Spring… I think it’s finally here!

I took this photo this afternoon after seeing little sprouts of green the last few days… After all the harsh weather we’ve had, this is a welcome change.

I have lots of exciting news to report as Spring is off to what appears to be a great start!  The weather has been warming after months of extreme, chilly cold and more-than-drafty winds, with the occasional snowstorm making an unwelcome appearance.  Well, unwelcome, at least, to me.  It is with this change to temps in the 60s and 70s that I am eager and hopeful for a season filled with healthy flowers to focus on and shoot, as well as a brighter scene to get out of the winter muck.  Green is my favorite color (but, you know this), so it’s nice to see it come back.

Luckily (on the same subject as “green”!), I was due a tax refund this year, and – perhaps more luckily – it was better than I had originally expected!  As such, I was able to purchase my Nikon D7100 just in time for my trip last weekend to Kearney, Nebraska, to meet my friend Laura to photograph the migration of Sandhill Cranes stopping by the area to feed and bulk up for their mating and breeding season.  I took just over a thousand photos, but due to the incredibly frenetic weather and not having the proper equipment and know-how, many did not turn out.  However, I think I have a few usable ones, but between hundreds of field and flight shots, I’m struggling to find the best few to share; when I do, I’ll post them here.

Another weight was lifted yesterday when I was able to make my final payment for my Europe trip this July a couple months ahead of time.  Normally for these group tours, I would make a couple of large payments and call it good.  This time around, however, I wanted to feel the pain of having monthly payments, as that’s kind of what life is – a series of payments, whether it is financially, emotionally or otherwise.  And, because of this method of paying off my trip, I realized just how expensive it was and how much I need to be present on the trip so I can make it worth my time and money.  With the company I’m expecting to have around, as well as the gorgeous scenery and historic sites in Athens, Rome, Barcelona and Morocco, I’m sure I will.

I wish you all a wonderful Spring season, as well as lots of wonderful things to observe, enjoy, write and photograph!

Luke

Washington, D.C. – Day Two – National Mall & Smithsonian Museums

After watching egregious amounts of back episodes of Barefoot Contessa and Pioneer Woman, and spending a good half of my weekend cleaning my living space and watching The Wolf of Wall Street (OMG, the debauchery!!), I’m just now getting around to continuing my blog posts from my trip last month to Washington, D.C.  I’m headed to Nebraska this weekend to meet my friend, Laura, for Sandhill Crane sightings, country road photography, and all-around fun.  Her birthday is Thursday, and I found a birdy gift I think she’ll just love!

Formalities out of the way, let’s get back to the main point of this post:  Mister “Macho Traveler” thinks he knows where he’s going, and ends up making an accidental trip into the wrong museum, but it ends up working out A-OK.

With rain pouring from the sky at a rather alarming rate after lunch at Good Stuff Eatery, I left my aunt back at The Library and took the short metro ride over to the Smithsonian/National Mall.  By the time I got off the train, the rain had turned to a light mist (D.C. weather is about as weird as weather in Southwest Kansas, which is saying something).  I photographed the Capitol and Washington Monument from afar with the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone before making my way to the “National Gallery of Art.”

The U.S. Capitol building and Smithsonian Castle.

The U.S. Capitol building and Smithsonian Castle.

The Washington Monument, still being "dealt with" after being damaged during the 2011 earthquake that struck the area.

The Washington Monument, still being “dealt with” after being damaged during the 2011 earthquake that struck the area.

I say it this way because I honed in on a domed building on the Mall, walked up the stairs and – instead of seeing banners of renaissance art – saw pennants with butterflies and other natural creates.  “WTF?!” I thought to myself.  It turns out I’d arrived at the National Museum of Natural History, not the National Gallery of Art like I’d expected to spend a leisurely afternoon at.  Apparently disoriented (I mean, seriously?!) and short on time, I decided to go for it and snap some pics (I remembered there was an elephant and a dinosaur or two from a childhood visit).  Turns out this was a good move, as a major part of the museum is slated to close later next month for a $48 million, 5-year renovation.  I guess I’m glad I got to see them while I was still somewhat young!!

