Before Congress Comes to Work


I took this one early morning on my first trip by myself. I wanted to see if I could really “do it”. In retrospect, being afraid of solo travel is natural, but also a little funny at this point having been all over the world by myself. It’s really peaceful on the Capitol grounds before all the tourists and Congress men and women come to work. Really it was only me and a few cranky guards upset about my tripod! I though this really illustrated what they mean by Capitol Hill!

Photo Technical Info

  • Aperture: ƒ/8
  • Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • Taken: 28 May, 2012
  • Focal length: 18mm
  • ISO: 400
  • Shutter speed: 1/160s
  • Title: Before Congress Comes to Work

Capitol Iron Work

US Capitol Detail

There are so many wonderful works of art that function as every day objects. This handrail support on the back stairs of the U.S. Capitol Building is a great example. It just there to support people, but it has a stateliness, something that reminds me of an abstract eagle soaring above the swirls below. It shows us the ebb, the balance of moderate discourse. It’s just some old thing, that some designer thought long about. Some old thing that some craftsman poured sweat and life into. It spends its days in the elements largely unnoticed, but there some will see and be in awe of its functional beauty.

Photo Technical Info

Overlooking Congress


I was looking back through photos this weekend and came across this one. I have a collection in Lightroom called “Needs More Work” and this photo from the Lincoln Memorial has been sitting there for some time. I have always been unhappy with the color in the original image. It was always a bit lifeless, but I immediately knew what needed to happen this week. I think it has been waiting patiently, but the shutdown finally made it clear to me.

I don’t often talk about the why of my images…I will be vague here, but here are some thoughts. This photo is shot from the side of the Lincoln Memorial. The reflecting pool is drained and work is being done to repair it from a freak earthquake. Lincoln has a wonderful view and looks to the statue of another man who had to fight to keep his country. Both overlook the Congress of the United States. which is slightly out of focus.

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Abraham Lincoln
1st Inaugural Address
March 4, 1861

Morning at the Capitol

Something Big

2013 is going to be a big year! Last week I returned from my first trip to Europe in 2013. The first of several international trips I have planned this year to photograph new places for this blog. I visited Geneva, Switzerland for two wonderful days. Next month I am all set for Barcelona, Spain. Some people in my life think this is interesting, others think it’s fun, while others believe me to be completely crazy. Regardless of outside opinions, it is something that I can’t keep from doing any longer.


When I got to Switzerland it was cold, grey with rain and snow and the bus website said my bus didn’t start running until 2pm Sunday. I woke up at 8am the first day (no need to get up early for sunrise) and sat in my hotel room feeling completely defeated. I was only there for two days and the weather stunk. For all the preparation, travel time expense and excitement, I sat there and knew I had failed. The only thing was I hadn’t failed at all. I was still in my hotel room. The failure existed entirely in my mind but threatened to poison the whole trip! I told myself I had come halfway around the world to photograph Geneva and I was damned well going to do it! In the end I had a fantastic time. A cold, wet and fantastic time. And the number 5 bus WAS running just on a limited schedule.

Inner Voices

Chris Guillebeau recently wrote on his blog, “Sometimes you just need to pay attention to the discontent and see where it leads.” I have been feeling that discontent for a long time now, but I have been ignoring it. Even when I listen I often put off things or announce defeat before I have even started. I allow resistance to beat down my true self. 2013 is going to be a big year, because I can no longer not take action. I have to listen to this thing, whatever it is, inside me that keeps saying, Travel and Photograph. It’s wasn’t perfect in Geneva, but it never will be, and wonderful things happen when you simply try. Have you been putting something off, or announcing something a failure because the conditions weren’t perfect? I would really like to know.

Today’s photo is of the United States Capitol Building in Washington DC, USA.

The Apotheosis of Washington

All Hail, god Washington?

There are a disproportionate number of odd things in Washington D.C. Just the crisscrossing and frequently round-abouting streets can leave new visitors disorientated, but I was struck most on this trip by a piece of artwork I was already familiar with; The Apotheosis of Washington. The idea of an apotheosis is not exactly commonplace in the U.S. collective conscious, but right there in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda is George Washington, painted in the fresco, becoming a god. He is flanked by many of his new Roman peers (Mercury, Vulcan, Minerva, etc) and the whole scene leads me to wonder what in the world Constantino Brumidi (the painter) was thinking? It was undoubtedly intended as allegory, but really…what the heck?


