Peek-A-Boo Sprout

I love a the little surprises you can find from nature, and I think this all started when I was little.  We always had a porch light that had an open glass/metal shade around it, and every year a bird would make a nest in the light.  My parents were thoroughly aggravated by this, but I always loved finding that little surprise in an unusual place.  Ever since then, I’ve always loved finding little things like that.  In watching the city where I grew up becoming increasingly over developed, I find it so nice to see little bits of nature and plant life popping up where it’s not supposed to, even if it was once where these things may have naturally been.  One summer there was a daffodil clinging on for dear life under a bridge for a major highway — I must have gotten beeped at a million times zoning out staring at this little flower and wondering how it got in such a peculiar place.  There’s also a school by my house which has always had a ton of ivy crawling up one of its walls.  It was cut down one year, but to my delight, it has come back in full force.

So today, as I was working on some botanical cyanotypes to use for the “nature” theme of this week, I stumbled across a little surprise.  I always go out to my balcony to develop my cyanotypes, since that’s the place in my apartment which get the best, and most direct, sunlight.  I have various plants and pots and such out there that I’m constantly peaking at to see if anything is growing.  A few months ago, I gathered all the seeds from the flowers that were planted last summer, and spread them around all the pots out there in hopes that anything would grow (I love flowers, but I definitely do not have a green thumb).  So I put my favorite seeds in the pots on the balcony ledge, hoping that they would get the most light and do the best.  The only problem is that since everyone above me also has a balcony, when it rains, or snows forever and then melts, I get a sort of waterfall effect on my balcony, splashing on to my plants and splattering mud and dirt everywhere.  It seems like with all the snow we got this year, and all the rain and storms as of recent, one of these little seeds popped out and landed in between the bricks of the balcony ledge.  So when I went outside today, there it was — a little baby sprout!  I don’t know how I missed it before, but it was a pleasant surprise today.  So I snapped a couple quick pictures of it, and there you go.  A better ode to nature than the cyanotypes which I have done before.  Though I love them (the cyanotypes, that is), I love finding these little peculiarities more.  Hopefully there are more sprouts to come; it’s been warming up, ever so slowly, and I’m desperately craving the spring and summer.  Enjoy!

Week 16: Nature

The birds are singing, the bees buzzing.  Flowers are blooming, and trees are budding.  It’s finally warming up outside!  And when better than now to have an assignment about nature?  That’s what I’ll be working on this week(end) — I’m a little late!  Nature is something that I don’t usually try to approach differently as a photography subject.  I love getting out there, enjoying whatever scenery is around me, and just trying to capture the beauty of nature.  Weather it’s a landscape/seascape, wildlife (which is more often than not, birds), or botanical — I love it.  I’m glad this week gives me a chance to get out there and do a little more of this type of photo.  Maybe I’ll make my “something different” getting out to a new location, since I have a few favorites that I like to frequent.  So while I think of somewhere to new explore, check out a few of my recent “nature” photographs from my most recent visit to the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge.  It was a few weeks ago, so it was still a little chilly out.  Luckily for me, the birds were just starting to come around, and I found a few other interesting things to snap a picture of!

Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina

Remember how I said that I had (tragically) lost my pictures from the trip I took to Argentina?  Well, surprise!  After doing some serious searching, digging through all kinds of old stuff, and finally finding my stash of old photos, I found them!  Hooray!!!  So as an ode to the assumed long-lost photos, and in line with the photography challenge this week of “architecture”, I’m taking you on a little journey through Argentina, and some of the wonderful places that I saw during my visit.

Not everyone knows that I’m half spanish, and that my grandparents on my mother’s side both grew up in Argentina.  My grandmother came over by responding to an ad she saw in the newspaper to teach spanish to a family and their children who lived here in the states, and my grandfather came over with the Argentine Embassy, or as a stow away, or to visit New York….He was an infamous story-teller, as well as an elaborate and imaginative exaggerator, which was wonderful, yet unfortunate in this situation, because we all have different accounts as to how he actually got here!  I’m going to stick with the story he told me; it was the last one we got, and unprovoked, so I’m thinking it was true 🙂  Lela & Lelo — when I was a child, I wasn’t able to say “abuela” and “abuelo”, so their unique names were born.  Lela grew up in La Plata, which is about 30-45 minutes away from the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires, where Lelo grew up.  They came over separately, one to Connecticut, and the other to New York.  Some years later their paths crossed, ended up in the DC area, and the rest is history.  Small world!

