Monday, October 31, 2011

Jesus Duck?

Once the horrible weather that battered the Northeast this weekend cleared, I took a long drive along George Washington Memorial Parkway at sunrise to photograph what remained of autumn's leaves. Along the way towards Mount Vernon at the end of the parkway, I discovered Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve.

As a quietly photographed the swimming ducks and geese in the Potomac River which borders the preserve, I noticed this duck standing in the water. It must have been standing on some submerged land, but to the naked eye, the duck appeared to be standing on water.

When I showed this photograph to a friend, she exclaimed, "It looks like Jesus duck!" Although I'm not convinced that I witnessed a miraculous occurrence on Sunday morning, this duck does deserve some credit. Seeming to walk on water is quite an interesting feat, don't you think?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dual Nature

This moment was a little creepy. While I love the Muppets and puppets in general, I prefer not to see their handlers at the same time.

If the performer is really good at becoming visible. yet invisible as the puppet's handler, as in the Broadway musical, Avenue Q, then I'm fine. But, when the handler's presence or actions draw my attention away from the puppet and focuses on them instead, I find it unsettling.

As you can tell from this photograph, the puppet handler's appearance and similarity to his puppet is very strange. In person and in this photograph, my eye is drawn to him and not his friendlier looking puppet. During the parade of costumes before the High Heel Race, I wish that the puppet spoke more than the handler. I'm confident that Jim Henson would have agreed with me.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Playing Dress Up

Boy, do people love to dress up. To be honest, I'm not a fan myself. While I love to get into fancier clothes or wear flashier jewelry for a night on the town, I don't enjoy donning costumes and playing characters. After years of dance recitals, you would imagine that I would be used to that routine, but I think the experience actually created this aversion to playing dress up.

Although I don't dress up for costume parties or Halloween often, I do love when others do, especially if their costumes and adopted personas are creative and inventive. Each Tuesday before Halloween, I look forward to the annual High Heel Race in Dupont Circle. Every year, the runners never fail to impress me with their costume tributes to American pop culture.

High Heel Race competitors' costumes usually reflect the dreams and desires of our pop culture-obsessed society. For all the typical Lady Gagas, Amy Winehouses and Pan Am flight attendants in this year's race -- which celebrated its 25th anniversary last week -- there were more imaginative entries, such as these mermaids "swimming" with fisherman.

Practicing my night photography at the race, I was so disappointed that many of my photos didn't come out until I saw this one. I love how the blurriness of light perfectly depicts the dreaminess of these racers. Even if the image was in sharper focus, I don't think I would have liked it more than this final composition.

Today's photography lesson -- Don't delete photos on your camera. Wait until you upload and see them on a larger screen before deleting. Sometimes, the small LCD monitor on our digital cameras fail to reveal the possibilities of a so-so photograph. I'm glad I waited and didn't rashly delete this one from my camera during the race.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Air Force Memorial in the Distance

What I love most about the United States Air Force Memorial, seen in the distance from the terrace of the Kennedy Center in today's photograph, is its depiction of motion. It is quite unusual for a stationary structure to appear as if it is moving. The memorial's three spires seem to reach into the air while still weighted to the ground.

It is such a great allegory for the Air Force. Instead of just celebrating its past, the memorial design illustrates its intention to move boldly into the future, staying ground and yet still reaching for the sky. It is well-placed in the Washington, DC area skyline.

American inventor, engineer, businessman, and the holder of 140 patents Charles F. Kettering once said,
The opportunities of man are limited only by his imagination. But so few have imagination that there are ten thousand fiddlers to one composer.
Hopefully, this memorial will be a reminder to those who work in the nation's capital that we are only limited by our imagination to create change. If we stay focused, the sky is the limit for taking action to improve the lives of millions.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Water Fountain Cherub

In light of yesterday's events in Libya, here are two thoughts for the day by two of the world's greatest thinkers:
  • "Compassion is the wish to offer unbiased service to all beings, whether they are friendly or hostile to you." -- Dalai Lama
  • "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.
So often in struggle for justice, we comprise our humanity. No matter how deserving, the just should not rejoice in the death of another. While we may celebrate the change, freedoms or opportunities created by another person's passing, we should not be joyful. To embrace such joy under those circumstances compromises what makes us compassionate and just, leading us to be more like our enemies than we would care to admit.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cheshire Cat Grin

