Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Hike in Seneca State Park, MD

So on Saturday, Barb and I drove to Seneca State Park to take part in a 10 mile hike. We had to be there at 9:50 for a prompt start at 10:00. We got there at 9:45 and found the park gates closed. I phoned the organizer and also checked in on the web site. At 9:55 we were allowed in and parked at the Visitors Center as agreed. One other person was also there and she also called the organizer. We waited about 10 minutes then she called again to find that they had already set off on the hike and were not going to wait for us. The organizer's instructions were terrible that we never caught up with the group and so set off on our own to hike around the lake. It was a beautiful sunny day and we struck up a conversation as we strode along the trail.
Barb and I had noticed this roof lying on the ground near the Visitors Center and wondered what had happened to the building. I blame the beavers, more about them later.
We also saw these beautiful iron doors nearby, part of the building we presumed. A shame they were left outside to be eroded by the rain.
Here's Barb, trying to pick up the group's trail by checking for footprints. We thought we were behind them for a while but didn't mind that we never caught up.
The trail around the lake was very pretty and it felt great to be outside exercising after the long winter.
And then we came to a part of the shore that had been decimated by beavers. There were fallen trees everywhere and stumps littered with bark chips. I reckon them there beavers had chewed down the building we saw earlier too. Not a critter was in sight and I pondered on their whereabouts. We carried on walking following the trail around the lake.
Later we saw this fisherman shaped out of lights. It wasn't dark then but later I worked on the image to make him light up as I imagined it would look.
We finished hiking around the lake and were a little disappointed to find out we only hiked just under 4 miles. There was still no sign of the group so we decided to call it a day.
Barb and I went to a mexican restaurant for lunch where we had these beers in margarita glasses. What's up with that? They needed both hands to hold them.
After lunch we stopped at Merrifields Garden Center to stroll around, looking at the plants and ornaments. There were some beautiful glass orbs and of course that meant a photo, and then I spotted this on the outside of the center...
Bark chips! So that's why the beavers were chewing all those trees down and why we didn't see any of them at the lake. They were bringing their chips to garden centers to make a fast buck! All the plants and shrubs were surrounded by new looking chips so those long toothed entrepeneurs were raking it in. But what were they spending their money on? Maybe a skiing trip to Beaver Creek Lodge? Hmmm.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Henryton, MD

On Saturday, Jeff, Steve and I drove up to Maryland to visit Henryton, an abandoned hospital , empty since 1985, and once used as a tuberculosis treatment center for African Americans then later as a sanatorium. 
 On the way up, I95 moved very slowly as a forest fire in Laurel had spread to a mulch store and the strong winds were blowing the smoke across the highway making visibility non existant.
The hospital has been badly vandalized since it's closure but many areas still lend plenty of opportunities for atmospheric photos and I decided that this this set of images would be black and white to enhance that.
I took along this photo of my grandfather in his RAF uniform and my old rosary to create a poignant image. 
There was still snow and ice lingering from the last storm and we had heavy winds with gusts up to 60mph. Throughout the hospital we could hear windows and doors slamming as we walked along the dreary dusty and dark corridors. I was glad I wasn't alone, often needing to call out to the others to make sure they were close by.
Jeff coming out of the main building.
An electrical pole was down and my jeans got soaked as I lay down to incorporate it into the photo.
A Dalek! Scarey! I used to be petrified of these as a child and even as an adult would not want to see a real one. My model seemed perfectly at home here.
We saw a few others walking around the grounds but we mostly had the place to ourselves. There are many postings online about the hospital being haunted and with today's blustery weather accompanying the many sounds emitting from the buildings, they were easy to believe. I felt more comfortable being outside than in the crumbling rooms even though I had two strong guys with me.
Towards the end of our visit I picked up this small piece of broken mirror and propped it up in a window to take a photo. I kept it afterwards and plan to use it for future reflective shots, it could make an interesting set.
Jeff took this photo of me and Steve larking about. 
We decided to leave once Steve muttered the word 'beer'. It started playing on our minds and with the temperatures dropping, a beer and some warm food seemed like an excellent idea. And of course, by now it's part of the exploring routine.
This is the only color photo of this set. I loved that the only vivid color here was the sky reflected in the glass ball, another of my now regular props. I had purchased glow sticks, party poppers and bubbles but used none of them on this visit, but they will keep for the next outing.
On the way home we stopped at a small restaurant called Seibel's where we all had the fried chicken, the best I've ever had and an awesome homemade ice cream pie. The fires were still causing havoc on the roads home so it was a very tired but 'glad to be home' group that piled out of the car and into their warm homes when we got back to Centreville. I still feel another trip will be made to Henryton when it's warmer, I left many untaken photos behind.