Despite the strange symbolism emblazoned on one of our most significant Federal Buildings, I can’t recommend the Capitol tour enough. You are very tightly controlled as to what you can see, but it is awesome to be in the very halls where so much of our history has been forged. If you are in D.C., plan on a few hours to see General Washington become a god.

Dawn at the U.S. Capitol Building

Impressing Sites

I love traveling and I find myself awake at some crazy times trying to get photos. Dawn at the U.S. Capitol was no different. For whatever reason Starbucks in D.C. didnt open at first light and I was down a coffee. I showed up to the Capitol Building grounds with my camera and tripod certain I would beat everyone and get in a bit of time with three legs of contraband camera support before I was shooed off. I was right about no one being around. With the exception of one or two joggers and a gaggle of Capitol Guard it was just me. I hate it when people cite safety as a concern when NO ONE is around, but that is exactly what happened. Sir, you cant use a tripod here, its not safe for the other guests. I think she even realized I pay her salary.


This was a handheld 3 bracket (-2, 0, +2) combined in Photomatix, edited in Photoshop and Nik, finished in Lightroom 4.

Behind the Lincoln Memorial

A New Kind of Travel

An interesting thing happened to me recently. I needed to take a bit of time off work else I would lose the time so I decided to take off the week of Memorial Day. I have been collecting frequent flyer miles for some time and thought to myself, why don’t go somewhere and photograph. JUST me and my camera. While I enjoy going places with my wife (and #1 best camera assistant), it was interesting to meander and linger where the photos took me. Pamela is exceptionally patient when I “artist-out” and lose myself in photographing. I can sometimes spend hours taking photos of the same darn place, but I am also conscious of her and want her vacation time to be fun as well. This trip was different, not better mind you, but different. It was more work than anything, but never felt a bit unlike passion.

Bad Shoes! BAD!

I have been to Washington D.C. three times now so I know a few things about the layout of the National Mall. For one, much of the trails are made up of tiny gravel and dirt. It gets on your shoes and I decided it would be better to wear an old pair of tennis shoes so as not to get one of my good pairs filthy. Little did I remember just how massive the National Mall really is and after the first day my feet were really sore from all the walking. By the second day I had developed five sizable blisters on my feet (mostly the left) and could barely walk. Pro-Tip…always wear good, comfortable, supportive shoes when going to a big city that requires more walking they you are used to.


This is a 9 exposure bracket (-4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4) taken on a Canon 5D Mark II (Magic Lantern Loaded) with a 16-35mm f2.8 II lens at 35mm, mounted on a Really Right Stuff tripod and ball-head. The brackets were combined in Photomatix, exported to Photoshop, cleaned up, tonal contrast and sharpening applied with Nik Software. Finish work was done in Adobe Lightroom 4 (contrast, color, crop, clarity, etc). This photo is from the back side of the Lincoln Memorial about an two hours before sunset.

The Texas Capitol

A Funny Thing Happened

Pamela and I experienced our second SXSW Interactive festival this year. One of the un-official events, but very high up on my list, was the photowalk put on by Google+ and Trey Ratcliff. I had never been to a photowalk before and honestly it was sort of miserable weather. It rained the whole time, it was cold and the walk was mercifully over before I even knew what happened. I didn’t get many great shots, but I know a secret. A secret I am going to share with you…I stick around after events (often fun things happen).

The After Party

I am always quiet around new people, but I wanted to meet some new photographers. I made several new friends and spent a very interesting evening hanging out with some very fun people. One of the interesting things about hanging out with a bunch of photographers is (and I think I have Karen to think for this quote) you never feel like you need to apologize for talking time to get a picture. Most people just don’t get the joy of spending 45 minutes trying to get just the right angle. Photographers understand this completely.

A Walk to the Forum

We walked to the Texas Capitol Building where I got the shot below. I ended up hand-holding this bracket at 1600 ISO…my slowest frame was 1/8th of a second. Usually I cant hand-hold at this speed, but I was using my trusty knowledge dispensed to me by the incomparable Joe McNally (via YouTube of course). Yet another reason why I need to buy Joe a beer. The other great thing is I was voted the best photograph in the “Everything’s Bigger in Texas” category. Another first for me…it was my first photo walk, my first photo-contest entry AND my first win! Not bad for a beginner!

Indispensable Advice from Joe