Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Washington D.C. - Thursday, October 29, 2010

As I mentioned in my last post, I stayed with a fantastic friend while I was in D.C.  She basically dropped me off at the train in the morning, let me do what I wanted while she was at work and then picked me up again when I was done and let me sleep on her couch.  Seriously, this to me is perfect.  I'm not a high maintenance house guest and I don't like being fussed over.  When I'm shooting, especially, I like to be on my own.  I don't want to worry that I'm annoying someone who's waiting for me to get that *one* shot which requires that I wait for that cloud to blow over/those people to move/that animal to open its eyes.

When I got into Baltimore, I took the bus to Union Station just to check my bag.  And also to know where Union Station was because it was where I could both pick up my on-again-off-again tourist bus and where I'd take the Metro out to meet my friend each evening.

So I stored my bag, came out of the train station and the first thing you see is the Capitol Building.  So I found my tour bus, hopped on, went the three stops to the Capitol and hopped off.  I have to say, I love living in a country where I could just go wandering the grounds of our national capitol.  (As long as you don't want to set up a tripod.  You do that and the Capitol Police will be all over you in very short order.)

Right near where the bus let me off there was the sidewalk to nowhere.  Basically it was the "TAKE YOUR PHOTOS HERE" spot.  A slab of sidewalk about twenty-five feet out into the lawn of the Capitol and it gave you a pretty great view of the building.  No one bothered you if you set up your tripod out here either.

I'm Just a Bill... and I'm Sitting Here on Capitol Hill
One of the things I had fun with on this trip was playing with angles and isolating parts of things.  As much as I love my nature photography, it is easier to play with things when you know your subject isn't going to move.  Here, I practically lay on the sidewalk to nowhere and shot up at the building to make it look even bigger and more impressive than it already is.  Also, the clouds swirling around the dome make me think of a scene out of a scifi movie (Ghostbusters springs to mind for some reason) where all the clouds start swirling around the highest point of a tall building and some kind of lightning or beam comes out and strikes that highest point.  But, yeah, nothing that interesting actually happened. :)

Here's a different angle.  From here you can see that to the left and right of the rotunda are the wings for the Senate and the House.  If I recall the signs correctly (and remember which way I was facing when I took this), the Senate is on the right and the House is on the left in this shot.
Capitol Dome

Like I said, I did some playing with isolating parts of buildings and things on this trip (yay telephoto lenses!)  So, obviously this is the outside of the dome.
Inside the Dome
This is the inside of the same dome.  You can see how different the windows look from the inside and the outside.  So, obviously I went in and took the tour, since you know, anyone can.  It was pretty busy so I couldn't do things I wanted to do (like actually lay on the floor and shoot this, I had to do the best I could just leaning back).

Stars and Stripes and Columns
Another isolation.   This is the row of windows at the bottom of the dome with a flag in front of it.  By the way, I'm not sure if anyone remembers, but a couple days before I left for D.C. Chicago had record winds.  Just crazy hard winds.  Those winds caught up with me in D.C.  It made for some great shooting of flags.  They were moving pretty good on Thursday, but Sunday when I did my last day of tourism, I thought I was going to get blown *into* the reflecting pond between the Lincoln and Washington Memorials as I waited for my turn to go up in the Washington.  There are some very cool pictures of flags that I'll post when I get to Sunday.

Capitol Greens
Here's one last shot taken from a much wider angle on the sidewalk to nowhere.

I Can't Go Here
 So after getting shots outside, I went wandering around looking for the tours.  There really aren't any big signs that say things like, "Politicians: This Way, Tourists: Go Over There."  So I figured I'd just get close to the building and wander around until I found it.  Apparently the Capitol Cops are fine with that until you actually get close to the door where the real politicians go in and start taking pictures.  I was "politely escorted" away from this door and over to the corner and pointed to the "we don't trust you" doors with every kind of metal detector in the world.  In fact (and I'll talk more about this later), I'm surprised I don't glow in the dark from all the x-rays and metal detectors and whatnot I had to go through as a tourist in D.C.

Chicago Has State and Madison.  D.C. Has... this.
 Okay, if you're from Chicago, or even if you're just pretty familiar with it, you know we burned our city down to the ground a while back.  When they rebuilt it, they had the sense to go, "Let's make the city a giant grid.  We'll put in a 0,0 at State and Madison and everything will be counted from there."  This really is brilliant and explains why I get lost in any other city that doesn't use this plan.  D.C. has a really screwy version of it.  They have this star in the middle - literally the middle - of the Capitol floor.  From there, the city is divided into 4 quadrants.  Each quadrant has it's own zipcode.  Which leads to insanity like, "The office across the hall from from any given side of this foyer has a different zip code."  They also complicate things with "spokes" through their grid - angled streets - and round abouts, and about 3.6 million people who CAN'T DRIVE meeting up where six different streets merge and... it gets ugly.  A lot.  I don't remember *ever* being on the road and not seeing at least one ambulance go past.

The Washington Monument Sees What You Did There
Okay, this shot was taken while my tour bus was moving.  I was lucky enough that at least on Thursday it was in the low seventies (not bad for a few days before Halloween!) and I could sit on the upper deck and take shots.  But, you know, the bus kept moving.  Anyway, these are the lights to keep airplanes from rounding off the point there, but it just gives the thing a menacing "I'm watching you over there" look.  Especially as they're flashing lights.  The birds in the dying tree just add to the whole spooky Halloween thing that was going on.

Fall in Progress
And with all the history and architecture and whatnot around, I still found myself noticing things like this.  Just one bright red leaf, laying on the ground, symbolizing fall.

Okay, ten pictures makes a post.  More soon.

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