Thursday, April 29, 2010

Saturday, Just After Noon

Just so I don't loose my place, I'm at Saturday, the 10th of April, 2010, just after noon in my DC pictures. That means I still have to share with you the rest of Saturday, all of Sunday and Monday until about 2. I've got a long, long way to go. I always thought this was the coolest clock tower, just up the street from the White House. I think I showed you an extreme close-up of the face before. No, maybe I didn't. I'll have to hunt that down.

N2 & N3

All civilian aircraft in the US are assigned a unique number by the FAA. I don't know the whole deal, but it has something to do with airworthiness, etc. Most planes have a four or five digit number. In the middle of all the action at Sun-N-Fun Saturday, they put everything on hold for a few minutes while these two private jets took off. Well, I say private. Look close and you'll see where they say United States of America on the side. Look closer and you'll see they have N numbers of 2 and 3. Care to guess who these planes might be carrying?

Would it help if I told you my boss had golfed with the head of the FAA two days earlier?


The back of a jumpsuit of a Commemorative Air Force pilot at Sun-N-Fun. It may make more sense if you know that CAF used to stand for Confederate Air Force. I believe they switched it to Commemorative Air Force just to be a little more politically correct. In this case, that may have been a good idea. They probably had a hard time getting booked at air shows north of the Mason-Dixon line before.

Pirates In The Sky

I know I've been slacking on the airplane pictures, instead showing you lots and lots and lots of pictures from DC, but here are some good ones from Saturday at Sun-N-Fun. As you can tell, it was totally clouded over, so there wasn't much color or sunlight to make for good pictures. Because of this, I wandered away from the flightline when I should have been paying more attention. Look at the top of that biplane and you'll see a woman on there!

I've always heard of wing walkers, but I'd never seen one. Just imagine the guts it must take to climb out on that wing and hold on for dear life.

Now imagine doing it upside down.

The whole show they put on had a pirate theme, so that explains the swords and the skull and crossbones. There was all sorts of sound effects, music and backstory that got played over the PA system during the show, too, but it was so over the top I just tuned it out and tried to enjoy the show in the air. As you can see, my pictures got a little better as I wandered back to the flightline once I realized what I was missing.

Kite Flying

I was on my way home from work this evening when a bird caught my eye. (Some days it's amazing I ever get where I'm going...) At first I didn't think it was anything special, then he banked and I saw that split tail. It's a scissor-tail kite, one of the birds you don't see too often. So I look for a place to pull over and there is nothing but curb all along the road. By the time I find a place where I can pull over, I'm too far away to see him. I turn around and go back, but now he's nowhere to be found. I make a u-turn back to my original direction and head for home. But then he crosses my path again. I turn around again, but can't find him. Third time around, I just park the car where I can and wait. Sure enough, he eventually flies by, making lazy circles several hundred feet above me. I was next to a small drainage pond, but it must be a place he likes because he'd fly off then come back around the pond. I shot him for twenty minutes until he finally headed off to the south (towards my condo, ironically enough) and didn't return. He never got really close (certainly not as close as the last time I shot one of these guys), but with my 400 mm lens I was able to get some decent shots. Oh, and he stayed between me and the sun, so the exposure is poor on all of these. I guess I'm just never happy. (But I got to shoot a kite!)

With that split tail, it's impossible to mistake these birds for anybody else in the air. Before I saw the tail, I saw the white head and though it might be an osprey. He's too small to be an eagle, although he wasn't too far from the local bald eagle nest.

I wish I could have caught him with lots of light on the underside. But here you can get an idea of the color pattern on the bottom.

This one may be cropped a bit too much, the sky is starting to devolve into different colored pixels. But it's still a nice picture.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


I think I just mentioned that I was shooting in Pershing Park, so here's a picture of old John J. himself.

This eagle was in the park, too.  I don't remember much about him, but looking close at the little plaque near the bottom of the picture tells me this is the Bex Eagle.

Bath Time

I found some birds bathing in a fountain in Pershing Park as we walked along Pennsylvania Avenue towards the White House. I spent way too long photographing them, only to find that most of the pictures weren't as exciting as I imagined them to be. I probably should have bumped up the shutter speed a few notches to freeze the birds a little better, but live and learn.

Some of them aren't too bad though...

The water droplets in the air made for some cool bokeh at times.


After the big, exciting Cherry Blossom Parade, we walked over to the Japanese American Festival, being held just a couple of streets over. Actually, it was on Pennsylvania Avenue, which you may have heard of before.

Seemed to me like the biggest part of the festival was curious Japanese trinkets, like these colorful origami cranes.

And of course pink teddy bears with bloody lips and claws.

There was no end to the Hello Kitty stuff.

And then there were the people who were taking the festival a little too, umm, frivolously. Alice in Wonderland ripoffs seemed to be quite popular for some reason. Maybe the recent new movie?

Lots of funny colored wigs and odd goth-inspired outfits with a hint of silly. You should see all the folks that I was too embarrassed to photograph.

Is Stitch Japanese? I had no idea.

Should I know who this is? I think I'm too old...

