Monday, January 26, 2009

Frozen Waters

Saturday was another freezing and windy day, and I was hauled from my warm and cozy bed by a telephone call from a friend who was wanting a hike in the Manassas Battlefields with her canine buddy. We walked through fields and woodland for about six miles barely seeing another soul; not even the wildlife was out on this frigid day.
After this little jaunt, my friend suggested we continue our hike on another trail she knew, so we drove our cars a couple of miles away. I refused to look longingly at the Seven Eleven as I drove past, wistfully picturing a tall cup of steaming hot coffee.
We pulled into a parking lot and once again found the park was deserted. Bundling up once more, we set off and stepped into a winter water wonderland. A creek ran through the park and was surrounded by a marsh carpeted with long grasses and bursting bull rushes. These photos are of the creek.

This is a beautiful little park and one that I shall visit in the spring to see how the creek looks then with fresh green grass, flowers and running water. Time seemed to stand still here and it felt like we were in a lost world. We left about an hour later with no other visitor having appeared and went on our separate ways, me heading for that hot cup of coffee I'd passed by earlier!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama Inauguration

At 4:00am on the morning of the most momentous day in America that I've witnessed, I crawled out of bed to get ready to meet my friend Barbara. We were heading into D.C. to take part in a historic event and were not prepared to miss anything. It was bitterly cold and windy and we set off for the metro in the dark, both of us wrapped in multiple layers and feeling like Michelin men. I was dressed for the occasion with an Obama t-shirt, Obama hoodie, hat, buttons and silicone bracelets. I'd even painted my nails for the occasion.

We had planned ahead and already purchased our metro cards so as we headed into a packed station, we sailed past hundreds of people waiting in line to buy fare cards, and made for the platform. The eight cars on the train filled up quickly but we had seats so made ourselves comfortable for the ride which would usually take 45 minutes but today took double that.

We got off the train and joined the growing crowd as we all bustled towards daylight and closer to the Mall. Everyone was in excellent spirits and chanted along with the staff as they yelled, "Keep moving, keep moving!"

The streets were already filled with people heading to their chosen viewing points, or to ticket lines or simply strolling around and enjoying the atmosphere, as we were. We wanted to be on the Mall for the Inauguration speech but to avoid disappointment were not deciding on any one place. We stopped at a bar, had a hot chocolate and made use of the bathroom as we had no intention of using one of the 5100 Don's Jons.

We joined the crowds again and literally had to walk in circles or zig zag the streets to find a way through to the Mall as so many of the streets were blocked off. The 395 tunnel was pedestrians only and was a strange sight, having only seen it before filled with cars, bumper to bumper. With people moving in every direction, the scene reminded me of an ant farm. Despite the cold, confusion and crowds, everone was still cheerful and continued on their course. As we jostled along, slowly approaching the Mall, we snapped shots of people without losing our place in the dense multitude of ever increasing folks.

This was the closest we got to Obama, but unfortunately time did not allow us to wait in line for our photo to be taken.

This lady was handing out postcards and because I couldn't get too close to her without appearing rude, I have to surmise that she was covered in fridge magnets!

By the Smithsonian and the Monument, this guy had found a superb viewing point and had settled down for the duration. He's reading a paper in the second image; I hope he wasn't too frozen hours later to make the downward climb.

We finally got to the Monument where up on the hill, we had an excellent view all around and we also had some space to move but this filled rapidly. Barb made light of these protesters and it was all I could do to not laugh aloud while taking this photo.

Looking back to the Lincoln memorial showed some open areas but these were filled in about 20 minutes.

Here's a view which isn't seen too often, the White House with a colorful foreground border of porter potties!

We had got to the Monument at about 11:00am, half an hour before the Inauguration. The crowds were noisy, chanting and waving flags, their enthusiasm and gaiety was infectious and invigorating. But silence was immediate once the ceremony started. All eyes and ears focused on the Jumbotron and speakers, the only other sound was the wind blustering around us. The above image is Obama taking the oath.

