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Appalachian Trail in Fall

Hiking along the Appalachian Trail in fall often produces wonderful photography. Couple the hike with a rocky foreground and sunlight streaking the sky with brilliant rays and you have the makings of a pleasant Virginia afternoon. This photograph also shows distant pastures spotted with sunlight that managed to slip through the heavy clouds on this day.

This western facing overview is located near the Blackburn hikers hostel in Loudoun County, Virginia. After reaching the mountain top above the cabin, this particular spot can be found about one mile north along the Trail. Due to the ever changing weather along the Blue Ridge Mountains, this view is subject to change every few minutes. Often the sky here is filled with soaring Turkey Vultures, which are always a pleasure to watch.

Being a lover of beautiful landscapes, this photographer visits here often. I've come to appreciate the few generous views that the northern Virginia mountains offer. Both sides of the ridge tend to be covered with thick, young trees that hinder such terrific views.

 A rocky overlook along the Appalachian Trail in Clarke County, VA.

 

As the locals know, Loudoun County, Virginia has been inundated with stink bugs over the last year. The rocks and boulders in the foreground were covered with these insects on this day. It was difficult to simply walk on them without crushing one of these small, smelly creatures. As a photographer, I strive to leave a location untouched, including the sparing of bugs. I won't pick the vegetation, tear down branches or change the living environment to suit my photography needs. I will, however, move something around to get  better shot.

The Blackburn cabin offers through hikers a place to stay for the night as they journey along the east coast. Aside from the main lodge, this hostel also features several small cabins and a place for tent camping. On a clear day, visitors are treated to views of the Washington Monument from the front lawn. This is also a fine place to simply sit in a chair and ponder.

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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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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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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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