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Archive for June, 2009

90ish days of summer

On June 21, Jeff’s dad took us to Great Falls (National) Park.

The park is an 800-acre plot divided by the Potomac River. Most of the park is in Virginia, and that’s the side we stayed on.

Panorama of the Potomac from the second viewpoint on the Virginia side.

Panorama of the Potomac from the second viewpoint on the Virginia side.

Let me tell you — Great Falls is the strangest national park I’ve ever been to.

As you may have read, Jeff, Esten and I visited four national parks and one state park this spring break, all of which were well west of the Mississippi River (Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Texas, Grand Canyon National Park, Arches National Park, Black Canyon of the Gunnison and the Great Sand Dunes). So far this summer, I’ve been to three national parks east of the Mississippi: Wolf Trap, the Great Smokies, and now Great Falls.

(Note: The National Mall and other “national parks” within the D.C. metro area don’t count as national parks — not in my book, anyway.)

When we hopped out of the car at Great Falls, I immediately noticed picnic tables. And volleyball pits. And people barbecuing and playing Frisbee and walking their dogs.

It looked a lot more like a big neighborhood park than a national park.

I guess what I’m saying is, I’m used to national parks being something like this: Two-lane highway, visitors center, barren parking lot, more driving, then WHAM-BAM! Grand vistas and landscapes are within sight.

Granted, the spring break trip was in the West and still during the cold season. And granted, the Grand Canyon did not have a barren parking lot.

Still. Great Falls weirded me out a bit. I’m not saying that its recreational offerings are bad — just not what I’d become used to.

That said, the Potomac was pretty grand.

Panoramic view of the Potomac from the third viewpoint on the Virginia side.

Panoramic view of the Potomac from the third viewpoint on the Virginia side.

Taken from the Fishermans Eddy -- not quite a sanctioned viewpoint, but not blocked-off, either. Its located between the second and third official viewpoints on the Virginia side.

Taken from the "Fishermans Eddy" -- not quite a sanctioned viewpoint, but not blocked-off, either. It's located between the second and third official viewpoints on the Virginia side.

As always, you can view more photos HERE.

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90ish days of summer

This post comes about two weeks late — but better late than never, right?

I actually have four more posts I really need to write after I complete this one. Oops. That’s what I get for not writing in the past two weeks…

ANYWAY.

On our drive back from the four-day music extravaganza that is Bonnaroo, Jeff and I took an alternate route from Manchester, Tenn., back to Silver Spring. Whereas on our way to Tennesee, we took a pretty direct course, we decided to go the scenic route — through Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

From Silver Spring to Manchester:

From Manchester to Silver Spring:

The scenic route was also about four hours longer than the direct course. But it was completely worth it.

Our first step off the beaten path was outside of Knoxville, when we began the drive down US-71 between Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. This stretch of 15 miles was, unexpectedly, the biggest lovefest combination of As Seen on TV products, kitschy tourist trap attractions and gimmicky mountain hamlets I’ve ever seen in my life. Also: PANCAKES. EVERYWHERE.

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90ish days of summer

I am home in Silver Spring, Md., safe and sound after almost three hours of transit. Had I left the washingtonpost.com office a half-hour earlier, I might not have been home yet.

At 5 p.m., when I was logging off my work computers and saying goodbye to my supervising editor, two trains collided on the Washington Metrorail’s red line, between the Fort Totten and Takoma stations.

A detail of part of the red line, where the two-train collision occurred at 5 p.m.

A detail of part of the red line, where the two-train collision occurred between Fort Totten and Takoma at 5 p.m. today.

As you can see in the above map, the Silver Spring station is two stops past Fort Totten on the red line. According to the broadcast news, the two trains were headed toward D.C. — the opposite direction from which the train I would have been on would have been coming.

So even if I had left the office early, I wouldn’t have been on the trains that collided. But I would still have had to evacuate whatever train I were on, since according to the radio news reports, the entire red line is shut down.

