This is, believe it or not, a brand new building in my neighborhood, with obscenely priced (although I’m sure very beautiful) condos. The rusted steel on the outside is intentional. It’s called the Atlantic Plumbing building because it occupies the former site of Atlantic Plumbing Supply. Late evening sun illuminates it perfectly, pushing the strong lines of the rusted steel and glass into deep relief.
Well, it’s more like two bays, one lamp, but that’s a lot less poetic. This is another one from the same building in the Windows post, that I can’t believe I never posted.
While it’s not quite abstract, it is very much about repeating patterns and their contrasts in a single scene, the contrasts being the texture of the peeling paint, and the single lamp-post.
Just a single frame this time, of a door in Georgetown with a cast-iron knocker. I wish I had a front door that could take that kind of knocker – I’ve always loved the hand holding a ball knocker since I saw them in Spain as a teenager. They bring back pleasant memories. They’re kind of like Proustian madeleines, but less edible.
I’m also visually drawn to window glass that is partially transparent and partially opaque from reflections and light hitting it. There’s a certain sense of mystery about what’s behind it because it’s only half-seen.
An architectural abstraction at the construction site across the street from my office. This building has been an inspired location for me – I’ll be a little sad when the construction is done because the building will be all neat and new again and won’t have all the cool textures it has now. But it will present entirely new options for photographing, I’m sure, so I’ll adapt and overcome, as the Marines say.
For a recap of the other shots of this building:
Well, it’s not a Chinese wall, obviously, but it is a wall. And a natural phenomenon, light reflected on the wall filtered by the patterns of tree branches, ends up looking LIKE Chinese characters. They’re obviously not real Chinese characters, but they have a very calligraphic feel to them.
Here’s a few shots of Georgetown from below- another vista most tourists don’t see, and heck, even most Washingtonians don’t know exists, because they never continue on Water Street past the piers for Key Bridge, if they even go that far.
Cafe Malmaison is a recent arrival under the Whitehurst Freeway, in the section of Water Street that still feels a bit seedy and disreputable.
This is the view of the off-ramp to the Whitehurst looking up from Water Street/the Capital Crescent Trail, with the moon hanging in the sky over the buildings of the Potomac Boat Club.
And Key Bridge’s western elevation, lit by the setting sun.
I was out on a photo-walk after work the other evening and wandered through Georgetown with the Rolleiflexes. I walked down under the Whitehurst and through the riverfront park. If you pass beyond the end of the park, you go under Key Bridge and come to the boat houses. Across the street from the boathouses where you can rent canoes, kayaks and stand-ups to take out on the river, there are stairs that take you up to the level of the C&O Canal. There’s the remains of the Alexandria Aqueduct Bridge that crossed the Potomac just past the Potomac Boat Club building. The Aqueduct Bridge was originally built in the 1860s to carry canal boats from the C&O Canal to the Alexandria Canal. Later it was improved by adding a road bridge and a deck for electric trolley cars. It was demolished in the 1930s to make way for Key Bridge (which was so named to honor Francis Scott Key, the author of the US National Anthem, whose house was demolished to make room for the bridge). The Alexandria Aqueduct Bridge piers are a popular spot for young people to hang out, especially in the summer time.
I went out to the end of the pier with the thought of getting a shot of the west-facing side of Key Bridge while it was still illuminated by the setting sun. A bunch of teenagers were hanging out there. Another woman photographer who was there coincidentally at the same time and I were both out on the end of the pier, shooting the bridge and the riverscape. One of the teens asked what we were doing. The woman ignored him, but I told him I was taking pictures of the bridge, and whatever else struck my fancy. He returned his attention to his friends and the scene in front of them. Looking down, I saw this scene through the viewfinder of my camera and quickly composed the shot. While I’m not normally a big gear geek (at least in my writings- I hope!), this is one case where I will geek out on my hardware and talk a bit about the choices I made.
I had been wanting for a long time to capture scenes like this – something suggestive, a little mysterious, a little ethereal, where the viewer can insert themselves into the scene. I haven’t always been successful, at least not to the degree I was looking for, and hadn’t really hit upon the right combination of toys and technique to make it happen. Well, I’ve obviously found it. The camera is my Tele-Rolleiflex, coupled with the Rolleinar 0.35 close-up attachment. For whatever reason when they made the original Tele-Rolleiflex, Rollei limited the minimum focus distance to roughly 8 feet (2.5 meters). By itself, this makes the Tele-Rollei rather limited in usefulness especially as a portrait camera. To compensate for this, Rollei made available the 0.35 and 0.70 Rolleinar close-up attachments. Since one of my ambitions for the Tele was doing portraits, I felt it was incumbent upon me to acquire at least the 0.35, which I have, and used on this shoot. The net effect of the Tele plus the Rolleinar is seen here, and in the next image. They give an extremely soft, dreamy look to the out-of-focus background areas.
