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Maybe it’s the New Englander in me, but I love the idea of a giant indoor garden.  I love outdoor gardens too, but they aren’t as fun when it’s cold.  It’s currently beautiful outside, but I am waiting for some gluten-free cookies to finish baking for our girls night tonight, and I thought I would post something in the mean time.

This is from my adventures in the National Botanical Garden.  When I visited, they had an exhibit on orchids. Now, orchids are one of my favorite flowers.  I like just about any flowers that have drama – irises, daffodils, calla lilies (other lilies make me sneeze), lilacs – ok, I like all flowers.  Especially purple ones.  The Botanical Gardens had 3 stories of wild orchid jungle, as well as other rooms with plants themed by climate.

Orchids, Washington, D.C.

There were so many stunning flowers there that I didn’t know where to turn first.  I liked this shot because it looks like the middle bloom is peaking around the front one, wanting to be seen.  I also like that the stem is still visible, although very much not the focus.  As beautiful as blooms are, they are still attached to a stem and grow from the ground.  I took a ton of pictures of just the flowers and no contextual setting, but they didn’t seem to have the personality or pop that this shot has.

Red Orchids, Washington, D.C.

This is a similarly styled photo, only the background is even more out of focus, even more colorful, and even more abstract.  It seems less gentle than the first picture – the colors are bolder, the contrast is greater, and this bloom is clearly distinct from the others on the stem, rather than hidden within the bunch.  I wish this were a little more in focus – my DSLR is so much harder to manually focus than my old 35mm – then it would really pop.  I wonder what the blue streak in the background is.

And, in closing, I will leave you with this photograph of a fern.

Fern, Washington, D.C.

I love the energy this shot has, despite is monochrome scheme.  It is somehow very calming and very much alive.

I have been meaning to do a post on food photography, but I think I should get to some of my backlog of DC photos from two weeks ago first.  Oh, and take some more photos of food.  I have some now, but none that I feel are up to the “standards” of this blog.  I thought I would start with a sunset.  One usually does not think of Washington DC as having wonderful sunsets, and it doesn’t really (although I did pick up a lovely postcard of Dulles Airport at sunset, and, let me tell you, an airport has never looked so pretty).  There is this magnificent quality to the light just before sunset or just before dawn.  (Let’s face it, though, dawn is not likely to happen any time soon.)  This light makes dull objects grand and grand objects majestic.  This was the case as we headed into Art and Soul – a wonderful restaurant with interesting art.  This photo was the money shot of the weekend.

Evening light on the Capital Building

I could speak/write at length abut how the trees and the street light frame the building, the light makes it seem to glow from within (see my post about the rocks on IV beach here), even, if we want to go political, how Liberty is facing away from the sun (although that would mean she watches the sun rise, which is kind of nice), the rule of thirds, etc, etc.  Instead, I want to point out that, even as the building glows and captures our attention, life goes on below.  Street lamps still illuminate pedestrians, and traffic lights still direct drivers.  This shot is very hierarchical, and I am not sure how I feel about the message of the government being above the people.  I do like the statue of Liberty standing over it all.  Oh, and I love a good federalist style building.  Especially at sunset.

Our Nation’s Capitol was bathed in pink last weekend for the start of the Cherry Blossom Festival.  The weather was ok – nice on Thursday but cold and rainy on Friday and just plain cold on Saturday.  I was not appropriately attired.  On the plus side – I still managed to take over 300 photos!  I culled the collection down to the 76 that were facebook worthy (I usually like to limit it to about 30, but the flowers were so pretty!) and the few that shall appear here.  Most of my photos last weekend were tourist shots – some featuring my various family members who were also there, and some just recording the awesomeness that is the Capitol Building and the Botanical Gardens.  I love federalist architecture, and that was in abundance, but I will try to stick to photos with something resembling artistic merit here, and not just put up all of the columns I shot.

This shot was taken in the Old Supreme Court.  It had been the Old Old Senate Chamber, but the Senate had outgrown it and had to move.  These desks were facing a row of high backed chairs where the Court had sat.  Unfortunately, the lighting in here was very low, so I couldn’t get a good shot of them without a tripod.

The Old Supreme Court

This brings me to the difference between “tourist” photos and “artistic” photos.  I am not going to be so vain as to say all of my photos are art – very few of them are.  But this is my blog, so I can show you only the photos I want to.  I like this photo because it doesn’t have to be the Old Supreme Court.  I really enjoy decontextualizing objects and places with photos.  With painting you can place anything you want anywhere you want, but photos are considered to be “real” – actual recording of what was where.  This is less true in the digital age, but the phrase of a picture being worth a thousand words still holds.  I could show you the picture of the room above and it could be anywhere.  The lamps remind me of an old library and the green tables give it an air of elegance.  The desk lamp in the lower right corner is nicely (if not totally symmetrically) balanced by the wall lamp on the left.  Each lamp in the middle emits a pool of light, illuminating just enough of the area around it to create an intimate feeling in what would otherwise be a vast, somewhat empty space.  While by definition this photo is a record of my visit to Washington, DC, taken out of context, I think it still stands as a story unto itself.

