The absolute best time to visit cities is, for me, on a weekend when there are lots of parking spaces and just enough “folks” to make it interesting. I always find interesting things of which to point my camera; each time I’m there seeing it all in new perspectives. Telling a story with as few words through photography is typically my objective. Such as …
Category Archives: People
It’s not a big backyard garden, and it’s certainly not one free of spring and summertime challenges; but, it’s unique in that it is the focus of our neighbor Al’s passionate work many days during the planting, growing and harvesting seasons. Al has taught high school Algebra and other math related subjects for almost 40 years in Virginia and North Carolina, so during the summer he has lots of time to spend with his garden, and fishing when the mood strikes. He’s from near Richmond, Virginia and is a Hokie (Graduate of Virginia Tech). His wife Nancy holds a degree from the University of Virginia. We could not have a nicer couple as our next door neighbors.
This is Al–bit dirty and sweaty but that’s the way is is with a dedicated backyard gardener. Several years ago he asked me if we had any problem with him plowing up a portion of his yard adjacent to ours in order to make a garden. He said he was concerned that drainage might be a problem when it rained hard. Having spent my professional career in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers I assured Al it would not be a problem. He said “his” garden would be “our” garden in relation to being able to share a portion of the summertime harvest of such things as tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, beans, squash, lettuce, potatoes and mostly Blueberries which grow profusely in a row of large bushes along one side of the garden nearest our house. I helped him and his son put up the wire fence and posts around the garden, in order to keep the local deer herd and other pesky critters from sharing the bounty.
Al’s not afraid to experiment, such as with his grape arbor shown below. He has grapes galore as you can see here, but soon he’ll begin a battle with birds to see who can get the ripe ones first. Same deal with the blueberries. Squirrels are an especially happy customer of Al’s backyard garden.
Besides being passionate about his garden, he spends a lot of time with other handyman backyard yard projects. His bird bath and flower arrangement looks great and he maintains several Blue Bird houses around his yard that are annual home to several loyal residents. Blue Birds can do wonders keeping insect pests under control.
I have to admit to chuckling from time to time during the summer as I watch Al battle weeds, critters, the heat and humidity, plus the need to pick and eat all he grows. I tried my hand several years in our backyard growing simple vegetables, but it did not take long for me to realize that I did not have the same level of “green-thumbness” Al has. Besides, I reasoned, Al offered to share his harvest and on his own could not eat all that was ready to pick. So, Al came over to our yard and helped me remove the fence I had placed around my garden, and I turned it all happily into grass. As I mentioned earlier, we could hardly find better next door neighbors than Al and Nancy. Sitting on my back porch from July through August, with Al’s Blueberries on my morning cereal is one benefit of that arrangement.
I am not a “preacher” but I do have some thoughts which I like to pass on from time to time to any who will listen. One thing I have come to realize the older I have become is that everyone over the age of 50 needs to ask themselves if there is any activity in their life which they feel truly passionate about. I believe having such an activity which excites people to remain active in its execution will sustain them as they age, and when unexpected trials of the spirit pop up as they most likely eventually will, be able to make bearing those trials easier. When I travel about and see people engaging in creative recreational activities and excitedly sharing what they do with others, I see validation to my theory mentioned above. Below are some recent photos of mine to show some of these folks doing what they obviously enjoy doing. The last photo is yours truly doing “his thing.” An activity of which I am most passionate! What’s yours?
Here’s a collection of photos I made recently in downtown Roanoke, Virginia. I wanted to present them in black and white, because (well) I want to. By the way, I did ask the street musician playing the drum in the first photo, if it would be OK if I took his picture. He gladly agreed, and I gave him a small donation before I walked away. He was really jammin!
