Flare!

I spend a lot of time trying to avoid flare when shooting towards the sun.  In many instances, however, flare adds to the beauty of the shot.  This picture could have been just a picture of a house with the sun rising behind it.  With the flare creating diffracted sun rays (and the more pronounced oblong shaped projections towards the bottom of the image), life is injected into the light, so to speak.  While flare is not always a desirable feature in a photograph, it can be used to great advantage.

Awakening

Why is the familiar different now
The river by the bend
The trees, the rocks, the birds, the sky
A thousand steps walked alone
In solitude, nature was my friend

And yet today, even as the bird sang its welcoming song
As the winds of winter give way to the blossoms of spring
As the water lapped gently on the rock strewn shore
I heard my heart speak

In winter’s depth a flower bloomed
Joy came forth, the soul consumed
A life, thought dead, was vital still

And so it was this winter day
That the steps familiar had a different strain
There is beauty everywhere
And time enough for us to share

Capitol Columns at the National Arboretum

One of the many places in the Washington D.C. area that I have never visited in the decades that I have lived in the area is the National Arboretum in Northeast Washington D.C.  I don’t really have a reason why I have never set foot on this place.  I enjoy leisurely walks.  I enjoy taking pictures of flowers and gardens.  I enjoy taking pictures of birds.  Apparently, the Arboretum has no shortage of the things that make for a great day outdoors but somehow, I never stepped inside its grounds.  That oversight was corrected, somewhat, by a short trip to the National Arboretum in mid February.

Yes, it was winter.  There were few birds flying about.  The flowers are still weeks from coming out.  The gardens were in a state of hiatus.  Still, the landmark that many people come to see in the Arboretum are the Capitol Columns.  These columns used to be part of the Capitol Building.  When the Capitol was renovated, the columns were replaced by new, improved, more ornate cylindrical blocks.  What to do with the old columns?  Well, why not put them in a garden?  And so, eventually, the columns made their way to the National Arboretum.

It was a relatively mild winter afternoon.  The recent rains filled the reflecting pool with water and made for even more interesting photographs.  People were enjoying themselves in the warmth of the February sun.  A beautiful afternoon that surely will not be the last spent visiting this wonderful place.

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Old House Vineyards and Distillery

And coming soon, the Old House Brewery.

On a rainy mid winter day, the urge to drive to the countryside was too much to resist.  It was cloudy, drizzly, cool (but not too cold), grey and wet near Washington DC.  It was cloudy, drizzly, cool, grey and wet in Culpeper, Virginia as well.  And yet, none of that mattered when I visited Old House Vineyards and Distillery.  The vineyards and winery that Patrick and Allyson Kearney developed in the Virginia countryside is a wonderful place to visit.  And on a soggy Saturday morning, the mood was anything but damp.  Wine, chocolate fondue, good food, what could be better?

Rum.  Maybe not better, but the spirits sold by the distillery certainly lifted the spirit of this damp visitor from the DC suburbs.

A walk to the World War II themed ABC store was greeted by several samples of Old House Bumbo 1758 Spiced Rum and Grog 349 Rum.  Brewed in house by Keith Ballurio, the rums are enticement enough to make the drive through the rain more than worthwhile.  Ryan Kearney, the other partner in the distillery business, has a wonderful vodka and an agave nectar that provide even more reasons to drive to the countryside.

And did I say that the place is beautiful?  This is a great place to celebrate a wedding.  A vineyard, a lake, wine, vodka and rum.  Oh, the bride and groom would be ideal accouterments as well.

On this day in February, a groundhog was walking the grounds.  Maybe winter isn’t over after all.  One thing is certain.  No matter the season, Old House is certainly worth a visit. And after a few tastings, you will probably go home with a bottle (or two, perhaps even more) of wine, vodka, rum, agave nectar,…  I did.

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When I Listen to Beethoven’s Ninth

I feel like I am at Mesa Arch again, watching the sun rise through the distant mountains, Washerwoman Arch etched in the brightening light, the soft glow of the sun reflected on the red hued arch above me.  Great music is a gift of supernal majesty.  Like the beams of sunlight illuminating the valley below, it lights up my soul.  He could not hear, but his music speaks to all mankind.  Let not our differences divide us.  We are all born from the dust of stars, our humanity an enduring testament to the greatness that we, as a species, can achieve when we transcend our limitations and draw inspiration from the Creator that made us all.

Delaware Sunrise

I was driving to northern New Jersey for a Christening.  I figured, what the heck, wake up early, try to get to Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge by sunrise, and watch the sun rise.  The sun and the clouds and the sky cooperated.

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I came for the birds, and ended up with the sun.

Wondrous Wyoming

The boat across Jenny Lake at Grand Teton National Park afforded us an incredible view of the Tetons.  Upon reaching the shore, the mountainside trails beckoned.  Up we went, some slower than the others.  In due time, the spectacular waterfall that would be one of the hallmarks of this trip came into view.  The Teton peaks may give Grand Teton National Park its name, but the lakes, the waterfalls, the flowers of spring, the clean air, the beautiful mountainside hikes, and so much more make this park better than grand.  Eloquently beautiful, sublimely inspirational, incredibly inspiring – no superlatives can truly describe this jewel of the national park system.

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Cold is a relative thing

It is cold outside.  Heck, it is cold inside.  The first few days of 2018 has been some of the coldest days we have experienced in the D.C. area in quite some time.  Yesterday, I went for a short hike in the park.  After thirty minutes, I was back in my car.  I wasn’t tired.  My hands, however, were aching from being exposed to the cold air.  One of the things that I need to buy are thermal protection gloves that will allow me to take pictures in cold weather.  As it was, I had to take my gloves off every time I wanted to take a picture.

Not that there were a lot of pictures to be found.  It is important, however, to persevere and keep looking for something that may prove interesting.  Practice is important.  In any discipline.  And in photography, you need to constantly look at the world and see what pictures you see.  I must admit, the cold temperatures dulled my desire to look at every angle, at every corner, at every tree or leaf and find a different picture.  I just wanted to walk a little bit and still have fingers that I can move at the end of the day.

So here are two pictures.  Perhaps not spectacular.  Totally reflective of my mood and sentiments on the fifth day of the first month in 2018.  I’ll look at these pictures again, perhaps in the far off future.  And remember that it was cold.

And yet.  I just finished talking with my cousin in Calgary.  She said it was -22F in Calgary over the holidays.  Cold is a relative thing.  In her mind, we are probably enjoying near tropical weather.  Sixteen degrees Fahrenheit?  You think that’s cold?  I imagine that’s what she was thinking when I was complaining about the temperature.

There are things in life that are relative.  And there are things in life  that are absolutes.  It is absolutely cold.  The degree of coldness, however, is all relative.

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Frozen

With most of the United States in deep freeze, why not venture out on the first day of the year and feel that cold, crisp air?  Why not.  Unfortunately, my favorite museum was closed for the day.

DSC05251_sStill, a little cold weather did not deter this man, nor did the weather deter his drinking companions.

DSC05255_sBut on this cold January day, the first day of the year, the afternoon light made this short trip to the Mall worthwhile.

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