For the Birds

November 22, 2014 by ·  

Downy woodpecker and red breasted nut hatch

Downy Woodpecker And Red Breasted Nut Hatch

    A month ago I set up four bird feeders in the backyard. At this point I get to use a big word by telling you that ornithology is my newest hobby. Uh, ornithology is like, the study of birds. So far the biggest challenges have been keeping squirrels out of the feeders and finding a food source that doesn’t leave a gigantic mess. What I’ve done (after a month of trial and error) is rig up the feeders in a way that squirrels can’t reach them so they have to eat up what falls on the ground, helping me clean up the mess. I don’t have a problem with squirrels, but when they get to the feeders, they hog all the food.

gilded flicker fighting

Gilded Flickers Fighting

    When I’m not languishing about having to clean up the mess I’m sitting, motionless as possible in a chair with my camera on the back porch. It is a little difficult to make out but the photo above shows two gilded flickers having a heated conversation. They were 50 yards away so my 200mm lens struggled to see them at all.

Blue Jay About To Feed

Blue Jay

    There are at least two blue jays that visit the yard. I always hear them before I see them and they are very skittish so being outside when they are around is a rare treat.

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee

    Another rare visitor has been the spotted towhee. They are not as skittish as the blue jays but they only come around once every couple of days. You can see their red eyes from a mile away and they are the only bird thus far that flies away to a point in the distance that is too far away to see. All the other birds grab some food and either stay in the feeder to eat or fly to a nearby tree to break open the husks. Not these guys, they grab some food and then take off into the wild blue yonder

two house finches

Two House Finches

    The house finches are around most days. The males have red plumage while the females do not.

downy woodpecker male

Downy Woodpecker

    The male downy woodpecker pictured above was taken by me back in September of this year. I was stalking a dragonfly on a gladiolus when I heard this little man pecking at the bark of an apple tree.

bird at the feeder

Birds Having A Meal

    The above photo shows a red breasted nut hatch having dinner with some sparrows. The nut hatches are my favorite bird thus far because they seem to be the most fearless.

red breasted nut hatch

Red Breasted Nut Hatch

    I’m serious, the nut hatches will stay perched on the feeders when I refill the seed and they don’t take any shit from the blue jays or the squirrels when they come around. They are able to cling to anything with an agility that puts Spiderman to shame and it is fun to watch them smash and store food all around the yard.

Robin eating juniper berries

American Robin Eating A Juniper Berry

    As a patriotic American and a veteran of the United States Navy I will end this post with a photo of an American robin eating a juniper berry. Cheers!

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Colorado State Capitol Building

November 17, 2014 by ·  

Top Of Colorado Capitol Dome In Denver

Colorado State Capitol Building Model

For the first time in about 15 years, I went inside the Colorado Capitol building. The gold dome has gleamed over Denver for a hundred and ten years and it was just refurbished so it looks great. While I did walk all over the place I had one actual thing on my agenda; to get to the top of the dome.

Ground Floor Of Colorado Capitol Building Looking Up

Ground Floor – Colorado State Capitol Building

If you don’t work in the capitol, there are two options for visitors to enter; the north or the south side of the building. There are very polite security guards that will have you walk through a metal detector and place your bag in an x-ray machine. It’s similar to going through security at an airport but you can keep your shoes on and you only need to take metal objects out of your pockets. After that, you can walk all around the building.

Grand-Staircase-In-Colorado-Capitol-In-Denver

The Grand Staircase

The place if filled with vintage art and stained glass windows that are worth spending time admiring and photographing. That being said, I didn’t admire a whole lot because, as I said before, I wanted to go to the top of the dome.

Emily Griffith Stained Glass In Colorado Capitol In Denver

Emily Griffith Stained Glass Window

Normally, a stained glass window is an actual window. What I mean is that they are on the outer wall of a building in order to let light in and showcase the colors. There are a few of them in the capitol building that are on interior wall and lit from behind with electric lights. This likeness of Emily Griffith is one of them.

Colorado State Capitol Chambers In Denver

Colorado State Legislature Chambers

While the restoration of the dome is complete, there are still interior chambers getting a facelift. This is the part where I have to tell you that I don’t remember exactly what this room is but I think it is the state legislature chambers. I do remember that it was on the west side of the building and that it has some great stained glass windows. I also remember the information poster outside this room said that in the 1950s acoustic tiles were placed on the walls, covering the original gilded walls. Those tiles are now being removed and the original walls are being restored, which I think is awesome.