Nevertheless, when I first heard about the collision — at 5:45 p.m. when I left a very congested Metro Center out of frustration — I didn’t know which direction the trains had been heading. So my first thought was, “I could have been on either of those trains.”

My second thought was, “I wish I’d been on or near either of those trains, and uninjured and with a camera.”

I read once that while most humans run from a crisis, only three kinds of people run toward it: the police, medical workers and journalists. I can’t honestly say I’m proud of the way tragedy and disaster attract journalists like bees to honey, but really, it’s a knee-jerk reaction. And if journalists can’t be at the scene, they often feel some dredge of guilt or regret that they couldn’t make it there.

That’s kind of what I’m feeling now, and every other time I’ve been close to a breaking news scene.

What else am I feeling? A lot of frustration with the Metro’s inability to communicate with commuters in the stations. It wasn’t until I emerged from the Metro Center station and called Jeff that I found out a major accident with multiple fatalities had occurred. I’m not saying that Metro station managers should have told commuters exactly what happened — but commuters should have been informed that the entire red line was shut down.

As it is, we were instead told to expect “major delays” and that a “turning incident” had occurred.

But I’m by no means educated enough on the D.C. Metro system and its history to say anything else about its failure to communicate and coordinate.

That said, I’m glad I’m safe and home, and my thoughts and prayers go out toward all the families affected by a tragedy that should never have happened.

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90ish days of summer

I survived Bonnaroo 2009.

© 2009 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival
© 2009 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival

So did about 80,000 other people.

For five days, I escaped the heated bustle and high buildings of the D.C. area, and instead endured the heated bustle and high people at one of the biggest annual music festivals on this continent. To call it a sensory overload would be an understatement of vast proportions. Being one of nearly 80,000 people under the blazing central Tennessee sun, eating the best festival food I’ve ever had and listening to an eclectic assortment of artists — well, it was just wow.

On the way to Centeroo on Thursday.

On the way to Centeroo on Thursday

The Bonnaroo lineup this year included headliners Bruce Springsteen, the Beastie Boys and Phish, as well as big acts like Nine Inch Nails, obscure acts like (insert random artist so I don’t offend anyone…), surprise acts like Jimmy Buffett and comedy acts like random Daily Show stars.

Jeff and I stuck together the whole time and saw the following performers:

THURSDAY:

  • White Rabbits — What can I say. They’re originally from Columbia, Mo., so of course we had to begin our Bonnaroo experience with them.
  • Delta Spirit — Their set got moved up further in the night, but we were unaware of this schedule change. So we missed them.
  • Portugal. The Man — We listened to them instead of Delta Spirit. Not a bad set.
  • Zac Brown Band — I wanted to hear their set… but it started raining during Portual. The Man. So we headed back to the tent and made it just in time, because then the rainfall and thunderoo really started.
The view from under the bleachers at the Which Stage (second main stage). Trippy? A little. Was I tripping? Hell no.

The view from under the bleachers at the Which Stage (second main stage). Trippy? A little. Was I tripping? Hell no.

FRIDAY:

  • Animal Collective — I don’t remember much of their show, but after reading Kevin’s glowing, under-140-character assessment of their performance in Albuquerque, I was mildly disappointed.
  • Béla Fleck & Toumani Diabate — As always, the banjo-playing was amazing!
  • Galactic with Trombone Shorty and Corey Henry — I’d never heard of any of these artists. But they were playing at the What Stage (the main stage) and gave a great show, and Trombone Shorty crowd-surfed. What more can I say?
  • Al Green — FANTASTIC. The soul singer truly rocked the What Stage, and was the epitome of classiness as he wore a black suit with a red vest and tie in the hot Tennessee afternoon and threw red roses into the audience.
  • Beastie Boys — Their blurb in the Bonnaroo guidebook was full of snark, and they pulled off a great performance with a surprise guest.
  • Phish — All the potheads were excited about Phish — it was all they could talk about in the surrounding tents. I think more people were pumped about Phish than about Bruce (who performed the following night).
  • Girl Talk — I’d wanted to see Gregg Gillis perform, but his was a late-night set (2:15-3:45 a.m.) and I had been nodding off during Phish’s show. So we called it a night about halfway through Phish’s set.
So you cant really tell... but I swear that Jimmy Buffett was playing Margaritaville on stage when I took this photo.