My grandmother often goes back to Argentina during the winter to escape the cold that is here during those months.  One year my bother, his friend, and my aunt were lucky enough to go with her, and meet several members of our Argentine family with whom we’ve only spoken to briefly, and usually via translator (aka my mother), on the phone.  It was one of the best experiences in my life, and I’m so happy to have been able to experience it with at least one of my grandparents.

We began our trip, and spent most of our time with one of my grandmother’s nieces, who lives just a short ride from downtown Buenos Aires.  We took walks around the city, saw places that my grandmother loved to visit near Florida Street, and experienced what the city had to offer.  It was a beautiful mix of the old, intricate, and antique buildings, strong with Italian influence, nestled on small streets between current day sky scraper-type buildings.  I was much more partial to the older buildings, and was amazed at the detail and skill that it must have taken to create their intricacies.  The streets buzzed with entertainers, artists, performers, locals and tourists alike, and there were what seemed like an infinite amount of things to see and shops to visit.  Over several visits to the down town area, we got to explore the busy city, see La Casa Rosada (which you won’t see here, since it was under construction while I was there and couldn’t get a good pic), and the Floralis Genérica, which was designed to open during the day and close as night.

Among all of the things that I could have seen while in Buenos Aires, my favorite thing, as well as some of my favorite pictures from the trip, were from a cemetery that we visited.  Imagine that.  At least it was a notable cemetery to visit; La Recoleta Cemetery, which contains the tombs of several famous people (like Eva Perón), presidents, and several other notable individuals.  It definitely didn’t have the feel of a cemetery, as it was filled with mausoleums, vaults, buildings and sculptures, and not any actual grave sites.  It seems that at one point it wasn’t as closely cared for as it was when I visited; several of the tomes were damaged and appeared that people have broken into them.  Though it’s incredibly disrespectful, I have to say it gave the location and my images another element of interest, and allowed me to peek into a few of them (a little creepy, I know, I couldn’t help it).  I suppose that not all of these qualify as “architectural photography”, but they’re my favorites, and there are a few that qualify in there.

Another quick stop in Buenos Aires was the town of El Tigre, which lies on Paraná Delta (river).  A charming little town with shops, bakeries, a huge market, and a ferris wheel and rides near the dock where you can ride around the river in a little tour boat.  If you’re ever there, you have to get some pastellitos — wish I could remember which bakery we got them from, because they were amazing!  But getting back to architecture, again, I don’t have a lot of classic examples.  The river was lined with picturesque cottages and dock-style homes, as well as some larger structures, such as the rowing club mansion and museums.

We also visited the Caminito, which translates to “little walkway”.  El Caminito is located in La Boca, which is another little neighborhood in Buenos Aires.  From thriving little town along a railroad to an actual landfill, the Caminito has gone through quite a few transformations.  There are still some remnants giving evidence that this area was once a landfill, but thanks to artist Benito Quinquela Martín, the area has been revitalised over the more recent past, and is now a vibrant tourist attraction.  The brightly colored buildings are truly unique, and make for a lovely adventure on a warm summer day.

