A Little Light Reading

I’m researching topics on the history of electricity and electromagnetism for several encyclopedia and textbook articles that I’m writing. You might say that I’m doing a little light reading (insert groan here). Okay, it’s a bad pun, but it’s 12:42 a.m., so what do you expect? The summer and fall have been marginally successful for me as a writer, but this year I opted to skip NaNoWriMo because I needed to focus on some nonfiction projects and get my research mojo back.

On the other hand, workouts have been good: I’ve managed to get myself into a fairly regular exercise routine as far as cardio goes, although November I sort of slacked off. Going to the regular gym for weight workouts has been a bust, and I blame having to drive up there. The reality is that I don’t have a routine or really know what I should be doing, so I go and do a few things and accomplish very little. The cardio I get from fitness studio classes, and I’ve been taking spin and belly dance classes that are lots of fun. I’m also working on season one of Zombies, Run! after finishing a virtual 5K race early last month (that means I ran on my treadmill, using a running app to keep my race time).

For this month, I want to finish at least two of my articles. I’d love to finish three, but the holidays and work commitments are already shaping up to make this a short month and I find my available writing time being gobbled up. And maybe, just maybe, I can find some time for fiction.

Thursday Writing Prompt No. 102

Sculpture outside the Baltimore War Memorial Building.

Sculpture of a sea horse and eagle by Edmond R. Amateis, located outside the Baltimore War Memorial Building. Photo by Karen S. Garvin.

This week’s Thursday Writing Prompt is about poetry and the memories of war. This year, 2014, marks the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, also known as the Great War. Trench warfare and the use of gas are the historical aspects of WWI that you’re most likely to see featured on television shows and in movies, but some great poetry was written during the confrontation. Some of the authors were Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Alfred Joyce Kilmer, Vera Brittain, John McCrae, Rudyard Kipling, Katharine Tynan, and Alan Seeger.

Your task this week is to combine history and poetry. Go to the First World War Poetry Digital Archive or First World War: Prose and Poetry and spend some time viewing the collections. Pick two authors and read one poem from each writer. To get a much better feel for their work, view any images of the actual manuscripts. Your task is to notice the language used in the poems and how the authors told their story. There’s no writing involved this week unless you’re moved by what you read and want to try your own hand at war poems. This isn’t a post about politics, but about the wider scope of war and human experience. If you do make an attempt to write something, try to see beyond the political squabbling and into the greater truths of human nature.

The photo accompanying this post building is the Baltimore War Memorial Building, which was completed in 1925. It serves as a memorial to Maryland veterans of all wars and has an interesting history of its own.

Cindy Kelly, Outdoor Sculpture in Baltimore: A Historical Guide to Public Art in the Monumental City. With photographs by Edwin Harlan Remsberg. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 2011.

Smithsonian’s Fire and Ice Exhibit

The Smithsonian Institution is opening an exhibit at the National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C.,  on March 22, 2012, to honor the anniversaries of the Hindenburg and the Titanic. The Fire and Ice exhibit runs through January 6, 2014. I have plenty of time to visit before the exhibit closes. Airships have been an interest of mine for quite awhile, and three years ago I presented a paper on World War I German airships at the Mid-Atlantic Regional meeting of Phi Alpha Theta.

So, why are an airship and a steamer being honored at the postal museum? Simple: because both the Hindenburg and the Titanic served as mail carriers. According to the Smithsonian’s website, the Hindenburg was the largest flying post office ever built. The airship carried more than 17,000 pieces of transatlantic mail and a few hundred pieces managed to survive the fire when the ship exploded, but mail aboard the Titanic went down with the ship.

If you want to know more about the Hindenburg or Titanic, the Smithsonian’s website has a bibliography for each one that offers websites, films, and publications about these two giants.

Pennsylvania Monument Details

I went back to Gettysburg National Military Park during the Thanksgiving weekend with my husband. We both enjoy photography, so we spent some time at the battlefield taking pictures. Unfortunately, that Thursday it was bitterly cold and after only about 20 minutes my hands were so stiff that I could hardly hold the camera. It was also approaching 4 o’clock, and getting overcast.

The late afternoon light wasn’t adequate for available-light photography, so I decided to try some flash photography and take some interior shots of the Pennsylvania Memorial. Even in the unheated interior of the building it was a little warmer than outside, and it was out of the wind. I spent some time experimenting with flash fill and adjusting the intensity of my flash. I don’t work with flash very often, so this was a learning opportunity for me.

My objective was to have a strong enough flash to light the subject adequately and give some highlights to the highly textured wall detail without washing out the whole scene. I also wanted to achieve the kind of visual texture that so much good black-and-white photography has, and the stairwell was a good subject for texture. I used a bracketing technique and took several shots of the same scene. I first selected an aperture, then adjusted my flash intensity and took several shots at different speeds. I selected a second aperture setting and did the same thing.

It’s easy to do bracketing with digital photography because there’s no wasted film. In a sense, I think that digital photography can make a photographer lazy because it’s easy to just keep taking shots until you have one that you like. But on the other hand, it allows photographers to play without worrying about wasted resources, and so I find that I am more likely to experiment with aperture and speed settings.

Photo of the detail on a door at the Pennsylvania Monument at Gettysburg National Military Park.

Detail on a door at the Pennsylvania Monument at Gettysburg National Military Park.

The interior of a stairwell wall in the Pennsylvania Monument at Gettysburg National Military Park.

The interior of a stairwell wall in the Pennsylvania Monument at Gettysburg National Military Park.

Photography Prints