This statue made me laugh. My reaction might be due to the Cheshire cat-like grin the lion is sporting, or maybe its goatee. Whatever the reason for my amusement, wouldn't it be nice to great each morning with this grin? I'm going to work on that tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Frog Prince

So, the homeowners of our rental house in Temecula loved statuary. As you walked the grounds, random statues littered the garden areas. A theme wasn't apparent; statues ranged from cherubs to child gardeners to this frog prince seated on a glass ball.

While they didn't create a connected look for the landscaping around the house, the intriguing collection of statues did create many photo opportunities as I explored the yard.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Capturing the Blue Sky

While at a wedding in Temecula, California over the weekend, I stayed at this gorgeous house near the area's famous wineries. In between the wedding festivities, I snuck out at sunrise with my camera and explored the grounds.

It was a bright, sunny morning, which made it challenging to capture the blue sky and the photo subject without shadows. So here's my trick to balance the colorful sky with a well-lit photo subject -- focus your camera on the blue sky before taking the photograph of the photo subject.

On most digital cameras with auto focus turned on, you can push down the shutter button halfway to set the focus. Using this feature, you would focus the camera on the blue sky and then once you have focused on the blue sky, without lifting the button, you would shift the lens to your photo subject and take the picture. This trick usually works in most occasions, but you may need to play around with the focus to get it right.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Family Links

Alex Haley, the author of Roots, said once about family:
In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.
Sometimes, we get so wrapped up about genetics being our connection to our past and future. While our DNA may offer sign posts or warning signs to our life, I believe that its our environment that can create the most lasting impact. Our family is a large part of that environment.

Today, I will watch two of my dearest friends marry each other. I love people watching at weddings, because by observing those attending the wedding, you can get an inside look into how the couple became who they are. This extended family present -- which includes relatives as well as friends -- represent the people who have had the greatest influence on the couple to be married. As such, invited guests should be honored to be included in this special circle in the couple's lives.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Origins of Smart Grandchildren

When reading through quotations about family, I came across this anonymous proverb that made me laugh out loud:
One of life's greatest mysteries is how the boy who wasn't good enough to marry your daughter can be the father of the smartest grandchild in the world.
I have a feeling when I get to this stage in my life, my parents might be contemplating this dilemma as well.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Family Matters

I'm thinking a lot about family today, both the one we're born a part of and the one we form ourselves. In honor of family, the next few posts will feature thoughts by great thinkers about what it means to be a family.

Today's quotation was said by my favorite author, Dr. Seuss:
Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.
That's one of the best parts about being a part of a family whether by biology or design. Our family wishes us to be happy and we are happiest when we are ourselves. Anyone who asks us to change or doesn't support our authentic self was never really family to begin with. Dr. Seuss' litmus test for family is a good one.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Water Balance

While growing up, I thought I would live in California all my life. At the time, I couldn't imagine living anywhere else. Then in my mid-twenties, I became bolder and itchy for change. I decided to uproot myself from comfy, familiar Southern California and journey to the East Coast and begin the next phase of my life in Washington, DC.

All of the cities I was considering for this move -- DC, Seattle, Boston, New York, and Chicago -- were within driving distance to large bodies of water. It was one of my prerequisites. While I was open to living in a new place where I might not know anyone, I was unwilling to give up proximity to water. Whether it was an ocean, great lake or mighty river, I needed to be able to near enough to see it with little effort. Watching the waves in Kauai earlier this year was one of my favorite activities during the trip.

DC definitely meets that requirement. I enjoy seeing the Potomac River on my way to work each day. Being near water is calming and therapeutic. I may have been spoiled by my California beaches, but the idea of living someplace where I can't marvel at the power of an ocean's waves or the strength of a quick river current is unfathomable to me. I don't know how people who live in the middle of the country or in deserts stand living without them.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Closer Look at Apple Tribute

Here's another look at the memorial to Steve Jobs at my local Apple Store.