The entrance to *a museum on the Mall*, also known as the National Museum of Natural History.  Or so I've been led to believe...

The entrance to *a museum on the Mall*, also known as the National Museum of Natural History. Or so I’ve been led to believe…

Elephant display at the Natural History Museum.  How dramatic!!

Elephant display at the Natural History Museum. How dramatic!!

Dinosaurs, Oh My!!

Dinosaurs, Oh My!!

"I am Lion, HEAR ME ROAR!"

“I am Lion, HEAR ME ROAR!”

I couldn't *not* get a photo of the Hope Diamond, now could I?!

I couldn’t *not* get a photo of the Hope Diamond, now could I?!

Does anyone else find this ironic??

Does anyone else find this ironic??

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From Where I Stand:  Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History.

From Where I Stand: Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History.

After a brief jaunt through the museum, I headed outside, met by a rainless sky and a Stomp-like performer’s music.  I decided to slowly make my way east on the Mall towards the Capitol building on the way to my aunt’s office and the end of my day in the city.  In a way, I did get to visit the National Gallery of Art.  It turns out the two are very close (let the rationalization begin…), and I made the time to walk through the Sculpture Garden, which I hadn’t done in the past.  The sculptures were quite fascinating, and I took Hipsta shots of my favorites and have posted them below.

Roxy Paine's "Graft" • National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

Roxy Paine’s “Graft” • National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

Alexander Calder's "Cheval Rouge (Red Horse)" • National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

Alexander Calder’s “Cheval Rouge (Red Horse)” • National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

Hector Guimard's "An Entrance to the Paris Métropolitain" • • National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Naturally, as a Francophile and lover of these Metro entrances in Paris, I freaked out.  Just a bit, though.

Hector Guimard’s “An Entrance to the Paris Métropolitain” • • National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden
Naturally, as a Francophile and lover of these Metro entrances in Paris, I freaked out. Just a bit, though.

Louise Bourgeois' "Spider" • National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

Louise Bourgeois’ “Spider” • National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen's "Typewriter Eraser, Scale X" • National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s “Typewriter Eraser, Scale X” • National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

Ice Rink!!  Too bad no one was on it - can you imagine how many awesome photographs I could have gotten?!!  Oh well...

Ice Rink!! Too bad no one was on it – can you imagine how many awesome photographs I could have gotten?!! Oh well…

Robert Indiana's "AMOR" • National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

Robert Indiana’s “AMOR” • National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

Stay tuned for the final posts (you didn’t think the time would come, did you?) from my trip to D.C.!

My Life-Pausing Trip to Washington, D.C.: An Introduction

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I just came back from a wonderful long weekend and transformative experience in Washington, D.C., visiting family and enjoying the Travel & Adventure Show at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Unlike most trips, this was an impulsive one without a great deal of planning and analyzing (normally I go nuts over every little detail, due in no small part to my obsessive-compulsive and perfectionist tendencies).  Like most trips, though, I felt anxious and worried 1-2 days ahead of the trip, thinking, “What the hell was I thinking?!”  This is not an uncommon thought, believe it or not!!  It’s weird that I still get cold feet (having a limited travel budget and time off from work does that to a person), but I guess I’ll chalk it up as another of my rather unique, err, “quirks.”  The short time period (I was flying in late Thursday evening and coming home first thing Monday morning) and my uncertainties about enjoying the travel expo – especially since I was going by myself – sent doubting thoughts creeping into my brain.

Upon the eve of my departure, after attending the second day of the show and spending time with my family, it became clear that I was meant to go on this trip.  Where I’d normally hug my backpack close to my body on the Metro or on the streets, I felt free and secure; where I’d normally have every little thing accounted for on a schedule and detailed itinerary, I went with the flow and realized that “mistakes” – like walking into the wrong museum – can color your experience and make for fun surprises!

