Saturday, January 26, 2013

Touched by a Kiss of Heaven

The Inauguration is over, I am back to work out in the office at Manassas, and school has officially begun again, so overall things are back to normal! This semester I am only taking one class, which will hopefully make life a little easier while also helping us save some money to try and replace my truck with a more reliable and less needing-to-be-fixed-all-the-time vehicle.

My class this semester is on the Civil War Era, which I am particularly excited about since it is both the era of history I am most interested in while simultaneously being exceedingly relevant to my job.

On Thursday morning we awoke to find that the first snow of 2013 was falling. Neither Alison nor I have actually been in Northern Virginia when it was snowing since January of 2010 (I got snow in Shenandoah, but we missed the little snow that came last year while we were on our honeymoon). It wasn't much snow, but it was enough to make it a bit challenging to get to work, while also leaving a thin blanket of white over everything.

We had never seen our neighborhood with snow before, so it was especially fun to drive and walk through it. I had never viewed the Manassas Battlefield with snow either, so when I got to work I went out and took some pictures. It was a magical setting that looked as though the battlefield had been touched by a kiss of Heaven.
You can find more pictures in my album of the Snow Covered Fields of Manassas

Friday, January 25, 2013

Inaugurating a President

On Monday, January 21 Barack Obama was re-inauagurated as the 44th President of the United States. As a result of the work that we have done for the Civil War Sesquicentennial commemorative events my team was asked to come to Washington to serve the same purpose for the 57th Presidential Inauguration. I worked on a few projects ahead of time in the weeks leading up the main event including designing a commemorative button. It was fun to see all the people wearing that button out on the Mall on Monday!

On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial 
For the week immediately preceding the Inauguration we worked out of the headquarters of the National Capitol Region in DC so that we could more easily access the Mall. It was the first time that I had been back on the Mall in an official capacity since I concluded my time there in December of 2010. It was fun to be back, especially as a photographer. I got to wonder around and talk to people while taking pictures of the preparation for the Inauguration. Not a bad gig! We also made a series of quick informative videos to help people know what to expect when they got to the Mall. They were done with an I-phone and are not good quality, but it was still fun. These four featured me as the voice of the Park Service.  

Video 1

Video 2

Video 3

Video 4

I also made a cameo in two additional videos.
The first was a Video on Recycling and the second discussed Remaining on the Mall after the Inauguration.

Me with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar 

By far the most exciting part of my job in the days leading up to the Inauguration came on Saturday, January 19. The President had declared a National Day of Service on that day in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Projects were done around the country including on the National Mall. One of those projects was to lay out new mulch at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Since it was happening in DC and had such clear connections to the reason for the event, the Superintendent of the National Mall came out to make an appearance. He was joined by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. If you don't know, he is second only to the President himself as my ultimate  boss, which made having the chance to photograph him especially exciting. When he arrived at the memorial I happened to see him getting out of the SUV and was closer than anyone else so took it upon myself to approach and welcome him. I shook his hand and spoke to him briefly just before one of my colleagues  snapped the picture above.

On Inauguration Day I arrived on the Mall before sunrise and captured several pictures of the Capitol as the sun was rising. 
It was unclear exactly where I would be able to get to during the event since it was actually being run by the White House and controlled by the Secret Service. But between my uniform and my special credential I managed to get all the way up to third street, which marks the official transition between the National Mall and the grounds of the Capitol. There were a lot of special moments that I observed throughout the day, but my favorites all involved the American flag. Here are a few of them.  
A 2013 Flag is raised as Jimmy Carter arrives 

I also got several shots of rangers out on the Mall including these two. The first depicts the head of communications for the Inauguration (my direct boss for the event) with the Director of the National Capitol Region of the Park Service (fourth down in my personal chain of command-- from the President to the Secretary of the Interior to the Director of the National Park Service to the Director of the National Capitol Region). The second depicts the Regional Director and the Superintendent of the National Mall as they watched the swearing in ceremony.  
In the early morning hours I had scouted out a route to allow me to get from the National Mall to the Inaugural Parade on Pennsylvania Avenue and was successful in making the transition between the two despite the crowds. It is amazing what you can get away with if you act like you are supposed to be doing it!  I was the only one on our team to make it into the parade, which gave me a unique opportunity to get some fun pictures.

It was a parade unlike any I have ever seen. Law Enforcement Officers from around the country lined both sides of the street along the entire parade route to ensure security.

