Thursday, May 14, 2009
I had a very surprising encounter with a rare bird this afternoon. I was on my way to my parent's house when I saw a scissor-tailed kite fly by. That's an extremely rare occurrence, since I'd only seen one of these birds once before in the wild, and only twice before in captivity. Odder still, he flew by again. And again. And then once more. I was stuck behind a bus that seemed unable to turn at the stop sign ahead of us, so I took the hint, grabbed my camera, put on the big lens, and hopped out. Sure enough, this kite just kept right on circling. I got over a hundred shots, and these are some of the best.
Look at that beautiful forked tail! That's a dead giveaway that you're looking at a kite. Nothing else in the sky look like that, at least nothing this large.
A couple of times, a smaller bird tried to run the kite off, but to no avail. He just circled and circled, eventually heading off to points unknown. I wish I could see stuff like this every day.
Posted by Ernie at 5/14/2009 08:40:00 PM
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Take a good close look at this bell. Look familiar? Well, it's not the Liberty Bell, if that's what you're thinking. For one thing, this one is not cracked. Secondly, it's in Washington, DC, not Philadelphia. This reproduction is in front of Union Station, where I think you can actually ring it. (Or at least I think you can. I didn't try, but it looked there was some mechanism underneath that you could push to make it ring.) Just try that with the real Liberty Bell.
Ah, the power of the Internet. Taking a second to look this bell up, I discovered that it is twice the size of the real bell, and was cast by the same foundry as the original. This one was made for the Nation's Bicentennial celebration and traveled America on The Freedom Train. I remember seeing the Freedom Train in 1976 as a wee lad, but I don't remember what I saw on board the train. Perhaps this is the second time I've seen this bell.
Posted by Ernie at 5/13/2009 08:21:00 PM
One of the gems of the Smithsonian's collection of everything is this, the very first airplane to make a controlled flight. The Wright brothers flew this very plane over the dunes at Kitty Hawk, NC, in 1903. Imagine that, the very airplane that made that flight 106 years ago. The wings were covered in new canvas some years ago in case you're wondering why it look so clean and shiny. And some sections of it were rebuilt by the Wright brothers after those historic flights that day, as there was apparently some damage to the plane at the end of the day. But this is still the plane.
One wing is 4 inches longer than the other, to compensate for the weight of the engine not being perfectly centered. It's amazing the things you learn.
Posted by Ernie at 5/13/2009 08:13:00 PM
I saw this on the wall of an ice cream shop in St. Michaels, MD. I'm not sure what to make of it. Come to think of it, we didn't get any ice cream. Well, we didn't pay for any ice cream. One girl got two free samples, and then we left. But I don't think that has anything to do with the shark eating a baby.
Posted by Ernie at 5/13/2009 05:39:00 PM
Same as at a beach wedding I went to last year, an osprey flew by in the middle of the ceremony at the wedding I attended Saturday night. So amid all the pictures I have of the couple saying their vows and what not, there are half a dozen shots of this osprey flying high overhead. Heaven forbid I ever get married anywhere near a body of water.
Posted by Ernie at 5/13/2009 05:25:00 PM
From the National Museum Of American History, this is the flag that was flying over Fort McHenry after a victory by America over the British in the War of 1812. Francis Scott Key saw it and was inspired to write The Star Spangled Banner. They've been restoring it for a while, and keep it in a very dark room. Tourists can view it, but photography is not allowed. Don't ask me how I got this photo, I'm not allowed to say. Notice the fifteen stripes. There are also 15 stars, but you can't really tell that in this picture.
Posted by Ernie at 5/13/2009 05:17:00 PM
OK, enough with the sculpture and the silly observations of Washington, DC for a moment. How about something serious? The National Archives maintains the official records of the United States of America. And in a large rotunda, under lights so dim I am amazed I was able to get pictures, in cases made of titanium and filled with inert argon, lie the documents that laid the groundwork for our country. Above is the Bill of Rights, containing the first ten amendments to the Constitution.
Above is the first page of the Constitution of the United States, with it's famous preamble beginning We The People.
And this is the top of The Declaration of Independence. Not a copy, but the original, the one with all the signatures at the bottom. The signatures are extremely faint and hard to see, with the exception of John Hancock. It was so dark in there that I didn't even try to get a picture of them. It was also pretty crowded, so I only got a few seconds to take a shot without a tourist in the way.
