The Library of Congress

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, containing over 164 million items, including over 38 million books. The Library is the research arm of Congress, but anyone 16 and older can register for a reader card and have access to the Library’s resources for doing research. Twice a year, the Library opens its main reading room to the general public for viewing. Being such a huge bookworm and having Columbus Day off work, I headed down there to check it out.

I am embarrassed to admit it, but I have lived in the DC area for almost 15 years, and this is the first time I’ve set foot in the building. And I was really missing out. Aside from the reading room, the whole building is really a work of art. I was so happy to be able to spend some time enjoying such an amazing space that houses so many treasures. I hope you enjoy some of the photos I took, and if you are ever in DC when the reading room is open, I highly recommend taking the time to take a peek.

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Yep. They have a *real* card catalogue.

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Most of the items they had on display were (really impressive) facsimiles, but this is the real deal – a Spanish dictionary from the 1600s. They have others in storage so are allowed to have this original out for people to touch. The librarian who showed it to me said a lot of people who do research on that time period will use the dictionary so they are getting the original meaning of the words. So cool to be able to see and touch a book that old!

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Nostalgia: My Alma Mater

I’ve been feeling a little nostalgic lately. Maybe it’s the changing of the seasons, or the season of change I am going through personally. Whatever the reason, I’ve been thinking back on the people and places that have helped shape who I am. As for a lot of people, a big part of that for me was my college experience. I went to a very small liberal arts college in the hills of West Virginia called Bethany College.  Bethany was affiliated with the church denomination I grew up in, and when I took a trip to Bethany in middle school as part of a church history education trip, I decided that was where I was going to college. I toured only two other colleges (Miami of Ohio and the University of Cincinnati, in case anyone cares) and applied only to Bethany (which, in retrospect, is not really an approach I would endorse, because what if I hadn’t gotten in? But that’s what I did). And then I spent four wonderful years there.

Bethany is so beautiful, and it was about the perfect distance from home – close enough I could go home for a weekend if I wanted, but no so close my parents could just pop in unannounced. :) It was also not far from Pittsburgh, so if we wanted some city shopping, clubs, or food, we could be there in about an hour. And I’m not kidding when I say Bethany was *small* – my graduating class was around 200 people. Even “big” lecture classes were engaging, and for our  smaller seminars and classes, professors would even sometimes host us at their homes. There was one bar in town, Bubba’s, and who can go wrong with a bar called Bubba’s?

Because of its small size, you got to know your classmates really well. I’m fortunate that I’ve retained a lot of friendships from school, particularly from my sorority.  I went into college dead-set against against joining Greek life, but once I met the women from Kappa Delta there, I knew I had found a home away from home. We were, by and large, a band of misfits, but damn, did we have fun together, and loved each other as fiercely as sisters should.

I was up in WV a few years ago for a wedding (my Bethany freshman year roommate!) and had some free time, so drove up to the school to wander around a bit. And then I never did anything with the photos, until this weekend, when my nostalgia encouraged me to finally get around to them. So, without further ado, here is dear old Bethany.

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Light Painting Workshop: Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

One of the coolest things about photography (or art in general) is there is always the chance to learn something new and keep growing your abilities. The day I think I know all there is to know about photography and can’t do anything to get better is the day I know I should put away my camera. There is always always always some new aspect to explore! So, with that in mind, last month I made the trek with my friend Evan to the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (TALA) in Weston, WV, for a light painting workshop.

The workshop was put on by a great local group, Road Runner Photography Tours, and I admit I had no idea what I was getting into. I was intrigued because I had heard of light painting but knew nothing about it and because I LOVE old, falling apart buildings and ghosts, so going to TALA for anything was a dream come true. The leaders of the tour were awesome – gave a great lecture beforehand to help educate us about light painting and then walked around the asylum during the night as we worked to help set up some interesting shots with different techniques and answer questions.

If you’re not familiar (like I really wasn’t), light painting is just what it sounds like – set yourself and your camera up in a dark or low-lit space and then illuminate parts of the space with different light sources. You can use anything from regular hardware store flashlights to heavier duty lights  with colored gels to glow sticks and colored light sabers – all kinds of neat stuff. There also doesn’t really seem to be a “wrong” way to do it – it’s a lot of trial and error to create the effect that you’re looking for. The key is really to have a tripod and a vision, because for most instances, you’ll want to take several different exposures with different ways of light painting and then layer them together in post-production (I use Photoshop) to make a composite.

