Friday Photo: Beach Edition

Christmas in Florida is not always warm. I remember years with freeze warnings and rumors of snow. But when it’s nice, it’s really nice – Florida in December can be incredibly pleasant.

I’m fortunate that my parents live in Orlando. On my way home, I detoured off I-95 and cruised down AIA. I saw these condos from the road and had to stop. I walked down to the beach to get this iPhone shot. The long shadows and the soft afternoon light underscores the beauty and symmetry of these buildings. Living there must be a dream – it certainly looks like one.

Friday Photo: Flickr Embed Edition

The ability to easily embed photos on a web site is one of those things you just kinda expect these days. You expect to be provided a bit of code to copy and paste into a site. Yet, until recently, Flickr didn’t provide an easy embed tool.

Not that using Flickr photos on a WordPress site was difficult before – you selected a size, copied the code, added a caption, linked to the photo and voila! It was a multi-step process, but not a difficult one.

Flickr has made this easier with Flickr Web Embeds. It’s slightly easier than the old method but I don’t entirely like it – since it’s an embed, you can’t put a caption under it. And when I created this post yesterday, the photo had a white Flickr label on it, which has since disappeared.

Hopefully, this is just the start and Flickr will offer the ability to tweak and customize embeds.

And above that’s 10th St NW, near the new City Center development. Formerly home to the Washington Convention Center and then a parking lot, it’s the first time this street has been open in decades. I liked the bike lane. It’s an iPhone photo, edited in the Flickr mobile app.

Ten Films from Ten Years of DC Shorts

In the audience for DC Shorts at the Navy Memorial #dcshorts

The DC Shorts Film Festival has a special holiday gift for cinephiles everywhere – ten years worth of short films from the festival are now online and free to view. Watch more than 330 films from the comfort of your laptop. It’s an incredibly diverse range of short films, from every genre, and from all over the world, with one thing in common: they’re all just a few minutes long.

I’ve seen a lot of them. Here are my favs:

  1. The Bullfighter and the Bull – Just four minutes long, this Spanish comedy is a great introduction to DC Shorts.
  2. Everything is Incredible – One of the best short documentaries I’ve ever seen, it’s like a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel come to life.
  3. First Date – Not for the squeamish, this story of romance and gastric distress won the festival’s First-Time Director Award.
  4. Friend Request Pending – Judi Dench demonstrates that you’re never too old to get anxious about Facebook.
  5. Harry Grows Up – Imagine a Woody Allen film, but with toddlers.
  6. Man with a Bolex Movie Camera – I’m biased, because this is done by AU grads, but it’s a funny and sexy short.
  7. Mile High Pie – This food doc is a country-fried slice of charm.
  8. Schrodinger’s Box – No cats were harmed in making this sci-fi short. I think.
  9. The Leeward Tide – This is just a gorgeous film. After watching this at E Street during the festival, I had a chance to talk to filmmakers Brett Eichenberger andJill Remensnyder in front of the theater. It was one of those moments that can only occur at a film festival. This Portland couple went on to make the feature Light of Mine, another dreamily beautiful film.
  10. The Man in 813 – Think you need a big crew and expensive gear to make a movie? This creepy short was made over a weekend on a DSLR.

These are just a sample of the delights waiting for you in the DC Shorts film archive. Comedy, drama, documentary, experimental, thriller, animation – you’ll find them all online and for free. They’re short slices of some of the best cinema from around the world.

Friday Photo: WABA Edition

I'm a WABA member because...

DC is a land of tribes. “Where do you work?” is the first question that you hear at a Washington party. It’s an attempt to discover your tribal affiliation – are you Government, Lawyer, Liberal, Nonprofit, Corporate or Something Else? The purpose is to determine whether you are friend or foe, superior or inferior.

It’s a silly practice based upon the assumption that people are defined by their jobs. But work is not a passion for most people. Most of us are defined by our interests, rather than our jobs.

Case in point: The Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA). At last night’s Holiday Party at the Bier Baron, I met an incredibly diverse group of people. They were young, old, women, men, gay, straight – one of the most eclectic gatherings you’ll find in self-sorting DC. They included everyone from government employees living in the suburbs to entrepreneurs working in the city.

And they weren’t interested in what you did for a living. Instead, the talk was of winter cycling tights and the best bike route to Silver Spring. “How many bikes do you own?” was a popular question. With just two bikes, I was an outlier among the avid cyclists.

New bike lanes and the advent of Capital Bikeshare has led to an explosion of cycling in DC. In the crowded 15th St Cycletrack, you see scores of bikers every morning – women in dresses (yes, even in this weather), hard-core commuters and elderly tourists on red Bikeshare bikes.

Which is why I’m glad to be a WABA member. It’s not just the sexy legs. It’s that cycling is a shared experience that bridges communities across the city. I’m a WABA member because biking in DC is fun.

Storytelling: The Most Powerful Communications Tool in History

We are storytelling animals. It’s what differentiates us from our primate cousins. We are literally Homo narrativus. We use stories to assign meaning to our lives, transmit vital information and communicate with future generations. Without our storytelling ability, we would never have evolved out of the jungles of Africa.