Being able to create that extremely shallow depth-of-field combined with the extremely soft out-of-focus area throws the “3-D” effect into high relief, and lends itself when used appropriately to creating fantastical scenes like the one above where the bridge in the background, while very distinct, is sufficiently soft and far-away-looking that it could be real or it could be a dream – which it is remains for the viewer to decide. Thus the title of the image.
At the same place and same time, I turned around to look up the river and saw a trio of very blond, very Germanic-looking young folks (Georgetown University students? Youth tourists?) sitting on the edge of the stone walkway. This boy turned sideways to look at the girl beside him and was momentarily caught with soft, subtle backlighting. If you look carefully you can make out some more kids lounging on the opposite side of the old canal bed. It’s a very romantic, mysterious, suggestive composition – what is he looking at out of the frame? Where is he? Why is he there?
Rock Creek Park is a large urban park that runs from where Rock Creek enters the Potomac River to its headwaters some 30 miles away in central Maryland. Part of that park is owned and operated by the United States Park Service, and part is a regional park operated by Montgomery County, Maryland. The park dates to the 1890s and was surveyed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the famous landscape designer. In one of the greenest cities (Washington DC has more tree coverage than any other major US city, earning it the nickname “the tree capital of the US” and making it a living hell twice a year for allergy sufferers), it is a natural oasis of wild landscape. It was not always so, as Rock Creek provided the power to dozens of mills that functioned as the industrial engine such as it was for Washington and its surrounding farmland. Today, Pierce Mill is one of the few remaining complete structures to commemorate that industrial heritage. If you take a wander up the trails that parallel the stream, though, you can find signs of some of the other mills that dotted the landscape.
This structure marks the remnants of one of the larger mills along Rock Creek. I’d have to go back and take notes on the signage along the path that indicates what this mill produced and who owned it and when it operated, but most likely it ceased to function in the 19th century. To require such large foundations, it must have been a substantial operation, though.
Here is the footing for a small bridge that spanned the creek.
Somewhat more modern evidence of the urbanization of Rock Creek, a road bridge that spans the creek and provides access to the park from the neighborhoods around it.
A gravelly bend in the creek, dappled with sunlight. Hard to imagine that within 200 yards of either side of this stream there are roads, houses, cars and businesses.
A tree along the trail that follows the stream.
And a final reminder of man’s presence – an electrical junction box. It has the feel of being a monolith, left behind by an alien civilization, purpose unknown, long abandoned, or a portal to another place and time like the wardrobe portal to Narnia.
It’s all about the repetition of patterns and shapes and angles.
Just a few more shots of the fountains at the Watergate apartment complex. Today, it sits in a prestigious location with beautiful river views. It was sited on former industrial land – it sits now where the Washington Gas Light plant used to be, and next door, where the Kennedy Center now sits, was a brewery. The complex was designed in part to harmonize with the Kennedy Center, which was originally envisioned to be curvilinear and organic. Later, due to construction costs, it was redesigned into the sharp-edged rectangle that it is today.
There is debate over the origin of the name Watergate – there are multiple possible referents. Part of the land the complex was built on belonged to the C&O Canal, and overlooks the water gate that marks the eastern terminus of the canal and where its water rejoined the Potomac. A second candidate is the “water gate” from the Potomac to the Tidal Basin that regulates the flow of water into the basin at high tide. The third candidate is the steps down to the Potomac from the Lincoln Memorial beside Memorial Bridge, which was used from the 1930s to the 1960s as an outdoor concert venue, with performers located on a barge in the river. Concerts ended in 1965 with the advent of jet aircraft service into National Airport. I vote for the C&O Canal as the source of the name – the other two features are obscured from view of the complex by the Kennedy Center and the natural curve of the river.
The fountains in the complex were specifically designed to create not only a visually pleasing effect, but to also simulate the sound of a natural waterfall.
I don’t know how successful the auditory engineering was (the fountains are pretty quiet, and they sound like fountains to me), but they certainly do create a visually pleasing space as well as a moderating effect on the temperature around the courtyard.
The Watergate complex was the first mixed-use development in the District. It had shops, restaurants, doctors’ and dentists’ offices, commercial office space, and even a hotel, in addition to luxury condominium residences. As originally planned, it was even supposed to have 19 “villas” (read townhouses), be 16 stories tall, and in all occupy 1.9 million square feet. After wrangling with codes, design commissions, and budgetary constraints, it was reduced in height to today’s 13 stories, the villas were eliminated, and the total square footage was cut back to 1.7 million square feet.