I wonder if Apple came up with the format of this tribute or was it organically developed by customers. Either way, it is beautiful. Even with Sunday's bright sunlight washing out some of this image, the color of the Post-It notes are so bright that most of its color was not altered.

It would be nice to think that creativity led grieving fans to this memorial concept, instead of Apple marketing or PR executives.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Apple Tribute

In my last post, I shared a tribute to Steve Jobs, the co-founder and former CEO of Apple who passed away last week due to cancer.

When walking by my local Apple Store this weekend, I came across this interesting memorial to Jobs on the store's windows. Hundreds of Post-It note messages of love and appreciation lined the windows. Grieving fans also left real apples etched with messages to Jobs near the entrance of the store as well.

It was quite a sight, seeing not only this colorful display but onlookers with their iPhones taking photos of the makeshift memorial. Perhaps that is the greatest tribute to Jobs -- his devotees using the technology he shepherded to capture this memorial honoring his contributions to the world.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Learning from a Crazy One

I'm a PC person. It's in my genes (thanks Dad). However, I love great innovation more. Steve Jobs -- the former CEO of Apple who passed away yesterday -- was the king of great innovation. He defied convention and created new technologies and devices that have revolutionized my life and quite frankly, the world. Not a bad dent to leave in the universe in only 56 years, right?

I use Steve's innovations at work, at home and at play. I even use his camera technology in the iPhone to take photos I've featured on this blog.

In 1997, Apple launched the "Think Different" advertising campaign, one of my favorite ad campaigns during my lifetime. It beautifully summarized what set Apple apart from its competitors, but also defined their leader as well.

Steve Jobs thought differently and looked at the world differently. Instead of stifling or conforming his vision, he took risks and followed his gut to creative genius. As he shared with the 2005 graduating class at Stanford University in his commencement address, change only happens when we dare to be bold and follow our intuition. Thank goodness for the world, Steve Jobs listened to his.

"Think Different" by Apple Inc.
Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Painted Sky

It's been stormy here in Washington, DC. Since Hurricane Irene in August, it seems like we have had more rainy days than sunny ones. Even though it was a lousy way to end the summer season, the powers that be tried to make up for it.

Once afternoon thunderstorms passed through the area, DC dwellers would be treated to these spectacular sunset skies. Light from the setting sun would reflect and cascade colors upon the lingering storm clouds left in the sky. During this evening spectacle, commuters on sidewalks stop, look up and marvel at the sight.

While hustling to meet friends for dinner after work recently, I paused to take this photograph of the Smithsonian Institute American Portrait Gallery building in Penn Quarter with the brilliant sunset sky as its backdrop. What a beautiful city to live in!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Wild Abandon

Did you know that the word "abandon" is both a verb and a noun? Frequently in conversation, people use abandon as a verb, meaning to give up a course of action, a practice, or a way of thinking completely.

I like to use the more strength-based noun definition of abandon -- the complete lack of inhibition or restraint.

As a documented control freak, letting go is not an easy thing for me to do. I'm a planner, especially well-known for contingency planning and for looking 5-10 steps ahead all the time. While this kind of thinking can be very comforting to me, it can also add stress to my life. In the long term, I don't think that it is very healthy for me or any of us for life to be so pre-planned and orchestrated.

Instead, we should act with abandon occasionally, leaving life up to fate and unforeseen circumstances. We shouldn't try so hard to see around blind corners and just be more trusting of what we can't see.

I'd like to be more like this Richard MacDonald sculpture, arms and legs thrown in the air and body in a posture of wild abandon. Abandon doesn't need to be a permanent condition or always wild. It can be a more tolerable and occasional reprieve from the inevitable stresses of a too structured life.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Juggler

The first day of October. Only three months left in the year 2011. Unbelievable! People aren't kidding when they say how time flies as you get older.

I have no idea what the name of this sculpture is, so I named it "The Juggler." Its form is so balanced. It is how I hope to balance my life's balls of personal and professional lives. I need to work on the gracefulness depicted here in this balancing act.

Journalist Barbara Walters once said: "Most of us have trouble juggling. The woman who says she doesn't is someone whom I admire but have never met." I admit juggling is a struggle. Over time, I hope I become better at juggling relationships, work and my pursuit of happiness. Not perfect, just better.