislation.

Even though I won't be able to be at Farm Aid in Kansas City in person, watching the concert last night made me feel like I was still a part of supporting our family farmers around the nation growing the good food we so desperately need. I'm looking forward to getting another chance to see Will Dailey & The Rivals perform again via Webcast at Farm Aid this weekend. There's just nothing like good music and good food to soothe the soul.

In case you haven't already guessed, today's photo post is not a portrait of Will Dailey & The Rivals, but a friendly rooster I met near a taro farm during my Hawaiian vacation earlier this year. It's an appropriate image for today since both Will and this rooster share a similar rockin' attitude and appreciate family farms.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Brilliant Magenta

Here's a close-up image of yesterday's cockscomb photo. The flower's brilliant magenta is so striking. Also, its texture is so interesting. The top of the flower felt like velvet fabric.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Velvet Flowers

I've never seen this flower before my visit to Monticello. It's called cockscomb, named due to its unusual flower-head which appears enlarged and flattened like a fan or cockscomb. According to his records, Thomas Jefferson started sowing cockscomb at Shadwell, his boyhood home, in 1767 and it still grows in his backyard today. It is such a weird-looking flower, but the bright magenta color of the bloom is so striking. Even from great distances, your eyes would be drawn to the cockscomb in the flower beds.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Mulberry Row

This weekend is a meandering weekend filled with slow explorations of new places without agenda or schedule.

Like my leisurely strolls on paths like Mulberry Row at Monticello two weeks ago, I also enjoyed exploring for the first time Fredericksburg, Virginia this weekend and photographing its antique sites and treasures. Since there is still more photographs to share from my Monticello visit, I'll be posting my Fredericksburg photographs later in the week.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Postcard View of Monticello

All landscape photographers are looking to take a photograph that could be used on a souvenir postcard. The most common postcard images of Monticello are either aerial images of the plantation or photographs featuring the entire back side of the family house.

I prefer this side view of the back side of Monticello as a postcard image. From this vantage point, you can really appreciate the architectural attributes of its design, which would not be as apparent when photographing the back straight on and losing depth of field.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Jefferson Coat of Arms

I've mentioned before on the blog my love of lions. So, you can imagine how pleased I was to find a lion used in the gold coat of arms on the Jefferson family cemetery entrance gate.

Inscribed in the seal are the words, "Ab eo libertas a quo spiritus" which loosely translates to mean "He who gives life gives liberty." It's an ironic motto for slave-owning family, because their slaves' liberty was held by man and not their creator.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Inside Looking Out

Underneath Monticello, running the length of the home, is a tunnel used by Jefferson's house staff to maintain the house and grounds. This dark, stone-lined tunnel connected the slaves to a variety of service rooms used for storage, cleaning and cooking for the main house. During the day, the only daylight present came from these half circle windows which were scattered along along the corridor and in the ancillary rooms.

While Monticello's surroundings were beautiful, how sad it must have been for the slaves who spent so many hours in this tunnel, fulfilling their role in Jefferson's household. Whether they prepared the family's meals or maintained Jefferson's extensive wine and beer cellars or laundered and ironed clothes and linens, the only glimpse of Monticello's spectacular view during working hours was through these tiny windows.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Metamorphosis on the Hill

Finally, the United States' debt ceiling has been raised. Living in the thick of it here in Washington, DC, the debt ceiling debates was all anyone around here could talk about. I'm grateful that it has been resolved and Congress and the White House can tackle other monumental issues before we have to talk about raising the ceiling again next year.

The one bright spot after weeks of Congressional ugliness occurred during the House of Representatives vote on the debt ceiling bill Monday night. Unexpectedly, Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) arrived to vote. Since surviving an assassination attempt in Tucson earlier this year, Giffords has been working on her recovery in hospitals and rehabilitation centers in Arizona and Texas and staying out of the spotlight. Although her appearance was different, Giffords did not look like a woman who suffered a near-fatal gunshot wound to her head only eight months ago. Instead, she looked resilient, strong and determined. In a statement to the media, she explained that she came back to Washington, DC for this vote because she wanted to ensure that the voices of her district's constituents were heard and noted.

Life often calls us to face challenges we never could have imagined. When arriving for that Saturday town hall meeting in January, Giffords and the other participants had no idea what the day would hold, how their lives would be changed. In just a few moments, the trajectory of Gifffords' life and the other victims morphed into something completely different. Those life-altering moments offer us the chance to morph into a butterfly seeking recovery and resilience, or remain a powerless victim of circumstance and others' destructive actions. Like Giffords, we must choose to morph into a resilient butterfly.

Giffords' appearance yesterday changed her colleagues in the room, as well as the citizens watching around the country. Her presence gave people hope that things could get better, and even stubborn politicians could be caring and empathetic. When she walked into the Capitol Building on Monday, she did not ask the world to treat her like a victim. She demanded them to see her as a courageous equal who can place country and others before herself. Perhaps if they had looked at the world through Gabby Giffords' eyes, this issue could have been resolved weeks ago. If only politicians acted like butterflies instead of limited, short-sighted caterpillars.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Art of Goodbye

I'm not fond of goodbyes, and I know I'm not alone. Growing up, I was oblivious to goodbyes. Most of the time, I rarely recognized when goodbyes were needed. I assumed that goodbye was something you said when you left someone's company at their home or at the end of an occasion just to be polite. I had no idea as a child that goodbyes are a process, an opportunity to acknowledge the passing or change in circumstances, or perhaps even a relationship.

As an adult, goodbyes have become something completely different. At times, goodbyes can be as simple as "see you later" or "see you again soon," or more complex as in "I'll miss you" or "we may never see each other again." As the years pass, I'm faced with more complex goodbyes and I'm not happy about it. I cry less now at these complex farewells; in the beginning, I would cry like a baby. I try to end these goodbyes with "I love you," recognizing that life is short and may not provide other moments to share those feelings. It's comforting to say during those departures. Plus, I like "I love you" to be the last words for awhile.

Goodbyes signal endings, but can be beginnings too. Goodbyes herald change -- good or bad. Goodbyes require our hearts to be steadfast, yet flexible to changing situations and relationships. So all we can do is seize these goodbye moments when they happen and make them honest and memorable. And always give big hugs. The bigger the hug goodbye, the longer the warmth of that affection lingers after you leave. In my experience, it makes saying goodbye a little easier.