In far eastern Siberia in Russia a natural harbor located off the northern Bering Sea lies the City of Provideniya. During the Soviet Union era, this city and the area across the bay was home to a large military base, accessible only by water and air. The deep water port was established in 1938 and is only 200 air miles from Nome, Alaska. The Soviets were concerned with the possible threat posed to their northern territory by the United States and constructed a large number of block military-style buildings, a landing strip and harbor facilities all with supporting infrastructure to house almost 50,000 people. With the demise of the Soviet Union, the base was essentially abandoned, with now only a few thousand hearty people struggling to make a living in the City of Provideniya. In 2007, my wife and I were very fortunate to visit the city and surrounding area, as part of a two-week cruise of Alaska and the Bering Sea, aboard the 100-passenger cruise ship the Spirit of Oceanus.
As we cruised into bay, we saw the city in the far distance with a Russian maritime tug boat headed in our direction with a pilot on board. As we neared the city, we noted that a large painting of our ship had been located on the side of a building, as welcome to the ONLY visiting annual cruise ship landing there at the time. We were told that the year prior to our visit in July, the bay was ice jammed making entry impossible. These visits ceased a few years after ours, as the cruise line stopped operating due to economic challenges. Thus, we were one of the last to visit this extremely remote location. Most of the remaining buildings were in disrepair and abandoned, especially in the military base portion across the bay from the city.
There were indications in the harbor where we docked signifying the seafaring history of the area, and early one morning we were hailed by a passing Russian boat loaded with fishermen off to destinations unknown. I was interested in several “unique” sights we saw such as the Bus Stop sign along a very rugged, rocky unpaved city road, a “Fine Art Studio” sign on a multistory, freshly painted building used to house residents, with numerous electrical device antennas on the roof. Also interesting was the city cemetery on the outskirts of the residential area. We were told that Stalin had forbidden the use of any sort of religious crosses on grave sites, so what you see here was typical. Many graves had discarded household items around their perimeter. Bed frames for example.
The people we saw and met were exceptionally friendly and we were treated to an hour-long cultural musical and dancing presentation with traditional Russian and native songs. In summary, we saw and photographed sights that only a few outsiders have experienced. We were indeed fortunate. I wonder what the city looks like today seven years after our visit.
A definite highlight of our 2007 two-week exploration cruise to Alaska, the Bering Sea and Far Eastern Siberia in Russia was having an opportunity to interact with many people living a hardy life on remote islands and mainland areas in the region. We were given many native cultural presentations, noting that the people here have ancestors which date back over 2000 years. Many villages depend year-by-year on subsistence fishing and as such they are concerned with climate change in the region, not that I am taking a position either way on this subject. The basic fact is, when you depend on four large whales taken during the annual fishing season to feed the village, and you only get two for whatever reasons, life becomes much more difficult. I hope you enjoy the colorful and generally happy faces I was able to photograph while we were there. Especially the young people!
Orelena Puckett known locally as “Aunt” Puckett was born in 1837 and lived near Groundhog Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. The home she lived in has been restored and is available for visitors to view while driving by on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Aunt Puckett farmed with her husband and she lived for 102 years. During her lifetime she not only gave birth to 24 children of her own, but served as a midwife for others, assisting in the birth of more than 1000 babies. Ironically, none of her own children lived beyond infancy, although it was not uncommon during those days in the rugged environment of this region for many children to die of a very early age. No matter the weather, she walked or rode on horseback to help with the birth of neighbor children. Her fee for those services was typically one dollar, but when times were good, she charged six dollars. For those who could not pay in dollars, she often received food or other goods. The series of photographs below tell a bit of her story visually. The last image was made at a small family cemetery near her home, which marks the passing of Alfred Bowman who was born in August 1893 and died in May of 1894. It is not known if Aunt Puckett had helped with the birth of this baby. The stone reads at the bottom, “Gone to a better land.”
Looking in various merchant store-front windows the other day I focused on “faces” on miniature figures I saw. Each represents a part of the Christmas season (especially the first one) and I felt when combined together here, they might make for an interesting series of photos. The key to making such images through glass, is to have sufficient natural light so that a flash is not needed. In these cases, the setting sun provided al that I needed. I hope this sets you in a holiday mood!