This video is a snippet of Obama's speech and the crowd's reaction. It was an exhilarating moment and we could hear the crowd everywhere, behind us from the Lincoln Memorial and in front from the Capitol. The distance between both of these locations is two miles so that gives you some idea of the number of voices cheering.

This was looking back to the Lincoln Memorial with the World War II Memorial in front. The place was packed and the atmosphere was jubilant and electric. It's a rare thing to see a crowd this size with a smile on every face.

Once everyone had quietened down a little, people started moving about. We worked our way towards the World War II Memorial and saw this yellow bear hitching a ride.

Every position that was elevated was filled with photographers, each as anxious as us to try and capture the moment. Quite often I locked eyes with other photographers and smiled as we knew we were taking photos of each other.

This is my favorite shot of the day showing the Capitol and the flags surrounding the Monument with people hanging onto the flag poles.

Here's me by the World War II Monument and freezing cold. I'd not realized until I saw this photo how my arms stuck out thanks to the many layers of clothing underneath. Both Barb and I had been warm enough all the time we were moving around but standing still for well over an hour made us cold again and stiff.

As we walked to Arlington Cemetery we crossed over part of the Potomac which was frozen. Thankful to get on the metro train and miss the mass exodus, we headed back to Centreville where we sat in a sports bar and ordered some hot food, a celebratory drink and watched the Parade on TVs. I had to have a hot bath before the cold finally left my body, but it was all worth it. Our day had gone smoothly considering the estimated 1.8 million people we'd been mingling with, so smoothly that it was hard to take in that we'd captured our own little piece of history.
As Obama's campaign would say, "Yes, we did!"

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Urban Exploration, D.C. hospital

On Saturday, a small group of us entered an abandoned hospital in D.C. which had closed down in 1996. The previous weekend, we had scouted the place since it was next to a police training center and we wanted to be sure our interest wouldn't be misinterpreted. It was a freezing windy day when we arrived and we quickly and quietly entered the building. We'd agreed no flash photography should be taken and this meant having to continuously adjust meters on our cameras which was hard work since all digits were frozen.

The building was 4 floors and large so we moved swiftly and quietly through the floors, each of us trying to capture as much character as possible in a building which is due to be demolished very soon.

There weren't too many hazards and only a few areas had broken asbestos tiling on the floors which we trod through carefully without raising any dust. We were amazed at how little the building had been vandalized and at how much equipment had been left behind to be destroyed by the elements.

I was fascinated at how cleanly the paintwork was peeling from the walls and wondered if the lead content contributed to this.

I found this frame in a room and spent a few sad moments wondering why it had been abandoned when so much work had already gone into it.

I loved this little TV which looked as though it could still be turned on and tuned to ABC news, while its surroundings were falling apart.

This is my favorite image of the place. The lighting was perfect, although enhanced with Photoshop. I can't decide if I want to look at the wheelchairs more or the fire extinguishers. Why were there so many left here?

These old computers made me chuckle and should really be saved in a museum rather than left to rot away here. They took floppy diskettes, remember those?

These two old hairdryers reminded me of something you'd see in a Yoko Ono art exhibition and almost look like two people having a conversation.

The lab was my favorite place, filled with glass bottles of all shapes and sizes and even unopened boxes of glass stirrers. There were bottles of chemicals, lots of testing machinery and even text books.

Three of us went down to the basement which was very dark. Groping around with flashlights, we startled a watchman who was initially wary of our activities but after a few minutes became very chatty and was even kind enough to direct us to the morgue, which we'd been looking for. It was nice that he trusted us enough to let us continue our exploration, but I suspect he thought we were a little odd.

I can't understand what happened with this photo. My camera was fixed on a tripod so you can see that the chair and everything in the foreground and to the right is crisp and clear, yet there seems to be a motion blur above the seat and across the window. Strange.

