weekly photo challenge: an unusual point of view

Sunday, September 8:  This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is to share a shot that reveals a new and different POV. You can take a picture of a familiar subject in a fresh way.

You can consider other approaches, too:

  • Use something natural (window, tree, wall of a building, etc.) to frame your shot.
  • Get low on the ground to take a picture from a very different angle.
  • Focus on a specific part of a person, object, or structure (instead of all of it) — or intentionally cut off a part of your subject or scene.
  • Place something in between you and your subject/scene to offer a distinct perspective.

This weekend, I go out to explore a bit of the Capitol Region on the Maryland side, including Rockville and Silver Spring.  In Rockville, I find F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald‘s burial place in a small cemetery behind St. Mary’s Church.  It’s a nondescript cemetery beside a busy highway intersection near a metro station.  Not a place where one would expect to find such a famous writer laid to rest.  It’s a challenge to take a photo of the tombstone from an unusual point of view, but in this picture, I try to focus on the crepe myrtle sprig placed on the tomb, along with the two bottles of wine placed on either side of the headstone, one of which has a small American flag in it.

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's tomb at St. Mary's church cemetery
F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald’s tomb at St. Mary’s Church cemetery

I also think the sky is fascinating today, with clouds streaked across its blueness, so I take this picture of the church with the focus being on the clouds, the stained glass window above the entryway, and the bell tower.

St. Mary's Church in Rockville, final resting place of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald
St. Mary’s Church in Rockville, final resting place of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald

I also visit Brookside Gardens in Silver Spring, where I take a lot of photos, playing around with different points of view.  Here are a few of my attempts.

view from the back of the flower
Spanish moss
side view of a Japanese maple
bird’s-eye view


I had a fun time on my outing and I have a lot more to post about each of these places, so stay tuned for more to come, as time permits. 🙂

weekly photo challenge: focus

Saturday, August 24This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is inspired by Matthew George’s post on focus, in which he introduced us to the basics of depth of field and aperture. He explained what an image with a shallow depth of field looks like (or conversely, a photo with a greater depth of field), and how the aperture setting on your camera affects it.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands of WordPress writes: For this challenge, get out there and take a picture demonstrating the concept of focus. Depending on your skill level or type of camera, tinker with the manual settings, use the auto focus feature, or play around with an app. Some ideas:

  • Snap a photo of something or someone in focus, against a blurred background.
  • Share a panorama or landscape in sharp focus, in which you can see details far away.
  • Use a camera app to force focus (or blur) in an experimental way.
  • Take multiple photos of the same scene or subject using different aperture settings and publishing the results.


I worked on this today, specifically following the instructions to change my aperture settings, using the smaller number f-stop to get a shallow depth of field and a larger numbered f-stop to get a greater depth of field.  I’m not sure my experiments worked very well, especially because when I used the higher f-stop number, I just got a lot of blur all around.  Here’s an example of one I thought worked well.

Shallow depth of field, F-stop 3.5
Shallow depth of field, F-stop 3.5

I’m excited that WordPress is doing this Photography 101 series and then pushing us in the photography challenges to use what we learn.  This is the first time I’ve gotten off my lazy butt and opened my camera manual and tried to use the manual settings!

Here are Matthew George’s instructions:

  • For a more shallow depth of field, use a bigger opening/aperture, which is a lower-numbered f-stop.
  • If you want a greater depth of field, use a smaller opening/aperture, which is a higher-numbered f-stop.

I liked this one too, although I wasn’t sure how this worked as some of the fungi on the foreground of the tree are blurred; the middle ground seems in focus and the distance is blurred.

f-stop 4.0
f-stop 4.0

And yet another photo of fungi.  I know, exciting, right?

f-stop 4.7
f-stop 4.7
f--stop 4.4
f–stop 4.4

I took these shots of my son with a f-stop of 3.5, but I don’t understand why the background isn’t more blurred.

f-stop 3.5
f-stop 3.5
f-stop 3.5
f-stop 3.5

Here are a few successful shots (I think!) from my archives.  These, however, were done with pure luck, and automatic settings.  With much chagrin, I have to admit today is the first day I experimented with adjusting aperture manually.

f-stop 3.5
f-stop 3.5
f-stop 4.9
f-stop 4.9
f-stop 5
f-stop 5

Finally, in one weird moment today I tried an f-stop of 22 and here’s what I got.  I took this in my living room and the focus was supposed to be the pot.  Now, that’s just wrong!

f-stop 22 in my living room
f-stop 22 in my living room

What went wrong here?

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weekly photo challenge: one shot, two ways

Sunday, August 11: The WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is One Shot, Two Ways.

