Tag: history

Blog Posts

Monuments in Washington, D.C.

This past summer has been a quiet photography season for me. It was a great summer filled with family activities including traveling to South Carolina to see the total eclipse. That was an incredible experience and I just concentrated on enjoying it and did not even bring my camera! I have found that photography for me is a somewhat solitary experience. I seem to enjoy it more when I can take my time and concentrate on the photograph I’m trying to take. That means when I travel with the family I concentrate on them and if I need a photography outing I usually go by myself or possibly with another photographer. How many of you reading this post feel the same about separating your photography from other activities?

 

Since I live in the Washington D.C. area I decided that I would try my hand at photographing some of the many monuments and historic buildings in the district. In this post, I want to share four of the photographs from this collection. I will plan on sharing more photographs of the Washington D.C.  area later. Photographing monuments is somewhat of a challenge because of the crowds of tourists that are usually always present. This meant that at times the angle of the camera was not ideal for the photograph but it did eliminate unnecessary distractions. Photoshop also came in very handy at removing those other distractions that the camera angle could not compensate for. As I mentioned when I first started this blog, my objective was to document my progress as a photographer. This meant not only my artistic progress but also my technical progress with the camera and post-production software. I think I’ve made some progress on all counts but I have a long way to go to become a competent photographer!

 

This first photo is a sunrise over the Washington Monument and the US Capitol and it was an afterthought. I had initially come to the National Mall to photograph the Lincoln Monument at sunrise which is the next picture in the post. As I was setting up to photograph the Lincoln Monument I remembered to turn around to see what was behind me and fortunately the sunrise turned out to be very photogenic. This photo was edited in not only Lightroom but also Photoshop to enhance colors and take advantage of some dodging and burning techniques. You can probably figure out where this took place in the photo.

Monument Sunrise-2

This picture of the Lincoln Monument is the one that I mentioned in the previous paragraph. There were quite a few tourists around that morning even at sunrise! I took about 25 different photographs of the monument and this is the one I was most pleased with. Hopefully, you can see the golden glow of the sun on the façade of the monument. This photo also gave me the opportunity to use Photoshop to remove more than eight tourists who were either on the steps or near the columns. Feel free to look because I’m sure a practiced eye will be able to find those edits. I also used Photoshop to accentuate the blue and gray color of the sky. This was important to me because blue and gray represented the colors of the opposing Union and Confederate forces in the U.S Civil War. President Lincoln brought the country through this crisis and allowed it to remain a United country. So, I titled this photograph United.

United-

The Thomas Jefferson Monument is one of the most visited monuments in Washington D.C. It is not on the National Mall but it is just a short distance away. This photograph was taken from a location just in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Monument which is the last photo in this post. Interestingly, it was a moonless evening, so I decided to put the moon in the photo for dramatic impact. It is larger than it would naturally appear; however, that is my artistic prerogative!

Thomas Jefferson Monument at dusk

The Martin Luther King Jr. Monument is the newest monument on the National Mall. It is located a short distance away from the Lincoln Monument. This is probably the most challenging of all the photographs due to the large number of tourists and the limited space for me to set up my camera. Fortunately, after taking several shots over a 20-minute period, I did manage to catch one before the tourists clambered back in front of it to take selfies. The quote is not engraved on the monument; however, it is a quote taken from the wall directly behind the monument and it seems an appropriate quote because of current events in America.

MLK-

I hope you enjoyed reading the posts and viewing the photographs. Come back to visit in the future because I hope to show some photos from an autumn trip that I’m planning to West Virginia to capture some of the fall color from the seasonal change.

 

 

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Blog Posts

Slave Dwelling Places

In a previous post, I mentioned that living in Northern Virginia gave me a great opportunity to review and photograph places, monuments, buildings etc. that had a connection to the American War of the Rebellion or as it is commonly known the Civil War. It should be clear to anyone who studies American history that this war was a result of the evil of slavery perpetrated on African people. This blog will not retrace the history of slavery in America; however, I do hope to use photography to share historical sites related to slavery that I find photogenic. In this blog post, I am displaying photographs of two buildings that were the homes of former slaves. These properties are in various stages of preservation. I have some other sites planned for future posts.

These photos were shot with the intention to take advantage of the HDR effect available in Adobe Lightroom. The subsequent photos were edited further in Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop utilizing the Patch Tool to remove some unwanted distractions. As I am working to become a better photographer and I think these photos are an improvement in my attempts at HDR. Hopefully as time goes on I will continue to improve my skills as a photographer with both the camera and the digital editing tools that are available.

