Monday, November 30, 2015


A primary reason we visited the Washington D.C. area was to see our daughter Michelle, her fiancĂ© Tobias, and her new home located in Silver Spring, Maryland.  We took a couple of walks in her neighborhood, and I got the following shots.

Michelle's house is located on a beautiful sloped lot with mature trees, including this very tall, gnarly specimen that I shot looking up.

Her front walk involves a diverse set of well-aged paving blocks.  Here's a geometric sample.

On one of our walks we visited a nearby development, known as the Annex, that is undergoing restoration and that features various older buildings of diverse architectural style.  Here are a few shots from that walk.

The first is of a statue of a young hunter who apparently was distraught because he had slain a deer.  I was disappointed with the shot's composition.  My artistic goal was to pose the hunter against the bare limbs of a distant tree, and I liked that, but the result was that in doing so I failed to capture the sculpture's meaning.

Here is a detail from another sculpture, this one much more neglected.

It seems apparent that someone had decided this figure needed a pedicure.

One more sculpture, this of a fountain featuring strange fictional animals.

Initially, this looks like a reclining horse.  However, a closer inspection reveals that the creature's hind quarters are essentially that of a mermaid and its front legs end in fern-like fronds.  In post processing I was able to darken the background to accentuate the sculpture's features.

The Annex is still a work in process, and many components remain in a state of disrepair.  So there were many opportunities for capturing decrepitude.  Here are a couple of examples that I liked for their texture.

'Not sure why I found these shots interesting, but there they are.

The grounds also featured a beautiful, very mature ginkgo tree that was still in full fall color.  I took a few shots of the full tree from a distance, but I didn't like them from a compositional perspective.   Here is a shot that includes Tobias looking for fallen leaves to photograph.  Better, I thought, than a simple shot of the tree by itself.

Later, I spotted a scattering of the tree's leaves on a dark asphalt driveway and took the following.

I worked hard in post processing to further darken the background without overly darkening the leaves.  Not perfect, but I just didn't have the patience to use more artificial methods to blacken the background.  Also, in the end I thought the particular scattering of leaves could have been better chosen from a compositional viewpoint.  I tried to improve matters by cropping the image down to eliminate some of the larger vacant spaces.

Still not great, but better.

Finally, I thought I would include a photo of the two most important women in my life.


Saturday, November 28, 2015


Frederick, Maryland, located about 50 miles northwest of Washington, D.C., is a quaint town of about 60,000.  It has all the ingredients of a charming tourist destination--a plethora of steepled churches; a compact shopping district with period storefronts, boutiques, and eateries; and even a small stream crossed by pedestrian bridges, which, even though of modern construction, were attractive.  We spend the better portion of a Saturday there as part of our recent trip to Washington to visit our daughter and her fiancĂ©.

While I did take a few tourist-like photos of the town, I would have to admit that most of the shots I got and kept were a little less orthodox, another instance of my failing to see the usual things and perhaps seeing something else instead.

First, the more orthodox images.  As I mentioned, the town probably has more than its share of churches.  I actually went into one of them, hoping, I guess, for something architecturally interesting, but at least in the case of that church, the interior was quite utilitarian, humble almost.  But then it was Protestant.  Besides, there were people there wondering why I was planning to take pictures  Here is a shot of a different church that was situated a block off the primary shopping district.

Cluttered.  Maybe another time I would have ventured down the street to take a full frontal shot or at least have tried to better frame the church with neighboring trees.  But there were other members to our party.  Around the same time I took this shot of two women who apparently had participated in some sort of period presentation.

Again, ideally I would have taken this shot before rather than after they passed by and from a closer vantage point.  

So much for the more orthodox shots.  Now for the kind of shot I find myself taking.

First, a portion of a wrought iron railing on one of the pedestrian bridges crossing the stream that runs by the shopping district.  I converted the shot to a black & white to reduce distractions present in the background and to better bring out the texture of the wrought iron.

Then there were a series of wrought iron benches that had been painted white and that were casting dark shadows agains a brick wall that they were positioned against.  I liked the contrast between the white bench and the dark shadows.

The creek we crossed was lined by a concrete quay, and I took the following shot.

The midday sun was creating a major contrast between the relatively light texture of the stepped concrete quay and the dark walkway to the left and water to the right.  In post processing, I was able to further darken the walkway and water to convert this shot into a semiabstract.

Looking down, I found myself taking the following (unstaged) shot of debris from nearby flora.

 And I couldn't resist the following detail shot of a manhole cover.

Other photos weren't quite as unorthodox, such as the following signs posted outside a couple of the shops.

(Why do sign writers keep insisting on including unnecessary apostrophes? A pet peeve of mine.)

Unfortunately, I do not speak Spanish and didn't understand what the message in the following shot would translate to in English.  I think it is heartfelt; I just hope it's not indecent.

The above wrought iron spiral shot was actually harder than it looks (and perhaps not worth the effort).  There was no practical way to get this shot without standing on the narrow outside edge of the stairway to which the railing was attached (since standing on the inside would have generated a shadow across the railing.  Moreover, I had to lean forward precariously to get as directly above the center post as I could.  I focused on the top of the brass newel post and set the aperture to f/5.6 to blur out the concrete walkway below but to keep the paint-chipped spiral in as good a focus as possible.  I probably spent five minutes trying to get this shot, long enough to garner a couple of comments from passersby.  Sometimes one needs to be a little think-skinned.

Finally, I took the following shot of a decorative wrought iron "bicycle."  

I thought the sculpture was very representative of the town's personality.  It is, however, a little unfortunate that the bicycle was positioned against some paneling that was also painted white.  But it wasn't my privilege to move the piece in front of a more contrasting background.