Cheri Lucas of WordPress writes: This week, photographer Jeff Sinon talked about his process of finding the best shot. Before taking a picture, he studies his scene — looking at a shot horizontally (as a landscape) and vertically (as a portrait). With this honed, critical eye, he decides what orientation works best for his photograph.

For this challenge, capture two images — a horizontal and a vertical version — of the same scene or subject. There are no concrete “rules” here, but a) it should be evident that both shots are of the same place/location or person/thing, and b) your photographs should ideally have been taken during the same shoot.

Here are several attempts at one shot, two ways.  These pictures were taken yesterday at The Old Luckett’s Store near Leesburg, Virginia.  The Old Luckett’s store has its own blog: The Old Luckett’s Store.  The store has been around for 17 years this August.

This is a hallway full of vintage windows.  Click on any of the images to get a full-sized mini-slideshow.

Here’s another set.  This room features old stained glass or beveled glass windows.

This set was taken in one of the many rooms in Old Luckett’s Store.  I like the slanted ceiling in this room.

The last time I visited this store, probably 7-8 years ago, it had a bit of charm, but most of its merchandise was simply junk.  Now the owners have elevated the store to a new level, what they call “vintage hip,” or what I’ve heard others call “shabby chic.”  I love how there’s a Buddha in the midst of American kitsch.

weekly photo challenge: foreshadow

Tuesday, August 6:  This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is foreshadow.

In a post created specifically for this challenge, post a photograph that evokes FORESHADOW to you.  Foreshadow means to show, indicate, or suggest in advance; presage.

Krista Stevens of WordPress writes: This challenge offers some fun opportunities to play — not only with the subject of your photo, but with light, color, and contrast to evoke foreshadow. Perhaps foreshadow is an open bottle of red wine and two wine glasses. Maybe it’s a diamond ring in small velvet box. Maybe it’s a flower bud about to burst into bloom, or the first leaf that turns color on your oak tree. What does foreshadow mean to you? Looking forward to seeing the creative ways in which you portray foreshadow in your posts.

A couple of things have happened since I returned to the USA, which foreshadow changes in the way we’ll read in the future.  Of course, changes in media have already been sweeping the world, but these particular events foreshadow the eventual demise of print media, such as newspapers and books.  For those of us who love the feel of paper and the bulk of a book in our hands, this presages the destruction of a way of life that we hold dear.

This is not exactly great photography, but it does represent the word foreshadow to me.  Yesterday, our venerable area newspaper, The Washington Post, was sold to Amazon.com founder and chief executive officer Jeffrey P. Bezos for $250 million in cash.  The Amazon founder will become the sole owner of the newspaper, but the Seattle-based Amazon will have nothing to do with the running of the newspaper.

The August 6 headlines from yesterday's sale of the Washington Post
The August 6 headlines from yesterday’s sale of the Washington Post

According to an article in The Post, “the newspaper has been Washington’s leading newspaper for decades and a powerful force in shaping the nation’s politics and policy… The institution has covered presidents and local communities and gained worldwide attention for its stories about the Watergate scandal and, in June, disclosures about National Security Agency surveillance programs.”

In the last decade, the paper has suffered the same financial woes that have befallen other newspapers.  The rise of the internet and the change from print to digital technology have created intense competition for traditional news companies, and The Post has not been immune to these forces.

The Graham family has run The Washington Post for 4 generations and this may well foreshadow a major change in the landscape of Washington politics and news reporting.

If you’d like to read more about the sale of Washington’s famous newspaper, please see:

Washington Post to be sold to Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon
Forbes: Washington Post Will Sell Newspapers To Jeff Bezos, Change Company Name
Huffington Post: Washington Post Staffers ‘Stunned’ By Sale To Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Hopeful About Future

In the same vein, I returned home from my second year living and working in the Sultanate of Oman to find my favorite Barnes & Noble bookstore in Reston, Virginia permanently closed.   Apparently the bookstore tried to negotiate a lease renewal, and upon failing to receive any reduction in rent, decided to pull up stakes, according to Fairfax-Times.com (Barnes & Noble pulls up stakes in Reston).

this used to be a very popular Barnes & Noble store; now the Container Store will be here
this used to be a very popular Barnes & Noble store; now the Container Store will be here
The vacancy will leave Reston without any retail venues to buy new books. Books-a-Million in Plaza America closed last year.  The Container Store will move into the 25,000 square foot space.

weekly photo challenge: urban ~ reston town center

Monday, August 27:  Today my son Alex and I venture out to lunch for some “togetherness time” at the Panera in Reston Town Center, a kind of “suburban downtown.”