Human history begins with stories, like The Bible, the Odyssey and the epics of India. These stories were so important that they were memorized and passed down countless generations prior to the written word.

Storytelling is an ancient and powerful tool that we all possess. The ability to process, remember and share stories is man’s oldest and best trick.

But we live in a dreary age of PowerPoints and TPS reports. Why can’t you remember anything from yesterday’s HR briefing? It’s not your fault; it wasn’t a story.

Lead with a Story

Paul Smith addresses that problem in Lead with a Story, a guide to using this ancient tool in the modern world. Storytelling is a skill that’s increasingly being adopted by major corporations trying to break through the clutter of messages that we’re all deluged with.

In a talk at the annual Federal Digital Communications event, Smith explained the power of stories to an audience of government communicators.

Storytelling is a skill that we can all learn. We literally grew up with it. What makes a great story? Great stories are:

1. Simple. What is the plot of Lord of the Rings? While it sprawls over hundreds of pages, the plot is really simple: destroy the One Ring. Great stories are simple, with a clear problem for characters to solve.

2. Timeless. Fads come and go, but the great stories are timeless. Boy meets girl, whether it’s Romeo and Juliet, or the latest Hollywood romcom, is one of the oldest and most commonly told stories.

3. Universal. While you may not speak ancient Greek, you can understand the desire to get home after a tough day (or decade). This is why a classic like the Odyssey is a universal tale.

4. Viral. Someone tells you a funny joke in the elevator and you immediately want to share it. Jokes were viral before the cat videos of YouTube.

5. Memorable. The story of Noah and the Great Flood doesn’t just appear in the Old Testatment – it is also a part of ancient Babylonian texts. Why? The whole world being wiped out with one survivor? That’s a great story.

6. Inspirational. We long for inspirational stories. While other ages had saints, we have business profiles of inspiring figures like Oprah, Steve Jobs and Howard Schultz. We read these stories of perseverance and success because we want to be inspired, looking for motivation to act upon our own dreams.

Good stories engage audiences. Rather than showing people a slide full of numbers, tell them what the numbers mean. Tell them how they matter to one person. Connect with your audience with stories of how people use your product or service.

For example, I had a job where I had to tell actors to be on time for a performance. I could’ve just yelled at them. Or just repeated the call-time over and over again.

Instead, I told them a story – The Tragedy of the Late Actor. The year before, one of actors was late. We replaced her. She didn’t get a chance to perform.

None of the actors were late. They remembered my message (don’t be late!) because I expressed it in the Tragedy of the Late Actor.

The reason is the human gift for narrative. Stories are how we remember information and direct our lives.

The next time you need to communicate something, whether it’s an article for the corporate newsletter or a message to your significant other, think about how you can make it a story. Write a beginning, a middle and an end. Have a clear protagonist, with a  problem for them to solve.

Tap into the ancient gift of storytelling – our most powerful communication tool.

Update: check out the slides and notes from the day’s presentations.

 

 

How to Get Your Photo in Exposed DC

Crowd at DCist Exposed

Opening night crowd at the 2013 Exposed show at Long View Gallery, Washington, DC.

For the love of photography, what is the Exposed DC Photo Contest?

The annual Exposed show is a celebration of the best in local photography in Washington, DC. Now in its eighth year (it used to be known as DCist Exposed), Exposed DC seeks images of the people and places, the art and music and food and sports, and the culture and nostalgia of this incredible town we live in. This is DC beyond the monuments, the real city that we live in and experience.

And it’s a show that’s open to anyone with a camera (or iPhone). You don’t need a a $2000 lens or the ability to talk f-stops. All you need is the ability to create a compelling image. The openness of Exposed DC is what makes the contest unique.

Exposed DC picks the best images to hang on the walls in the recently-expanded Long View Gallery in Mount Vernon Square. And there’s a big party where you can meet tons of local photographers while hundreds of people admire your work.

What you need to know:

Deadline: January 8, 2014
What to Submit: Three photos of DC.
Cost: $10

media storm

Media Storm – selected for 2012 Exposed. This was during the post-earthquake inspection of the Washington Monument.

My photos have been selected for Exposed twice – in 2007 and 2012.  I’ve had drinks with the Exposed judges (not that difficult to do with this boozy bunch) and talked to winning photographers.

Here are my tips for getting your work into the Exposed DC Photo Contest.

1. Read the Rules. Having been a judge for other kinds of contests, it amazes me that people submit content without reading the rules. Read the rules. They not only spell out the procedures you need to follow, but also offer helpful hints on what judges are looking for – and not looking for. For example, note the prohibition against “gratuitous use of HDR.” What is gratuitous HDR? Well, if you can tell it’s HDR, then it’s gratuitous.

2. Think DC. This is a DC contest  run by people who live and work in DC which culminates in a gallery showing in DC. It is not Exposed Baltimore or Exposed NYC, which are both lovely places but not the setting for this contest. Submit photos from the metro DC area, including the VA and MD suburbs.