Thursday, November 26, 2015


On our recent trip to Washington D.C. we also visited the U.S. Supreme Court building, located behind the U.S. Capitol.  The court was not in session, of course, so all of my shots wound up being basically architectural.  However, the first two are replicas of bas relief sculptures that were located in the building's lower level.  I thought they were features of the frieze in the pediment above the building's main entrance.  Not the case.  So they remain unidentified.  But I liked them for their character, so I kept the images, which I rendered as black & whites.

One of the building's better features is its entrance hallway.  Here are a couple of shots I took looking toward the building's entrance.

Frankly, it was quite dark in the building and I wound up taking these shots (as well as each of the shots below) at f/5.6 for 1/25 second at an ISO of a whopping 4000.  Not too bad, actually.  I thought the individuals in the photos helped to create scale.

At one point we needed to walk down a couple flights of stairs through an arched hallway, and I took the following shots.  The first looking down (with Geri and Tobias, my daughter's fiance, providing perspective).  I thought this had an almost Kafka-esque feel to it.

And the second from the bottom looking back up.

Finally, as we were leaving the building I noticed a sign in a side corridor that said, Spiral Staircase, and I took the following shots, in this case looking up and looking down.

The staircase was cordoned off, so I didn't have access to the floor at the bottom to get the full effect of the spiral stairway.  Instead, I had to lean over a railing to come as close as I could to a central shot.  Also, once I reviewed the last shot in post processing, I noticed that there was a piece of paper lying on the lower level floor.  I managed to remove it in post processing.   I had originally rendered these shots as black & whites, thinking that that would help emphasize the curved lines.  But in the end I stayed with the color, which I thought was quite rich looking.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Our visit to the U.S. Capitol was a real disappointment.  We knew that the Capitol's dome was under restoration, as is evident from the massive amount of scaffolding surrounding the dome's exterior.  But we didn't realize that the interior of the dome, including the rotunda, is also under restoration and is  also shrouded in scaffolding.  Not exactly photogenic.  To add to my frustration, we had a time constraint and were lured into taking a tour on the understanding that it would take 40 minutes when in fact it was closer to 1-1/2 hours in length.  Admittedly, it was interesting but our time constraint was major distraction.

Here is all that I got on this visit.  First, a statue of Frederick Douglass located in the area underneath the rotunda.  I liked the statue and the fact that I included negative space above and to the left of the statue.  My challenge here was that the area was very crowded with other tourists and it was simply not possible to get more than a shot from the waist up.  Still the statue is powerful, I think.

Here is the mural on the inside of the Capitol dome, which has been left exposed during the renovation.  But the shrouding covering the balance of the dome and side walls is evident in the shot. That's Washington surrounded by a passel of women.

My favorite shot of this post is of a ceiling in one of the legislative chambers.  A bit busy, perhaps, but I liked the curved lines.

And here is a statue, one of a dozen or more in a room seemingly devoted simply to statuary, of Barry Goldwater.  Quite distinguished, I thought.



On our recent visit to Washington's National Gallery of Art, we spent most of our time in the West building, where most of the more traditional art is housed.  We did spend some time in the Sculpture Garden located between the East and West Wings.  We also paid a visit to the East Wing, which is devoted to more contemporary art.  Unfortunately, the East Wing is under renovation and is closed except for the entrance atrium.

Here are a few of the art pieces in the sculpture garden that I shot.

As I was taking a photo of this, another visitor, of a certain age, was lamenting that most younger visitors simply wouldn't know what the actual sized counterpart of this piece was for.

I liked this bare tree, apparently made from polished aluminum, but it posed challenges from a photographic point of view, primarily because of the background clutter.

My favorite shot of this group was of this simple concrete block pyramid.

This was an unorthodox shot that I liked for the subtle shading presented by the blocks.  Converting the image to black & white helped to accentuate that shading.

As mentioned, the galleries in the East Wing are closed for renovation.  I thought the atrium was very interesting architecturally, but unfortunately I didn't take advantage of that.  The only shot I kept was the following.

The single patron helps, but there just isn't enough here to create interest.  The walls are simply too plain.

I did also capture the following whimsical sculpture.

And finally there was a fully abstract brass sculpture outside the entrance to the building.

Perhaps on our next visit we will spend more time in the renovated galleries.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015


On our recent trip to Washington D.C. to visit our daughter, we spent time at the National Gallery of Art.  Although I had been to the National Gallery a couple of other times, those visits were long ago, and my whole outlook on art museums has changed, particularly because of my interest in photography.

In short, the National Gallery is spectacular, both in terms of the art housed there and in terms of the presentation of that art.  I am posting here some photos of the west (main) building.  None of the exterior shots I took worked out, not because there was nothing notable to shoot but because I failed to capture it.  The interior includes a central rotunda.  Here is the one shot of the rotunda and coffered dome that I retained.  Not great.

As I mentioned, I thought the overall presentation of the art was terrific.   Here is a wide-angled shot of a main corridor that featured statuary.

Generally, gallery rooms, primarily featuring wall art, led off the corridor.  Here is a sampling of some of that art, beginning with the Renaissance period.

Yes, this last painting is by Leonardo da Vinci.

Later on our visit, we spent time in the gallery rooms featuring Impressionist artists, including Renoir, Van Gogh, Modigliani, and Toulouse-Lautrec.

The museum also included some wonderful sculptures, including the following.

Note the shoulder armor on this latter bust, consisting of lion heads.

I especially liked the following two sculptures.

But others I found just a bit bizarre.

Finally, is a detail from a gorgeous stained glass piece.