Color or Shades of Gray?

Many times when I’m out making images I come across something that just begs for me to really take notice. Not that I’m not taking notice of most everything around me all the time, but I love those moments when something really stands out. That happened yesterday, at the National Building Museum in Washington DC, in a stairwell. If you visit the museum be sure to go up to the third floor so you don’t miss a very enjoyable view of the Great Hall. You will also want to see the stairwell.

Green Coaster
Stairwell, National Building Museum
US Capitol at Dawn
Stairwell, National Building Museum

From my time studying Architectural History, I remember that the architect Mies van der Rohe said that “God is in the details” when talking about the idea of “Less is more.” I have often thought that is an interesting point of view. With the advent of smoked glass skyscrapers less really did become more and the details became more important that ever but I’m getting way off track!

I took notice of the ceiling of the stairwell when I was walking around on the third floor. The light coming in through the large windows that face north bathing the vaulted ceiling and all its warn tones in an almost magical light. When I got home and started looking at the images from the day this one immediately stood out. After processing the image, one question came to mind “How would this look in black and white?” I remember when I was shooting film and had only one camera, I whished for the day when it was easy to go from color to black and white or to have two cameras, one for black and white and the other for color. Now we can make one image and process that images so we have both.

Once we have both we are left with an important choice, which one should we show? Sometimes it’s a no brainer, one obviously looks better than the other, problem solved. Unfortunately that is not the case in this instance so I have chosen to show them both.  Sometimes not being able to make a decision is a good thing!

Smithsonian Folklife Festival Starts Tomorrow

Last Saturday as I walked from the Smithsonian Metro Station to the Washington Monument, I walked past tents and exhibits being prepared for this year’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival. The festival starts tomorrow and runs through Sunday, June 27th and then again next week, Wednesday through Sunday, July 4th through July 8th.

Each year, National Mall between the Capitol and the Washington Monument is transformed into three small villages for the festival.  There is a small cabin with a garden, large tents for concerts, live shows and food. There were large banners that let you know the name of the tent and sometimes what would being offered inside. One of the banners made mention of Azerbaijani food. Now, as far as I know I have never sampled Azerbaijani cuisine, but the more I thought about it the more I knew I had to go back and try it out.

If you are looking for some arts, crafts and cultural entertainment the next two weekends, will be amazing. People from all over the world wearing in their native dress. The will be showing visitors their customs, crafts and playing their music. I’m looking forward to heading to the Mall and taking in all the sights, sounds, smells and tastes that I can because the Folklife Festival is a feast for the mind as well as the senses. Oh yeah, don’t forget to bring your camera, because the world comes to DC for this festival.

A special note about this year’s festival: The full AIDS Quilt will be on display in the Mall. This is the first time in many years that the AIDS quilt has been on display in DC. I saw the quilt many years ago when it was displayed here in Washington DC, and sadly, it has grown since then.

Take some time to visit the festival and don’t forget to bring your camera because the world comes to DC for this festival. For more information visit the Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s website.

Waiting for the right light

Saturday night was a great night! It was the night of the 2nd Annual Celebrate the Summer Solstice, an all night shoot in Washington, DC. We started at 7:30pm, an hour before sunset Saturday evening and went all night until 6:45am, an hour after sunrise Sunday morning. Most of the people who started didn’t make it the whole night. When 6:00am rolled around there were only 6 people, of the 20 – 25 that started the evening,  still out making images.

US Capitol at Dawn
US Capitol at Dawn

I’m glad I made it through the night with a wonderful group of photographers. I hope they had as much fun as I did. It’s not as easy as it used to be to pull an all nighter but it’s still fun! You get tired and you want to pack it in and head home. If you can hold out and keep going, you can be rewarded with some great morning light! The image above of the US Capitol is from 5:18am. Just before dawn when the sky is starting to brighten up and some great colors light up the sky. I’m glad I waited for the light to get like this.

Morning Light
Morning Light

This image was made at the last stop of our journey, the National Museum of the American Indian, just before 6am. I knew that light like this was possible but I was very happy to see just how good the light was. If you know the building, you know that the color of the stone is a golden yellow to start with but when the first light of dawn hits it, it comes alive with color. The angle of the sun has to be just right for the rays of light to get under the large overhang and light these surfaces. With a little bit of planning, being in the right place at the right time and waiting for the right light, you can get some great images!

A Great Place to Photograph

I have often thought that it would be nice to live in some great place that everyone would like to travel to and photograph. Wouldn’t you? I was born in Key West and being very biased for that reason, I think it is one of the great places on the planet. But thinking about it, my wife was born in Stroud, Gloscestershire, in the Cotswold part of Engalnd, a pretty great place as well. Our two sons were born in Washington, DC, another great place. Lots of people travel to all three places, from all over the world, to visit and to photograph. Which got me thinking. Why is it that we ignore our own backyard, so to speak, and dream of traveling to distant lands to make images?

I live less than an hour’s drive from Washington, DC. Some people travel many, many hours to get to DC. Like most people in the DC ‘burbs, unless I have a good reason to, I don’t go to DC. Why not? There in lies the question that most of us have to answer. Why don’t we do more photography locally? I think it has to do with the fact that it is in our “backyard” and we can go there anytime we want to. I think we get used to a place and take it for granted. We figure we will have time later because we will be there for a while. Getting comfortable in a place and taking things for granted happens a lot in our lives. When we lived in Wheaton, MD, Susanne and I would joke “We will have this house fixed up just the way we want it six months before we move out!” Well, in fact, I finished working on that house, getting it just the way we would have wanted it, the day we sold it, six months AFTER we moved out! Have you lived somewhere only to move and then wish you had taken more time for making photographs while you lived there?

Life gets in the way of photography! Yes, its true! We let it, or we have no choice but to let it, and we dream. We get busy doing the things we do while we think “I can’t wait until I have time to photograph… (fill in your favorite place close by)” or dream of that big trip to some distant land. Do you know what is wrong with that way of thinking? By the time you get around to go to that place to photograph your photographic skills are so rusty most of the images are crap! At least to start with. It happens, to everyone that is not out making images on a regular basis. I know I get out of paratice and I must assume you do to. Have you ever noticed how the images from the last few days of your trip are so much better than the ones from the first week? Yeah, it happens to all of us. So what’s the cure?

Practice. Make the time to get out into your own “backyard” and practice. Your images will improve and you will be ready, photographically, for that world tour you will take, someday.

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