Photo: The National Museum of African American History and Culture

The sun constantly paints new stories on the exterior of the new Museum of African American History and Culture on the Capital Mall.


I took this photo of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in June. During previous trips to D.C. during the past few years, I had seen the building at different phases of its construction and had been curious about how the exterior panels would work when finished. This weekend (September 24, 2016), the museum is opening officially, and I’m happy to see that the photo is used by lots of news sites in their coverage. (Almost all of my photography on Flickr is licensed using Creative Commons 4.0 so that anyone can use them for any purpose if they attribute the source.)

I’m passionate about photography, but purely as a hobby. Primarily, I am intrigued by the ways sunlight creates an interplay between nature and the man-made. Having such an interest makes the new museum a place for two types of reflection: The metaphor type a visitor can have by sitting and watching its patterns change caused by the non-metaphor kind of reflection of the sun’s dance on the building’s exterior.

In Smithsonian magazine, before construction on the museum began, architect David Adjaye described the bronze mesh that enables the reflection:

“(It is) a really complicated part of the building, where we’ve really been sort of inventing a new material, a bronze-coated alloy and devising a new a new way of applying it. Essentially, we are looking towards the guild traditions of the South. The freed slaves would move into professional guilds, including the ironworking guild. There were very skilled African-American casters— a lot of the early architecture of Louisiana and the South was built by black people. So what we wanted to do was somehow acknowledge that important beginning of transition from the agrarian to the professional class, and to reference this powerful casting tradition.”

Like any great art, the building (powered by the sun) will reveal different stories to different people who see it.

About the photo

While in D.C., I had a couple of hours free between meetings and other commitments, so I grabbed a Captial Bikeshare bike about an hour before sunset and did what superstar photographer Bob Schatz calls “chasing light.” (My “training” as an amateur photographer consists of marveling — and staring — at the incredible work of Bob and other photographers whose work has appeared in Hammock publications or other projects during the past 25 years.)

I had scouted the area earlier in the day and guessed that a good place to shoot a photo would be from the sidewalk on the east side of Pennsylvania Avenue. I got very lucky. Had I taken the photo from any other angle or location, the wall would have looked flat. Thirty feet up or down the Pennsylvania Ave. sidewalk, the light didn’t work like this — it was monochromatic.

As I said, when I posted the shot on my Flickr account, I granted permission for anyone to use the photo for any reason, with attribution. It’s been fun to see that over 20 websites have used the photo in their coverage of the opening of the museum. Here’s a Google image search of my photo with each photo representing a place it is being used on the web.



(Oh, and one more thing: Shot with an iPhone 6)

How great internet photography of cats and dogs can save lives

Waylon (Credit: Penny Adams)
Waylon (Credit: Penny Adams)

A local story yesterday on Nashville’s public radio station, WPLN, provides an example (and a rather inspiring one) of the power of a  well-shot photograph (rather than a shaky iPhone snap). First off, let me say how brave it is for a radio reporter to do a story that is about photography or any visually-driven topic, so kudos for reporter Daniel Potter for even tackling this one.

The story is about how Metro Animal Care and Control has discovered that better photography of dogs and cats increases the possibility of the animal being adopted. While the number of pets arriving at Metro Animal Care and Control has increased this year, the percentage of pets adopted is up, thanks to the improved photography taken by volunteer professional photographers like Penny Adams.

thunderThis reminds me of a long-ago story that is among my favorite blog-related memories, Thunder, the blog dog. The Thunder story  certainly was about the power photography has to reveal inner beauty. And it was about how enjoyable being part of the early days of blogging were in towns like Nashville and Austin (it involves both). And, ironically, a couple of the people involved in this story about a dog rescued by the Nashville Humane Association and adopted by a couple from Austin, have since made photography a big part of their lives.

The White House situation room photo, one year later

This blog is where I record certain types of impressions. Typically a few people read what I write here — even then, it’s more likely to be read somewhere other than this blog (I syndicate the posts to places like Facebook and Linkedin and others use its RSS feed to read it different ways).

However, every once in a while, there’s a post in which I write something that seems to sync up with what other people are thinking about at the same time — and the traffic here actually spikes up. About a year ago, I had such a post. I titled it, “Why the White House situation room photograph is so powerful,” and apparently, it was one of the first attempts by someone to analyze what is now described as an iconic photo and perhaps is one of the most analyzed photos of the current era. (It’s so analyzed, there are conspiracy theories about it being staged.)

On the day I posted it, several major news organizations included a link to my post in their coverage, so it quickly became one of the most visited posts this blog has had during the past decade.

As Wednesday is the anniversary of the day that photo was taken, some of the research taking place is turning up that post and it’s getting another spike in visits.

More important and fascinating, however, is that people who are pictured in that room are being interviewed about what they saw and how they felt at that moment.

On Wednesday, NBC will be airing an interview with President Obama that will describe what was taking place during the photo.

I doubt he’ll use the way I described how he looked:

Obama’s crouching position (while others are erect or leaning back) is probably going to be analyzed by body-language experts, but any group of people who’ve watched a TV sporting event (and I apologize in advance for the following comparison, considering the serious nature of what they were watching), will recognize Obama’s position as that of the person in the room who in addition to being a fan, has just made a call to his bookie.

I’ve heard different versions of what was taking place on he screen and exactly what the people in the room were seeing. I look forward to hearing Obama’s account.

Two photo sets for a chilly morning

During this past weekend, my wife and I made a quick trip to the Tampa Bay area to visit my in-laws. Below, I’ve embedded a couple of photo sets from the trip. The first is four shots of a sunset on the inner coastal waterway, taken in the small residential community of Belleair Bluffs, Florida, in the Clearwater-Largo area of Pinnelas County.

The second is from the Yellow Banks Groves packing and shipping facility on Indian Rocks Beach, adjacent to Largo. As I note on the set description, at one point before World War II, Largo was the world’s largest citrus shipping center. The advent of concentrated orange juice during that period would, however, change the economics of the citrus industry and do away with much of the shipping of florida oranges and grapefruit, as it was then carried out. (Why? Well, that’s a longer post for another day.)

It’s a bit cold in Nashville this morning, so I thought I’d post both sets here to help remind me why lots of people go to Florida in the winter: