Interviews, Special Events, The Features

Vincent Musi and Exotic Pets, By Way of National Geographic

Vincent J. Musi, courtesy National Geographic

Vincent J. Musi, courtesy National Geographic

Tomorrow night, veteran photographer Vincent J. Musi will take the stage at the National Geographic Museum. He’ll be discussing his latest story in the April 2014 magazine, “Exotic Pets,” where he explored the deep connections some people have with creatures not found in the corner pet store. He’ll be sharing images and stories from this assignment and other forays into the world of animals. Speaking of animals, if you’re a dog lover or a cat lover, check out the They always have informative articles for your favorite pets.

We’ll be giving away a pair of tickets to the show, so leave a comment below, using your first name and a valid email address; we’ll draw the winner before noon tomorrow. The event starts at 7:30 p.m. and parking is free at the museum’s garage after 6 p.m. for those attending the program.

Musi took a moment to answer some of our questions about his work and the project.

How did you approach the Exotic Pets project?

My goal was to offer a voice to people who had experience with exotic animals in a straightforward and non-judgmental way. These are folks who tend to get marginalized in what can be very sensational coverage by the press. I was looking for diversity in experience, animals, and opinions. Anyone who had a direct relationship with an exotic animal.

What was the most unusual pairing or situation you came across?

A breeder of jungle cat hybrids in Florida had a huge Tortoise, Canada Goose and a Pot Bellied Pig as her personal pets. Nothing can prepare you for the site of a Mountain Lion lounging pool-side at a brick ranch house or a white-tailed deer with her own bedroom.

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Film lovers unite! In the age of digital you don’t often see people out shooting with film cameras. There are only so many shots per roll, the ISO is set, you get either color or black and white, and it has to be developed — no chimping here. It also can be expensive. But there’s something to be said for using film. It can push your creativity and it can challenge you to take more care when crafting an image. Instead of snapping 20 shots of the same thing in the hopes that you get one usable image, you might take only one or two. The color and tonal range of film is something that digital has yet to master. Sure when you scan film for display on a website or online portfolio it loses some of that detail but it can’t be beat when printed in a darkroom and hung on a wall. Jonathan Fields clearly knows how to use film and captured the light coming into the metro entrance so wonderfully. The black is so saturated and the shades of gray run so smoothly together. Add the lovely grain like the cherry on top, sit back and enjoy. Well done, Jonathan.


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Winter light is some of the most dramatic of the year. It comes in from low angles casting long shadows and making everything look darker and more mysterious. Messay Shoakena did a great job capturing it with this photo. The silhouette of the gentleman in the hat (how could he not be a gentleman wearing such a great chapeau?) against the diffused yellow light of late afternoon (or early morning) is so striking. Reflections in a window, the hint of the drycleaned clothing in the back add interesting detail to the scene. Is the man inside or outside? Where is the photographer in relation? Is he there to pick up something or just happened to be passing by? Where did he get such a great hat? All these questions surround the image and we are left to come up with our own answers.

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Anyone with a cat could tell you that big or small they’re all the same. While often temperamental they can be fiercely loyal and loving as we can see in this wonderful photo by Mohamad H. These two female lions at the National Zoo, Shera and Nababiep, are clearly the best of friends. In the soft, diffused light you can see each individual whisker and the fluffy white fur under the chin. Even the spots on the hind legs are visible. Don’t you just want to jump in there and snuggle with them? No? Zoos aren’t exactly a natural habitat for animals but it’s still possible to capture a natural behavior if you have patience and a good eye. Well done, Mohamad.

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So, this photo. Parents need to take a lesson from this photo by Jennifer (and the other similar shots in her stream). Do you see what this baby has that yours does not? That’s right, a mustache. He’s got the baby chub, the adorable striped socks, and the very dapper tuxedo onesie but, let’s be honest, that mustache really takes it to a whole other level. Jennifer did an excellent job of capturing it as well through this wonderful high contrast black and white image with its yin and yang composition.

I know he only grew it in honor of Movember but I think we can all agree that the world would be a much better place if this little cutie kept it year round. Congratulations on your adorable baby Jennifer and maybe try and convince him to keep the ‘stache just a little longer?


