Decorating soldiers’ graves with flowers is an ancient custom. We’ve done this in the United States since before the Civil War.
Decoration Day was officially established soon after the Civil War ended and observed on May 30 because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. Memorial Day became a national holiday in 1971 and moved to the last Monday in May.
A gray, cold day – It’s hard see the end of these graves, and more difficult to imagine the suffering. Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans and their families.
Again in 2011, I’ve been blessed with a huge amount of photo opportunities. The 2011 folder on my hard drive takes up about 178 GB of space. Wow – good thing storage is so cheap now days! I’m still using the following system to rate my photos. The numbers in parentheses are the counts for 2011 .
1 star – The photo is interesting (262)
2 stars – The photo is worth showing to others (400)
3 stars – The photo is the best of (or one of the best of ) any given photo shoot (81)
4 stars – My favorite photo of a year (1)
5 stars – My favorite photo ever (none, I’m not done making photos yet!)
Photos without stars are seconds or not so good versions of other photos. I usually keep them, but they probably won’t get any more attention. I’ve been using this system consistently, and it seems to work for me. I’ve reviewed my 2011 photos and selected what I think are my best. Of course, this is all subjective and my opinion only. Feel free to disagree, but I hope you’ll enjoy looking at the ones I’ve picked.
Here we go. I have 3 mammals, 3 birds, 2 landscapes, and 3 miscellaneous subjects …
November: Bobcat in Tree, Circle B Bar Reserve. I’ve seen Bobcats in the wild before, but I’ve never been able to take a good photo of one. We saw this one resting up on a branch and it posed for a while. In this image, I think it was trying to figure out how to get through the crowd of humans at the base of the tree. More info: http://edrosack.com/2011/11/24/landscapes-and-bobcat-at-the-circle-b-bar-reserve/
July: Baby mountain goat, Mt. Evans summit, Colorado. There were several families of mountain goats on the way up and at the summit. This little one posed for me so I could frame him against the out of focus mountains in the background. It’s amazing to watch them scramble from rock to rock and never slip. More info: http://edrosack.com/2011/07/10/mount-evans-redux/
March: Tomb of the unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery. I’d never been to Arlington before this trip. As a US Navy Veteran and a patriot, I have to admit it made a huge impression on me. More info: http://edrosack.com/2011/03/19/washington-dc/
I’ve written about photography on business trips before (for instance here). If you’re willing to put up with the hassle of carrying your photo equipment (or you can travel “photo light”), and if you have an opportunity to leave early or stay late, then you may be able to enjoy some of the photo ops at your destination.
The pre-dawn Potomac River, Georgetown, and Washington DC from the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Rosslyn, Virgina: Getting up at 5:30am and leaving my warm, cozy room to walk down to the river with my tripod and camera in the cold and dark wasn’t easy. Timing the 4 – 8 second exposures between vibrations from passing cars was also a bit difficult. But I like the result.
I had a business trip to Washington DC this week and needed to be there first thing on Monday. Instead of flying in Sunday night, I made arrangements to get out on the first flight Sunday morning (whew, that was an early alarm!). This gave me few hours in DC to act like a tourist. The weather was cloudy with some rain, but that actually turned out to be an advantage for some of the things I photographed and I did manage to make some images that I like in two or three different places while I was there. Washington is a target rich environment for photo ops – where to start?
At the first place, birds sang as I walked paths through the area. Looking up and searching for them, I could see trees beginning to bud out with leaves and flowers, signaling the start of Spring and triggering many thoughts about nature. As I continued, my eyes were drawn back to earth where the sight of graves triggered thoughts about sacrifice by many brave people. I also thought about predictions of the decline of the USA, and it occurred to me that these don’t take into account the power of our belief system. Our economy is large, and we are creative — but our true strength is that so many believe in our rights and freedoms and are willing to defend them with their lives.
Tomb of the unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery: I’d never been to Arlington before last Sunday. As a US Navy Veteran and a patriot, I have to admit it made a huge impression on me.
Arlington National Cemetery is located on a hill across the Potomac from Washington DC. It’s the former home of Robert E. Lee and was taken over by the Union when the Lee family failed to pay taxes. Arlington house (his former manor) is surrounded by grave sites of union soldiers so that if he ever tried to return, he’d have to cross that line of soldiers to enter his home. [4/16 update: Here is a good article about Arlington house: http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2011/04/arlington-house-home-robert-e-lee7966]There’s a good view of downtown DC and the country’s power base from up there. I hope that Congress glances up at Arlington occasionally before it makes decisions that may result in more grave sites. Arlington is only a few minutes from downtown Washington, and close to Reagan airport. There’s plenty of info on their web site for visitors.
After Arlington, I drove into downtown DC. Since it was Sunday and raining, there weren’t many people around and I was able to park about two blocks from the Lincoln Memorial and walk over for a few photos. Unfortunately, there is a lot of construction going on right now – the reflecting pool between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument was drained, and this limited the compositions available.
The Lincoln Memorial and me: Last Sunday in Washington DC was cloudy with a bit of rain, so there weren’t too many people out and about in the city. I circled around to the south west side and set up my tripod for this shot. I think it’s pretty rare that you get a chance to capture an image of the Lincoln Memorial without people in the photo.
The view of the Lincoln Memorial above is a multi-shot panorama / HDR using 27 individual photos. The full resolution result is about 45 Mega-pixels in size. The power of the software we have available today always amazes me.
Take advantage of your travel opportunities. Turn them into photo ops. You might like the result.
If you click on the photos above you can see larger versions on Flickr. You can also see these photos and a few others from this trip in this set on Flickr.