Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Segway Safari - Washington Photo SafarisHere's me at the end of the Segway Safari I went on with Ed Luria of Washington Photo Safari in early October.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was going about five mph at the time... maybe. To make it look more dramatic, using Photoshop, I selected myself and the Segway, inverted the selection, and used the Motion Blur filter to speed things up a bit.

Oh, and see that bandaid over my left eye? Um... yeah, I had a little overconfidence problem with the Segway during our 20 minute training before the Safari...

Don't let my foolishness dissuade you from giving a Segway at least a try - it's great fun.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Old Riggs Bank Building

Old Riggs Bank BuildingI meant to blog about the Segway Safari I went on with Washington Photo Safaris back in early October - what a blast! But I didn't get around to it then, and no time to do it tonight, so for now I'll just post this photo of the grand old brick-and-sandstone former Riggs Bank Building at 15th Street and New York Avenue, about a block from the White House. I took this one about 15 minutes into the Segway Safari (dismounted... you don't want to be Segwaying and shooting at the same time.)

Meanwhile, let me unabashedly give a plug for WFS and it's chief b'wana, Ed Luria. If you live in Northern Virginia, DC, or Maryland, love photography, and haven't gone on one of these safaris, check out their website and give it a try.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bedrock Billiards in Bank Building in Baltimore

Bedrock Billiards - West Baltimore StreetPardon the alliteration - I can't help myself.

Now that I'm working on the West Side of downtown Baltimore, I'm discovering new things to photograph. Having worke for some years near the Inner Harbor, on the East Side, this area has been terra incognita to me. But as it turns out, there be no dragons here, nor, for that matter, nearly as many architectural turkeys as on the East Side.

This fin de si├Ęcle bank building, its bank long defunct, now houses Bedrock Billiards. I haven't been inside, but I understand it's basically a bar-and-grill/catering place with pool tables, dart boards, and even two shuffleboard courts.

This photo looks manipulated, as if I desaturated everything but the sign. But in fact, this is pretty much the way I saw it on a gray morning last week. The contrast between semi-cheesy, colorful sign and the elegant gray stone carvings is what attracted me as I ambled up West Baltimore Street.

To set this photo in its context, here is a photo I found on that shows the Little Bank that Was.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

West Baltimore Street - Hippodrome Hatters

Hippodrome Hatters - BaltimoreWhen I was a small child in the 50's, nearly all gentlemen wore hats. President Kennedy, unintentionally but single-handedly, put an end to that. I don't remember ever seeing JFK in a hat, and in the 45 years since his death, I haven't even found a photo of him in one. So since 1961, it's been a rough road for haberdashers.

Flying against these headwinds, Lou A. Boulmetis, owner of the euphoniously-named Hippdrome Hatters, runs a nice business on West Baltimore Street. Mr. Boulmetis' store is an outgrowth of the business his grandfather, Louis, started 78 years ago.

To put it mildly, West Baltimore Street is not the most fashionable part of town, but Mr. Boulmetis's and his store provide a spot of elegance.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Today is VI Day

Vicotry in Iraq Day - November 22, 2008
November 22, 2008

We won. The war is over. Read why here

If you doubt this assertion, please go back to that link in the last sentence and read that post carefully. If you still are doubtful, go to Michael Yon's website and read his dispatches, going back several years, to see how the situation in Iraq has changed for the better (Yon is an independent writer who has been on the scene in Iraq and Afghanistan for most of the past five years.)

From now on, instead of feeling depressed every November 22nd (having lived through the assassination of President Kennedy,) I will remember today instead, and recall these words of JFK:

"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty."
My eternal gratitude goes to the men and women of our armed forces who served and sacrificed in Iraq to make this day possible.

I avoid politics on this blog, after all, it's supposed to be a photo-blog. But because so few will say it, I will: Thanks to President Bush for insisting on victory when most everyone else saw no hope two years ago.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ginkgo Fan

Yes, you could say I'm a ginkgo fan.

I never really noticed their elegant, fan-shaped leaves until I worked in Towson some years ago on a three-month contract. It was fall, and Pennsylvania Avenue in greater downtown Towson is graced with quite a few ginkgo trees. Even then, I didn't notice the leaves until they started to turn color and fall.

The ginkgo tree, Ginkgo biloba, is itself quite intersting. Among plants, it is sui generis, being the only species in the genus Ginkgo, which is the only member of the family Ginkgoaceae, in turn the only family in the order Ginkgoaceae, itself the only member of the class Ginkgoopsida, which is, you guessed it, the only member of the phylum Ginkgophyta.

Even among trees, ginkgos are especially long-lived and have been around longer than any other species - over 200 million years.