A day for the exchange of tokens of affection –

Another assignment was posted yesterday for our writing group:
'Since it is the month containing Valentines day it might be fun to write something in tribute of this occasion BUT you cannot use the words: Valentines day, Cupid, Love, roses, flowers, hearts, or February.'

The bar was packed as I edged my way to the front to order drinks. A tall guy to my right caught my eye and my frustration turned to delight as I recognized the well styled hair and chiseled profile. I slid next to him and as he finished signing his check, I pulled a dollar bill from my wallet and pushed it towards him on the counter requesting,
“A signature on here as well please?”
He looked at me and I observed his face as he appeared to recognize me for a fleeting moment but then a polite smile curved his lips as he scribbled his name on the bill and pushed it back. I glanced down hoping for a message of familiarity but only the name ‘Daniel’ had been written on the bill. I looked back up to thank him but his back was already turned. Crushed, I leaned on the bar and waited my turn for drinks.
Later that evening, I huddled out the front on a wet sidewalk waiting for my taxi and watched couples as they left the bar arm in arm, heads close in whispered conversation and smiling anticipation on an evening of the second month in the year, on a day designated for those wanting to be together without any interference from others, to belong in a world where they were the only ones who existed. My taxi pulled up and I climbed in, grateful to escape the numbing drizzle and almost sickening happiness that exuded from everyone else outside. As I leaned back into the cracked leather, the door was wrenched opened again and my heart leaped as he climbed in without invitation and sat next to me smiling broadly. Grabbing both of my hands he exclaimed, “Debby, I’m so sorry, so sorry. How could I have failed to not recognize you? I feel awful.” He directed the driver, “Warrington Lodge please.” Turning back to me, he apologized again. “It’s been a few months since I saw you yet still, despite meeting so many new people daily and being so busy, I should never have failed to recognize someone who gave up her whole day to keep a stranger entertained. Please, let me make it up to you.”
I smiled back at him in shy awe and completely lost for words. He pulled out his phone and texted a message while I nearly melted into a puddle  as I drank in his glorious good looks. We reminisced that special day as the car purred through the streets and I leaned into him when his arm circled my shoulders. The taxi stopped outside a grand building and he helped me out onto the pavement. The rain had stopped and the leaves of the trees glistened as they dropped glittering diamond droplets around us. The concierge spoke. “Your table is ready Mr. Craig.” Daniel gently turned me round to face him, cupped my face and leaned down to me, his eyes closing. Abruptly , 70’s rock music started blaring, shattering the moment……and I woke up.

I actually had this dream last and quickly scribbled down notes once I got up so I didn't forget. Soooo wish it had been real...!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Lost While Shopping

Another poem submitted to the writing group, this time the subject was A Lesson Learned.

He stood alone, too scared to speak,
Or ask the people in the street.
Where they thought his parents were.
His eyes streamed tears, his vision blurred.
He stared upwards at the sea of faces,
Hurrying forth to different places.
Imploring eyes searched up and down,
At happy smiles to solemn frowns.
He longed for one who'd understand,
Who'd wipe his face and hold his hand.
And tell him it would be alright,
His parents would soon be in sight.
But no one saw his desperate tears,
Or knew his heart was sick with fear.
He huddled close against the wall,
And wished he wasn't quite so small.
He wished he'd never lagged behind,
He though his parents wouldn't mind.
But now he wished he'd stayed in line,
He wouldn't err a second time.
He scoured the crowd with longing eyes,
And then leaped forward with delighted cries.
His face lit up and he sobbed with joy,
As his mother hugged her tearful boy.
His father gave a knowing smile,
He'd learned his lesson, at least for a while!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Dupont Circle at Night