So you can't really tell... but I swear that Jimmy Buffett was playing "Margaritaville" on stage when I took this photo.

SATURDAY:

  • ILO & the Coral Reefer AllStars, with Jimmy Buffett — Bonnaroo introduced Jimmy as a last-minute addition. He played the latter half of the noontime Saturday show at the Which Stage — and, of course, played “Margaritaville” as the last song.
  • Heartless Bastards — I’m pretty sure I fell asleep during this set… I am strangely narcoleptic, sometimes. Maybe I didn’t. I can’t remember, really.
  • Rodrigo y Gabriela — A man and a woman, armed only with two guitars, on the main stage. Sounds like a set-up for failure, but they pulled off a great show.
  • Jenny Lewis — I’m not familiar with Jenny Lewis as Jenny Lewis — but she did also perform some Rilo Kiley songs.
  • Wilco –Not a big Wilco fan, but Jeff said he was fine after two or three songs at the main stage. Of course, their opening number was “Wilco (The Song)” from their new “Wilco (The Album).”
  • The Mars Volta — Also not a big Mars Volta fan. Oh well.
  • Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band — BEST SHOW OF THE FESTIVAL. The Boss was truly boss. Entertainment Weekly’s blog post about the show encapsulates Bruuuuuce’s performance better than I can.
  • Nine Inch Nails — Not a big fan of NIN, either. (Please don’t kill me.)
  • MGMT — I was nodding off by this point. (The set began at 2:15 a.m.) Jeff was dissatisfied with the set, so we left early. Apparently, their performance improved with time. Oh well.

SUNDAY:

  • Citizen Cope — I definitely slept during this set. It was good “sit under a tree and take a nap” music — and that’s pretty much what I did.
  • Andrew Bird — Did not fail to impress. I was happy!
  • Snoop Dogg — Snoop was about 30 or 40 minutes late, which had some people grumbling that he was going to pull a Kanye (who was almost four hours late to his set last year). We stayed for a few songs and then left.
  • Band of Horses — Great way to end Bonnaroo 2009. They played all the favorites and then left the stage, only to return for their encore during which they said they would play some new songs. But Jeff and I didn’t stick around for those. We had the car packed up and ready to go that morning, and after Band of Horses’ first set, we left Bonnaroo.
Evening at the Which Stage on Saturday.

Evening at the Which Stage on Saturday.

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90ish days of summer

Later this morning, Jeff and I will be leaving the greater D.C. area and going to Tennessee.

Because that’s where Bonnaroo is.

This means I’ll have no Web access — no blogging, no photo updates, no Twitter — until Monday evening, by which point we’ll have returned to Silver Spring, running water, electrical outlets and that great vast thing called the Internet.

I’ll have a full report of the festival by mid-week next week (but don’t hold me to that deadline), as well as photos (don’t hold me to that deadline, either). I briefly toyed with the idea of lugging my digital equipment and some audio gear so I could create an audio slideshow or some other multimedia project out of this four-day music festival… but nixed the idea, mostly because I’d have no way to keep that expensive equipment secure except in a very hot car.

So I’m just shooting film instead. I need to finish up a roll of Fuji Superia 100, and then I can start on some Ilford FB4 125 Plus and Fuji Superia Reala (ASA 100).

Since I haven’t been very good about updating this blog in the past week or so, here’s some more potpourri:

ON SATURDAY, Jeff and I went to Brookside Gardens in Wheaton Regional Park. Among other things, they have a butterfly garden/greenhouse, a huge playground and a train.

I just took my 50mm lens with me. It was a good choice.