For this photo, I made use of a photographic axiom I learned years ago:

"Get close... then get closer."
The macro mode of my digicam (Canon A620) let me "get closer," and some nice late-afternoon sidelighting contributed to make a dramatic image.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fallen Ginkgo

These ginkgo leaves actually fell a few feet away onto some unattractive concrete pavement. I thought they'd look much better on this nice brick-paved portion of the sidewalk.

I waited until the sun was low in the western sky, grabbed a handful of ginkgo, and dropped them on the brick.

Gravity and air resistance did a pretty nice job of arranging them. All I had to do was compose and snap.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Celebrate VI Day This Saturday, November 22nd!

Have you wondered why you rarely hear anything about the war in Iraq lately? Or for that matter for the past six months or more?

The main reason is that the war is over. And we won. So did our new allies, the nation of Iraq.

Now in general, the media, whose motto is "if it bleeds, it leads," has no interest in spreading the good word. That's why you haven't heard. But the evidence is all there, and has been for months.

Our friend and blogger Zombie has a worthwhile post encouraging us to celebrate Victory in Iraq Day this Saturday, November 22, 2008. Please read it carefully. And if you decide to celebrate, please send her an email to let her know. Pictures would be nice!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Man in Bistro

Man In BistroMy brother Mark and I went to DC Sunday afternoon to have lunch with our cousins before their return to Israel. As we were being seated, I noticed this elegant gentleman deep in thought (or maybe just studying the menu) by the window.

I normally stay away from stealing moments like this, because I'm too slow and fumble-fingered to be a good candid photographer. But this gentleman was an interesting subject, and I really liked the lighting coming through the window, lighting half of the man as well as the bright red shirt behind him, while leaving the other half of him in shadow. So I grabbed my camera and channeled Henri Cartier-Bresson for a minute:

"What is best in photography is that you are catching an instant that will disappear. The photographer is like the voleur, the thief; he steals a moment, a fleeting moment and then he runs away with it in his camera. Being a photographer you have to be quick, quick, quick; you have to be like quicksilver, yes, like a tightrope dancer with death at the end.”
Well, I wasn't quick, quick, quick, but as this gentleman seemed to be concentrating on something else, I was quick enough.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Leaf on 21st Street

Our wonderful Israeli cousins Tammy and Itzik were in Washington this past week, and we drove to DC to pick them up at their hotel and spend the day with them. Mindful of the dictum, "it always pays to schlepp one's camera, I grabbed my Adorama Slinger as I headed out from home.

With the exception of our recent Shutterbug Excursions outing to Great Falls, I hadn't taken any decent fall foliage photos... and no fall close-ups or macros at all. But after I dropped my gang off at the hotel and parked my car around the block on 21st Street, I found this classic autumn leaf laying around in the curb. Moving it to the nicely-bricked sidewalk, I saw this ready-made frame and snapped a few shots.

This may have to do for Fall 2008. The leaves are still colorful on the trees, but there aren't too many left.

Boeing FP-5 Hawk

Boeing FP-5 Hawk, c. 1925

Sunday, November 16, 2008


P-47 ThunderboltHere's a P-47 Thunderbolt, affectionately known by its pilots and crew as "Jug" because of it's jug-shaped fusalage.

A good air combat fighter and a superior ground attack aircraft, the P-47 was the largest single-engine fighter of WWII.

This one is at the National Air & Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Immediately behind the P-47 is the Enola Gay, a Boeing B-29 bomber, and the very aircraft that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima in August 1945.

In the background at right is the Boeing 367-80, or "Dash 80", as the Boeing engineers used to refer to it. The Dash 80 was the prototype for the 707, the first American commercial jet airliner capable of non-stop transatlantic flight.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Space Shuttle EnterpriseSpace Shuttle Enterprise at the National Air & Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, adjacent to Dulles International Airport.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

West Side Story - That Afternoon

Here's that same garage as in yesterday's post, this time as the late afternoon sun shines down Pratt Street. Since the sun is in the opposite part of the sky, the shadows are different, and since the sun was lower, actually almost ready to dip below the buidings in the West, the light is redder.

Other than rotating the camera while taking the shot, no funny tricks this time - just some cropping and levels adjustment.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Day Update: Some Good News...

This bit of good news isn't about who won or lost, but rather about the election process itself, as I saw it today from the limited viewpoint of one precinct.

I was an election judge for the first time yesterday, and it was a great experience. In the precinct I worked in, just a few miles from my own, we had a heavy turnout early in the day, but everything worked properly and all flowed smoothly.