I think the expo and listening to, meeting and talking with the speakers (Rick Steves, Samantha Brown, Pauline Frommer, Andrew McCarthy & Don Wildman) gave me clarity that travel is where I should be, that it is what I should be doing, saving and sacrificing for.  I say often that I want to spend less on material “stuffs” and use that money toward travel.  In reality, I just haven’t done that.  But, due in part to the newfound clarity I was awakened to through being completely enthralled and inspired by the travel speakers, as well as feeling confident and comfortable in my travels throughout the city, I’ve decided that I don’t need to have the fanciest apartment or the newest car – travel is life, and life is what I want, not “stuff” that I’ll forget about years from now…

I believe this trip/experience also gave me confidence.  It wouldn’t have been shocking for me to want to meet and get autographs from famous people, but actually doing it freaks me out.  After each encounter at the travel show, however, anxiety gave way to excitement.  What helped was the realization that they, too, are just normal people who, like me, love to travel.

Upon further reflection and discussion of the trip with friends and coworkers, I’m a bit floored that it felt so life-changing.  Andrew McCarthy, one of the speakers, said travel is transformative, powerful and emotional, and that “[Travel] matters.  This is important.  It is the impetus beneath everything.”  This trip was just that and really encouraged me want to pursue travel as more than just a hobby and thing I like to do, compelling me to blog, write and photograph until I can be up on that stage sharing my stories, experiences and travels with the world.  One of my coworker friends said she hasn’t seen me this excited in quite a long time!  We’ll see how it goes…  🙂

**Stay tuned for in-depth posts on my experiences in D.C., including the Travel & Adventure Show!

Snow & Rings

Snow & Rings by Luke A. Bunker
Snow & Rings, a photo by Luke A. Bunker on Flickr.

Today was my friends’ anniversary, so they asked if I could take a few photos of them. I’m without a DSLR at the moment (gasp!) and normally say “no” to those types of requests, but I felt called and at ease to do it and I’m so glad I did! They are a great couple and we got some great photos with the snow that is still sticking around (with more on the way. Yay.). Happy Anniversary to Brady & Cara!

Tonight’s Dinner

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Organic Penne Pasta with Garlic Alfredo, Chicken, Peas, Organic Red Pepper Flakes, Fresh-Ground Black Pepper and Fresh-Grated Romano. Yum!

I have really enjoyed cooking more at home lately. Not only am I saving money, but I have more control over what is in the food I choose to put in my body.

Nuremberg Flowers

Nuremberg Flowers

Just a pretty picture of FLOWERS to end your Saturday evening! I finally culled through, edited and processed a batch of photos I took during the summer of 2012 during a day visit to Nuremberg, Germany. The contrast of seeing the Nazi Party Rally Grounds earlier in the morning with the sight of these (and many other) gorgeous flowers above the town at the Nuremberg Castle was quite something.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Arbeit Macht Frei:  "Work Makes (You) Free"

Arbeit Macht Frei: “Work Makes (You) Free”

Arbeit Macht Frei…  “Work Makes (You) Free”

Visiting the Dachau Concentration Camp a year and a half ago in June 2012 was a humbling and, I’ll admit, slightly anger-inducing visit.  The deception that occurred during the Holocaust (clear in the phrase in the entrance gate, as shown above) was rampant, and it was harrowing to be in a place where senseless violence occurred – a sacred ground and the ultimate resting place of many.  Thousands of innocent people died there.  You talk about “seeing history” when you travel, but when you connect to it, that’s something altogether different.

It’s difficult to imagine that something like this could happen today, but if you think about it, it is happening, in places like Darfur, Syria and Somalia.  And, to think that it was only about 70-75 years ago that the Holocaust happened is just disturbing.  That is not a long time ago, and we have a duty to do what we can to stop this from happening again.  We say Never Forget, and we have to remember that.

A little over a year ago, I posted (again briefly) about my experience at Dachau, proving that life does indeed find ways to flourish in a place of tragedy.  I wanted to mark the International Holocaust Remembrance Day by sharing this photo.