Mount Vernon back to original color

Mount Vernon 2019

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Patience is key to better photos

Sunset at St. Ignatius Church

Everyone is a photographer nowadays with iPhones. And, the phones take great photos like the one above. This was with the new iPhone 11 that is a real game-changer with 12-pixel quality.

But, one advantage I learned as a young newspaper reporter/photographer in the 1970s was framing a shot. We used actual film then and editors frowned upon excessive photos. It was expensive and lost time in a dark room. You learned to frame your shot for that one great photo rather than a dozen that people now take on phones before picking one. And as a sports photographer, I learned to anticipate movement.

So I teach patience when showing photographers around different venues. Look for the photo in your mind, frame it in the lens rather than relying on Photoshop.

I took three photos of the one above at St. Ignatious Church in Chapel Point, Md. before choosing this one. Line up the subject and wait for the sun. It’s not easy because the sun sets quickly, but the wait is worth it.

Remember, it’s not about the camera. It’s about the photographer. Take a breath, feel the image and your photos will improve greatly.

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Yogi Berra at American Portrait Gallery

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Photographing the National Cathedral

National Cathedral

You can’t take a bad photo in the National Cathedral. Oh, you can always take an average one, but the Cathedral is one of my favorite places in town and begs to be photographed.

Forget the outside unless you have a proper lens. An iPhone won’t handle its size. But the inside is just fascinating.

First, individuals can take the elevator to the seventh floor for its grand views. The best in town, really. I can see RFK Stadium completely across town on a clear day as well as many iconic venues. You’ll also get a close up to some of the steeples.

I love walking the stone hallways for photos like the one above. The twists and turns are fascinating, urging you to keep walking. You’re usually alone to make it feel even more personal.

The main level of the church has stained windows that come alive depending on the sun’s location. There are so many statues to focus upon. And don’t forget to go below to see other chapels and stone work.

One caveat – no photos during Sunday sermons or people in prayer. Seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes people don’t think.

The Bishop’s Garden is beautiful during the warm months and a perfect foreground to the Cathedral.

I’m also a certified Cathedral guide so if you’d like a personal tour and photo opportunities, see the contact link atop the page.

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National Cathedral in Legos

National Cathedral

It took 83 years to build the National Cathedral. Now it will take three to five years to build a Legos version.

As part of the ongoing $34 million in renovations to the cathedral courtesy of a 2011 earthquake damage, the nation’s church is building a Lego version. The public can purchase each Lego for $2 and snap it into place. Overall, 500,000 Legos will be needed to build an 13-by-8 foot version while raising $1 million for renovations. Overall, $19 million is still needed to fix the church.

Personally, I think it would be really cool if the family of the late president George H.W. Bush placed the last piece given he delivered a speech on the cathedral’s 1990 completion. President Teddy Roosevelt attended the 1907 dedication so maybe one of his clan can come, too.

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Wordless Wednesday: American Portrait Gallery

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Oh angel, why so sad?

Richard RothwellI love statues in cemeteries. Angels intrigued me, especially when memorializing someone forever.

Richard Rothwell and his wife Emma lie beneath a sighing angel in Congressional Cemetery. Rothwell was once paid by Congress for creating 20 centographs that remember late Congressmen or Senators. Born in Manchester, England in 1822, Rothwell died in Washington in 1906, 20 years after Emma.

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American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial brings peace

photo_5-3It’s peaceful when entering the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial. It’s just a block off the National Mall near congressional offices at 150 Washington Ave. SW, sandwiched into a one-time medium area that was a short cut exiting town.

There are thousands of people near you, but nobody with you. The recently opened memorial hasn’t been discovered by tourists so it’s a chance to sit and reflect. In fact, sit on benches with handbags for the disabled to use. I haven’t seen those anywhere around town.

photo_4-5The memorial opened in September, 2016 after 12 years in the making as a tribute to those permanently disabled. Water and fire — the elements are staples of our lives so why shouldn’t they be for a memorial for those injured in wars. And glass panels with photos inside photos so show the pain and compassion of what happened on battlefields.