Now every state is different, and within states, elections are handled by local (usually county) boards, so what I saw may or may not be typical. Our precinct had 1819 registered voters, and we processed about 1280 today (don’t know how many have voted via absentee ballot.) That was a very comfortable number. I think the maximum wait time was 1/2 hour for the first hour or two, but for the balance of the day, many voters came and went within minutes. I checked in about 400 fellow voters myself, using the “ePollBook” system we have in Maryland - for 98% of those 400, it took about a minute each, and then they went on to cast their vote at the actual voting machine, where most had only a few minutes’ wait. Less than 2% of the voters we helped today needed to vote by provisional ballot.

My greatest privilege during the day was to stand up whenever I checked in a veteran, active military voter, or USNA midshipman in order to thank them for their service to our country. My greatest pleasure was to see the many families who came to vote together, and especially to check in the many newly-minted 1st-time voters, often along with their parents.

We poll workers were Democrats, Republicans, independents, and others, but we all cheerfully worked together (from 6 am to 10 pm!) to help our citizen vote. Also, almost every person I checked in was happy and cheerful today. It was a wonderful experience to be able to play my very small part in the election

It's too bad that some sites had very different experiences from ours. Check out this sad story at Dave Beckerman's photo blog about his polling site in Manhattan.

Elections in the US are more complicated than those in parliamentary systems, but this still isn’t rocket science, and I don’t know why boards everywhere can’t formulate precincts that are small enough to work like this precinct.

Want some real fun? Then Google "Tim Robbins vote" and read some of the stories about Robbins' 5-hour "ordeal" further downtown in Manhattan. Check out the NY Times story in particular - read it all the way through, and you'll find that, despite Robbins' rants about "voter intimidation," the apparent cause of his problem was Mr. Robbins, himself.

West Side Story

University of MD Medical School GarageI started a new job last week at University of Maryland (Baltimore) in the Department of Psychiatry. My wife is tickled pink, because she says that's exactly where I belong.

After three years of walking eastward from the Light Rail stop at Batlimore Convention Center, I now walk west from that same stop. No more Inner Harbor, but of course, you can find good photo opportunites anywhere.

If you look for it, you'll see that here's what morning sunshine does to the Pratt Street side of UMB's Medical School parking garage.

Full disclosure: Although the brown metal fascia at upper left looks fine in real life, I wasn't crazy about it for this abstract, so I used the color replacer function in Photoshop to make it red.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day 2008

It's been a fascinating - and very long - election season, but it all ends today. And we're the ones who end it. This is the only poll that counts.

I'm going to be an election judge tomorrow at a precinct nearby that's not my own, so I've already voted by absentee ballot (poll workers can't leave the polling place for the duration.) If your election precinct tomorrow is at St. Margaret’s Episcopal in the St. Margaret’s section of Annapolis, please look me up and say hello!

Be sure to vote - it's one of the easiest yet most important responsibilities we have as American citizens.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Patowmack Reflection

Patowmack Canal - Great Falls National ParkShutterbug Excursions 11/1/2008 Greet Falls Meetup: Here's a section of the Patowmack Canal, a project encouraged by George Washington as part of his dream to link the coastal plain to the Ohio River Valley via the Potomac River. The old canal lies within the Great Falls National Park.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Great Falls

Over the last 30 years or so, I've crossed into Virginia many times via US 495 and the Cabin John Bridge, never realizing that there's spectacular natural landmark not five miles off of the Interstate.

Upstream on the Potomac from the Cabin John, just far enough to be out of sight from the bridge, are the Great Falls of the Potomac. The river drops 76 feet in less than a mile through rock-strewn rapids and several waterfalls. Just above the falls, the Potomac is almost 1000 feet wide, but it narrows to as little as 60 feet as it rushes through Mather Gorge, a short distance below the falls.

I visited Great Falls for the first time yesterday, along with my crew from the Shutterbug Excursions group.
The group had to cancel its planned Skyline Drive photo meetup last week because of bad weather, but it turned out that fall foliage was closer to it's peak yesterday anyway. And the weather couldn't have been more perfect and comfortable - sunny and about 65F.

This photo is from the lookout point closest to the visitors center, looking across the Potomac to the Maryland side. The ancient, high-walled cliffs are a result of the Potomac carving a deeper path to the sea following the drop in ocean levels after the last ice age.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Cast Iron Baltimore

In the second part of the nineteenth century, Baltimore had several foundries producing cast-iron building fronts, making the city a critical supplier of this new construction technique for new buildings around the world. In New York City, you'll find the now-chic Soho area full of cast-iron buildings.

Baltimore had more than 100 of these cast-iron fronted buiding by 1900, but all but a few were either destroyed the the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904 or torn down during redvelopment. The Wilkins Building in the photo here is one of the few remaining.