Alex at Fountain Square

The Town Center is a planned urban area in the middle of what used to be a mostly rural area, between Washington, D.C. and Washington Dulles International Airport.  The idea was to create a space more vertical than horizontal, a downtown area for people who didn’t want to fight the traffic to go into Washington.

the Promenade

Reston Town Center was conceived in the late 1970s by Mobil Land Development. Construction of the town center began in 1988. The first wave of construction was completed in October 1990. Construction continued periodically into 2009, creating an ever-expanding downtown area rising up out of the planned community of Reston.

the corner of Market St. and Discovery St.

Reston Town Center is designed with open avenues and wide sidewalks. It is built around Fountain Square, an open area between the surrounding shops and restaurants. The main landmark in Fountain Square is Mercury Fountain, designed by Brazilian-born sculptor Saint Clair Cemin.  The 20’ fountain is crowned with a bronze figure of Mercury, the Greek Messenger God, with water flowing from bronze ‘trumpets’ along the column. Lush plants, low seating and broad steps make this area very inviting to pedestrians (Reston Town Center).

Mercury Fountain

Directly in front of Mercury Fountain is Market Street, and across the street is the Pavilion. The Pavilion doubles as a covered open-air ice rink during the winter and as a concert and event venue throughout the rest of the year.

the Pavilion and a colorful florist van

The center is surrounded by free parking that includes one-hour street parking and garage parking.

one of many parking garages and an apartment building

According to its official website, Reston Town Center combines elements of the ideal downtown, the “vitality of an Italian piazza and the diversity of a French boulevard.” The popular spot in the Northern Virginia suburb of Reston is the closest thing to a “downtown” in the area and continues to expand, attracting new residential and business clients.

Window shopping at Williams & Sonoma
a little taste of France in Reston

It now boasts more than 50 retail shops and 30 restaurants.  Many of the restaurants have outdoor seating under umbrellas or trees, giving the Town Center a bit of a European feel.

Paolo’s outdoor seating
Clyde’s outdoor seating

In addition, Reston Town Center has a 13-screen cinema and a Hyatt Regency hotel.

the multiplex cinema

Since the most recent phase of construction in 2009, Reston Town Center, has also become a desirable location for businesses and residences. Among brand name companies who now have offices at Reston Town Center are Google and Rolls-Royce North America. Meanwhile, luxurious high-rise condominiums have led to an influx of young professionals, creating a city-like downtown atmosphere (Wikipedia: Reston Town Center).

my shopping paradise: Anthropologie

I have frequented Reston Town Center for years, since it first opened in 1990.  I have seen the little “downtown” expand over the years to increasingly resemble a real city.  There are now too many great restaurants to count, some of my favorites being Paolo’s and The Big Bowl.  Some of my favorite stores are here as well, including South Moon Under, J. Crew, Anthropologie, and Banana Republic.

one of my favorite stores: South Moon Under
Mercury Fountain from outside the Town Center looking into Market Square

This post is in response to the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge:  Urban. The idea behind urban photography is to photograph your city and the streets where you grew up as they are. Unlike the photoshopped pictures to which we are accustomed nowadays, urban photography presents a more direct, unaltered view of life. It is about documenting urban living space and how people adapt their environment to certain needs and vice versa. Urban photography shots provide cultural, social, economical, and ecological context all at once, and can capture social tension.

Think of urban photography as a complement to street photography—it provides the context in which street photography unfolds.

Share a photo that means URBAN to you!

weekly photo challenge: merge

Friday, August 17:  The Weekly Photo Challenge for this week is Merge. The world is made up of many things. There is a saying that opposites attract, and this is true for relationships and other things. What about photography? Many surprises can come out of merging two different entities into one. Sometimes this fusion of the elements is what we call art.

For instance, try placing an object where it does not belong. Or, juxtapose two different objects. The statements they make together may be contradictory, but remember: break the rules and experiment.   Let’s see what you can MERGE in a photo!

Here’s a photo of the merging of water and land in the marshland of Suncheon Bay Ecological Park in South Korea.  The bay is a coastal wetland with a large tidal flat, reed beds and salt marshes nestled between mountains and ribboned with rivers.

Suncheon Bay Ecological Park in South Korea

To read about my trip to Suncheon Bay with my son Alex, see: “handsome boy” visits korea: motherhood revisited.

weekly photo challenge: growth

Friday, August 3:  The WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is Growth. Plants, animals, people, grow…but so can buildings, shadows, and waves. What can you share that makes the viewer think of growth?

Being August in Virginia, the cornfields are lush with growth.  Here’s one in Aldie, Virginia, with wildflowers in the foreground.

cornfields and wildflowers in full growth
lush green growth is abundant in Virginia’s humidity