Last but not least on  my list of Argentina Architecture are the waterfalls of Iguazú.  Waterfalls and Architecture? Why, yes!  Though this isn’t your typical architecture, the catwalks were really something which I found interesting, I mean, besides the breath-taking views of the falls.  But sorry, no falls for you today, we’re talking architecture, so maybe another time.  Just incase you were wondering, Iguazú is NOT located in Buenos Aires, since its seems like every place which I’ve talked about has been.  Trust me, we visited other places, La Plata, Mar de Plata, and so on — I didn’t spend three weeks in another country just looking around one area!  Located on northeastern tip of Argentina in the Misiones province, the Falls at Iguazú boarder Brazil, and are accessible through the city of Puerto Iguazú on the Argentine side.  Before visiting, I was excited to see the sights and check out the falls.  After visiting, I was amazed, and learned quite a few interesting facts about the location.  Did you know that the falls can actually dry up??  These massive falls which span for miles have actually been know to dry up a few times since their discovery, and did so most recently in 2006.  Did you also know that Iguazú is considered one of the natural seven wonders of the world?  Iguazú is the 5th largest waterfall in the world by width, spanning 8800 feet, and the 13th largest by volume, with an average discharge of 61,660 cubic feet per second according to the World Waterfall Database.  And did you know that the catwalks and viewing platforms that teeter over the edge of the falls, including the Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat), the largest of the 275 falls, were listed as one of the World’s 8 scariest viewing platforms by National Geographic?  I didn’t know that at the time, but in retrospect, I can see how they could be considered some of the scariest!  If you have a fear of heights and want to check out these falls, you may not want to check out these images, particularly the ones of the destroyed catwalks right near the viewing platform for la Garganta del Diablo fall.  It’s been replaced, so I’m sure everything will be just fine….until another flood.

So, did you enjoy the journey?  I sure did!  Hope I get another chance to visit even more places with my family sometime soon!  Oh, and incase you were wondering, yes, I know these are old, and yes I know the point of the 52 week challenge is to get out there and take pictures every week.  Don’t worry, I did!  These were just too good not to share, especially after I have been missing them for so long 🙂

Around the City

So as mentioned in last week’s post, the “business” task of the 52 week challenge was to complete a “personal shoot”.  Basically, that’s a free-pass, do-whatever-you-want type shoot!  So with spring finally in bloom, which was the theme of my “fresh start” shoot, I wanted to get out and see a little more of spring, particularly, the infamous cherry blossoms in DC.  Infamous, you may ask?  Simply put, yes.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re beautiful, and it’s great to be down by the water of the Tidal Basin, see the monuments, and enjoy the petals of the cherry blossoms fluttering around in the wind while in peak bloom.  The problem is, everyone else has that same mentality, making that part of DC a parking lot for a good week during April every year (ah!  It’s April — felt weird saying that!  Summer is around the corner!).

So my good friend and fellow photographer, Curtkennedy (check out his Instagram, follow him, he’s great!), braved the city under the guise that since it was a week day, peak bloom had hit a few days prior, and the cherry blossom festival was over, that the traffic would be gone too.  We were unpleasantly surprised.  Apparently, we weren’t the only ones with the idea of “weekdays will be less crowded”, as there was tons of people and nowhere to park!  So, to make the effort of driving right to the cherry blossoms and not getting out of the car worth it, we did a couple of drive by shoots, and I’m happy with what I got.  There’s really only so much you can shoot of the same trees before all of your photos start looking redundant.  There was a specific shot or two that I wanted to get, but was unable to from the car.  I’ll just have to wait until another, less crowded, trip to DC to give it another go 🙂

Not bad for not leaving the car, if I may say so myself!  Luckily for me, my friend isn’t as much of a homebody as I am, and knows his way around DC pretty well.  He started talking about places he’s enjoyed shooting and would like to shoot in the future, when we discovered we shared a love for the abandoned/graffiti stuff.  Yay!  So off we went to this little skate park to check out some cool graffiti art.  The skate park was actually located next to a cute little playground, and wasn’t abandoned, per sey, but the fact that it was under an overpass, and is the odd ball in the neighborhood, it had that same look.  All the graffiti helped too, of course.  So good thing we didn’t give up on DC for the day.

Love the colors and vibrancy of this type of art.  This definitely has me thinking that I need to get out more and do a little more exploring.  I’ve lived 15 mins away from DC for pretty much my whole life, and never get around to checking it out!  A shame, I know, but this is some good motivation!

Week 15: Architecture

Thinking of this week’s assignment gets me thinking of all of the photographs that I’ve lost.  Yes, you heard me, lost.  Tragic.  I’m the one who boasts about never losing or breaking anything, and I mean really, like never — I try really hard, and I’m freakishly organized!  Of all the things to lose, I have lost some of the most precious things to me, but I guess that’s what happens when technology gets outdated and replaced so often, and you move 10 times in 11 years.  Not too bad when you think of it.  The upside is, that in trying to organize my photos over the last year, I actually realized that I did lose some, and started backing things up, so hopefully this never happens again.

