Places

Collingwood Picnic Area, Virginia

I hope I won’t spoil this little spot by telling you about it. On one of our visits to Mount Vernon, we decided to meander on down the road, following the Potomac, to see where we’d get.

We stopped at a place called Fort Hunt, which is across the river from Fort Washington (you can see a map of them here). I guess at some point these two forts were used to control water traffic toward the capital, but they weren’t in use anymore. They are now parks and they are open to the public.

As we continued driving south, a little place called out to us. From the road, it only looked like a little parking lot, and perhaps we were simply looking to stretch our legs once more — or something told us to stop. We did, and as you’ll see in the photographs, it was well worth it. The shoreline of the Potomac is special there. The river flows by quietly and you get these little ripples in the water that look wonderful in the light of the late afternoon. Round little pebbles of all colors are mixed with the yellow mud and brown sand on the shore, and when the light hits all of them just right, it makes for magical little vignettes that capture your imagination.

I didn’t have GPS with me at the time, so I had to guesstimate the location 10 years after having visited it, but after spending about half a day looking at maps and satellite imagery, I believe this spot is the Collingwood Picnic Area on the Virginia side of the Potomac River. Perhaps it’s changed since we visited it and these photos represent a certain moment in time when things simply came together. I don’t know. I’ll let you rediscover the place. Enjoy the photos!

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Events

Two of my books are now published

Some of you know that I’ve been writing here on my website since 2000, so I’ve put a lot of words on paper and screen. But I’ve always wanted to write a book, to put that English major of mine to some good use 🙂. Life intervened and other priorities demanded my time. Good old fear also stuck its nose in those dreams and for quite some time, I found myself busy with a lot of other things. The funny thing is, my wife and I have taken on so many things where I should have been afraid going in and sticking it out, but I wasn’t. We’ve accomplished so much together. And yet, something that should have been easy for me, like doing a bit of writing, editing it and publishing it, something that I’ve been doing since my college days — became this obstacle that seemed to get bigger with time.

Earlier this year, I made a promise to myself that I was going to publish a photo book that had been sitting on my computer for several years. It’s a book about a place near and dear to our hearts, the Potomac River and the C&O Canal, which we’d visit often while we lived in the Washington, DC area. I miss those places. I miss driving out there to various spots along the river and canal, and walking or biking for hours on clean, safe, maintained trails, in the beautiful countryside and forests of Maryland and Virginia. Of course I’d take my camera with me and Ligia would allow me to indulge my photographic obsession. So that’s one book I’m happy to say I finished and published.

I’d started another book years earlier, back in 2005, about an interesting place doing interesting work in West Virginia. I’d found out about it by chance, as we were visiting parks in the area and I looked for a place with WiFi, but found none. When I asked why, that’s when when things got interesting. It turned out we were in something called the NRQZ, the National Radio Quiet Zone, where no radio transmissions were allowed, because of the research being done at a place called NRAO (that had nothing to do with the NRA). Its initials stand for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and it was listening to radio transmissions from space with very sensitive and very big parabolic antennae they call radio telescopes. Any sort of local radio transmission would create huge interference issues for them, so the American government decided to designate a large area around them as a Radio Quiet Zone. I ended up visiting the NRAO site at Green Bank in West Virginia and I became so interested in the stories about their equipment and the RFI (radio frequency interference) that created problems in their work, that I started putting together a book through site visits and interviews with the “Keeper of the Quiet”, the man responsible for chasing down RFI in the NRQZ, Wes Sizemore. I almost finished writing that book but life intervened, as it always does, and I couldn’t make the follow-up visits that I needed in order to close the story arc and put the finishing touches on the book.

It sat on my computer for about seven years, till in 2012, I decided enough was enough, I was going to re-edit what I had and publish it as it was, here on my website, and that’s what I did. You can read it in seven instalments, starting here. This year, as I was working on my other book, I started thinking, why not take all the materials I’d put together for my posts, re-organize them, re-edit them where I felt they needed it, and put them all in book format? Instead of publishing just one book, I’d publish two. So that’s what I did. This book is now as finished as it’s going to get and it’s also published.

You can see more details about each of the books on their dedicated pages here on my website:

They are currently available in the Apple Books (iBooks) format on the Apple Book Store. I’ve already been asked if they’re going to be available in other formats and other stores. I can’t promise you anything at the moment.

I work on an iMac in macOS and I have iOS devices (iPhones and iPads), so when I put these books together, I did it in an app called iBooks Author, which creates e-books in a native format for macOS and iOS. This format works for multi-touch displays and the text reflows and adjusts for various display sizes.

Were I to want to list my books in the Amazon Book Store, I would need to lay them out once more, page by page, in their own application, which is called Kindle Create. I’d want and need to do that in order to create a native e-book experience for the Amazon Kindle readers, an experience that works properly with those e-book controls and where the text reflows and adjusts for various display sizes. This means redoing most everything I did in iBooks Author, but on Kindle Create. I’m not looking forward to doubling my workload.

I am well aware that I can simply export to PDF from iBooks Author and publish the books as PDFs, but the reading experience just wouldn’t be the same. Mobile book readers simply don’t handle PDFs the same way they handle native e-books, and you’d have to constantly zoom in and out, drag the page up and down to see it all… it just isn’t a good reading experience as far as I’m concerned.

I’m also aware that had I started to work on my books in Apple Pages, I could have exported directly to the Apple Book Store from that app, and I could have also exported the books to a format compatible with Kindle Create (MS Word), that could have circumvented a lot of the work I now need to do. I didn’t know this at the time. 🤷‍♂️

I’ve also looked into publishing the books on the Google Play Book Store, but they’ve restricted applications for new authors for some reason. I applied and I’m waiting to see how that pans out. And I’ll have to find out what native e-book format is used for Android devices, and what I’ll need to do to ensure a good reading experience for them.

