Wednesday, April 25, 2012

iPhone Camera to the Rescue

On one of my many morning trips to the Tidal Basin in March to photograph the Cherry Blossoms, I got caught in a thunderstorm. After waiting out the storm under the roof of a National Mall public restroom facility, I ventured out with my camera and starting taking pictures.

Only 20 minutes into the photo session, the battery for my digital camera dies. "That's ok," I said to myself. "I have an extra camera battery in my camera case. Wait. Where is my camera case?"

While I had packed everything in my backpack, including a change of shoes for work, I forgot to put my camera bag into my backpack too. Now, I'm wet, my digital camera isn't working and I'm surrounded by flowers just begging to be photographed.

Before I was a smart phone user, my only option in that situation would be to put away my camera, take in a good mental photograph of my surroundings and then head off to work.

Luckily, my iPhone provides an alternative scenario and I was able to use it to continue photographing the damp Cherry Blossoms. Today's photograph is one of my favorites from that iPhone photo session.

This year's FotoWeekDC Cherry Blossom competition actually has a category for photographs taken with mobile devices and I entered this photograph. To vote for one of my photographs to win their People's Choice award, click here to cast your vote.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Purple Haze

Today's words of wisdom come from an old wizard who was birthed from the imagination of one of my favorite writers of all time -- J.K. Rowling.

In the second novel of the Harry Potter series -- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets -- Hogwarts headmaster and great wizard Albus Dumbledore tells Harry:
It is our choices, Harry, that show us who we truly are, far more than our abilities.
For Harry, at this point in the series, the future looks hazy and unclear. It's a common occurrence as we grow older. In response to Harry's confusion, Dumbledore rightly points out that the choices we make define our characters much more than our talents and accomplishments ever will.

Dumbledore's words confirm what I already know to be true -- our moment-to-moment choices is a compass guiding us through life's haze and offering clarity to become the people we were meant to be regardless of our abilities. Owning our choices is the secret to a successful life.

One final note -- If you believe that the Harry Potter series is just for children, think again. Dumbledore and the other characters Harry meets along his journey speak to the child in all of us, regardless of age.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Regarding Time

Everyone seems to be on Facebook now. My parents. My friends' parents. The Dalai Lama. Yes, even His Holiness the Dalai Lama -- the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people and Buddhists around the world -- maintains a Facebook page.

He is not the only spiritual leader with a Facebook page. Pope Benedict XVI has a Facebook profile too. But unlike other spiritual leaders who use Facebook to share news and activities, the Dalai Lama uses his updates to share insights and wisdom with his followers.

Today, he shared a great pearl of wisdom about how best we should use and regard time:
Every one of us is getting older, which is a natural process. Time is constantly moving on, second by second. Nothing can stop it, but what we can do is use our time properly; that is in our hands. Whether we believe in a spiritual tradition or not, we need to use our time meaningfully. If over days, weeks, months and years, we have used our time in a meaningful way – when our last day comes, we'll be happy, we'll have no regrets.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Moments of Silence Instead of Celebratory Toasts

People have such strange traditions. Apparently, on the anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 15, people gather at midnight at base of the Women's Titanic Memorial dressed in evening gowns and drinking champagne to toast and honor the victims.

It's almost as strange a tradition as a college friend who watched the movie Titanic in the movie theaters once a week, because she thought it was such a beautiful "love story." She seemed to only focus on the fictional aspect of the film -- the romance between Rose and Jack -- and disregard the historically accurate part depicting how more than 1,500 people perished during the disaster.

I find it unsettling to "celebrate" anniversaries of disasters and tragic events. While I understand the human inclination to observe and mark these moments and events, I don't think celebrating is appropriate. When it occurs, the revelers seem to be more focused on themselves and the "celebration" and the sad occasion they gathered to mark.

A moment of silence would suffice in the place of a champagne toast, don't you think?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Honoring Those Who Gave So Others Might Be Saved

The inscriptions at the base of the Women's Titanic Memorial are very telling, especially the back inscription.

On the front of the memorial, the inscription reads:
APRIL 15 1912

 However, the back inscription provides a very honest assessment of the disaster in 1912:
While the majority of the passengers who perished in the disaster were low-income, male passengers, socioeconomic status became irrelevant very quickly as the ship began breaking apart.