ANYWAYS….this week’s assignment is architecture!  Among the “lost photos” were some of my favorite architecture examples; old buildings, churches, and cemeteries from my trip to Argentina, and the quintessential California beach picture of the lifeguard stand nearly silhouetted in the sunset.  But alas, I have a chance to move on from my lost memories, and capture some new images.  Architecture, though I used to be more interested in photographing it, has now become one of those things I seem to stray away from, kind of…  I think I have that perception because I’m not quite sure what classifies as “architectural photography”.  Is it just a picture of a building, or can it be something a little more specific about building, or maybe not a building at all, and just a man-made structure of some sort.  Either way, I’m glad that I’ll have the opportunity to give it another try, and I’ll do a little research as to what the official definition is.

More often than not, when taking pictures of buildings or structures, I seem to focus on particular parts or aspects of them, and not capturing them in their totality or on a larger scale.  With that being said, I seem to treat historical or famous sites as something that needs to be fully captured, and rarely take close up photos of them.  Unlike what I consider your typical architecture photographs, like taking pictures of city buildings or skylines, I find myself taking pictures of bridges, doorways, or just portions of different architectural features.  During this week, I’m going to try to keep all of those things in mind while shooting.  Hopefully I’ll end up with some successful images of actual buildings, but who knows —  I probably won’t be able to stay away from the creepy doorway or abandoned building if I come across one 🙂  Here are a few architectural examples from my past work.  I’m going to quadruple check my photo archives now in hopes to find the coveted “lost photos”.  Wish me luck!

Springing in to a Fresh Start

April showers bring May flowers!

Well, we may have been missing out on an abundance of April showers, but we’re getting a sneak preview of what the May flowers are going to be!  Thankfully, it appears that winter has taken its last bitter breath, and we are finally in the midst of spring.  A new season, a new beginning, and a fresh start for lots of little flowers, plants, and creatures.  Oh yes…creatures.  Luckily, the only “creatures” I encountered this week were the pleasant ones; tons of chirping birds, my normal encounters with my roommates (aka – the ladybug infestation), and tons of little bees buzzing around as I was out and about today.  I’m glad I decided to keep it simple this week.  We had great weather, and it was nice enjoying the outdoors and taking some photos of the flowers and budding blossoms.  Though I didn’t get to explore much of the outdoors, snapping these flower photos inspired me to (hopefully) get out to the cherry blossoms which are in “peak bloom” in D.C.  Seems like even though I’m so close by, I’m always missing them.  I might have to make the effort and get out there this week, particularly since the business task for this week is a “personal shoot”, meaning to basically just shoot whatever you want, and I’ve been wanting to do this for years!  Enjoy the pics, and perhaps this won’t be the last you’re seeing of the spring blossoms:)

Springtime is the land awakening.  The March winds are the morning yawn.

-Lewis Grizzard

Week 14: Fresh Start

The sun will come out tomorrow.  Tomorrow is a new day!  Today is the first day of the rest of your life.  Fresh starts are what I’m all about these days!  Besides the fact of making a new start in going back to school and leaving my banking career, I’ve recently been faced with a ton of other decisions, which once made, will be a whole other fresh start. Maybe I’ll be starting a new job, definitely will be going to a new school, and may be making a huge move, geographically speaking.  Starting over can be scary, nerve-wracking, intimidating, and all kinds of negative things that would make some stray away from giving it a try.  Or, they could be exciting, up lifting, motivating, and all the things you ever wanted.  I’m hoping for the later, though I feel a lot of the former when faced with decisions that have me changing everything.  I think most of the fear that comes with change comes from the unknowns and the “what ifs” of life.  Once you have that all figured out (easier said than done), then the “fresh start” can be a really great thing — you just have to work to get there.  So this week, maybe I’ll take a more simple approach.  With everything seeming so big and complicated in my life right now, my brain has been on overload, and it would be a welcomed change.  Besides, spring is finally all around me, and there are so many wonderful natural things that are making a fresh start of their own.  It would be great to get out there and take some pictures of them.