So take a few minutes and stop by one day. You’ll remember why our veterans are special.

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Wordless Wednesday: Vegan Thanksgiving

Vegan Thanksgiving at Greenfare Organnic Cafe in Herndon, Va.

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The history of flags by the FBI

FBI flagsSometimes the government website says it better than we can. Here is the FBI’s website explanation of the history of flags along its building on Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington. The Grand Union, or Continental Colors, serving from 1775-1777, was first raised on January 1, 1776, on Mount Pigsah, Massachusetts, about the time the Continental army came into formal existence. It combined the British Union Jack and 13 stripes, signifying Colonial unity. The following below is from the FBI website.
The Flag of 1777, which had no official arrangement for the 13 stars. It was flown by John Paul Jones on the USS Ranger and was the first American flag to be recognized by a foreign power.
The Betsy Ross Flag, 13 stars, designed by George Washington, Betsy Ross, and Francis Hopkinson. Although rarely used, it was adopted by Congress on June 14, 1777–the official date of today’s Flag Day.
The Bennington Flag, 13 six-pointed stars, allegedly flown August 16, 1777, over military stores at the Battle of Bennington, Vermont, when the Vermont militia beat back a superior British force.
The Star Spangled Banner, 15 stars and 15 stripes, immortalized by Francis Scott Key in our National Anthem during the bombardment of Ft. McHenry, Maryland, in September 13, 1814.
The Flag of 1818, 20 stars, commissioned by a Congressional Flag Act that returned the design to 13 stripes and stipulated that stars be added for each new state.
The Great Star Flag, 20 stars, designed by Captain Samuel Chester Reid, U.S. Navy, at the request of New York Congressman Peter Wendover and flown over the U.S. Capitol on April 13, 1818.
The Lincoln Flag, 34 stars, raised by President Lincoln on February 22, 1861, over Philadelphia’s Independence Hall to send a message to Southern states, which were preparing to secede from the Union.
The Iwo Jima Flag, 48 stars, which was commissioned in 1912 but came to symbolize our Nation on February 19, 1945, when U.S. Marines raised it on Mount Suribachi after fearful fighting in World War II’s Pacific campaign.
The 49-Star Flag, commissioned in 1959 when Alaska achieved full Statehood. It flew for only one year, until July 4, 1960, after Hawaii achieved its Statehood and when today’s 50-star flag became official.

What about the large banner streaming from the corner of 9th and Penn? It and its twin on 10th and Penn have been flying since May 29, 2004, after we were invited to be part of the dedication of Washington’s World War II Memorial this past Memorial Day, honoring the 16 million who served and the over 400,000 who died in World War II. This banner, of course, uses the 48-star format of The Iwo Jima Flag.

And that flag around the corner, on 9th street? It’s the 50-star flag, which our FBI police reverently raise each day at 5 am and take down at dusk.

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Albert Gallatin – the man in front of the Treasury

After taking their zillion photos of the north side of the White House, many tourists walk to 15th St. to catch their bus. They pass the Treasury Building along the way and always ask who’s the statue.

When I say Albert Gallatin, the response is usually a blank stare. And, I really can’t blame them.

Created by James Earle Fraser, the bronze statue was erected in 1947. The inscription on the base tells his story:




Gallatin was the fourth and longest-running Treasury Secretary who later founded what’s now NYU college. A young orphan of rich parents, the Swiss-born Gallatin arrived in the U.S. at age 19. Gallatin endured mixed success as a businessman before entering politics. He was a pretty good Treasury Secretary, overseeing the Louisiana Purchase for $15 million and financing the War of 1812 with Britain. However, the national debt grew under his stewardship.

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White House protest

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Ascent soars outside Udvar-Hazy Center

One of the more interesting items at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport may be outside.

