Foggy Virginia Morning

Foggy mornings in northern Virginia usually provide excellent opportunities for photography. In late summer, dew drenched grasses and weeds illuminate in the diffused early morning light just before the sun fully breaks. Distant trees appear to float along the horizon like cannonball ravaged sails of pirate ghost ships. Sporting shades of gray driven by distance and moisture, the trees eerily cling to the horizon as if to crawl toward the viewer.

Sunday morning, September 4, I found myself in several such places just south of Purcellville, Virginia. The early morning fog was thick enough to wet otherwise dry hair, bead water on my camera and loosen normally squeaky knobs of a trustworthy tripod. To some, these conditions might spoil weekend morning plans. For some landscape photographers like myself, the thick white air begs for attention.

The painterly effect of fog converts an otherwise sun-soaked scene into one of mystery and allure. As if the sky was forced down to earth, the horizon becomes masked with layers of whites and grays. Mere shapes define the normal landscape features turning them into patterns and hulking masses.

 

 

This photo was taken in the middle of a robust corn field. Recently sold for development, these 50 or so acres are divided by an out of place gravel road, where the camera stood for this brief moment in time. Corn stalks, most breaching the six foot mark, filled the visible space below the horizon. The small gravel road, I assume, was created to permit interested property buyers deep access into the parcel, which is located along Black Oak Road.

Lonely beige corn leaves rests upon the unmarked road, separated from the whorl where it once grew. Limp and withered, the clump resembles fingers that caution the wayward visitor to turn back. A range of rich green hues are capped with yellow and red shaft tassels  While a distant dog made itself known, this desolate place lacks signs of ongoing human activity. The gravel road vanishes to a point, where a natural arch is formed by the distant trees.

 

 

A lonely tree stands guard in the middle of a generous pasture located along Silcott Spring Road in Purcellville, Virginia. The dew drenched grasses were wet enough to reveal the path left by my soaked boots. Soothing and serene define this simple photograph, divided by a hill in one direction, and a young tree in the other.

 

 

In a different section of the same field captured above, the ground in this photo is spotted with puffy seeds of local field grass. Each seed bundle is weighted down, heavy with moisture from fog. Bearing yellow and beige hues, the seeds give pattern to the field as they float above their green leafy counterparts. Combined, they create a quilt that blankets the gentle rolling hills that define this part of Loudoun County. The trail left by now soaked boots can be seen along the far right edge of this photograph.

This morning was rewarding not only in terms of the resulting photos and stories shared, but also the solitary time spent exploring our wonderful county.

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Holly River Camping

Camping in West Virginia is a wholly underrated experience. The state has a bad reputation for a number of reasons that I won't cover in this post. However, over the last number of years I've camped in locations all over the state. It has become apparent that the state is indeed Wild and Wonderful.

While there are many terrific campgrounds in Virginia, Maryland and in the surrounding mid-Atlantic region, they can be over managed and encumbered with rules meant to keep strict order. I've found that camp sites in West Virginia maintain a high regard for the natural setting while encouraging full enjoyment of the environment. Sometimes this can be in the form of relaxed rules or simply friendly park staff. There never seems to be a lack of genuine smiles and helpful pointers. This extends to many of the campers and citizens I've encountered as well. It never ceases to amaze me that the local folks offer a friendly wave and a smile, even with out of state plates on the car.
 

Of the dozen or so campsites I've visited, the natural surroundings are often managed in a way that does not impede upon the experience. There are never too many obnoxious signs, aggressive camp hosts or rules suggesting that one stay on the path. Exploration is always encouraged. These things make camping, and photography, a much more pleasant experience.

The Holly River State Park is beautiful. Encompassing more than 8000 square acres, it is one of the largest parks in the state. The Holly River Campground has an unusual layout. While most campgrounds are somewhat circular in design, this one is linear. Composed of four camping areas, they are arranged along the river itself. In doing so, it maximizes access to the river from as many sites as possible.

The park also features a wide range of natural hiking trails. Ranging in length and difficulty, there is something to offer every type of hiker, and photographer. During this trip, I chose a moderate trail that wend its way along rivers. The brilliant green ground cover glowed making the hike seem like a visit to an enchanted forest. Fallen trees were left in their natural states, other than where they crossed the actual path.

More about this particular campground can be found at this Wiki site: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holly_River_State_Park.

The photograph above was taken next to the campsite where I stayed for two nights. The tripod supported a long exposure of more than half a second. The large boulder in the foreground, combined with the flowing river and arching distant trees, caught my eye. A palette of ocher browns and lime green leaves easily reveal the true feeling of this place. Layer slow moving water blended by time and you can almost hear the birds chirping and the frogs peeping. Need I go on?

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Oatlands Plantation Celebrates

On this day the Oatlands Plantation celebrated the 200th birthday of their greenhouse. Built in 1810, the most advanced materials and techniques of the day were used in its construction. With a glass roof and southern facing glass wall, the facility captures much of the daily sun as it makes its way across the sky. The balance of the building of made of brick. The pipes, attached to the interior brick walls, are connect to the fireplace. The internal system for heating and cooling were balanced by heat from the sun, the fireplace and cool cellar which served as a multi-functional aspect of this building.

The greenhouse is noted as being the second oldest such structure in the country. In its restored state today, it looks much like it did 200 years ago, when it provided produce year round.
 

 

The historic mansion (below) rests a short distance from the greenhouse. A tour of this beautiful historic home provides the feeling of stepping back in time. Plantations can be found all over the state of Virginia, but Oatlands stands out for its grandeur and rich history of early farming. This National Trust location hosts events throughout the year, including the well attended annual horse race know as Point To Point.
 


 

Locations such as this provide a one stop site for producing Virginia photography. With its rich gardens, long covered roads and paths, staff quarters and mansion, the grounds provide something new upon every visit. Oatlands Plantation is a wonderful place for the family to visit and take in local Loudoun history.

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Appalachian Trail Stream in Winter

During a winter shoot along the Appalachian Trail, I captured tree matter frozen in time over a stream. When inspecting the photo later at home, I was surprised by the intricate detail revealed by the low light from the sun. When viewing a large format photograph on the computer, the details are not seen when viewed as full frame. This video provides both the full frame view, while also exposing the details it contains.

The small Photo Story app allows the user to arrange photos on a time line, while zooming in/out of each in a video-like fashion. It was used in producing this brief video.

 

 

Virginia contains nearly one fourth of the entire length of the Appalachian Trail. With 550 miles, it never lacks a rewarding experience. Needless to say, it offers tremendous opportunities for landscape photographers like me.

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Closing Shot in Loudoun Magazine

You can find one of my recent photos in the Summer issue of Loudoun Magazine. The Closing Shot page features "Landing Goose" in full page print. This photo was taken at my friend's property. Joey invited me to explore her Mt. Gilead home and snap landscape imagery that may appeal to me.

After an hour of exploring the property, I heard geese flying overhead. In my usual reaction to such noises, I snatched the camera from the tripod and began searching the skies. I saw two geese coming in for a landing, at the pond next to where I was standing. Having only a few seconds to capture the moment, I frantically began shooting these large birds that were practically falling out of the sky.

The photograph below only depicts one of the two, obviously. Choosing this photo, over dual-geese shots, won out due to composition, clarity and impact. As I've written in previous posts, having the camera ready for anything eventually pays of.

I'd like to thank Loudoun Magazine for their interest in my work.

 

 

Update: The magazine link above now features an online version of the most recent issue.

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Crabtree Falls Hike

Crabtree Falls, located in the George Washington National Forest, is an exhilarating vertical hike. I've been to no other location in Virginia where you can hike next to a water fall of this size. Southwest of Raphine, Virginia, along Highway 81, sits a vast collection of high mountain hills, for lack of a better term. These rises in the earth are not connected as is typically seen in northern Virginia, with our bountiful ridges. Instead the horizon is defined by humps in the earth, with an almost fairytale like quality.

The hike itself is a long series of stairs, platforms and paths around boulders. It requires stamina to make it to the top, not a path for the weak of heart. However, each higher landing offers large amounts of crashing water streaming down the mountain. The mossy smell and spray on your face make this somewhat of an adventure.

The nearby Blue Ridge Parkway is a must see for visitors of this area. This northern most section is filled with spectacular views of those enchanted mountains. In my humble opinion, this is a better motor stroll than Skyline Drive. I learned from a local that The Virginian television show was filmed in these valleys.

This photo was taken about half way up the falls, looking west. Now that the leaves are in full bloom, much of this view is likely obscured. The park asks for small donation, which is well worth it. I even saw an envelope sitting on a pole with coins spilling out. No one touched the pile, it had been there for a while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lots of great info about Crabtree Falls Hike info: www.hikingupward.com/GWNF/CrabtreeFalls

Nearby Devils Backbone Brewery, great food, great suds, great place. dbbrewingcompany.com

How to get to Crabtree Falls:


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Wild Turkey

there may be a turkey in there

 

Yes, the name of this photograph is Wild Turkey. If you turn off the lights and squint, you may actually be able to see one. The real story here relates to the challenges of outdoor photography. Often while closely focusing on a subject, landscapes in my case, several minutes can pass while preparing and concentrating. It seems that when least expected, some sort of wildlife will pop out unannounced. The alleged wild turkey in question made itself known with loud gobbles while crashing through leaves.

Both surprise and excitement causes the camera to fly off the tripod and wildly point in a direction of more immediacy. With this photo, you are able to see the process visually. I burst out in laughter while reviewing it later on the computer and felt compelled to aptly, but abstractly, named the image accordingly. Every once and while, an interesting photo is taken, even if the intended subject is no where to be seen. This Wild Turkey photo instead reveals a pleasing painterly feel with soft green overcast and stripes of trees in motion. I'd call this one experimental.

While hiking to places of interest, I've learned to keep my camera at the ready; lens cap off, camera on and everything thing else on my back. This way I'm always prepared to catch that surprised deer or sneaky fox. Wildlife does not play a major part in what I exhibit, but I certainly like the challenge of capturing a unique moment. Being prepared has paid off, but this was learned after countless missed opportunities in capturing deer flying over fences. Here in northern Virginia, this is not a rare occurrence. The Loudoun landscape is filled with deer just waiting to flee your presence.

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Meet the Artist event

On Saturday, June 18, I will be speaking at Loudoun County's Cascades Library during their Meet the Artist event. I will be showing examples of my landscape photography and discussing the stories behind them. The event begins at 2 pm.

Follow this library link to learn more: engagedpatrons.org/EventsExtended.cfm?SiteID=6457&EventID=88099.

Much of my work not only focuses on Loudoun's natural beauty, but also its historic places, farms and hiking trails. Loudoun offers a rich history dating back to the early 1700's. George Washington is credited with surveying early Loudoun and is responsible for mapping out natural boarders and landmarks. He is also known to have owned various places of businesses here in Loudoun following his initial explorations.

Another angle to my work focuses on preservation. Over the last eight years, I've captured vistas, barns and farms. Many of the places depicted in my photos no longer exist. They have either been replaced with neighborhoods or simply torn down for safety reasons. Some of the images shown during my discussion will focus on these places.

As always, I welcome audience interaction as part of my discussion. I hope to learn something myself from those who attend. No reservations required, just show up. I look forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks!

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Photo to appear in Loudoun Magazine

One of my photographs will be published full page in the summer 2011 edition of Loudoun Magazine. It is expected to be printed on the last inside page. Shot in April, the owner of the Mt. Gilead, Virginia property invited me to shoot their lovely location.

While there, a pair of geese landed in the pond where I was standing. What a stroke of luck! While the second goose is not visible in this particular photograph, it made quite an entrance. It actually landed on the back of the first before finding its own place in the pond. I'll withhold posting the photo until it appears in the printed magazine.

Canadian Geese are a transitory part of Loudoun County. We tend to see them in spring and fall as they travel between Canada and more southerly routes. Their breeding patterns, and fondness of temperate climates, have them traveling thousands of miles in the name of preservation and comfort.

Dressed in black and gray feathers, they are easy to identify. They often stand out in contrast to Loudoun's emerald green backdrops. Unlike many other animals seen in Loudoun County, these ones often announce their presence, well before being seen. You can hear them approaching from a great distance away before actually seeing them. They tend to honk loudly as they glide across the sky at nearly 100 feet above the ground.

Update: the magazine has been published and is now available on newsstands. The link above leads to the online version, which shows the photo near the last inside page.

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Camping at Big Bend in West Virginia

This weekend I went camping with a neighbor in West Virginia. The Big Bend Campground is located inside of a huge river loop, and is surrounded by a 2200 foot high ridge. This ridge wrapped around the campground nearly 270 degrees. As part of the Spruce Knob – Seneca Rocks Recreational Area, this site offers a wide surrounding river with a looping hiking trail. The caretakers were splendid people and they lived on-site, year round, for the past eight years.

Being that the mid-Atlantic region has received more rain than normal, the river was high and filled with debris that  washed down from the mountains. Many parts of the river had long stretched islands, often covered with trees blanketed by colorful spring flowers. Recent high water revealed down-washed debris that could be seen stacked against trees, sometimes five feet high. The campsite offers canoeing and kayaking for campers.

The rock faces, integral to this particular ridge, were mighty. Located within the Smoke Hole Canyon, the ominous and meandering mountain featured walls of the earth's crust crumpled by time and geological pressure. Constant streams of rocks and boulders fallen over time could be seen at every turn. This is no ridge at rest.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Website:

www.reserveamerica.com/camping/Big_Bend_Wv/r/campgroundDetails.do?contractCode=NRSO&parkId=70235

 

Map:


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