Hall Of Presidents Colorado Capitol In Denver

Looking Down From The Hall Of Presidents

Up and up I went, looking at the architecture whilst resisting the urge to open random doors. While the actual footprint of the building is rectangular, each floor under the dome is round; I think that would make these areas, if not the entire building itself a rotunda. This is perfect for a wide angle lens since it distorts straight lines into a curve.

Hall Of Presidents Looking Up In Colorado State Capitol In Denver

Looking Up From The Hall Of Presidents

One of my last stops before finding the stairs that lead up to the gold dome is this room filled with portraits of every American president. Some of the portraits are missing because they are being cleaned off site but it was still a very easy way to put faces to names that haven’t made it on to our currency. I am a modest student of early American history so at this point I have to say that Benjamin Franklin should have his portrait up here because I think he should have been president.

Top Of Colorado Capitol Dome In Denver

After a hike up a final set of narrow stairs, I was right underneath the gold dome. The spiral staircase you see in the photo above is off limits to the public so where I was standing is the highest point a regular dude like me can go; the same place I stood 15 years earlier.

Civic Center From Colorado Capitol Dome In Denver

Civic Center Park

Once out on the veranda of the rotunda I set to work taking photos of my glorious Denver skyline. All these photos were taken on November 5th so the fall colors of Civic Center Park were on full display and there were just enough clouds to give some depth to the sky without blocking out the warmth of the sun.

Denver Skyline From Capitol Dome

The Skyline Of Denver

It was about four in the afternoon when I was up there; access to the dome is only granted during daylight so you will really have to get the timing right if you want some sunset shots. This is one of those instances where having a high placed friend would come in really handy. If there was a photographer with a friend that could grant him access to the top of this building after hours that would be awesome. Maybe there is someone that doesn’t personally know a photographer but after reading a post like this could arrange for a photographer to get some night shots from The Colorado Capitol. I’m just saying.

Colorado Flag And County Building In Denver

The Skyline Of Denver

For those of you that have been reading my blog over the last half decade, you know that I try to write the way that I talk. It’s not easy because I have no regard for punctuation or AP Style when I speak. I think, I speak, I type and then I read what I’ve typed aloud to myself. That’s how I do up a post, that’s my process. I love Denver and I love Colorado. Any sort of anything that has made me the man I am today has its roots in the centennial state. I was in this landlocked state when I enlisted in the Navy and it was Denver that I returned to after sailing around the world. Cheers!

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Million Mask March in Denver

November 6, 2014 by ·  

Denver Anonymous-mask-with-roses

Anonymous In Front Of Denver Capitol Dome

    Yesterday I went to the Capitol building in Denver, Colorado to take photos of the Million Mask March. This worldwide event, taking place for the second year in a row is organized by the hacktivist group, Anonymous. They are the group that has a cosmic connection to Guy Fawkes, an early 1600’s Englishman involved in what we know today as The Gunpowder Plot. In a nutshell, he was a catholic that wanted to oust the ruling protestant monarchy but the plot was discovered by means an anonymous letter delivered to King James. Over the next 400 years, Fawkes and his likeness in the form of a mask came to be seen as symbols of protest and by 2008 as a symbol for Anonymous. The first time it got onto my radar was when I was covering the 2011 Occupy movement in San Diego.

Anonymous-flag-at-Denver-million-mask-march

Anonymous Flag In Denver

    Anonymous has their own flag which is specific to the group while the mask is a general symbol of protest. At a protest or march organized by Anonymous you’ll see both of them.

Denver-million-mask-march-anonymous-signs

Protest Signs In Denver

    So, what was this protest about and what does Anonymous stand for? If you ask a room full of people you will get a room full of different answers. As you’ll see from the signs and posters in this post, there are many different points of view and many statements being made.

Protest-signs-at-Denver-million-mask-march

Protest Signs On Broadway

    The evil of money was a common theme for this march. Our current status quo allows for people with more money to garner more influence, protection and power via political contributions and lobbying. It is not uncommon to see the right thing be ignored in order to go with a more profitable option. The mere fact that a term like “personal political gain” exists in a democracy should be a very telling thing.

Denver million-mask-march-politics-signs

Political Protest Signs

    Another issue at hand for the march is capitalism itself. The way money is made has become a problematic for a lot of people because of the way it is tied to politics and the way politics is tied to capitalism. I’m not an economist or a politician so I won’t try to give my uneducated take on the matter but as the reader, you should look into points being made by these protesters and make up your own mind. Spending a week getting your news from sources other than mainstream media will help you do this.

Lobbyist-sign-at-Denver-million-mask-march

Lobbyist Sign

    Aside from reading the posters, I listened to what many of the protesters had to say. A lot of them are unhappy that corporations have the same rights as a person, the way mainstream media only reports stories that promote an agenda, failure to report on dissent and as a rise in the police state.

