The official photo blog of J. David Buerk Photography.

Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2014: China and Kenya

After last weekend's hike on a short stretch of Shenandoah's Appalachian Trail, I had intended on visiting the Smithsonian's Folklife Festival the next day, which I attend every year.  That simply didn't happen, so instead I went the day after Independence Day - the festival doesn't run on weekdays.

This year was all about China and Kenya.  The Folklife Festival is never as big as it looks, so you can easily see everything in one day; it always brings a good crowd, although I was surprised there weren't more people visiting, given the long holiday weekend, and fireworks the night before.

For fun trips, I usually like to have a bit of fun with my shooting as well - usually I choose one lens, and shoot the whole day with it.  It's a good exercise for beginner and seasoned photographers alike, because it continually teaches and reinforces how to make compelling images with any lens.  This way, you also don't rely on the versatility of zoom - a prime lens forces the photographer to find a way to tell the story within one set focal length.  I tend to prefer longer lenses, because I like to isolate subjects and bring out details, sometimes only showing part of something, and leaving the mind to figure the rest out.  My converted Lubitel 75mm is perfect for this sort of thing, however this trip I opted for another oddball lens I own: Canon's Tilt-Shift 90mm f/2.8 - another fully manual lens.  Tilt-shift has become somewhat of a gimmick with the popularity of Instagram effects, but since I'm using an actual tilt-shift lens and not just faking the effect, I feel no shame in making tilt-shift images.  #TiltShiftAllTheThings


This man is handmaking tiny kites shaped like birds and butterflies.  Some kites have small whistles that sounds in the wind, carved out of nuts.  Two kite demonstrations were scheduled - I was very excited to see them... but nobody showed up to fly them!  I was VERY disappointed.

Lushengs were also being made, and available for sale.  Later there was a lusheng and dance performance, of which I actually took some tilt-shift video.

Ascendance: Summer of 2014

Visitors were also treated to a traditional Dragon Dance - this one was different than the Dragon Dance I photographed at Air China's Dulles Inaugural.


There was also a Dragon Cart, although I missed the first half of the performance and didn't have a very good view.  I imagine it's a huge hit with the kids, possibly even scary to younger children.  The incredible skill of the operators prevents the cart's ropes from becoming tangled in this cart that equates to an oversized marionette.



I spent almost as much time exploring Kenya, however I didn't shoot nearly as many photos since I didn't watch any performances (I listened while eating).

Artisans sculpted bas reliefs and carved wood and stone figures right before your eyes.  I wanted to go into the Marketplace and buy a friend of mine an elephant figurine, but it had an extremely long line just to be let in the building - I didn't know shopping for folk items was anything like going clubbing.  I don't remember the marketplace being its own enclosed building in years past; it seems to me it would make more sense as an open air market.

Ascendance: Summer of 2014

I was glad to see the recycling exhibit, showcasing innovative use of raw recyclables, including bottles, cans, and even discarded shoes fashioned into art pieces.

Just a few extra shots before heading back to Virginia.

Theodore Roosevelt Island

Seeing as we had the rest of the afternoon, Teddy Roosevelt Island seemed like a great option, especially since I'd never been before.  So, after leaving DC and popping up in Rosslyn, I stepped right back into DC by going to the Island (it technically is in Washington, DC due to the Virginia / DC line following the Virginia side of the Potomac.

Ascendance: Summer of 2014

Unfortunately, the first thing we did was get lost... somehow we ended up on what remains of the original perimeter trail, which is mostly just a mix of deer trails.  We followed the shoreline for about 1/3 of the island - I didn't know we had an obnoxiously loud pirate themed party boat... upon which nobody seemed to actually be partying.  Everyone looked bored and distracted on their phones while the music blasted.  WTF?

I finally decided to hop the remains of the "trail" when it pretty much disappeared, and just cut up to the actual trail, which was boardwalk when I finally came up to it.

The memorial itself has wise quotes from Teddy... words I think that have been forgotten by the masses, and ignored by the teens under the statue blasting "Gangster's Paradise."


Finally it was back to Rosslyn to catch the train home ...but not before some photos of the Arlington skyline disallowed in DC.