After the Parade

We went to Times Square hours after the parade ended.  Near midnight, the crews were busy cleaning up the trash (and there was A LOT of TRASH!) and the police were moving the barriers down.  People still milled around in copious quantities, buoyed by the food that rests deep inside their stomachs, the frenzied energy of the holiday season beginning to take root.  A man plays his saxophone while countless people mill about the food trucks and billboard signs that drown out the stars in the night sky.  New York, the city that never sleeps.  Frenzied strolls along the well lit avenues.  Electric is the word.

DSC00903bw_s

Advertisements

Dancing Flame

Taking a picture of a candle isn’t particularly exciting.  To add a little zest to the standard lit candle image, I used a macro lens and a longer than one second exposure to capture the flame moving around.  And since the picture was indoors, blowing on the candle ever so slightly introduced the requisite amount of motion to capture the dancing candle light.

Impressionistic Reflections

Fall is definitely here in Northern Virginia.  The trees are finally resplendent in coloration.  The lack of rain may have dampened the deep red, orange and yellow hues so prevalent in autumns past, but the warm weather affords many opportunities for walks in the parks and nature reserves that dot the Washington area.  Huntley Meadows, with its wetlands replenished by recent rains, is particularly beautiful in the fall.  Reflections are a mirror image of reality and with a little bit of help from a slight breeze, the reality becomes a beautiful dream.  A reflection seen in a calm body of water can be beautiful.  With longer exposure taken with a tripod mounted camera, the slight undulations in the surface, made possible by a gentle wind, transform the beauty of a tranquil day into a treasure of moving colors, a feast for the eyes.DSC09361_sDSC09365_s

Oh what a beautiful morning!

Sometimes, when the light is right, you don’t even have to see the sun to see a beautiful sunrise.  With the dust scattering the morning light towards the mid autumn sky, how can one not stop and just wonder at the beauty that is around us.  We forget, sometimes, that every day can be special.  Each day is a gift.  Our mind knows this, but our heart must feel it.  In the midst of life’s trials, there is always something that can bring love into our lives.  And in truth, as long as love prevails, beauty will always be there.

 

Depicting a Windy Day

In my earlier write up, I talked about walking around Huntley Meadows on a windy day.  How can one convey motion in a static image?  Blur.  Wind causes motion over time.  Decreasing the shutter speed will introduce blur to an image.  This can be used to an advantage.  Mount your camera on a tripod and pick a shutter speed around 1/20 of a second or even slower.  The result can be interesting.

Why look at the same static pictures of red, orange, yellow, green and brown leaves hanging on the branches of a tree?  Make your picture move.  Introduce blur.

DSC08930_s

DSC08984_s

You can also select a high contrast scene and introduce a little blur.

DSC09161_s

Light + Motion = Emotion.

The East Building, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

This is one of the most interesting architectural landmarks in a city full of architectural landmarks.  The East Building of the National Gallery of Art was designed by I.M. Pei and first opened to the public in 1978.  In the second decade of the twenty first century, the museum underwent renovations and reopened to the public in 2016.  The museum is home to the larges Calder mobile in the world.  It a building awash in light and open spaces.  Walk up and down staircases of marble.  Take a seat by the trees in the sun  atrium.  Go to the roof, where you can take in a beautiful view of Pennsylvania Avenue and the Capitol and take a selfie with a giant blue rooster.  And did I mention the Picassos, the Rothkos, the Dali by the elevator?   A truly magnificent place to visit and explore.  And photograph.

DSC00116_s

DSC00125_sDSC00121_s

Lose Yourself at the NGA in Washington, D.C.

Art museums.  Many cities have art museums.  In art, we see the best of humanity expressed through the mind and vision of artists from all over the world.  They move us, teach us, inspire us.  We see love, sorrow, joy, curiosity, madness, genius.  The art filled rooms allow us to travel to places we have never been and we leave hoping to see, in our own way, the places that somehow have gained a little familiarity.  History comes alive, in the faces of people who have receded into memory but forever remembered in transcendent images of artists who captured a moment in the lives of the people that they knew, even fleetingly, in their lifetimes.  Sometimes, we see a character from a book, holy or secular, come to life through the imaginative brilliance of a Rubens or the transcendent luminance of Raphael.  We see saints, politicians, kings and queens, emperors, men and women, boys and girls in portraits painted by Rembrandt, El Greco, Cassatt,  Picasso, Vermeer.  We see the landscapes of Turner and Van Gogh,  the flowers of Monet ,  the dancers of Degas.  We see life depicted by Renoir and Cezanne.   Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci, one of the crown jewels of the gallery’s permanent collection, is the only Leonardo portrait in North America.  A list of names, known and sometimes unknown, mounted next  to countless works of art, to be studied, admired, seen.  To be in an art museum is to lose yourself in an ocean of color and creativity.

When I was younger, I went to art museums as part of my elementary or high school class.  We were supposed to learn something about a time in history, learn about a particular type of artwork, or perhaps learn something about a particular artist.  Like many people dragged to the museum, I didn’t really pay attention to the greatness around me.  I came with pad and pencil in hand, made notes (sometimes), tried to remember something that I could write about when that homework assignment inevitably came.  I was there in body, but the spirit remained unmoved.  I remember shortly after finishing my undergraduate studies going to the National Gallery of Art to look at some paintings by Mark Rothko.  My cousin was visiting from out of town and she wanted to see Rothko.  Well, she knew what she was looking at.  She appreciated the colors and the palettes that she excitedly gazed at.  What did I do?  I asked the guard, sarcastically, if a painting on a nearby wall was “Orange and Yellow.”  A sly smile greeted me as he told me to take a look.  Sure enough, it was “Orange and Yellow.”  I didn’t get it then.  I’m not sure I get it now.  They say that art appeals to the soul, but that not everyone is drawn to the same thing or place.  Someday, maybe.  I keep an open mind.

Rubens, on the other hand, with the great painting “Daniel in the Lion’s Den”, is an artist many art lovers truly appreciate.  This painting, which is part of the collection at the National Gallery of Art (West Building) is a true masterpiece.  From the standpoint of the lighting, the composition, the drama imbued in the painting, this work of art speaks to me.  A photographer can learn a lot from this picture.  From the adherence to the basic rule of thirds, to the use of light to accentuate the already dramatic pose of Daniel, to the use of colors and contrast to create depth, to the way the lions are “posed” to create shapes in the canvas, this painting is a brilliant inspiration to layman, artist, agnostic, or believer alike.

Then there is the set of four paintings by Thomas Cole.  Collectively known as “The Voyage of Life”, you see a child on a boat, an angel beside him, moving in calm water.  As a youth, the boy is alone in the boat, the angel hovering some distance away, as if to say that each of us is given control of our own destiny.  In Manhood, the boat is beset by rough waters, the man facing challenges that we all must face, even as the angel watches from heaven above.  Finally, in old age, the waters are calm again, and the angel once again is beside the man, accompanying him in the last part of his journey.  In four paintings, Cole is able to encapsulate the adventures, joys, challenges that we all go through in our own lives.  The use of light, color palette, dimensionality, to tell a story as grand and magnificent as anything that a Tolkien or George R.R. Martin has ever written, shows us that at our best,  in spite of the difficulties we encounter in our lives, we are indeed the fit custodian of the rock that we live in.

Such is the power of art that when it truly moves you, you will find meaning in the artwork even without realizing what technique or what material the artist is using to create that piece of art.  The hope, of course, is that these great works of art will not only bring a sense of wonder and awe to the viewer, but that some will be so moved as to want to study art and begin their own journey as an artist.  I didn’t know much about art and my limited knowledge may have remained even more limited if not for a visit of some friends and their father to the D.C. area.  He wanted to take his daughters to the museum.  While we were there, we happened upon an exhibit of sketches by Leonardo da Vinci.  He started to explain to me about perspective, depth, composition, the rule of thirds by first looking at the drawings of Leonardo.  And then through the paintings of various artists of different eras.  He explained why the pre Renaissance paintings seemed rather flat and lifeless (in reality, they are not).  His enjoyment and knowledge of art was infectious.  I am forever in his depth for kindling, within me, a deeper appreciation of art.

We in the Washington D.C. area are fortunate to have one of the great art museums and art collections in the world within easy reach.  Unlike other museums in other parts of the world, the Smithsonian museums and the National Art Gallery do not charge admission fees.  The collection is amazing; the curators have made the collection even more accessible by making an auditory guided tour to the more notable works in the museum available at no cost.  For the curious, there is simply no excuse not to visit the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

DSC01197_s

DSC01479_s