The first photo is that of the Settle-Dean Cabin. This home has been moved approximately 100 meters from its original location due to the building of a large subdivision in Loudoun County. An agreement was made with the developer to move and restore the cabin rather that demolish it to make room for a suburban home. This would not have been done without the herculean efforts of a couple of passionate African Americans with strong ties to this area. You can read more about the cabin by clicking the link below.

https://www.loudoun.gov/index.aspx?NID=3237

 

This is an image from the front of the cabin. It was shot at sunset and is the result of merging 4 images in Adobe Lightroom.

 Settle-Dean Cabin at sunset

The next view is taken from a side perspective also shot at sunset and it was based on 7 images HDR merged in Adobe Lightroom.

 Settle-Dean Cabin at sunset

I also had the opportunity to visit the former site of the Lewis Farm in Loudoun County and see a presentation on the Slave Dwelling that is located there. This property is now owned by Loudoun County and is managed by the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services. There is an effort under way to raise the necessary funds to restore and preserve this building. We were told during the presentation that up to 32 slaves lived in this dwelling place at a time! As you can see it is not a large building. You can read about this property by clicking on the link below.

http://www.loudounhistory.org/history/loudoun-slave-quarters.htm

 

The first photo is a view from the side of the dwelling. These photos were taken around noon on a very bright day. This one is the HDR result of 2 images merged in Adobe Photoshop and then edited in Adobe Photoshop with the Patch Tool to remove some unwanted distractions.

 Slave Dwelling on Lewis Farm

The next photo was taken from the rear of the building and you can clearly see the supports that have been installed to protect the building from collapsing. This photo is also a 2 image HDR merge in Adobe Photoshop.

Slave Dwelling on Lewis Farm 

I hope you enjoyed viewing these photos and hopefully you gave some thought to the former slaves and their children who lived in them. Please come back to visit www.Cestlavie4me.wordpress.com in the future for more photos on my journey to become a better photographer.

 

 

Blog Posts

Photojournalism

As I have reflected on before in this blog, finding a photographic genre for me to concentrate on has been difficult. This is probably an issue that other readers of this blog have also struggled with from time to time. A conclusion that I came to in a previous post is that you should photograph what you enjoy and not worry about labels.

In the past, I thought real photography had to be done with a legitimate camera. In the last couple of months, I have concluded that this is another harbored fallacy on my part about photography. You can take interesting pictures with just about any camera and that includes, smartphones, tablets and whatever else has a photographic sensor!

On a recent trip around the country I took many pictures with my Canon equipment but I also took some good photos with my old and outdated smartphone! Just this past weekend, my wife and I attended a ceremony to commemorate a black slave cemetery on the former Belmont Plantation site here in Loudoun County, Virginia. I did not have my camera with me, but I did have my smartphone. Fortunately, I was able to take several photos of this event that I am sharing with you in this post. This has allowed me to be somewhat of a photojournalist and to use this as a means of informing and educating people on a topic that concerns American history! Admittedly a sad and tragic period of history but one that needs to be understood.

The cemetery sits in the woods near a busy traffic intersection that is undergoing extensive construction. The event itself was to honor those deceased slaves and not protest construction, but to make sure that the construction does not violate the cemetery! We were given name tags to wear of the slaves who had once lived on that plantation. I received the name tag of a slave by the name of Jesse. The procession then walked across the road to the cemetery under police protection from the traffic. A program was then held in a clearing near the cemetery. One of the photos shows the color guard and the actual cemetery is directly behind them.

As for the photos, I can see that a different angle and perspective would have greatly improved these photos. When I get another opportunity to photograph an event I need to move around more. I tried to tell a story with these photos and perhaps I did. In any event, my goal will be to tell a better story in photos on my next attempt. Some of the readers of this blog have probably made the same mistakes and hopefully have improved in their photojournalism since then. At least I have another photographic genre to keep me occupied.

Here is a newspaper article about the commemoration event:

http://www.loudountimes.com

Enjoy the photos!

The Historian

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Blog Posts

National Museum of African American History & Culture

 Usually my blog posts are about photography and related topics. This blog post will also feature photography but just as importantly it will introduce you to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. This past Saturday my wife and I had the opportunity to attend the charter members only opening of the museum. This was an extremely exciting event for the two of us. My wife, in particular, has been looking forward to this and has been planning to be one of the first people to visit the museum once it opened.

 This museum has been long overdue and it was a privilege to finally walk through the doors. This museum is part of the Smithsonian family of museums. It is the 19th one in the system and the newest. The site is a stunning building designed by David Adjaga, Philip Freelon and J. Max Bond. It is located on a 5-acre site on the national Mall here in Washington DC. The authorization to build a museum was done by an Act of Congress in 2003. The groundbreaking itself took place in February 2012 and the grand opening for the public is scheduled for September 24, 2016. The museum itself contains over 36,000 objects of historical importance that documents the African-American experience from pre-colonial times to the present.