So I’ll leave you with one of the best “fresh starts” I’ve ever seen.  Waking up extremely early while on vacation to catch the sunrise definitely has its benefits, especially while you’re at the beach.  I’ve always loved these photos.  The clouds were in a way that you don’t often see at sunrise, and with the surf bubbling up, it made me feel like I couldn’t tell where the water ended and the sky began.  Can’t wait to get back there.  Love you, beach.

Never be afraid to fall apart because it is an opportunity to rebuild yourself the way you wish you had been all along.

-Rae Smith

Total Eclipse of the…Wha?

When I started this week’s photos, I didn’t realize that my experience would be a close call of its own.  I was thinking of taking pictures of the lunar eclipse, which was supposed to be viewable in my area just as the Sun was coming up.  After being up way too late last night, and reading the weather report multiple times to discover that it was most likely going to be cloudy, I decided that it would still be a great idea to wake up before the sunrise and try to snap some pictures of the eclipse.  Since my area would only be able to see a partial eclipse, while other areas of the US would have been able to see the full eclipse, I thought that would be a good example of a close call — just a little farther (ok, maybe a lot farther) to the west and I would have been able to capture it all.

To my surprise, and disappointment, the weather report has been incredibly accurate this year.  We actually got snow, and a lot of it, when it was forecasted, and the bi-polar weather patterns of a Maryland spring were, and still are,  true to their nature.  Unfortunately for today, the clouds stuck around, just as expected.  Looks like my close call was more along the lines of an “April Fools” as opposed to a “lucky 13”.

On the plus side, I was able to drive around the government farms as the sun was coming up, wich was great, except for the fact that it’s a little creepy around there before the sun comes up.  If you’ve never heard of the Goat Man, you should look him up.  The government farms are infamously known for their questionable experiments on livestock and who knows what else.  There was a cow with a glass stomach which was often on display, and the most famous story of all is that of Goat Man.  A science experiment gone awry when taking half goat and half man and some how freakishly combining them, Goat Man escaped, and is rumored to be roaming the government farms.  Lucky for me, I didn’t have an encounter with him this morning, and got a few lovely shots of the farms and some of the old farm type houses on the property.  Maybe one of these little houses belongs to him…

So here’s my close call for the week.  Guess the clouds had it out for me, and I’ll just have to wait until September until the next full lunar eclipse comes around.  Catch you on the flip side, moon.

Week 13: Close Call

Another interesting concept for another interesting week.  I think the correlation of it being week 13 and “close call” is pretty funny.  Is it a “lucky 13” or a play on “Friday the 13th”?  I suppose that depends on what your definition of a close call is.  Maybe it’s narrowly escaping disaster, or an intentional flirt with death.  Try Google-ing “close calls”, and you’ll be pretty entertained with the images, as I was, and for a little longer than I would like to admit!  A lot are nature related, which reminded me of some of my possible “close call” images that I have.  Is it strange that I kind of want to go out in the ocean to see if I could have a close call with a shark for this week’s assignment?  I mean clearly, some of the google results were fake, but others are crazy!  Makes me a little wary about going into the ocean, but don’t worry, that’s not going to stop me.

The images that I found in my portfolio are far less exciting, but still gave me the feeling of “close call”.  When I see certain things in nature, or even while I’m just out and about, I make these subconscious decisions about what is happening in the situation.  Looking at my pictures below, the piece of fabric on a nail makes me think that someone was running, trying to escape something or someone else, and they just barely made it.  When looking at animals, I always assume that something is chasing it.  Fish, for example, only ever jump out of the water because something is chasing them!  I mean, it’s not like they jump out for any other reason (just kidding, clearly they may be doing some “fishing” of their own for a meal).  Also, whenever I see a large group of birds suddenly flying away from a tree, or hear a lot of chirping and squawking going on, for some reason my mind goes to “there’s a snake in that tree attacking the birds!”  Don’t ask me where that comes from — it’s a little weird, I know.  So enjoy my (possibly) fabricated “close call” pics below, while I start thinking of a good idea for this week!