So, if you have macOS or iOS devices, you’re in luck. My books are available for purchase and you’re good to go. Please check them out and buy them if they spark your interest. 🙂

Cheers!
Raoul

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Places

The C&O Canal in winter

I still remember fondly one occasion back in 2005 when, after copious snowfall, we took our MINI out for a drive with our new Michelin winter tires. We lived in the DC area at the time, and those of you who live there know we only get about one serious snowfall every year, usually toward the end of January or start of February. Well, that day, we had our annual big snowfall, and we wanted to make the best of it.

We took the car out on River Drive (it runs parallel to the Potomac River) and turned onto an access road that took us downhill, toward Lock 21 of the C&O Canal. It was quite possible that we wouldn’t be able to get back up onto the main road, but we didn’t care at the time. We were thoroughly enjoying ourselves.

Our MINI handled itself beautifully thanks to the winter tires, and we drove uphill through the thick snow without a hitch. Soon we were back home, sipping on hot tea and warming ourselves after the wonderful outing. We had so much fun!

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Places

Glen Echo Park

Glen Echo Park is a neat place located on MacArthur Blvd, near Washington, DC. It used to be a full fledged amusement park in the early part of the 20th century, with its own rail line that ran to the park’s gate from downtown DC. Ligia and I visited it a few times in 2008. The following are a few photos I took during those visits.

The park’s official website is here.

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Places, Video Log

Biking the C&O Canal

While in the States, my wife and I loved to bike up and down the C&O Canal (Chesapeake and Ohio Canal). The scenery is truly picturesque, particularly along the section from DC to Great Falls. I recorded these videos during the summer of 2008, on various of our biking trips.

Biking the C&O Canal

C&O Canal near Carderock Wall

The Waterfalls at Great Falls, MD

Sinkhole on the C&O Canal

I hope you enjoyed them!

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Places

Fake explosion at Key Bridge over Potomac on Wednesday

This Wednesday, March 23, a fake explosion will take place at or near the Key Bridge over the Potomac River, in Washington, DC, between 9:30 am and noon. A new TV show called “Washington Field” is being filmed there. One of the scenes in the pilot involves a sculling boat that blows up.

Key Bridge over Potomac

The explosion will yield a 20-30 foot fireball which should injure no one if everything goes according to plan. The Potomac Boat Club, founded in 1869, is right at the foot of the bridge, so I think it’s in the plot as well.

A short video of mine, filmed in the spring of 2007, and titled Washington DC Panoramic, features the Key Bridge.

Washington DC Panoramic from Raoul Pop on Vimeo.

[via Reuters]

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Places

Washington DC panoramic

In May of 2007, I happened to be at the top of the Key Bridge Marriott Hotel in Arlington, VA. That hotel has the most amazing view of DC and Arlington from its ballroom, which sits right on top of it and has floor to ceiling windows.

I also just happened to have a video camera and tripod with me (ahem), and took some footage of the DC skyline, the Key Bridge, and the Potomac River. That footage sat around on my computer till last week, when I finally had the time to edit it properly and to work on a soundtrack for the video.

This video is the result. You can download it below, or view it at Vimeo or YouTube. (The soundtrack doesn’t sound as good at YouTube, their compression isn’t that great.)

Download Washington DC Panoramic (720×540, MOV, 2:16)

By the way, I took this photo that same evening, from the roof of the building. The hospitality manager was a really nice guy and he let me go up and spend about 15 minutes taking photos up there.

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Places

Night falls gently on the old river

This was taken from the roof of the Key Bridge Marriott Hotel in Arlington, VA. I’d just finished a meeting and asked a favor from John, the hospitality manager: could he please let me go up for a few minutes to take photos? He kindly agreed, and he, along with a security guard, escorted me through the labyrinthine corridors of the top floor onto the pebble-lined roof.

What a gorgeous view that hotel has! I quickly took a whole series of photos, and I still need to post-process quite a few of those. I really like this one, as it shows the sun just about to fade over the Virginia hills while the old Potomac River goes on about its business.

Night falls gently on the old river

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Places

The Watergate Hotel and the Kennedy Arts Center

Back in February, Ligia and I plus good friends of ours took a photowalk through downtown DC. Our objectives: the Watergate Hotel and the Kennedy Arts Center. I used my Exakta EXA Ia to take the photographs. It was a lot of fun to use it, as always. I still love to shoot on film, even though it’s fairly expensive and time-intensive to get the photos in digital format. I say expensive because I’m used to shooting a LOT. I’m not satisfied with a few photos. I use up rolls of film during a session. Then I have to develop them and spend hours scanning them in. It takes about two hours to scan 24 exposures at the quality I want. And then I spend extra time editing them. But the results are worth it, and of course, the experience of using a fully manual, quality-built, metal camera like the Exakta is a treat in itself.

Here are a few photographs from that photowalk. We started down by the marina, walked up the street alongside the Watergate Hotel, then passed the Saudi embassy (which is quite an ugly building btw) and crossed the street to reach the Kennedy Arts Center. It was a cold, windy day and we froze, but I really like the photos I got, so it was worth it.

The Watergate Hotel

Political rhythm

Change of historical perspective

I see, you see, we all see

A modern interpretation of Don Quixote adorns the front of the Kennedy Center, and may I say what an ugly beast it is… Looks like whoever designed it was out to scare people, not inspire them.

He’s at it again

A clear day

Sit, sip, stare

Do, don’t talk

To scale

The day ended with a beautiful sunset over the Potomac River.

Potomac sunset

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