And Waldo isn't so hard to find if you know where to look for him.

Uncle Sam

I reckon you can't have a parade in the District of Columbia without inviting Uncle Sam. So here he is.


Perhaps the most interesting thing at the parade wasn't in the parade at all. It was a group of furries on the other side of the street. They were all standing there waving at the parade, and getting as much attention as some of the performers.

Furries are kind of hard to describe. Think of them as mascots without teams or schools or any sort of affiliation. It's just people in furry suits for little or no reason. As a former mascot, I can't say anything bad about them. Maybe if I were young again, I'd be out there with them... I think these folks are all members of this group, if you're curious.

Awwww, isn't that sweet? The guy's getting a hug from complete strangers wearing fursuits.


Oh, the excitement. They had Ronald McDonald at the Cherry Blossom Parade.

I gotta tell you he was quite animated.

Perhaps he never watched Supersize Me.

I was just happy that he didn't start yelling 'Meat is Murder' and throwing blood on the crowd. I think that's what the last guy I saw dressed as Ronald McDonald did.

An Inflatable Parade

Time to share a few pictures of the giant inflatables that got marched down the street during DC's Cherry Blossom Parade. I thought inflatables were only for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, but I guess I was wrong. First balloon I saw was Elmo from Sesame Street. I'm not entirely sure why he's carrying a fish bowl with a goldfish in it, but I haven't watched Sesame Street in a long, long time.

And there goes Elmo, off to climb the Washington Monument. I suspect the park police are going to have a hard time stopping him.

From furry muppets we move on to giant fruit. Yes, a tomato is a fruit. If you want a giant inflated vegetable, look below.

Here's a giant inflated cucumber. Or is it a giant inflated pickle? I don't know my Veggie-Tales very well, I'm afraid. Ah, this is Larry The Cucumber, and that's Bob the Tomato up above.  Thanks, Wikipedia!

And batting cleanup, it's Garfield the Cat. I don't know if he was the last balloon, but he was the last one I saw. I can only watch so much of this sort of thing.

Inside The Tower

Yesterday, I showed a view of and some of the views from the Old Post Office tower in Washington, DC. Today I've got some shots of what's actually inside the tower, or at least on one of the more interesting levels. Beneath the observation deck is the secret workings that make the big clock faces on the four sides of the tower work. There was a simple looking clock on the same floor as the observation deck, but I didn't realize that it wasn't as simple as it looked. Evidently, it's clockwork motions were transferred down through the floor and into the gearbox in the center of this room. Then four shafts split off to the four clock faces and operate the minute and hour hands outside. That way, all four clocks always show the same time.

Directly beneath the clockwork bits lie the Bells of Congress. They are supposedly exact replicas of the bells at Westminster Abbey. I've never been to Westminster Abbey, so I can't confirm that. These bells are rung by hand from ropes down inside the tower, and not by any of the clockwork mechanism as you might expect. Evidently they have a local bell-ringing club that meets once a week (visitors welcome, but you do not get to ring the bells).

The sound from the bells has no where to go but up, and when it gets up, it bounces off the four sides of the pyramid shaped ceiling.

And each side of that pyramid directs the reflected sound out one of the clock faces, which just happen to be louvered to allow that sound out. I didn't notice from outside that the faces are louvered, but I guess all this is to make it sound as if the clock faces themselves are ringing.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ye Olde Post Office

This is the old post office on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC. I didn't pay too much attention to it on my previous trips to DC, I just thought it was yet another clock tower in yet another old building. Well, it turns out I as wrong. This is the third highest point in DC, and it's open to the public. So naturally, I had to check it out.

How tall is the tower? Not sure. Ah, Wikipedia to the rescue. The tower is 315 tall, and the observation deck is at 270 feet.

It takes a lot of foundation to support a tower this tall. I don't know if the base was exposed like this back in the day, but nowadays it makes for a nice backdrop to the central court of the shops that inhabit the central core of the building.

And that central area has a nice glass roof, so you can see the tower that towers above you.

Sure enough, the observation deck atop the clock tower offers views of DC that are only rivaled by those from the top of the Washington Monument, plus there was no line to get to the top of this tower. Unfortunately, they've blocked the view by stringing wire over the windows, or in some cases lexan panels, making photography difficult, so please imagine all those black lines aren't there. Looking Southwest, you can see the Washington Monument, as well as the Lincoln Memorial, and very small on the far away hill, Lee's house at Arlington.

Turning a bit South, you can get the Jefferson Memorial into the picture.

Looking East down Pennsylvania Avenue, you will no doubt recognize the US Capitol Building.

And looking North, there's really not much that you'd recognize. Notice how many of the rooftops of ordinary buildings are decked out with gardens and patios. Space is at a premium in downtown DC, and space with a view is especially valuable.

Continuing on around, now looking about Northwest, that's the National Cathedral way in the background. It's a long ways away, but still in the District.

And looking almost due west, that's Pennsylvania Avenue again, curving out of sight towards the left. The White House is in this picture, but it's tough to see. It's right behind the Treasury Building, which is between the last wire on the left and where the lexan starts. See it? Trust me, it's there.