DPD-sign-at-Denver-million-mask-march

Anti Police Poster At Million Mask March

    I have never been roughed up by a cop or thrown in jail but I have had a few run-ins with police officers that didn’t like me recording them in public. In 2009 I was kicked out of a San Diego trolley station after recording them arrest a man for smoking. Usually its security guards that give me the most grief over taking photos or recording video in public but a lot of them are police officers moonlighting so the cop mentality really does show through. The fact of the matter is that police like to be obeyed and rarely admit when they do something wrong. That is why so many people turn on their cameras during an interaction with a police officer; video footage provides a record that may or may not contradict what a cop writes on a report. The point is that when a camera is present, police can’t lie their way out of bad behavior. There is an excellent website, “Photography Is Not A Crime” that collects instances of police being recorded and challenging photographers for doing so. Anyway, all this reading and listening took place before the march started. As the sun set, preparations and instructions for the march started to happen.

Anonymous-group-photo-at-Denver-million-mask-march

Million Mask March In Denver Group Photo

    I was very impressed with how organized the march was. Anonymous may not have a leader but there were leaders for this march and they did a great job keeping the chaos organized and keeping the protesters on task. There was a core group that worked together to decide what the route for the march would be and whose job it was to keep the group together once the marching started. It was stressed many times that the group had to remain together; no one should ever be more than two feet away from anybody else. I made quick friends with another photographer covering the march so we agreed to be buddies during the march; just in case. A group photo was organized, the PA system was broken down and the march started at about 6pm. They headed out on Colfax and onto the 16th Street Mall.

million-mask-march-in-Denver-November-2014

Marching Through The Streets

    It is worth noting that with the exception of a Spanish language news channel, there was no media or police at the capitol building the entire time. There were some bloggers and a few live streamers but for the most part, the documentation of the march fell on the shoulders of the protesters themselves.

Denver-million-mask-march-on-16th-street-mall

Marching Down The 16th Street Mall

    Again, I need to give mad props to the leaders of this particular rally. They had runners that would shout directions to the protesters, kept them on the sidewalk when necessary and made sure the route went through the most populated areas of LoDo. I would say that about 90 percent of the route stayed on the 16th Street Mall and it was while on the mall that a slight police presence started to form. Since the protesters were adamant on staying together, red lights and calls of, “Hold the line!” kept the group moving slower than a parade so the police (motorcycle and bicycle) held a respectable 1 block distance ahead of the protesters. When the march stopped, the police stopped, when the march started moving, so did the police. At this point there was very little tension and no words exchanged between them.

Million-mask-march-at-Denver-Union-Station

Million Mask March Aproaches Union Station

    After a few zigs and zags, the march headed towards Denver’s iconic Union Station. As I mentioned before, there were not a lot of police so as a photographer I was running up and down and all around the protesters without much worry about being singled out by law enforcement. When I realized the group was heading towards Union Station, I ran up ahead to frame some shots. When I got there, I saw lots of police wearing riot gear.

Riot-police-at-Denver-million-mask-march

Denver Riot Police At Union Station

    I got to the station about 60 seconds ahead of the march so as the group got closer, the police walked forward about 10 feet so they were standing in the street, facing the protesters. The next few minutes for me were the tensest of the evening. The march stopped at the intersection of 17th Street and Wynkoop, where the police had gathered. At this point some chanting against the police started to happen and a few people walked out from the group to flip them off and draw invisible lines they dared the police to cross. The police did not interfere with the exception of shining a few lights into a few cameras. The police helicopter showed up as well, lighting the scene from above. The way the police were stationed made it very clear that if the march proceeded west of Wynkoop, things would get ugly.

Million-mask-protest-in-Denver-16th-Street-mall

Anonymous On The 16th Street Mall

    Eventually, the protesters simply hung a left turn and went back to 16th Street. Now all the police were behind, following them up the mall. A couple times the entire group did an about face and walked towards the police but as before, the police stayed back by at least a block so there was no real confrontation. The group then walked to the Money Museum at The Federal Reserve Bank where there were some speeches and chanting. It was at this point that I left the march to head home.

    My final thoughts on the evening were positive all around. The organizers kept people in line, even going so far as to make sure that trash was picked up from the gathering site at the capitol. I thought the police showed great professionalism and restraint. I did not personally see any altercations nor did I see any guns drawn or tears gas canisters fired. So, I’ll leave it at that. I do think you should do some independent research and question things that you have been taught are true yet in your heart you feel are wrong. Remember, the earth was flat for hundreds of years until free thinkers brought it around to its proper shape. Cheers!

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