Now what we have all been waiting for – the pink!

Magnolias on Pennsylvania Ave

The magnolias were out in full force last weekend – I was glad because once their dropped petals get crushed, the smell is awful.  We had nothing to worry about, though.  The petals were all on the trees and magnificent in several different shades of pink.  It was a refreshing change from California – we always have flowers here, but they are all different colors and so bright.  The paler pinks were a nice change of pace.  This is more of a tourist shot than the one above – I took it to capture a moment.  The canopy of petals seemed to glow and I loved the lines of the trunks and branches.  It looks better larger rather than the small version I posed here.

Cherry Blossoms, Eastern Market

The requisite close up.  I will have photos of my trip to the national botanical garden up soon – there are lots of close-ups there, but these flowers are just so dainty.  The blue sky, which finally reappeared on Saturday, is a nice background.  I set up this shot so that I could have several diagonal lines running through – the bunch of flowers and the branch both running at a shallow diagonal and the two branches running more steeply up, all framing the flowers in focus in the middle.

Cherry Blossoms and the Washington Monument

I will also at some point do a post on photographing monuments.  Monuments in general are an interesting concept – so many of them are something beautiful to remind people of something ugly.  This particular monument is inoffensive in content (Washington was a pretty popular guy), but I know some who would argue with the execution (the phallic tower is, well, phallic).  Until I get to a full posing on it, though, the Washington Monument through the Cherry Blossoms will have to do.  The focus here is really on the flowers and not on the monument, though.  As I alluded to above, the branches of cherry trees make for dark, interesting shapes, in contrast to the dainty flowers they hold, in a composition.  Here, the monument is just part of the background – a blip on the landscape of the tidal basin, the trees, and the sky.  The flowers and branches are darker, in focus, and in front.

Cheery Blossoms and my mom

This is my mom.  I liked the way the shadows played on the brick and cobblestone ground.  I did a series of shadows on bricks a few years ago, but nothing really came together the way I wanted.  This is much closed to what I was aiming for them.  The overall composition is a little more cluttered than my usual shots, but I liked the urban feel here with the bicycles and people walking in the background.  To make this less of a vacation shot and more of an artistic shot, my mother should probably not have been smiling at the camera, but looking past the camera or off to the side.  On the other hand, she could have just seen someone she was waiting for and turned to smile at them.

That is all for now, but I have a ton of flower shots from the Botanical Garden, as well as some landscapes, monument shots, and more of the Capitol Building.  It was great to have three whole days of shooting before going back to the grind.  Hopefully this term will be less chaotic and I’ll be able to take more photos.

I am working on culling my photos from my weekend in Washington D.C., but in the mean time, I thought I would post the link to this:

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-alcala-photos-pictures,0,4968521.photogallery

A serial killer who was just convicted for the third time had these in his storage locker. Most of these are just snapshots.  Many of the people are not overwhelmingly beautiful (although some are).  It is unclear if these were his victims, people he stalked, or just random photos he collected.  They are more than just a time capsule of 70’s fashion, they are memories and art.  The women and children (there are only a few of men) have expressions ranging from “come hither” to innocent laughter, from posing for the camera to being entirely unaware of the photographer.  There is a sinister undertone to all of them when you think of where they were discovered, but the content itself is entirely devoid of that particular undertone.

These photos all together could have been from a photographer’s collection of portraits.  I can easily see them being brought together in a “retrospective” of sorts in a small gallery or cafe or library.  Instead these women have been brought together by a serial killer.  It is morbid to wonder if any of them are still alive, but one can’t help but do so.

If you have the chance, glance through the photos.  There are about 80.  I posted some of my favorites below.  It is weird to have “favorite” photographs from a serial killer’s collection, but these pictures can tell a story.

No California photoblog would be complete without an occasional photo of produce.  Patterns have always appealed to my need for order, and I love it when nature complies.  Here is a shot I took of beet stems.  I had cut off the beets to make a red quinoa risotto (quinoatto?) for a Valentine’s Dinner I was having with some friends, and the cutoff beet greens remained in a bunch interwoven with the pink stems.

Beet Greens and Stems

I really liked the green leaves intertwining themselves with the red stems.  It had great color contrast, and even though the lighting was not the best (my kitchen has fluorescent light or none at all), I still think I managed to capture the visual interest.  I thought this was so cool I showed it to each of my friends as they came over.  (They all thought it was as cool as I did). I don’t have a macro lens, so I had to crop this in order to get the shot I want.  I think a macro is the next camera-related toy I will get, since I like doing close ups.  In general, I like to think of myself as a photographer, not as a photoshop adept.  If it requires touch up beyond a crop, then the shot was not right.  It’s not a definite line, since cropping is a touch up in a way, but it’s one I have to draw to not spend all of my time at my computer.