This is a view of the rotunda that contains the documents. To the left and right, outside the frame, are cases containing many more historic documents, arranged in chronological order, I believe. Note the two guard that are standing to either side of the Constitution.
Posted by Ernie at 5/13/2009 04:39:00 PM
I knew as soon as I saw this sculpture in the National Sculpture Garden that I'd seen something similar before. The piece is called Typewriter Eraser and it's by artists Claes Oldenburg & Coosje Van Bruggen. Compare this to their piece Free from Cleveland, and you'll see that they do not stray too far from their artist desk for inspiration.
Posted by Ernie at 5/13/2009 04:28:00 PM
No lie, I spotted this black squirrel on the lawn of the White House! All the others I spotted on my trip were plain old gray, but there was this black one. Do you think it's a coincidence that we have a black president, and there are black squirrels running around on the White House grass? I don't know... And with those evil red eyes, too. Oh, wait, that's just an artifact from the flash. It was really dark, and I got rained on pretty badly about 10 minutes after I took this shot, thus ending my picture taking for the day.
Posted by Ernie at 5/13/2009 02:13:00 PM
While walking around (and around and around and around) DC, I was often surprised to come across famous views. You know, views of the city or of landmarks that are well-known, either through art, movies or TV. This time, I was walking down Pennsylvania Avenue, turned around, and there was the Capitol Building down at the end of the street. So I hopped up on a bench and took a few shots. I think this view shows up on the news all the time when they're talking about something the White House sent to Congress, and that's because the White House is behind me. Unfortunately, there are only a couple of spots on the ground from which you can actually see the White House, and this isn't one of them.
Posted by Ernie at 5/13/2009 02:02:00 PM
Here's that black Calder stabile I mentioned earlier. This one is located outside of the National Gallery of Art-East Building, and those blocks in the background were evidently designed by I. M. Pei (but more on that later). I was unable to find the name of this piece, but it's got to be Alexander Calder. And something I missed during my trip was one of his mobiles inside this very building. That's what I get for not doing my research beforehand.
Posted by Ernie at 5/13/2009 11:49:00 AM
I spotted my third sculpture by Pomodoro while in DC. This one was in Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden, near the Hirshhorn Museum, part of the Smithsonian Institution. I didn't walk down into the garden to get a closer look, or to find out the name of the piece, because once you've seen one Pomodoro sphere, you've pretty much seen them all. The other sphere I saw was in New York last Fall, and before that I saw one of his disks in Charlotte, NC. Searching online,. I believe this one is called Sphere No. 6.
Posted by Ernie at 5/13/2009 10:55:00 AM
Lookee, lookee, I found another sculpture by Alexander Calder. This one is called Red Horse (or Cheval Rouge), and it was in front of The National Archives in the National Sculpture Garden. Everything in Washington DC is National this or Official that. Nothing is plain or ordinary. I think I saw another sculpture by Calder on my trip, but I need to figure out where it was and get the name. It looked very similar to this one, only it was black. If I had to guess, I'd say it's gonna be called Black Horse, but we'll see.
Posted by Ernie at 5/13/2009 10:34:00 AM
First time in DC, I pop up out of the Smithsonian Station Metro Terminal.
I look to my left, I see the Washington Monument.
And to my right is the Capitol Building. How cool is that? OK, so maybe I had to walk a little ways onto the mall before I could see anything. But it wasn't far, honest.
Posted by Ernie at 5/13/2009 10:04:00 AM
One of the more surprising statues I saw in Washington DC was this sculpture of Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones. I wasn't able to find monuments to Robert Plant, Jimmy Page or John Bonham, though. Jones must have a really strong lobby in Congress.
I guess this could also be the naval John Paul Jones, famous for his exploits at sea against the British during the Revolutionary War. Maybe...
Posted by Ernie at 5/13/2009 09:20:00 AM
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Well, I just flew back from Washington, DC, and boy, are my arms tired. Actually, all of me is tired. After the wedding and the reception Saturday, I spent almost two full days roaming about our nation's capitol, pointing my camera at all sorts of things. No, I did not see President Obama, but I did spot his picture at the National Portrait Gallery. I also saw The Declaration of Independence, the first airplane, the grave sites of John & Robert Kennedy, The White House, the place where Lincoln was shot, a space shuttle, the spot on the Pentagon where the plane hit on 9/11 and so many other things that I'll be posting them from now until Christmas in July. But nothing now, I'm going to bed for a few days. I need a vacation from my vacation.
Posted by Ernie at 5/12/2009 09:29:00 PM