From the very wealthy, such as millionaire John Astor, to the poorer passengers, such as the immigrant travelers who names were never recorded, the ocean enveloped RMS Titanic and took their lives with it. The cold sea did not discriminate based on fame and fortune; all were vulnerable.

The fact that this memorial was paid for by women of different means from around the nation is truly a fitting tribute to the victims of that tragedy a hundred years ago. Like the North Sea, these women donors did not discriminate and chose to honor the men regardless of life station who selflessly gave their lives to save others.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Women's Titanic Memorial in DC

Did you know that there is a memorial to the victims of the RMS Titanic disaster in Washington, DC? Well, neither did I until I took my Cherry Blossom cruise along Washington Channel Harbor and the Potomac River last month.

Located in the Waterfront area near the border wall of Fort McNair, the Women's Titanic Memorial was erected to honor the men who perished in the disaster who gave up their lifeboat seats to save women and children. Since today is the 100th anniversary of the disaster, it is fitting to share a photo of the Women's Titanic Memorial in this post.

The granite statue was funded by donations from women around the country, primarily raised through individual one dollar donations from more than 25,000 donors. In 1912, the memorial was placed along the Potomac River where the Kennedy Center now sits today. When construction began on the Center, this statue was moved to its current location on the Washington Channel Harbor.

One more element to note, doesn't the man's open arm position in the statue remind you of a famous movie moment? Apparently, Titantic director James Cameron replicated the statue's position in Leo DiCaprio's famous "king of the world" scene in the movie about the disaster. Further proof that sometimes art inspires art.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Fast Car

Do you remember that Tracy Chapman song, "Fast Car"?

During zero period physical education class my junior year of high school, I grew to despise that song. Our high school's color guard would also practice while we were "exercising" outside of the gym. "Fast Car" was popular then and the color guard selected it for their routine that year. They played it over and over and over again.

When I watched this Yellow Line Metro train pass above the Cherry Blossoms in a blur, I kept hearing that song in my head. The woman in that song wanted to escape her life in that fast car going anywhere. She is like the people on that Metro train passing above the Tidal Basin. The train was filled with people from the Virginia suburbs traveling into the District to go to work or school or another activity that didn't involve enjoying the Cherry Blossoms.

In the hustle and bustle of urban living, it is very easy to not pay attention to the world around us. How many train passengers failed to look up from their newspapers, books, phones or tablets and out the window to see these beautiful trees in their pink glory? And even if they had, the train was traveling so fast, they might have missed it completely anyway.

One of the best life benefits of photography is that it forces us to slow down and focus. Hopefully by pausing with our cameras to capture a life moment, we will also get the opportunity to see the world in an entirely new way and chose to stay instead of leave in a fast car.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Really Quite Lucky

The hiatus is over. Back to posting photos and updating the blog. Instead of going off into one of my elaborate musings, I'm just going to keep my posts simple for awhile. I'll just make sure to post really great photographs to compensate.

One of the best books to read when you're feeling sorry for yourself is Dr. Seuss' Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?. The following is my favorite quote from that children's book:
When you think things are bad,
when you feel sour and blue,
when you start to get mad...
you should do what I do!
Just tell yourself, Duckie,
you're really quite lucky!
Some people are much more...
oh, ever so much more...
oh, muchly much-much more
unlucky than you!
Very true, Dr. Seuss. Very true.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Coastal Flower Rivalry

Last week, I traveled to Northern California for some vacation time.

It was a trip filled with visits with old friends who live in the area, and celebrations of graduations and new adventures. My camera accompanied me on the trip and future posts will feature the best of our photo excursions.

After spending so much time with spring bloom in Washington, DC, the landscapes in Northern California was a big change. While spring arrived there as well, spring looks different on the West Coast. Unlike the plethora of flowering trees on the East Coast, Northern California features more flowering plants than trees in springtime.

Which do I like best? Unclear. As a photographer, I'm fascinated by flowering trees, but flowering plants offer such color and variety that they draw my camera as well.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

By the Dawn's Early Light

Why do I get up at the crack of dawn to travel to the Tidal Basin to photograph Cherry Blossoms? Today's photograph illustrates the reason why.

The early morning light is the best lighting source for nature photography. While I've found sunset light attractive as well, it often leaves photo subjects in silhouette.

As the sun rises, it drapes a soft glow upon flowers and plants, leading to striking profiles like the one in today's post. It is photos like today that motivate me to keep setting that alarm clock for an ungodly hour just to photograph nature at dawn.