Speaking of which, it is a beautiful day and I think I will take some work outside and bask in the sun for a bit.

I have not had the time to write anything or even take any pictures since December, but that doesn’t excuse my hiatus since October.  I finally uploaded a bunch of photos from the end of last year from my camera to my computer.  I won’t post the 5 billion photos I took of baby seagulls (the cutest animals ever, except for maybe baby ligers), instead, I thought this one would be nice:

Campus Lagoon

I took this while walking on a bluff overlooking the lagoon and the Pacific.  The weather here is just about magic sometimes – the clouds rest passively on the mountains (I promise I will have a photo of the mountains soon), or dramatically over the ocean.  This shot was taken after it had been raining for a day or two (it was December – the beginning of rainy season here).  I can’t remember much else about the day, besides seeing the silhouette of the tree against the backdrop of the ocean and finding it spectacular.   As I have mentioned before, I am quite taken with the play of light and dark (it is a huge part of my chosen profession), so silhouettes are always a draw.  Thus far silhouettes of people have eluded me, but I am hoping I can work on that.  Maybe I should get a friend to pose?

The day I took this shot, I also took maybe 30 of baby seagulls and another 20 or so of other birds.  None of them turned out exactly the way I wanted, so I will have to practice.  Animate objects have an additional aspect which is much harder to capture on film (or CCD, however you look at it).  I need to think this through more before I try again.  Although I have gone digital, and I have a ginormous memory card, I am at heart a film photographer and I hate wasting shots on the unnecessary.

Ok, I can’t resist.  In case you don’t believe me, here are the baby seagulls:

Baby Seagulls, Isla Vista Beach

The other bird shots I took were better, but these fellows were SO CUTE.

I took this photo on the same walk as “Surfer Waiting.”  The light that afternoon was perfect and dramatic which ever way I looked.  I took this shot because I loved the way the light played off the patterns and lines within the rock as well as the seaweed type substance on the surface.  The surface contours created shadows that contrasted the lit parts so much they seemed to glow.  I also liked the bit of beach and water I caught in the back.  It’s not in focus, but it’s clearly there.  If it had just been a monochromatic stretch of sand, the rock would feel much more isolated and less lively.

Rock, Isla Vista Beach

Rock, Isla Vista Beach

 

One of my favorite sources of light is a street lamp.  They give their surroundings a warm, directional light leaving lots of shadows and contrast. I liked the balance of this shot – the diagonal path of the branches.  It follows the rule of thirds and all of that jazz.  The vaguely creepy feeling I felt was appropriate for almost Halloween.

Tree at night, Isla Vista

Tree at Night, Isla Vista

I spent a bit of time playing around with shutter speed on this one.  I liked this the best because the branches really pop.  Night photography gets much more interesting when you don’t have a tripod.  I took this around 9:00 PM when I was en route to the co-op.

At this point, I have been living near Isla Vista for over a month and, needless to say, I have more than a few photos of the beach at various times of the day.  I took this shot a few days ago when I went for a walk in the late afternoon.  The sun was low in the sky, just to the left of the image, giving the beach a hazy, dream-like quality.

Surfer waiting, Isla Vista Beach

Surfer waiting, Isla Vista Beach

I walked down to the beach and wandered down the coast for a while.  I am still playing around with capturing the surfers in action, but I love the silhouetting that I can get from the afternoon sun.  Maybe when the sun starts rising a little later, I will try shooting the sunrise.  The sunsets here are amazing, and I promise I will post some shots of that soon, but I like way the late afternoon light is still interesting and yet does not dictate the terms of the shot.

I have found that the sites I have been using – facebook, picasa, etc. – have not quite met my desires as a way to post a few photos at a time to show my friends if they are interested, but not to bother people who would not care (at least 500 of my facebook friends).  I am hoping this blog will fill in the gaps – I’ll post some of my favorite shots and some of my least favorite shots, and it’s a place to muse at greater length than facebook or twitter.  Here is a shot to start you off while I figure out the intricacies of the site known as wordpress.com.

'57 Chevy Bel Air

'57 Chevy Bel Air

Here is a photo I took at the Goleta Fall Classic this past weekend.  It was a show of old and interesting cars (there were also a few bugs and PT Cruisers with interesting paint jobs).  As anyone who has known me for a while, I have loved the ’57 Chevy since I was 4 or 5 – when I received a ’57 Chevy Bel Air Barbie car (teal, with pink interior).  It is currently in storage in my friend’s parents home back east.  I still love this car – the lines and curves are the definition of an era.  These curves represent the “retro” style that has returned with Mad Men and the like.  The reflection of sunshine on the lights add a glamor that transcends the ages.