After about three hours, we were frozen, so decided to head out to warm up in a restaurant for lunch. Re-energized, we returned to the hospital and found a hallway that linked to another building that has not been explored by any other UEs. We were the first in and delighted in snapping shots of new corridors, a wonderful chapel and also a theater. The above image is part of the chapel. I may post other images later but for now they remain private on our forum.
We'd spent over six hours in this building and between all of us had documented it thoroughly and from all perspectives. We spent another hour in the cold parking lot discussing our day and the sad plight of the hospital. Apparently, the residents here had not been well cared for, resulting in its demise and I'm sure there are many who are pleased to see it closed. Maybe it's fitting that from its decay we tried to find some beauty.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Fort Washington, M.D.

Sunday was another cold blustery day and I met up with other urban explorers at Fort Washington which, for over 180 years, was the only defensive fort guarding Washington D.C. We had some new members attending and so wanted to visit a level 1 area to introduce them to our group. The fort slipped in and out of military use right up until it was handed over to become a parkland and now has been preserved with some of the original cannons still present.

Many of the bunkers are still intact and the above image is the ceiling of one of them.

This was looking through one of the stone windows of the bunkers.

Further back inland was the first modern artillery position built for the Defense of Washington. Battery Decatur is named in honor of Commodore Stephen N. Decatur, a native of Maryland who served with distinction during the War of Tripoli and the War of 1812. The above steps led up to the battery.

We weren't sure what this outbuilding was for but it made an attractive photographic subject. It may have been the hospital.

Inside there was a derelict wall cabinet...

and this wonderful old electrical box.

This set of steps led up into the old fort which was a very damp building with moss and lichens covering the shaded areas of the walls and rivelets of water continuously coursing down the stonework.

This was the gateway leading out of the fort which was once partly surrounded by a moat and used a drawbridge.

We found a lot of old batteries back further in the woods and were glad we had flashlights as some of them had rooms underground.
Once we had finished at Fort Washington, only a few members remained so we scouted down D.C. and discovered that an old hospital which had been abandoned was now due for demolition soon. Watch this space!

Annapolis, M.D.

Driving back from the Polar Plunge, I had to pass Annapolis, and not having visited before, I stopped for a walk round. The icy rain that had been forecast was late in coming so I made the most of the few dry hours I had remaining.
The inn above reminded me of the Flat Iron building in New York and in the background, the dome of the naval college can be seen.

This goose was well dressed for the cold weather...

...and in this shop, called Re-Sails, there were jackets and bags along with other items made from old boat sales. I loved this jacket but not the $300 price tag, yet all the products were eyecatching and unusual.

This display box was outside an old store called Johnsons which provides fine clothing for the public and the military. The box shows the history of the store.

I initially drove all round the town, and then walked the parts I wanted to explore further. My growling stomach was getting embarrassing and so I stopped at a small backstreet cafe where I had a marvellous brunch called a Snug Harbor, which was crab, poached eggs and tomato on top of an English muffin with melted Swiss cheese over the top and garlic potatoes on the side. Washed down with a cup of hot tea, and I was in paradise. Feeling fortified, I continued my tour of the town.

This is Maryland State House which had enormous pillars. You have to be there to appreciate the frontage of this building as it overwhelms everything surrounding it.

I zigzagged up and down the streets, quickly looking in gift and pottery shops but spending more time taking in the museum and the outside scenery. The harbor was smaller than I had imagined but parts of it were very quaint.
Groups of naval officers constantly traversed the streets. Small groups, big crowds or simply walking on their own. They were very friendly and gave a safe feeling to the town.

People threw bread to the seagulls and ducks and the birds squawked and chattered as they bombed and swept over the pavement. I was happy to spend my last half hour sitting and watching them feast greedily on the morsels thrown their way. They all looked very well fed and healthy. This lovely chap below briefly stopped chomping for a quick portrait but had no intention of standing longer for more pictures.

After they had finished their snacks, the birds flew off and I strolled back to my car, more than ready to head home after my full day. As I drove out of Annapolis and headed south, the skies darkened and the promised icy rain started to fall.