Saturday, May 23, 2009

More Proper Lions

While I'm on the subject of sentinel lions, how about this cat in front of the New York Public Library? There are two of them there, but I think I only took pictures of one for some reason or another. I think they were identical. This is how a lion is supposed to look in front of your building. Majestic, alert, stoic. Not playful or napping like those DC lions.

Sleepy Time Lions

Usually when you see lions in front of a building, they're alert and ready to pounce, or at least looking impressive to guard the entrance against marauding wildebeest. But these two look positively sleepy. Let me see, where did I find these. I think there were in front of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in DC, very close to the White House.

Compare these two tired cats to the lions in Chicago, there's a world of difference.

The National Vegetable Garden

Since I just shared a couple pictures of the White House, here's a shot of what I saw in the backyard. Yep, it's the Obama's garden. This was just to the left of the rear of the house, just far enough away that I couldn't get it into the same shot as the house. I didn't see anybody working out there, though. And try as I might, I couldn't spot the little playground they put in for the kids. I guess they wanted them to be able to play without the prying eyes of tourists impinging on their privacy.

The White House

I think it's about time I showed you a couple of pictures I took of the White House while I was in DC. Compared to many of the other things I saw on my trip, the White House is off the beaten path. I had to actually seek it out. It's not on the Mall, and it's surrounded by other buildings, security fences and trees. But there are two clear views, the ones you see here. The above shot is the main entrance. You can sort of see the driveway that runs in front of it. Look close and you'll see uniformed officers on the roof, keeping an eye on us tourists. The shot below is the rear of the building, the side that looks south. As near as I could tell, you couldn't see it from any angle other than these two.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Getting Closer To Famous

Those hep cats from the Vodkanauts were kind enough to post some of my pictures from their concert last Saturday at Tropical Heatwave to their own website. I like to think it's because I take such great pictures, but I have to admit it's because I was the only blogger that popped up when their lead guitarist went looking for pictures of the show a couple of days later. (There were lots of folks there with cameras, many of them nicer than mine. I always get lens envy at events like that.) Again, it's worth your time to go see these guys if they come to your neck of the woods. It might even be worth it if you have to drive a couple towns over, too.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


I just wanted to share what I think is my favorite picture of the Maryland countryside. This was right outside of Easton the day before the wedding. There were lots of little fields like this around, each with some brightly colored plants growing, but this was the only one I saw with an old farmhouse in the background. I wish I'd spent more time taking a better picture of this. I shot this through the passenger side window of the rental van with the motor still running, so it's a little blurry and uncomposed. There are also numerous spots in the sky from the crud that's gotten stuck to my image sensor lately, but I think I can get rid of those with Photoshop. This is how I'll remember rural Maryland.

Another Civil War Monument

Here's another installment in my ongoing series of Confederate Civil War memorials. This time, I spotted a monument in a rather unlikely place, at least to me. While I was in Maryland for a wedding recently, there he was right in front of the courthouse in Easton. I had to look twice to make sure he was a confederate soldier, but if you look close, he's carrying the stars and bars, and his belt buckle says CSA. I wasn't even sure that Maryland was part of the South, but I guess it was. Anyhow, add this one to the list.


I can now add the space shuttle Enterprise to the list of shuttles I've seen. Though it never went to space, this is still considered the first space shuttle. Enterprise was used as a proof-of-concept vehicle. They dropped it at altitude and let astronauts pilot it in to be sure that such an unwieldy and unpowered beast could actually land as designed. It must have worked, because we're still flying space shuttles over thirty years later.

I saw this bird at the Air And Space Museum built by The Smithsonian near Dulles International Airport in Virginia. You hop on a shuttle bus after you've checked your bags (the shuttle costs $0.50 each way, by the way), and instead of wasting time in the terminal you get to see some impressive aircraft. Only problem is that my airline wouldn't let me check my bags more than four hours prior to the flight, and the shuttle only runs every 45 minutes. So the scheduling can be a little tricky. But it's worth the trip.

I think there are pictures out there of the original cast of Star Trek posing with this shuttle after they named it Enterprise. While I was at the museum, they were playing the new Star Trek movie on the Imax screen. Wish I'd had time to see it there.