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Hulkamania is running wild, Brother! I never realized it until I saw this photo by R Lopez but what this world needs is more Hulk Hogans. Not the current soft-spoken Hulk Hogan doing his reality tv thing but the 1980s Hulk Hogan, leader of the Hulkamaniacs, overly tanned, overly blond, overly oiled, and with a voice so strained that you’re waiting for the moment when all the muscles in his neck pop. Though most likely dressed up for a Halloween party I’m going to hold out hope that we’ll see more of these guys around town on a regular basis. Maybe some Macho Man Randy Savages too. OOOOH YEEEEAH!

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Rainy days tend to keep most people from carrying around their cameras which is understandable. Who wants to risk damaging such an expensive piece of equipment? But how many of you have seen something on your trip to work or walk to lunch and thought “if only I had my camera with me?” Sometimes it pays to bring it along for the ride as købiā found out one rainy day last week.

Instead of focusing on the person, the rain itself is the subject and the low angle gives a different perspective all together. Was this taken from the ground? Looking up onto a walkway? And the photo has a nice dreamy quality to it – one that makes you want to go home, sit on the couch, and listen to the rain fall against the window. Maybe take a nap. Yeah, definitely take a nap.

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The government may be closed for business, and you may be forced to sit home and wait for Congress to come to it’s senses, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look at cute stuff while you do it. Daniel Reidel took this squee-worthy photo of spectacled bears Billie Jean, Curt, and Nicole on Saturday. Let’s hope that the government shutdown gets figured out before these guys are also forced to stay home from work. Make sure you browse through his other amazing animal shots from the National Zoo, it will help the time pass if not quickly at least cutely.

Education, Special Events, The Features

September 2013 at National Geographic Live (including a drawing!)

Courtesy National Geographic

Courtesy National Geographic

We’re now in our fourth year partnering with the National Geographic Museum and their Nat Geo Live series of programming. They’ve kicked it up a notch this year to help celebrate the organization’s 125 years. The wide-ranging lineup over the next few months includes theatrical performances, explorer talks, holiday concerts, film screenings, new “Inside the Geographic” tours and even a Scottish whisky tasting. As the Society continues its celebration, Nat Geo Live’s offerings reflect the Society’s history of connecting audiences to people and places that inspire us to care about the planet.

“We’re excited to have such a stellar and diverse roster of talent joining us in Washington this fall,” said Gregory McGruder, vice president for Public Programs at National Geographic. “National Geographic Live is proud to continue its tradition of transporting Washingtonians on virtual adventures across the globe, via the powerful words, images and performances presented at these influential events at our headquarters.”

The Museum has graciously continued our monthly drawings for a two readers to win a pair of tickets each to a program of their choice. To enter, just comment below with what two programs you’d most like to see; make sure you use your first name and a valid email address. On Wednesday, September 4 we’ll randomly draw two names from the comment list.

Here is what’s being offered this month.

Bell ($30+)
Sept 12 – 21 (Thurs/Fri 7:30 pm; Sat 2 and 7:30 pm)
This one-man play, written by Jim Lehrer, directed by Jeremy Skidmore and starring Rick Foucheux, reveals the extraordinary life of Alexander Graham Bell. Best known for his invention of the telephone, the play shows many other facets of this daring, disorganized genius. He was a deeply committed family man, teacher of the deaf, holder of 47 patents and National Geographic’s second president.

Bird Walk Adventure: Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens & National Arboretum ($150; Not Eligible for Drawing)
Sept 21, 9 am – 4 pm
Join National Geographic author, artist and resident bird expert Jonathan Alderfer on an urban birding adventure. After breakfast at the Society and a private viewing of the exhibition “A New Age of Exploration,” guests travel to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens by coach to observe waterfowl and migratory birds. After a picnic lunch at the National Arboretum, they return to National Geographic for a signed copy of Alderfer’s most recent book, National Geographic Pocket Guide to the Birds of North America.