Flags hung from every lamp post and from many of the buildings.

People were out on the rooftops of many of the surrounding buildings. These viewers were not alone. They were joined by Secret Service agents with huge binoculars and sniper rifles on the roofs of nearly every building on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Without question the most exciting photographic opportunity of my Park Service career came during the parade. I happened to have positioned myself along the three block section in which the President got out of his limo and walked down the street. There were vehicles and Secret Service agents all around him, I had to shoot between the law enforcement officers in front of me, and he kept looking the wrong way, so it was quite challenging to get pictures. Even so I ended up with a few decent ones.

My Mom actually saw me taking pictures of the POTUS during the CBS coverage of the parade.

It was easier to get the Vice President as the security was much less oppressive.

It was a very special day, which will rank amongst the most memorable in my Park Service career. It was especially fun because it happened on Martin Luther King Day, exactly three years after I so memorably ended up giving a special program on Dr. King to More than 500 People at the Lincoln Memorial.

For more of images from the Inauguration take a look at this album of My Inauguration Pictures.

You can also find many of my pictures featured on the National Mall Facebook Page.

My images are featured most prominently in the album of the Inaugural Parade (since I was the only one on the parade route), but you will also find them in the albums of People Arriving on the Mall and of the Swearing-In Ceremony itself.
The Inauguration Web and Social Media Team

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Three states: Six plane flights: Christmas Adventure in the West

On Monday my wife celebrates her 27th birthday. One week after that we celebrate our first anniversary as a married couple! This year has gone by quickly despite its many changes and adjustments. Even as we have forged our own new life here in Virginia, one thing that hasn’t changed is that we both wish that we lived closer to the rest of our families in the western United States.

Last year we were not able to spend time with either of our families with the wedding coming so close on the heels of the holidays. This year we sought to make up for it by visiting both families in a two week excursion across the country.

The journey began in Arizona where we ate lots of tasty food, hiked in the mountain preserves, played games, and packed as much as possible into the few days we had. We managed to fit in a trip to Kristen (my sister) and Corey’s house in Prescott, complete with venison stew and a walk down to the light display in the square. The next day we visited both ranches to meet our new cousin once removed and see everyone there. We also met up with one of my best friends from high school and his family to continue a long standing Christmas tradition of playing games together.
Corey Playing "Just Dance" on the wii

Playing Stone Age

Scenes from "Les Mis"
We additionally managed to see both “The Hobbit” and “Les Miserables” while we were in Arizona, which were each excellent adaptations of two of my favorite stories.  

Inspired by these films we recreated scenes from the latter in our family Christmas picture in front of the tree. We then took the hobbits to Isengard and engaged in general silliness before departing from Arizona and heading to Colorado to meet the newest member of the family, Noah Robert Zigler, born to Alison’s sister Melanie and her husband on 12/20/2012.

Taking the Hobbits to Isengard!
In sharp contrast to me, who looks as though I had just gotten out of bed in this picture (I had),  Alison dressed to match her new nephew with a special shirt she had designed for the occasion.

Our original Christmas plans were modified when we found out Stanford was going to the Rose Bowl.

Rather than remaining in Colorado for New Years, Alison, her Dad, and I flew to California and joined her uncles, aunt, and cousin in LA. We spent our New Years Day following Stanford around the region. We took the metro (who knew LA even had a metro?!) from our hotel to Pasadena where we arrived just in time to watch the Rose Bowl Parade. The experience was made more exciting since Alison’s uncle actually marched with the Stanford Band in the parade. I climbed up a tree just before they passed our viewpoint and spotted him marching by.
Uncle Sandy with the Stanford band

Entering the tailgate party
We then wound our way through the city to the Rose Bowl Stadium where we found the Stanford tailgate party and lots of tasty food!

Enjoying "It's Its" at the tailgate party

Our seats were only three rows from the bottom, so it felt like we were practically on the field. This actually made it challenging to follow the game, but positioned us quite well for the explosion of confetti following Stanford’s victory.

It was quite a unique experience and an excellent first direct exposure to Stanford Football for me!

When we arrived back in Denver we connected with one last element of the family when we were picked up at the airport by my cousin and his wife. After enjoying dinner with them, we managed to fit nearly everything into our bags before heading back home the next morning.

It was a busy two weeks, but a very memorable chance to share a wide variety of Christmas memories with our families in the final days of our first year of marriage. :)

To see more pictures check out: