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There have been a lot, A LOT of cherry blossom photos posted over the past week. One could argue that every angle and vantage point around the Tidal Basin has been used and abused, that it’s hard to create a unique and unseen photograph of those fluffy little flowers. While that may be true to a certain extent I’d argue that that just makes it more of a challenge. It used to be that you could get down to the water by 8 am and still have the place (mostly) to yourself with a good hour or two until the tour buses and sandal-clad tourists started making the rounds.  Now only the most dedicated, those who are willing to forgo those extra moments of shut eye just so they can have a moment with the trees without the distraction of fellow human beings, are the ones who get the photographs of the bloom in all it’s glory. Cathy Hammer got down to the Tidal Basin before sunrise on a Sunday to get this amazing shot. She set her f-stop at 13, set the shutter for 30 seconds and let it go. The result is stunning. The water seems to be frozen and the whole scene shows crisp detail. A scroll through her photostream offers some wonderful evening shots as well. It may be an angle we’ve seen before but certainly never quite like this. Great job, Cathy.

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Well positioned sunrise photos are always good, but when you can get that big ball of orange light in your shot it takes on a whole new life. In addition, you’ll get super-bonus points for getting a building, any building, in the shot. But when you can do it with the buildings being the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument, you deserve special recognition, like Kevin’s photo above. It has it all: the sun directly behind the dome; a uniform orange dawn sky; the sun as a perfect circle; and even a perfect silhouette, with no atmosphere distortion, of the Statue of Freedom. Pretty amazing.

As I mentioned in last week’s Week In Review, the Fall Equinox was on Sunday. That meant that the full moon last week rose almost perfectly from the east. What I didn’t mention is that the sun rises perfectly from the east on both Equinoxes (Spring and Fall). Since the timings and placements of these celestial bodies have been known for centuries, with the right tools it’s very easy to plan out a photo shoot to get your own well placed shots. I use the Photographer’s Ephemeris which provides a map and lines showing the movement of the sun and the moon for a given location; it’s very intuitive to use (plus the desktop version is free). So get planing, as the Spring Equinox is March 20th and I hope to see people out taking some sunrise shots.

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One of the interesting things that I’ve noticed, as a photographer, is that I see the different qualities of light around me. This is particularly interesting when you notice it at different times of the day and year. At sunrises and sunsets it is, of course, easy to see the fascinating shades of color that can play. But what can be really interesting is the light an hour or two after sunrise and how it can make a scene look, especially at different times of the year.

Let’s take Kai’s picture above. If we were to add the scene up by it’s parts, there’s nothing remarkable; just some trees, clouds, and a hill. But once we add the light of a winter sun, which is just a little further after magic hour sunrise, a beautiful photo is created. Suddenly those trees are nicely silhouetted; the power lines help break the shot into pleasing thirds; and the steam of the smoke stacks is lit up perfectly. And most of this is done with just the right amount of light.

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DCA by brokensquare

Ah, the airport.  Is it strange that I find it to be a magical place?  It’s where people come together, some sharing the same flight, others departing to different destinations, but all part of a worldwide system that just somehow works.  You make your reservation online, pack your tiny tube of toothpaste, roll in with your luggage, wait in line to check in, take your shoes off, watch as your cigarette lighter passes right through security, get to the gate and scope out your fellow passengers, grab some food to bring on the plane with you (since the days of free meals are long gone), turn your portable electronics off so as not to interfere with the plane that was built in the 1970′s, sit back, relax, help the person next to you with their oxygen mask before placing yours firmly around your nose, resist tampering with the smoke alarm in the lavatory, read SkyMall and wonder who actually buys this stuff.  You gaze out the window and admire the polished wings, held together with rivets as they pierce through wispy clouds at speeds of over 400 miles per hour.  Oh but wait – what’s that?  Before you know it you’re placing your tray and seat back in their full upright position and the stewarde – um, flight attendant is welcoming you to Los Angeles.  It’s magic I tell you.  Without breaking a sweat, you’ve flown, through the air mind you, to the opposite side of the country.

But like most magic tricks, there’s more than meets the eye.  While you were begging for an exit row seat and anxiously waiting for the gate attendant to call Seating Area 3, the ground crew was loading your luggage, stocking those $10 boxes of airplane food, fueling the plane, de-icing the wings, pushing it away from the gate, oh, and taking photos of the spectacular sunrises that bath the runways in deep hues of purple, orange, and yellow.  Magic, I tell you.