These butterflies were the prize to catch on camera. For one thing, theyre amazingly beautiful because the upper side of their wings is a wonderfully iridescent blue. For another, their flight path is completely unpredictable (unlike that of the other butterflies in the greenhouse), so actually getting them in a frame was a huge challenge. This photo was pure luck.

These butterflies were the prize to catch on camera. For one thing, they're amazingly beautiful because the upper side of their wings is a wonderfully iridescent blue. For another, their flight path is completely unpredictable (unlike that of the other butterflies in the greenhouse), so actually getting them in a frame was a huge challenge. This photo was pure luck.

Jeff and I also rode the miniature train, which Jeff hadnt been on in probably 10 years.

Jeff and I also rode the miniature train, which Jeff hadn't been on in probably 10 years.

As always, you can view more photos by clicking HERE.

TODAY, I went on my first actual photo assignment for my washingtonpost.com internship! Or, I shadowed and ended up being very necessary when Megan and I discovered that a tripod mount screw wasn’t the correct size. Once the work we produced is completed and published, I will disclose the full story.

Needless to say, we returned to the office just before a big fat storm let loose over the greater D.C. area. Steve — another full-time photo editor — and Megan handed me a camera and told me to take a weather photo. At first, I went out on the balcony, with the intent of getting a wide cityscape shot and then hopefully capturing some lightning on a few frames. Then I was going to go street-level.

But the full-time staff were concerned about liability should lightning strike, so I had to stay indoors.

Which is why my first photo published on washingtonpost.com was taken from inside a window and looks almost like a cell phone photo.

Click on the image to go to a larger view of this screen capture of my first photo published on washingtonpost.com!

Click on the image to go to a larger view of this screen capture of my first photo published on washingtonpost.com!

Anyway.

That’s it for now.

You won’t be hearing from me until Monday or Tuesday.

Let’s just hope I survive the heat, humidity and intensity that is Bonnaroo.

Cheerio!

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90ish days of summer

The shot glasses Jeff and I bought. Guess whose is whose.

The shot glasses Jeff and I bought at the Newseum store. Guess whose is whose.

Last week, I wrote a post called “Newseum: FAIL,” in which I scolded the Newseum for using what appeared to be a photoshopped photo on the cover of its visitors guide.

That was the most-read page or post on this blog, ever, except for my “About Chris Dunn” page. It attracted the most comments, too, even though I wrote an update/correction before any of the comments were submitted.

It still remains to be seen if my conclusion holds any water and if the photographer indeed edited that streetlight out. But I wanted to visit the Newseum to give it a fair assessement on the basis of its exhibits and not its visitors guide.

So last Saturday, Jeff and I went.

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90ish days of summer

Just a big ol’ dish of D.C. potpourri:

TODAY is my first sick day this summer. I’m not sure where I caught this minor bug, but I have a slight fever, my eyes hurt, my nose is runny, the back of my throat is tickly and I feel generally fatigued.

I think part of it has to do with the nature of my internship at washingtonpost.com: I spend almost entirely eight hours on the computer every day I’m in the office. Now, I am accustomed to spending inordinate numbers of hours on my laptop every day, but not eight hours at a time and day after day. So even though my monitor’s backlight is dimmed as I type this post, my eyes hurt just looking at it.

TODAY is also roughly the 20th anniversary of the crackdown in Tienanmen Square. I say “roughly” because the crackdown began on the evening of June 3 and ended sometime on June 5.

So much has already been said about how the Chinese government has deleted the crackdown out of its history books and shut down foreign news Web sites and other sites such as Flickr and Twitter, so I won’t add redundant noise to that conversation. Suffice it to say that of course, as a journalist in the Western hemisphere and a fan of the First Amendment, I think it’s despicable that the flow of information and the people’s inherent right to protest and free press are being disrupted and restricted.

Some interesting links relating to Tienanmen Square:

TOMORROW, I will be at the office at 8:30 a.m. to do a special gallery, but I’ll be getting out early. Some other interns — from the Post and other news outlets — and I will be going to the Sculpture Garden for wine and jazz during tomorrow’s happy hour!

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