Ascent is a 75-foot polished, stainless steel artwork that means, well I’m not good at interpretative art. But, some say its upward soaring image represents man’s desire to soar to the heavens.

Ascent was created by John Safer, a real renaissance man who studied law at Harvard, worked in banking and created artwork that hangs in more than 1,000 museums and embassies worldwide.

“It is my hope,” Safer told Cosmos Journal magazine, “that people who look at my work will feel uplifted and inspired. Through my sculptures, I try to make people feel more at one with themselves and the universe in which they live.”

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Octagon House – when six equals eight

I have driven past the Octagon House hundreds of times because my wife worked on the same block for 30 years. I never knew its full story; just that it was an oddly-shape corner building near the White House at 18th St. and New York Ave. NW.

Designed in 1801 by William Thornton, who was the first architect of the U.S. Capitol, the house served as a temporary home to president James Madison after the British burned the White House in 1814. The British left the house alone because it was a temporary embassy for France. Today, it’s a museum of Washington’s early days.

The three-story house includes a circle, two rectangles and a triangle in its floorplan. Many building materials are local, including Aquia Creek sandstone. The decorative materials came from England. It was named a National Historic Landmark in 1960.

Some say it’s haunted by two daughters of the original owner – Col. John Tayloe, a prominent Virginia planter who built the house at George Washington’s urging. In separate instances, a daughter arguing with Tayloe on the upper stairs fell to her death. Some say ghosts of slaves that once lived in the rear of the home now haunt it.

Oh, one more thing. It has six sides, not eight like an octagon. Go figure. Not the first number that was fudged in Washington.

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DuPont Circle fountain

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Sonny Bono Park needs TLC

Sonny Bono Park

It’s a spit of land with a lot of history that’s now left to neglect.

Sonny Bono Park at the intersection of O St., New Hampshire Ave., and 20th St. about one block south of DuPont Circle is just 800 feet of fenced-in dirt that seems too small to worry about and indeed no one has in awhile.

A local friend of Bono’s spent $50,000 to renovate the land in 1998, installing benches, landscaping and even a time capsule underneath a medallion of Bono in the entranceway that reportedly includes the sheet music of Sonny and Cher’s hit song, “The Beat Goes on.” The park was ruined by city road crews in 2013 and has seen little progress since.

Sometimes, the beat doesn’t go on.

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No bowing, she’s not the queen

You never know what kids will say. I asked some youngsters who I was standing next to and “The Queen of England?” was the first response.

Well, I must admit she does look a little like Queen Elizabeth, but it’s actually former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Its location at husband’s FDR Memorial should be a dead giveaway, but kids don’t always make the connection.

Eleanor is standing next to the United Nations symbol given her staunch support for it. She’s the only First Lady honored with a statue at a presidential memorial. Given Eleanor served the longest of any First Lady and often spoke for her husband at events, she certainly deserves it.

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Willard Hotel backs Nats

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This old stone house . . .

Georgetown has plenty of old bricks, but this stone home along M and 30th Sts. stands out. That’s because it’s the Old Stone House.

Built in 1765, the home is the oldest private home in Washington. The house was built by Christopher Layman, a cabinetmaker who died shortly after its finish. Cassandra Chew then bought it and added a rear wing in 1767. Purchased by the federal government in 1953, it now operates under the National Park Service. With its blue granite exterior, the home is perfect example of pre-Revolutionary life.

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Finally, an honest man in Judiciary Square

How many statues are there of Abraham Lincoln around town? That’s a good question. And, I don’t know the answer.

What’s special about this one in front of the D.C. Court of Appeals (Lincoln was a lawyer, after all) is it was the first public monument of Lincoln following his 1865 assassination. It was paid by District residents.

Lincoln stands on a pedestal with a bundle of sticks, which was the symbol of the law in ancient Rome. Sculptor Lee Flannery knew Lincoln so it’s a good likeness. It was dedicated in 1868.

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