Monday, May 25, 2009

More Arlington

I had more pictures of Arlington that I wanted to share with you before the end of this Memorial Day.

And just in case you thought all the headstones at Arlington were the same, they aren't. I think the small white ones are provided free of charge to soldiers. Those wishing to pay for their own usually opt for something larger and similar to those seen in civilian cemeteries.


As I walked through Arlington National Cemetery, I began to notice something odd. Every once in a while, I'd see a headstone with a rock on it. Then another. Sometimes it was a few small stones, sometimes just one. So I started taking pictures of them.

I wondered what was going on for a while, then I remembered the end of Schindler's List. I guess it's a way that Jewish folks honor their dead, by placing a stone on the grave. Sure enough, all of the headstones I noticed with rocks atop them also had a small Star of David engraved on them. Mystery solved!

The Price Of Freedom

Even knowing the extent of the graves at Arlington National Cemetery doesn't prepare you for the actuality. They go on forever. Hill after hill, mile after mile. They seem like they will never end.


Just around the corner from the burial site of JFK sits this simple cross and inscribed headstone. This is the resting place of Robert Kennedy.


Down the hill a little bit from the Lee house, lies the Eternal Flame, commemorating the life that was John F. Kennedy.

In this spot lie the bodies of JFK, Jackie, and two children they had who died shortly after birth.

The flame burns forever.

Lee's House

At the very top of the hill near the center of Arlington sits the home of General Robert E. Lee of the Confederate States of America. That may seem odd to some, but it's just the way some things happen. Lee was only the custodian of the house for his wife's family, who had built the house as a tribute to George Washington. It was seized during the Civil War, and returned to the family some years later thanks to a Supreme Court decision. The US government later bought it from the family.

After the house was first seized, parts of the property were turned into a cemetery to prevent the previous owners from ever wanting to return. It didn't work as planned, but that was the genesis of what is now a National cemetery.

Unlike the stately columns of most homes like this, these are not white, but instead a banded beige color. I like it.

The home sits on a hill with a commanding view of DC. Those people in the foreground are viewing the grave of JFK, the first short road is the entrance to Arlington. Further out is the bridge over the Potomac, leading to the Lincoln Memorial.

The Pentagon

This was the best view I got of The Pentagon from Arlington National Cemetery. I don't think this shows you the size of the place, though, and it doesn't make clear the five-sided design. But it was the best I could find. Look close and you can see Ronald Reagan International Airport in the background as well, or at least the tails from some of the airplanes. And that's the Potomac River you see flowing by.

Still In Use

Lest you think that Arlington National Cemetery is no longer an active burial ground, I spotted this horse drawn hearse in use while I was there. I kept thinking I was hearing horses, when I saw a single rider go by behind me down a hill. I turned, raised the camera, and saw a team of six horses pulling a coffin at a rather quick gallop. I only managed to squeeze off a few pictures, and those are from far away and entirely uncomposed. But you get the idea.

Remember The Maine

Very near The Tomb Of The Unknown Soldiers in Arlington is the mast from the battleship Maine, destroyed in Havana, Cuba, just prior to the Spanish American War. The destruction of this ship in fact precipitated the war, and the rallying cry became "Remember The Maine". The mast is on a pedestal encircled with the names of all the seamen who died in her destruction. This view of the mast is through the Amphitheater at the Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier.

Above is the anchor and below is one of the guns, both from the USS Maine.

Despite two or more official inquests, the cause of the destruction of the Maine remains unclear. It was either a mine planted by unknown assailants, or ignition of coal dust in an area near the charges used for the onboard armament. At this date, the truth will probably never be known.

The View From The Hill

Here's the view of The National Mall from the Tomb Of The Unknown Soldiers. To the left is the Washington Monument, near center is The Capitol Building and to the right is The Jefferson Memorial. I'm sure there are lots of other recognizable buildings in there as well, but I couldn't tell you what they are.

The Tomb Of The Unknown

In honor of Memorial Day, here are some pictures I took at Arlington National Cemetery at The Tomb Of The Unknown Soldiers.

That white tomb in the background holds remains of unidentified American soldiers from World War 1, World War II and Korea. Until 1998, it contained an unknown soldier from Vietnam, but I believe they identified that soldier.

24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, soldiers march back and forth, symbolically showing their respect by guarding this tomb. The soldier never acknowledges the amphitheater full of people to his right, concentrating only on showing his respect to the soldiers that went before him.

The tomb is high on a hill in Arlington, VA, overlooking Washington, DC. The National Mall and it's attendant memorials is just to the left in this shot. The Pentagon is to the right.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Down At The End

There were so many people at Siesta Beach this evening, I had to do something to get out of the crowds and wait for the sunset. So I just started walking. I walked and walked and walked, until I reached the end of the beach. Well, the beach doesn't really end, but someone did build a house out on the point, and that's pretty much the end of the public beach. But if you hop up on the seawall surrounding the house at low tide, you can get around to the other side, and there I found something that I had not seen in Florida before. The end of the beach is called Point of Rocks, and among those rocks are a series of tidal pools. I thought those were a California only thing, but there it was. Lots of little shallow areas among the rocks, with all sorts of little critters in there.

As you can see, the rocks go on for quite a ways. The further you go, the more life you find because curious tourists haven't walked all that way and pulled all the critters out of their homes.