 The best way to describe the museum is that it is an exploration through time. Your journey begins on the third level below ground with an introduction to Africa in the 1400s. You continue your journey through the beginning of the slave trade between Africans and Europeans and then move on to slavery in the United States. As you continue going up the different levels you experience not only slavery in the antebellum South but its relationship to the rest of America and America’s history. Your journey takes you through the Civil War, reconstruction, the era of Jim Crow segregation, the civil rights movement right on up to present-day America. The upper levels continue the story of African-Americans with a view towards culture, sports, music, the arts, community and even family research. For more details on this fabulous museum click on the link below.

https://nmaahc.si.edu/about/museum

Now I would like to share a few photographs that I was able to take at the museum. The photographic conditions were not great due not only to lighting, but the restriction on bringing in tripods and flash. I decided to try out a fast wide angle lens for the photos. The best option was to rent a lens, so that’s what I did. As long as it was a rental I decided to rent the best. I shot these photos with a Canon EF 15-35mm f2.8 L series. This is not a lens I can afford to buy! At times I was shooting wide open and as high an ISO as 3200. There was some noise but Lightroom cleaned it up pretty well. Needless to say the crowds of people, in many instances, prevented me from being in an ideal position to take a photograph. That having been said, I hope you enjoy the pictures below.

Blog Posts

Local Photo Opportunities

It has been a long time since I have posted anything on this blog. It’s not really very surprising when you consider I haven’t had anything to talk about. In the last month or so I have been taking photos that were mostly photos of the family vacation and other things that were not appropriate for my blog. I am not even a big fan of Facebook, it seems too many people are publishing way too much personal information and I don’t plan to join the crowd.

A couple of weeks ago my wife and I decided to take a short trip to Frederick Maryland for a day of sightseeing. Frederick is an historic town from both the colonial period and Civil War standpoints. Many famous Americans such as George Washington, Francis Scott Key, Robert E. Lee and the first American-born canonized saint, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton have visited, stayed in or in the case of Robert E. Lee fought in the vicinity of Frederick, Maryland. Roger Taney, a local attorney, eventually became the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court and presided over the Dred Scott v. Sandford case (1857), that ruled slaves, were not considered at the time the Constitution was written as citizens and, whether free or slave, could not be considered citizens of the United States. Most American High School students are taught about this seminal case in their U.S. History classes. The historic downtown area of Frederick is filled with old buildings, shops, restaurants, theaters and other points of interest. The nearby area is rural and has many historical sites to explore. Among them are several very old covered bridges.

I decided to bring my camera and to make this a photographic sightseeing tour. One of the first sites was “The Angel” painted by Artist William Cochran on the Carroll Creek Park Bridge. This style of art is known as “trick the eye” and is intended to be seen from several different viewing angles. The images I’ve included in this blog do not do justice to this rather unique painting. Interestingly, it took quite a while to take these three photographs because every place I stood the image did look different but not significant enough to notice! When I got home I went through the 10 or 15 pictures I had taken and picked out the three that you see posted in this blog as the best representation I could make of the visual trickery of this painting.

While we were walking down, interestingly enough, Church Street, I saw a stark white church with two spires that caught my attention. It was the Evangelical Lutheran Church established in 1762. I decided to take a photograph standing as close as I could to the church and looking straight up so that the spires and the pinnacle of the roof all pointed to a bright blue, cloudless sky. I might add that before I went on this trip I decided to try and use different angles and perspectives for some photographs. This idea came to me from one of the photographic books I was reading that discussed the idea of trying to find different viewpoints and not take the same old photographs everyone else does. Seems to me this came out rather nicely, but what are your thoughts?

The next photos that I decided to publish were of the Loy’s Station Covered Bridge that was originally built in 1880. It spans a rather small creek named Owens Creek. At one time there were a great number of these covered bridges in Frederick County; however, today only three remain. I visited them but decided to post pictures of this one bridge. This also gave me an opportunity to try my skills in Adobe Lightroom and convert the color photograph to a black-and-white one. I think I prefer the black and white version even though the right side is slightly blown out and somewhat distracting. That is one of the problems that I continue to experience and hopefully my photographic skills will improve enough to eliminate this in the future. Or I might try to do what’s recommended and that is to take the photo in better lighting conditions; but unfortunately, I was there at 3pm and I took the shot and that’s as good as it was going to be!

I guess the thing to take away from this blog post is that there are many great photographic opportunities just about anywhere you look. You don’t have to travel a long distance to find some interesting things. Having said that my wife and I are planning a train trip to Chicago and then flying to Las Vegas later in October. Hopefully I will have some great photographs to show you in that blog post; however, you never know about these things! Until the next post remember to keep pressing the shutter button because there is always a great photo out there, we just have to find it!