Discovering the Photo Archives Tour ($100; Not Eligible for Drawing)
Sept 26, 7 pm.
When someone needs an archival photograph at National Geographic, Bill Bonner is the man to call. He manages the Image Collection photo archive of more than 10 million images, including silver gelatin prints, original paintings and priceless private collections. Join Bonner for a tour of the National Geographic archives and a private viewing of the exhibition “A New Age of Exploration.”

The Best Job in the World ($12)
Sept 30, 7:30 pm
See the world premiere of the National Geographic Channel special National Geographic Photographers: The Best Job in the World and get an insider look at photography at National Geographic through the eyes of photographer Cory Richards as he travels to a remote mountain range in Antarctica to cover a climbing expedition for National Geographic magazine. The film features interviews with several of the Society’s most celebrated photographers. The screening will be followed by a discussion with photographer Mark Thiessen and executive producer Pamela Wells.

The Lens of Adventure ($24)
Oct 2, 7:30 pm
Award-winning National Geographic Channel filmmaker Bryan Smith shares gripping moments from his assignments documenting extreme sports in the world’s most challenging environments. He has repeatedly tested the limits while producing films like “The Man Who Could Fly,” about free climber and BASE jumper Dean Potter, and “Alaska Wing Men,” following Alaskan bush pilots on critical missions.

All events take place in Grosvenor Auditorium at National Geographic’s Washington headquarters. Tickets may be purchased online, via telephone at (202) 857-7700 or in person at the National Geographic ticket office between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tickets must be purchased by Sept. 20 to ensure guaranteed Early Bird Pricing. Free parking is available in the National Geographic underground garage for programs that begin after 6 p.m.

Downtown, Interviews, Special Events, The Features, We Love Arts

Behind the National Geographic Story (With Alice Gabriner)

Roman Frontiers

From “Roman Frontiers”; used with permission. The Porta Nigra, or “black gate,” still dominates Trier, Germany. A hundred feet tall, it was built in the second century as part of a wall system four miles long. Trier was a major city in the late Roman Empire, even serving as a regional capital under several emperors. “The light was so good from my hotel room that I put up a tripod and started taking pictures. The gate is surrounded by modern elements like power lines and a gas station, so I captured a variety of ways of looking at it. This was a way of combining both the old and the new.”

Tonight, National Geographic is pulling back the curtain of sorts. One of the organization’s acclaimed draws is its fantastic use of photography to illustrate various articles and exhibits. Many photographers, from amateur to professional, dream of a day when they see one or more of their photos published in the iconic gold-bordered magazine.

National Geographic magazine Senior Photo Editor Alice Gabriner will share with a select crowd at the museum’s Grosvenor Auditorium her process. (The program is sold out for the evening.) Guests will discover firsthand the work that goes in to curating a National Geographic photo show through an insiders tour, as well as a private viewing of Beyond the Story: National Geographic Unpublished 2012, an upcoming photography exhibition featuring unpublished images by photographers on assignment for National Geographic magazine last year.

I had the opportunity to talk briefly with Gabriner before the program this evening. She graciously took a few moments to answer some questions and shared some photos from upcoming projects. Continue reading

Downtown, People, Special Events, The Features, We Love Arts

Desert Air Opens Tomorrow at NatGeo

“Crossing Arabia’s Empty Quarter” by George Steinmetz; photo courtesy National Geographic

An exhibition featuring images of the world’s deserts by award-winning National Geographic photographer George Steinmetz will be on display at the National Geographic Museum from Aug. 30, 2012, to Jan. 27, 2013.

The free exhibition, “Desert Air: Photographs by George Steinmetz,” includes breathtaking photographs of sand dunes, human habitation, wildlife and vast expanses of the world’s last great wildernesses. The photos will be displayed in the museum’s M Street gallery. An audio component will feature Steinmetz telling the stories behind selected images. Continue reading

The Daily Feed

Update on Penn Camera

Photo courtesy of Mr. T in DC
Leica M7 Camera at Wonderland
courtesy of Mr. T in DC

A quick update on our previous story about Penn Camera. Their clearance sale is now on. Check out their webpage, but the relevant info is, “10% off all cameras and lenses; 30% off all dark room and cases; 50% off all albums and frames.” As previously reported, the clearance sale is only at the E Street, Rockville, and Tysons (all their other stores have been closed). Also, here’s info on how to retrieve repairs and processed film.