If I came away from this workshop having learned anything, it’s that I have a LOT more to learn. As I went through my images, I was definitely making a mental list of what to do differently for next time! But I feel that, for my first time giving this a shot, these didn’t come out too shabby at all. Hope you enjoy!

The one below is a composite of three different images – we lit each room individually with its respective color and then I put them together in post production.

TALA3One of our great instructors, Denise, posing as an asylum patient for us

TALA7This is a cool effect created by having white lights on the inside of a bicycle tire and spinning it on its side on the ground, creating this neat dome of light

IMG_6522 TALA5The glowing “waterfall” is created by someone spinning flaming steel wool (sometimes called “woolies”). I’m not going to give a “don’t try this at home” message, because obviously people do and are fine, but I will say to keep in mind that this is METAL or FIRE and so obviously precautions need to be taken. I found this blog post that gives a great explanation on how to create this effect safely, and if you have any doubts about whether you’re comfortable doing this or not, don’t do it

TALA1 TALA4 TALA6 This is actually probably my favorite from the night, and it’s not a composite – the typewriter (which I loved on its own!) was lit in just one shot IMG_6543

 

And leaving you with one final woolie!

 

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A Travel Story: New Orleans

New Orleans has been on my bucket list for a long time. I’ve always heard such great things about this city and I always wanted to check it out – and now I can say that I have! I headed down with two of my friends, Kim and Susan (who you’ve seen featured in other blog posts!), over a long weekend and we tried to cram as much into the weekend as we possibly could.

We stayed at the Royal Saint Charles, which is just a few blocks outside of the French Quarter. Nice hotel, but if you book online I STRONGLY recommend calling to ensure the hotel has your specifications as far as the correct room needed.

IMG_4478_2After we got settled into our room at the hotel, we wandered down the street and met one of Kim’s friends at the Davenport Lounge at the Ritz Carlton for some cocktails and to listen to Jeremy Davenport play some jazz.

IMG_4474_2 IMG_4477_2We were tired from all our traveling, so we didn’t stay out too late, but were up bright and early the next day for beignets from Cafe Du Monde. We got our powdered sugar bites of heaven to go and ate by the river.

IMG_4479_2 IMG_4481_2 IMG_4482_2After breakfast, we just explored the city. We wandered through Jackson Square and checked out the St Louis Cathedral….

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…admired all the beautiful architecture in the French Quarter, including the houses decked out for Mardi Gras….

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…..lots of buildings still had gas lamps outside…..

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…..The Cornstalk Fence hotel…just loved the fence, easy to tell where it gets its name! IMG_4618_2

We also went to the Historic New Orleans Collection and did a tour of the Williams Residence, which was neat to see, especially all the gorgeous courtyards, and then we followed it up with a mimosa brunch at the Court of Two Sisters.

IMG_4498_2 IMG_4499_2After brunch, we stopped in at the Mask Gallery to marvel over the beautiful masks they have. Amazing works of art! I couldn’t make up my mind, so I got a traditional Venetian mask and a mask by Judith Rauchfuss, who makes the masks for Cirque du Soleil.

IMG_4494_2 IMG_4632_2That evening, we stopped at Carousel Bar and Lounge for a drink (I recommend the French 007) before heading out on our ghost tour. We had a two hour walking tour full of ghosts and New Orleans history, with a break at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop for a to-go hurricane.

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The next morning, we decided to continue on the ghost theme, so we wandered up to St Louis Cemetery #1. Marie Laveau is reported to be buried in St Louis #1 and many people leave tokens and mark (illegal!) on the crypt in which she is rumored to be interred.

IMG_4551_2 IMG_4547_2 IMG_4539_2 IMG_4532_2 IMG_4534_2_edited-1 IMG_4556_2 IMG_4557_2 IMG_4540_2_edited-1After our cemetery tour, we got some lunch and cocktails (Kim was happy she finally got her oysters) and then we took the streetcar to the Garden District, where we walked around looking at the houses, including Anne Rice’s old house, and did some shopping on Magazine Street. I got a great hat at Goorin Brothers and a fabulous necklace at Trashy Diva.

IMG_4563_2 IMG_4571_2 IMG_4566_2 IMG_4568_2 IMG_4622_2 IMG_4628_2After our shopping adventure, we took a nap and then headed out again. My fabulous friends took me to Muriel’s for a wonderful belated birthday dinner and afterwards we enjoyed a night out on the town.

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I was beat when I got back to town, but it was worth it to be non-stop for the weekend, and I can’t wait to go back to NOLA again!