3. Look at Past Winners. What gets selected for Exposed DC? Lots of gritty pictures of urban life. What doesn’t get selected? Tourist shots of monuments. Not only does looking at past winners provide valuable advice for getting into Exposed DC, they’re a wealth of creative ideas to consider. Look through the photos to find new places to shoot, different techniques and unusual perspectives.

Rose runs

Rose Runs – selected for the 2007 Exposed. I liked the contrast between Rose and the graffiti-covered wall.

4. Trust Your Gut. Put yourself in the position of the judges for a moment. They look through hundreds of photos to select 40 or so for Long View Gallery. What’s going to pop out to them? Well, what pops out to you? What are the photos that you come back to time and time again? They’re the ones you should submit.

5. Join the community. The best part of Exposed DC has been the relationships I’ve made through the contest. I always go to the opening night party. The photographers are all really interesting, generous people. While there are some professionals who shoot full-time, the majority of contest winners are ordinary people with a love of photography. Follow Exposed DC to become a part of this community.

Find three photos, scrape together $10 and submit to Exposed DC! It’s an opportunity to see your work hanging in a gallery and become part of a local, creative event.

 

Seven Coffeeneuring Trips in Washington, DC

Cappuccino at Peregrine on Capitol Hill #coffeeneuring

Perfect cappuccino at Peregrine Espresso on Capitol Hill.

When I first looked into the Coffeeneuring Challenge, I thought to myself: so many rules! You can tell it’s a contest created by a Washingtonian.

But the strictures were good-natured and amusing, a Byzantine level of complexity that obscured a simple idea:

Bike to seven coffee shops over seven weekends from October 5 – November 17.

There’s something about completing a goal, even an arbitrary one, that excites the imagination. It provided motivation to get me out of the house and on my bike. Here’s where I went:

1. Buzz Bakery in Alexandria
Date: October 6
Distance: 17 miles
Drink: Coffee (and a cupcake)
This was  a really pleasant ride on the Mount Vernon Trail. This branch of Buzz Bakery was right off the trail but I had never been there before. That’s what I liked about coffeeneuring – it provided inspiration to visit new places.

2. Big Bear
Date: October 15
Distance: 6 miles
Drink: Coffee
Next stop Hipsterville as I fixed my foldy bike and crossed the city to Big Bear in Bloomingdale. Note: I took advantage of a special proviso of the coffeeneuring rules that allowed weekday adventures by those effected by the government shutdown.

3. Union Market
Date: October 20
Distance: 8 miles
Drink: Cappuccino
I’d never been to Union Market, and followed some crazy Google bike directions to get there.

4. Capital Crescent Trail
Date: November 3
Distance: 18 miles
Drink: A bad cappuccino-like substance
I love the CCT. It’s my favorite trail in the city.

5. Peregrine Espresso
Date: November 10
Distance: 9 miles
Drink: Cappuccino
It was a beautiful day to visit Capitol Hill, and experience the best cappuccino in the city.

6. Illy Cafe
Date: November 16
Distance: 7 miles
Drink: Cappuccino
A hidden spot in the city, I’m a big fan of hanging out at Illy and reading – or writing – a book.

7. Buzz Bakery at the Navy Yard
Date: November 17
Distance: 11 miles
Drink: Coffee (and a cupcake)
I wrapped things up by going to a Buzz Bakery, but this time in the revitalized Navy Yard neighborhood.

What I liked about the Coffeeneuring Challenge is that it gets you in the habit of biking places. And drinking coffee (not that I needed help with that). By combining a fun activity with a goal, it’s a perfect expression of the joy of biking, demonstrating the great time that you can have on two wheels.

 

Coffeeneuring #7: Washington Navy Yard

Destination: Buzz Bakery, Navy Yard, Washington, DC

Total distance: 11 miles

The great thing about biking around a city are the surprises you see along the way. Being on a bike allows you to cover large amounts of ground quickly – but it also lets you stop and check things out, in ways that you couldn’t if you were trapped in  a car.

I was on my way to the Navy Yard for my final coffeeneuring adventure when I noticed that Constitution Avenue was closed along the National Mall. I stopped and asked someone what was going on. A historic Pullman train car was being installed in the African American History Museum. It’s such a large object that the Pullman is going in first and then they’re building the rest of the museum around it, which isn’t scheduled to open until 2015.

Watching the Pullman car get delivered

A historic Pullman train car being hoisted into the under-construction Museum of African American History.

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Coffeeneuring #6: Illy Cafe

Illy cappuccino for #coffeeneuring 6

Cappuccino from Illy Cafe at the Renaissance Dupont.

Everyone has their secret spots, places that they only know about.

For me, it’s Illy Cafe at the Renaissance Dupont at 22nd and M St NW. It’s a hipster-free zone, without  a beard or skinny jean to be seen. There’s also no wifi, so you don’t get laptop campers or deluded grad students.

A beautiful cappuccino is only $3.08 – probably the cheapest in the city.

And for the price you get to hang out in the Renaissance’s spacious lobby. It makes a great place to read a book. Continue reading