I’m still hoping to get more information about their long term plans, particularly with their photo classes and rental services. I’ll update as more info becomes available.

UPDATE (1/10/12): Seems Penn has updated their clearance sale. As of today, it is now, “20% off all dark room and cases; 30% off all albums and frames.”

The Daily Feed

The Day the Shutter Died

Photo courtesy of ivan | sciupac
Holga CFN 120
courtesy of ivan | sciupac

January 4th 2012 was not a good day for the DC photography community. As is common knowledge, local photography chain Penn Camera filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection yesterday, closing the majority of their stores. Their long term future is uncertain. In addition, Eastman Kodak, the film company who’s name is synonymous with photography, is reported to be close to filing for bankruptcy as well. Either piece of news is bad; taken together, it’s hard for anyone who is a photographer not to go hug their SLR, film or digital. Continue reading

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Dupont Circle Streetcar Tunnel
Dupont Circle Streetcar Tunnel by ep_jhu

There are few things that get my mind racing like the secret history of Washington, DC. It can be hidden tunnels under Dupont Circle or miniature Washington Monuments buried by the real thing; I just love it. Flickr user ep_jhu stumbled across a part of DC which isn’t exactly secret, but is just not well remembered: the old trolley tunnels under Dupont Circle.You’ve no doubt seen the old streetcar entrances in your travels around the circle, and there has been talk of developing the area into commercial ventures. Though I don’t know how he found his way in, Ep_jhu found a historical DC landmark which isn’t often photographed. The colors natural to the scene, subtle as they are, speak to utilitarian construction. Rather than shooting the scene from eye level and having all walls converge at similar angles, he shot low, emphasizing the size of the tunnel while making it more dramatic. Check out his other photos from the tunnels. They’re all very well done.

Contribute all your great shots from around town to our flickr pool! You may just get featured on this blog.

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David Wax Museum- 930 Club- 9/14/11
David Wax Museum- 930 Club by sightlyworn
As a guy who has photographed many musicians, I know the challenge in capturing the intensity and energy of a live show. Slightlyworn nailed it with this photo. The motion blur is what really makes this photo, because you can just see the guitarist moving and howling into the mic, pouring his heart into every verse. It’s a strong composition; he didn’t focus too closely on the musician, which left plenty of room for the purple and blue divide caused by the stage lights, which is one of the most important features of the photo. Adding a second singer to the frame and including part of the drum kit definitely frames the context of a musical machine working together. Well done, sightlyworn.

Remember to contribute your best shots of DC to our flickr pool. You may just get noticed for our featured photo or weekend flashback.

Special Events

FotoWeek DC Returns This Week

FotoWeek DC--See you next year!
FotoWeek DC by Hoffmann

FotoWeek DC will return to the District this week for a series of exhibits celebrating the art of photography. The festival features over 150 photography-related workshops, lectures and exhibitions, as well as portfolio reviews by a specialized panel at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. It all starts with a launch party scheduled for this Friday, and a schedule of events can be found below. The festivities run from November 5th – 12th. Continue reading

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std::vector < bird >

Specimenlife saw an especially beautiful capture recently by the Naval Yard. Two birds decide to break free and spread their wings while the flocks rests. The tones of the photo are especially nice; black and white works beautifully with this shot.

If you have some beautiful shots from around the DC region, please contribute your photos to our Flickr Pool. You may just get featured!

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"To Go Against the Church is to Go Against God"
“To go against the church is to go against God” by andrade✖cobain

Every so often a camera phone can grab a truly stunning shot, as happened with andrade✖cobain‘s iPhone shot of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Dupont Circle. City lights shining into clouds light the church in the dead of night. The grain from the high sensitivity of the camera’s sensor shape it into a fantastic glimpse into space, with millions of stars backlighting the church. DC’s light pollution obviously prevents any such spectacular stargazing from ever actually happening, making andrade✖cobain‘s shot all that more unique. Well done.

Contribute your best photos from the DC area to WeLoveDC’s Flickr Pool!