Stay tuned for pictures of some of the other aircraft at this museum, including a Concord, an SR-71 Blackbird, and the Enola Gay!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dig The Vodkanauts

Went to a music fest last Saturday, and nearly got rained out. But the rain finally let up and most of the acts went off without a hitch. You might remember some of my posts from Tropical Heatwave last year, and that's the show I went to this year. Unfortunately, I didn't like most of the bands they had this year. There was one good rockabilly group, but I couldn't get close enough to the stage to get any decent pictures. However, I lucked out when I decided to come inside and check out the oddly-named Vodkanauts. The bald guy above was belting out a swinging cover of Judas Priest's You Got Another Thing Comin', and I was hooked. These guys covered everything from Elvis to Prince, hitting the Stones and David Bowie along the way. Highlight for me was a Neil Diamond medley that had everyone in the ballroom jumping like they were playing House of Pain.

I love shooting live concerts, but I really don't have the equipment for it. I need a much faster lens, that is, one that let's in more light and lets you take shorter exposures. It's hard to capture the motion of spirited performers on stage if you have to shoot pictures that need half a second or more of exposure. But I think I got some good ones. The convert lighting was only marginal, and there were so many people in the room I couldn't get to the other half of the stage to shoot the other band members. But I got the lead singer and the guitarist. (I guess you can see the bassist and drummer in the background if you look close...)

Dig the model of the Sunshine Skyway bridge on the back wall of the stage. They had both parts back there, but only one was lit up for some reason.

Sometimes, a longer exposure works to your advantage. I don't think this shot would be as interesting if it were sharp. But most of the blurry ones are garbage. Anyhow, go see the Vodkanauts if they come to your town. They're local to the Tampa-St. Pete area, but you never know when they might branch out.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Speaking Of License Plates

Since I just mentioned license plates, let me show you a current DC plate. Note the tag line "Taxation Without Representation". Seems a little odd for an official item, eh? Well, I guess the citizens of DC are a little peeved that they pay taxes, but do not have a voting representative in Congress. I suppose they have a point there...

Coolest Artwork Ever

OK, so I think the coolest thing I saw at the National Portrait Gallery wasn't the collection of presidential portraits, or the 10x life-size picture of Angelina Jolie. It was this collection of license plates from all fifty states, plus the District of Columbia. And if you don't think it's that cool, then read it. This piece is called Preamble, and the artist is Mike Wilkins. Wish I'd thought of it.

No Colbert

First question I asked when I visited the National Portrait Gallery was if they still had that picture of Stephen Colbert hanging near the bathroom. The guard just laughed and said no, not anymore. I didn't dare ask which bathroom it had been hanging in, so I just shot one at random to show you the spot where Stephen's portrait may have hung. I got funny looks from a girl when she saw me taking a picture of the restroom alcove. She must not be a fan.

Money, Honey

From the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, here are pictures of the original paintings that grace some of the money in your pocket. The unfinished portrait of George Washington above is the one that forms the basis of the picture you see on the dollar bill. I'm not sure why it was never finished, but hanging near it is an unfinished portrait of Martha Washington as well. The picture of Abraham Lincoln below is the basis of the image found on the penny. Lincoln would have turned 200 this year, which would have been quite the feat.

Self Portrait-DC

Here's a picture of me, or at least my shadow, on the National Mall in front of the Capitol Building. I could do a whole series of these, showing my shadow in famous spots. Hmmmm, there's an idea...

9-11-01 The Pentagon

I found myself with a little extra time when I was in Washington DC recently, so I took the Metro out to the Pentagon. There's a memorial area on the opposite side of the building from the Metro station, but it's worth the walk. I'll show you more of the memorial some other time, but tonight I want to show you the spot on the building where the plane impacted on September 11, 2001. You can see the black marble rectangle above, inscribed with the date. That's all there is to mark the spot. Plain, simple, and straight to the point.

Normal tourists like me can't get past the fence, but at least it's close enough that you can see it over there. I can only imagine the lengths they had to go to in order to build a publicly accessible memorial right next to the Pentagon.

I don't know if anyone ever uses these three entrance doors. All the activity seemed to be on the side to the right of this one. It opened up onto a giant parking lot, and a tunnel under a road that led to the neighboring mall.

I was a little nervous about taking these pictures, since there was more than one sign posted that said no pictures. But none of them were in the immediate area of the memorial, so I just kept shooting and hoped for the best.