Wednesday night a small group of us went down to DC to take some more night photos. Steve came down with me and Emily and Jason also joined the group. We started off at the circle and I soon found out that my 50D's battery was nearly dead. I had charged it but there was something wrong with it. Luckily I had my G10 so I had to use that instead. 
Steve laid on a bench while the rest of us pointed our cameras, then once shutters had opened I painted him with a couple of flashlights.
We also painted a 100 as it was DCUE's 100th event. We spent a while experimenting and helping each other setting up photos while passers by stopped to ask questions on what we were up to. We were also serenaded by a homeless guy who sat on one of the benches and sang his heart out, oblivious to everything.
A couple in our group had passed an alley way while coming to meet us and thought it seemed an ideal spot to grab some shots so we walked there. It was empty of people and we were fortunate to be able to mess around with our lights and not disturb anybody.

After the alley it was decided that beer was required so those who weren't heading home came to the Brickskeller Saloon where beer menus were handed out. There were hundreds of beers from all over the world to choose from.
I had Fuller's London  Pride and Old Speckled Hen, two excellent English beers. The food wasn't much to write home about but that wasn't a real concern. After our beer craving was satisfied, we walked back to our vehicles or metro stations. Stuart was parked outside Teaism, a really cool tea house so Steve and I set our cameras up and decided to take a few more shots.
We were playing around at the front of Teaism when we heard an almighty crash as someone inside dropped a stack of china. We hoped we hadn't been a distraction to the staff inside the closed cafe but nobody came out so we carried on merrily painting the building, trees and even Stuart. The time whizzed by and I was shocked when I checked my watch to discover it was 01:17am. We quickly packed up and drove back to Centreville, dreading the alarm clock calling in only a few hours time. Tomorrow was going to be a long day.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

We're going to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo...

After a relaxing day on Saturday, Steve and I met up with Emily and Jason to go to the National Zoo in D.C. We wanted to see the lion cubs who were going to be allowed out for a short while. It was great to have Steve back on the scene and I'm pleased we're still friends. We've always got on well and shared a silly sense of humor and my friends enjoy his company too. We rushed into the zoo and soon the others joined us.
The lion cubs weren't out yet but Dad was enjoying the sunshine and quiet, readying himself for the soon to come boisterous bundles of fur that would disrupt his peaceful world. We wandered over to the monkey house for a while and avoided a orangutan that was defecating onto the pathway below his perch on the ropes strung over our heads. I'm not a big fan of monkeys. I was very pleased when we left and went back to the Big Cats pens where the lion cubs had been let out to play. They had to undergo training before being allowed out into the outside area  
The place was packed with people trying to get photos and the cubs were a joy to watch, constantly up to tricks and annoying all the parents. Here's just a few of the photos I took.
We met some of the DCist crowd whose cameras were also snapping furiously, Eric joined our group and we moved on to the Amazonia house which Jason had insisted we see.
This was a building with a mini rain forest inside, fronds hanging down into creeks and ponds with skates and huge fish, an aquarium area and learning center.
Some of the anemones and jellyfish.
We checked out the fishes and turtles and then went upstairs to the forest.
This was an amazing area, it really did feel like a rain forest inside. There were birds flying around and during the summer months there would be butterflies too. We strolled between the trees and learned from our guide about what we were experiencing. I was just very pleased that the environment wasn't replicated exactly as there was a noticeable absence of mosquitoes. The little tree frog was the size of my thumb nail and harmless because he blended in with his surroundings. Apparently only the brightly colored frogs are poisonous as they have no camouflage.
 We investigated the learning center which was amazing, filled with quiet nooks to study in, with tables and shelves loaded with books and glass cases full of specimens. They had a sign on this table forbidding anyone to touch the light. Did I? Of course!
 The grand entrance to the Reptile House.
I forgot to see what this big chap was called, I was so entranced with watching him enjoy his shower. He was almost smiling.
A pretty python and some turtles that looked like they were begging to have their photo taken. We'd been at the Zoo for a few hours by now and still had lots to see but tummies were growling and beer cravings were starting to gnaw. So we headed up the road to a place called Comet.
 Looks like the conversation ground to a halt here but really we had lots to say. This was a great restaurant with the tables looking like table tennis tables, a disco 'ball' made from a cinder block and some of the best pizza I've ever eaten along with a superb beer menu. It had been a fun day and I had nearly 500 photos to process!
This last gallery is of more animal stars, the ones that actually posed for the camera. Enjoy!