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Archive for the ‘Patriotism’ Category

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in Paris. Earlier this week I awoke to the sounds of a large truck with its engine running loudly right outside of my window. Trucks come through early in the morning to collect trash, but this was different, because it was mid-morning—playing with art had kept me up past 2:00 in the morning and I had allowed myself to sleep a bit later than usual.

What were they doing? “My” apartment is located on a mostly pedestrian street called Rue Montorgueil in the center of Paris. Our neighborhood, like several others that I seen this week, was putting up street decorations for the holidays and it was those efforts that had roused me from my sleep. The first photo shows my view of one of entrances to my neighborhood yesterday evening as I walked back from another meandering journey through Paris.

Earlier in the evening I finally investigated the large Ferris wheel that was installed in a corner of the Tuileries Garden shortly after my arrival. I had initially assumed that it was part of some kind of fair, but as I approached—and took the second photo below—I discovered that it is part of a large Christmas market. The market has a number of different rides, stands for a wide array of products, and an incredible selection of food and drinks. I was tempted by sausages, and then by raclette, and almost gave in to a hot mixture of potatoes, cheese, and bacon called Tartiflette.

In the end, I settled on one of my old favorites, a Croque Monsieur. Essentially this is a fancy grilled ham and cheese sandwich, but it is so much more than that. The heavy layer of cheese on top was simultaneously crunchy and gooey when it came out of the oven elevated this sandwich high above its American counterpart and that is saying a lot, considering now much I love grilled cheese sandwiches.

Paris looks pretty with the Christmas lights, but a part of me resents the change in the vibe of the city. The meandering cobblestoned streets that I find so charming seem slightly besmirched by a sense of commercialization that threatens to draw us away from the true meaning of the holiday.

 

Rue Montorgueil

ferris wheel in Paris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When it is pouring rain all day in Paris, what can you possibly photograph? Like wildflowers in the spring, colorful umbrellas have sprung up all over the city and they make cool subjects.

I captured the first little scene along the Seine River this morning. I envisioned the possibility of the photo and hung around the location as the group of three people approached. I took multiple photos as the moved toward and under the bridge. The biggest challenge I had was a distractingly bright orange bicycle parked in the middle of the pathway beyond the exit. Fortunately the green umbrella was large enough in this shot to hide the offending bicycle.

I semi-stalked the next group of three young ladies as they walked through the Tuileries Garden toward the pyramid entrance to the Louvre. It was a little frustration because they kept stopping for selfies, but I finally got a shot when they moved together for a moment. I love the way that the three subjects had complementary shades of umbrellas and stylishly distinctive backpacks.

The final photo highlights the umbrellas themselves and not the owners. Although it was still raining, the owners had carefully placed their umbrellas to the side so that they could take photos of themselves with the Louvre pyramid in the background. I like the angle at which the umbrellas are placed, which, along with their black color, emphasizes the form of the umbrellas. The shadows on the wet cobblestones add additional visual interest to the image.

It was cold throughout the day today, about 34 degrees right now (one degree C) and the possibility of snow is forecast for this evening. Yikes! Fortunately I have warm clothes with me and most importantly my camera bag has proven to be as waterproof as advertised. I don’t exclude the possibility of an after dark adventure a bit later.

Umbrellas along the Seine

Umbrellas in Paris

Umbrellas in Paris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What’s the price of freedom? Today in the United States it is Veterans Day, a day we set aside to honor all of the selfless men and women who have served and continue to serve in our armed forces, often enduring considerable sacrifice and separation for our common benefit.

In many other places in the world, today is celebrated as Armistice Day and 2018 is special because it marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, the war that many hoped would be the war to end all wars. The world is still a dangerous place and military forces, I believe, are a necessary element in ensuring national security.

I served for twenty years in the United States Army, so this posting is as much personal as it is patriotic. I have lived through periods of time when veterans have been reviled and other times when they have been honored.

I hope that you can join me today in thanking and saluting all veterans for their service and it is my sincere prayer that your sense of gratitude will continue long after the parades are over and the celebration are completed.

(I spotted this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and since it is one of the symbols of the United States, it seemed appropriate to feature the Bald Eagle in this posting.)

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was startled on Friday when exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge to hear a loud roaring noise overhead. I looked up and saw a large group of vintage aircraft flying in formation. Even though I zoomed out as far as I could with my 150-600mm lens, I could not fit all of the aircraft within the frame until they were flying away.

According to a press release from the Culpeper Air Fest, in an operation known as the Potomac Flight, a group of World War II aircraft on Friday, 12 October did a flyover down the Potomac River from Culpeper Regional Airport over the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery to honor Disabled American Veterans as a tribute to the services and sacrifices veterans have made for our freedom. Those of us who live in the Washington DC area know that the airspace over the capital region is tightly controlled and I can only imagine all of the bureaucratic impediments that had to be overcome to make this overflight possible.

I am not very good at identifying vintage aircraft, but the press release cited above indicated the overflight would include T-6 Texans and a C-47 aircraft.

Potomac Flight 2018

Potomac Flight 2018

Potomac Flight 2018

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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I was prompted this morning to read again the challenges to all Americans found in Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, challenges that seem so appropriate and relevant as we pause in the United States on this Memorial Day to remember the sacrifices of so many brave men and women.
 “But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Bald Eagle
(I captured this image of a hyper-vigilant injured Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in November 2014 shortly before it was rescued. You can learn more about the rescue and see additional images in a posting from that period entitled “Rescue of an injured Bald Eagle.”)
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The early morning sunlight was spectacular yesterday as it streamed through the trees at Huntley Meadows Park. I tried to capture this phenomenon as a kind of mini-landscape by using my telephoto lens and framing it just as you see in this image. It is a little unusual for me not to crop an image at all, but by composing it this way, I was able to include those elements that I found the most interesting, the light and shadows of the trees, and left out the things that I found less interesting such as the sky. I did include a little strip of grass in the foreground so that the image is not completely abstract.

early morning trees

When I first arrived at the park, the sun had barely risen and there was a lot of ground fog, which made the woods look really mysterious and a little spooky. One of my viewers on Facebook said the image looked like it could be the setting for the witches in Macbeth. The second image was a lot tougher to capture, because of the lack of light and my desire to capture a sense of the fog that was clinging to the ground. There is a slight blur to the image, which would normally be a shortcoming in a photo, but I think it works ok with an image like this one.

early morning trees

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Is it possible to post too many photos of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)? I don’t think so. Here’s a shot of one I saw yesterday flying in the distance at Huntley Meadows Park. It was a nice bonus that we had sunshine and blue skies after a series of dreary, overcast days, even though it was still pretty cold outside.

I see Bald Eagles, including juvenile ones, often enough at the park that I frequently wonder if there is a nest hidden somewhere the park. I have wandered through some pretty remote areas of the park, but so far have been unsuccessful in locating a nesting site.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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