Everyone probably has a favorite place to visit. One of my top local places is a scenic valley astride Virginia Route 8 headed northwest toward Floyd, Virginia in the Blue Ridge Mountains. As you drive along the highway and crest a steep hill, a panoramic view presents itself looking west towards high ridges of the mountains, with a nice farmstead sitting in the midst of a beautiful (and productive in season) apple and peach orchard. I hardly go that way in winter due to the cold weather, ice and snow but in the Spring, Summer and Fall it’s grand to photograph. This year was the first for me in Spring and the day I was there recently I was treated with the sight of blooming trees, nice sun and clouds, and lots of mountain views. The only downside to this is the fact it’s not a simple matter to pull off the road to safely make photos; having to drive up a steep dirt farm road, park, and then carefully back down onto the main highway, watching for oncoming traffic of course. It’s definitely worth the risk in exchange for some nice photographic memories.
As we near the Easter holiday, I wanted to post these photos of an old church I found yesterday in Floyd, Virginia, in the midst of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s adjacent to the main highway into this small, scenic and historic town, and I have passed it many times before now without noticing. This time I saw it on the way into town, and on the way back out I pulled off the road and made my photos. The lesson learned for me is that no matter how many times you think you are paying attention to what’s around you, the more you are often surprised by what you fail to see. From the condition of the church, it’s obvious to me that it’s been unused for many years, but when it was a regular place of worship for many local residents I am sure it was a much more vibrant building.
I made the first photo out of one of the upper level windows in our home as it was raining fairly hard outside. I liked the way the rain drops were forming on newly opened tree buds, soon to turn into nice green leaves. After the rain stopped, I went out in the front yard and took the last two shots of small, but very beautiful, Grape Hyacinth flowers which pretty much grow wild all over our yard at this time of year. The ones seen here are underneath our street-side mailbox, in the middle of a smooth, colorful river-rock garden. I wanted to capture the wet, smooth appearance of the rocks in the background behind the purple flowers, each flower bunch being about 1-2 inch high. To get that look, I used my telephoto lens and stood far enough back to keep the flowers in sharp focus, and to make the background blurred. In photography circles, that effect is called “bokeh”, from the Japanese word “boke” which means blur. It’s pronounced as follows: Bo (as in bow), Ke (as in the first part of kettle). Pronounced as two separate words, “Bo Ke.” So now you’ve learned some photo community trivia.
Old farm structures such as this are like a magnet to me when I have my camera. I’d photographed this old storage barn before, but when I saw it recently I noticed that the metal roofed shed on one side had fallen down, on top of what I was really wanting to make an image of — an old horse-drawn farm wagon. But, I still got a photo which as it turned out, was not that bad.
I am not what one might refer to as a “horse person” but I do enjoy making photographs of them when I find them, and can get near enough to make the images interesting. There is a large horse farm near Winston-Salem, NC which I often pass by and from time to time I’ll stop while driving past to see if there are any nice photo opportunities. I especially like the first image because it represents to me a peaceful setting with the grazing horses — a scene which one might use as the basis for a painting. I wanted to add a couple of close-ups as well so as to better tell my photo story.
I went out on a brief photo trip locally to specifically find and photograph Bradford Pear Trees, which in this area of the Piedmont Region of Virginia and North Carolina are mostly in full bloom. That period sadly is all too brief it seems to me. Many people do not like the smell of the blossoms, but to me that pungent odor signals it’s time to get the camera out. In short, I was lucky because I was able to find many trees to photograph and some were in very nice surroundings which made the images more interesting. I hope you enjoy seeing these beautiful flowering trees as much as I did in finding them.
One type of home I love to photograph are those with a Victorian style design architecture, popular in the late 19th and early 20th Century. The name “Victorian” refers to the reign of Britain’s Queen Victoria (1837–1901), called the Victorian era, during which period the styles known as Victorian were used in construction. Not only did the design include all sorts of colorful windows, peaked roofing, and intricate trim designs and scrollwork. but entrances to the home and yard often included cast iron fencing with its own unique design, crouching concrete lions, and large bells. In those times people spent a lot of time on their front porches watching sidewalk passers-by, and inviting friends to enter their front fence gate and come sit for a spell. I bet many a young boy’s pants were ripped when trying to climb over those type metal fences rather than using the gate! Today, one hardly ever sees anyone sitting on their front porch, assuming their home even has one that is functional in that regard. Many young people today probably would as, “What’s a sidewalk?”
Even though the weather does not always feel like Spring, what we see around us confirms that it’s here. Blooming flowers attest to that, and it’s always a pleasure to record with my camera this beauty. When I make photos of flowers, I like to get as close as possible, position my camera approximately at the same level as the flowers, compose the scene in the most interesting manner with no undue distractions present, and especially have the main subject in focus. So, with that in mind, go out and find your own “Spring flowers.”
One of the most important aspects of making photos I’ve learned is to put yourself in a position such that the composition resulting becomes the most interesting. This can be especially true when using a telephoto lens. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. The first photo of the church spire is fine by itself, but when I looked at the result on my camera’s LCD, I decided it was sort of “ho-hum.” So, I moved (zoomed out) about 20 feet to my rear, so that the top portion of the spire could be included in my composition along with the flowering Bradford Pear tree in the foreground. You decide for yourself, but in my opinion the latter image is much more interesting.