Some searching yielded this mollusk and sea urchin together. There were plenty of both all around, but this was the only pair I found together. I think these guys are enemies, so they don't hang out together too much.

Probably the top predator in these waters is the great blue heron. This guy was keeping his eye on a small trickle of water draining from one of the larger pools. Anything hoping to make it out to the open water had to get past him first. I was pretty surprised to find this area, and I hope to get back when the light is better. I also need to find a closer place to park so that I don't have to walk more than a mile down the beach each way. Time to break out Google Earth!

Beach Bunny

I figured that since it was a holiday weekend, I'd go down to the beach for the sunset. I haven't done that in a while. I went to Siesta Beach, recently declared the second best beach in the country by Dr. Beach. I'm not sure why it's the second best beach in the country, since it's only redeeming features seem to be it's expansive width and it's nice white sand. Unfortunately, you couldn't much see either of those benefits for all the people there. One nice thing I did see was this rabbit, hopping along in the dunes. I got a few quick shots of him before I had to go deal with the thousands of people on the beach. Turns out that sunset was obscured by some thick storm clouds, but I did get some other pictures I'll share with you later.

A Much Needed Cleaning

I congratulated myself earlier today on having had my camera for a whole year now, but in that time I've neglected some of the maintenance and upkeep on it. Case in point is a good cleaning of the image sensor. The Rebel XSi has a built in image sensor cleaning function, but it only forestalls the inevitable cleaning process. Each time you change a lens, a little bit of dust gets into the inner chamber of the camera. Some of that gets past the internal mirror, lands on the image sensor and sticks. Some of what gets that far inside is shaken loose by the automated sensor cleaning that activates each time you turn off the camera, but the nastiest stuff sticks and never lets go. After a while, you start to notice dark spots in your pictures under certain lighting conditions, especially against open backgrounds like clear blue sky. I knew it was a problem that needed addressing before I went to Washington, DC, and I tried to fix it in a hurry, but I didn't do a good enough job, and I saw spots on every single picture I took while in DC. So this afternoon I sat down and did the job correctly. The picture above is an image of my sensor before I touched it, heavily tweaked and processed to show you the gunk on the surface. (I think those streaks are dust on my computer monitor, actually, not the image sensor, but the black bits are in my camera.) The photo below shows the after version of the same image, with most of the spots gone completely, and the ones that remain are extremely small. Certainly worth the time it took. I only wish I'd done it right before my trip.

I had to do this with my last camera as well, only I waited much longer and wound up with many, many more spots before I addressed the problem. Click here for before and here for after images of that time.

Hawk On High

I got this great shot of a red-shouldered hawk on the wing high above the same pond I shot the glossy ibis at this afternoon. You never know what you might run across when you pull off on the side of the road for a few minutes. Looks like this guy may have been in a fight recently, since he's missing feathers from his wingtip and his tail. Still impressive, though.

Old Cabbagehead

Here's a local landmark that I haven't shot in a long time and I don't think I've ever shared here at the blog. This is Old Cabbagehead, a steam locomotive that has sat in Bradenton, Florida, for many years. It used to be on the downtown waterfront, but they moved it some years ago to the local historical village where it sat in back for quite a while, and where I last saw it. More recently, they put a coat of thick black paint on it and moved it to a nice spot out front, which is where these pictures came from. You can climb up in it if you want, and pretend you're highballin' it down the Eastern Seaboard toward the Seven Mile Bridge and Key West.

I think this locomotive has been on display now longer than it was in active service. Let me check out that assumption. I know she was built in 1913, but when was she pulled out of service and put on display? Ah, November, 1954. So she was in service for 41 years and has now been out of service for 55 years, so I was correct.

Just in case you wonder why it's called Old Cabbagehead, take a look at the main smokestack on the front. Many smokestacks were just a straight pipe, but this one has the odd shape that reminded someone of a cabbage. I assume the shape has something to do with a spark arresting device, but I'm just guessing here. If you want to go see her, pay a visit to the Manatee Village Historical Park sometime. They've got plenty of other neat old stuff to look at as well.

Slightly Irridescent

I stopped on the side of the road on my way home to try and take a picture of a dozen or so turtles who were sunning themselves on a mudbank. But when I got out to take the shot, they had all slid into the water. So I just walked around the lake to see what I could see. I got lucky when a glossy ibis flew over my head and landed on the far bank. I just happened to catch him as he circled in to land and he caught the sun at just the right angle. Check out the colors produced by those normally black feathers! I wish I'd been a little closer to see this and shoot it, but it's still an impressive picture. This particular pond seems to be a popular hangout for glossy ibis, since I've shared pictures of them from this same spot before. Couple of times, actually.

Not Really Lions

I forgot all about these two faux lions when I posted some sentinel lion pictures for you last night. These two kids obviously realized something was missing from the entrance to yet another museum on the Mall in DC (The National Gallery of Art, West Building, maybe?), so they decided to act out the part. They did pretty good, too, not moving until well after I'd walked past. Ah, to be young again. The squirrel is just a free bonus item for you.

Happy Anniversary

Congratulations to my Canon Digital Rebel XSi! It was one year ago today that I bought my new camera, and I haven't put it down since. Let me see, since that day last year, I've shot approximately 45,044 pictures. That means I've averaged well over 1oo shots a day for the entire past year. I know it sounds impressive, but you wouldn't want to see most of those. I believe that quantity creates a quality all it's own. Here's to another 365 days of the old camera, maybe with a new lens or two...