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Category Archives: Photo Stories

When I Hiked

Recently I was walking around a public park in Greensboro, NC and there were two specific aspects I saw, on a life-sized bronze statue on display, that got my attention. The first was a hiking stick being held, and the second were the hiking boots being worn. These two images reminded me a lot of my past.

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Up until the time in my life when I was no longer physically able to do the sort of rugged hiking I once did, there were few things I enjoyed more than exploring alone, trails, woods, lake shores and mountain scenery on foot. I usually had a stout walking stick to help my balance, and always wore a sturdy and comfortable pair of boots. Most times I carried a camera to record what I saw. I recall one time specifically when I finally reached the bottom of a rocky gorge I’d hiked to in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, descending about 2000 feet elevation over steep twisting and ankle bending trails, when I had to stop, sit down on a large fallen tree trunk, and begin to regain my breath and to let my shaking legs rest. After eating an energy bar, and draining about half of my limited water supply, I asked myself if this sort of strenuous outdoor activity was really worth it. Well, after I continued on my way along a stream flowing through the base of the gorge, toward the trail that would eventually take me back up the steep gorge to where I had parked my car I discovered something that made it easy to answer my question of “worth” with a resounding “yes.”

Off in the dark woods, I spotted a rock wall about four feet high. It was obviously man-made, and surrounded what I saw right away was a cemetery. There were about twenty, crude stone-slab grave markers there, and the ones on which the carved letters were still legible, I determined that the people buried there had died before 1910. Many were the graves of babies who had died in less than two years after being born, a testament to exactly how hard life was in these mountain valleys during that time. Strangely, a few of the graves had artificial flowers neatly arranged on top. Someone, I thought, had been visiting this old cemetery recently. Who were they and how did they get here I wondered. Had they hiked down the steep trail I did, or was there some other way to the site? No matter how they got there, they deeply cared about the place.

As I began my hike back up the slope I concluded that doing what I was doing that day was not only excellent physical activity, but the real benefit was being able to discover such a relatively hidden place, clearly with a great amount of sentiment being given to it by those who had placed the flowers on those graves. When I finally made it to my car (again gasping and straining to walk easy) I finished off my water supply and promised myself that so long as I was physically able, I’d continue to hike and explore. It’s memories of such times that give me joy today. When I see objects like the hiking staff and boots on the bronze statue in Greensboro, I flash back to those days when I hiked.

 

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A Special Photo Walk in Danville

Danville, Virginia is but a short drive of thirty minutes or so from our home. It’s a very historic place with many wonderful photographic opportunities. I’ve been there many, many times and each time I go I find some different view I’d missed before. Right after Christmas 2015, I made the trip with folks who had never been there. Our youngest daughter Amy and her three sons (in order behind Amy) Stephen, Brandon and Daniel had traveled from North Texas and I was of course most happy to have them with me on this very special “photo walk.”

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One photographic attraction and popular visitor location I wanted them to see was the Main Street Historic District and it’s intricate and colorful Victorian Style homes. I was not the only one with a camera. Brandon (below) is very creative in both photo/video work and perhaps one day that will be his chosen life’s journey. Amy and Stephen had their phone cameras and the images they made showed a talent for composition. Daniel, being a high school athlete excelling in both football and tennis was the catalyst of the group, offering wise and inspiring comments along the way.

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Here are a few photos I made for my personal enjoyment that day.

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This trip to Danville was my last photo walk of 2015, and I have to say it was certainly my most enjoyable for that year. May those in 2016 be equally so.

 

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Oh Christmas Tree

Last year I posted a story about a rather large “live” Christmas tree our cross-the-street neighbor Daniel decorated in his home. Here’s my photo of that tree from a year ago.

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You must agree that was a very nice tree. Almost eleven-feet high and natural. Well, Daniel out did last year’s tree with the one below: an approximate eleven-foot high, Virginia Pine, 100 inches diameter at the base. It’s beautiful.

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Like last year, Daniel asked me to come over and make some photos of the tree and his lovely family, Sarah and Sophie. What a treat and honor that was for me to be so asked. Sophie was at first a bit shy, but after she became accustomed to me and my camera (a small, not so imposing Fuji X100T) she began to romp about the tree and smile a bit. After all, it’s not every kid who has parents so nice to bring into her home a tree like this one.

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We are extremely fortunate to have neighbors such as Daniel, Sarah and Sophie living close, and I look forward returning next Christmas with my camera, to make photos of the family, and their special tree. Merry Christmas to all!

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2015 in People, Photo Stories

 

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Martinsville Speedway — After the Race

We are fortunate to live just two miles from the oldest NASCAR track: Martinsville Speedway. Racing began here in 1948 and the “paperclip” shaped track is the shortest (half-mile). A large percentage of fans consider racing here to be some of the best. This was especially true during the Fall 2015 NSACAR Sprint Cup race last Sunday, won by one of NASCAR’s most popular drivers, Jeff Gordon. It was his ninth win at Martinsville, and his 93rd career win during his storied career. This latest victory locked him into the “final four” drivers racing for the 2015 Sprint Championship later this month. I’ve been to most all the races here since 2002 and love it. While fans often see photos of the race itself and associated activities, few ever see it like I can, living so close … after the race.

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Posted by on November 6, 2015 in Architecture, Photo Stories

 

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Seeking Fall Colors

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I love Fall in Southwestern Virginia. I’m using my photo above to make a point why I love this colorful season so much. First, I have to pay attention to the weather and pick a time when to be out in the country. Second, I have to be somewhat lucky, such as I was when I found this nice composition above. (It just YELLS look at me!) And third, when I go out seeking Fall colors on trees above 3000 feet elevation in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia as I always do, I really don’t know if there will still be enough leaves on the trees, and I have to hope they have not yet passed their peak in terms of oranges, yellows, and hopefully some reds. Last year, for example, I waited too long and most of the colorful leaves had fallen. In sum, I like this time of year because of the “not knowing part” of what my hour long drive up to the mountains from lower elevations at home will give me in terms of good color opportunities. The best part of it all for me this year was that my wife Barb rode along. That must have been the ticket I needed because the colors were far better yesterday than they have been for me over the past several years. God is good. He created all this beauty for us, and made it so special that it’s not around for long. If you have been following my photo blog, you’ll know I won’t be able to limit my Fall color photos to just the one above. I’m processing those I made and will over the next several posts here, show you what Barb and I saw, on our wonderful drive yesterday through the winding roads of SW Virginia. Cheers!

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2015 in Landscape, Photo Stories

 

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House versus Me versus Dogs

I was headed down a very narrow country road, seeking a place to turn around to get back to the highway I had planned to take (no, I wasn’t lost, just following my nose) when I spotted this very nice, old and deserted home, with NO TRESPASSING signs posted. I had to stop and get some photos, and I did. I figured I’d obey the signs and just wander around the yard, getting some photos, thinking the “no trespassing” applied to the house itself. As I got my last photo, I heard angry dogs barking from over a nearby hill. Time to go I told myself, and just as I got into my car there came the first (perhaps) unhappy farm dog looking for the trespasser (me). As I drove off, the dog looked at me and wagged his tail, I guess not so unhappy after all. But, I thanked the Good Lord for making me end my photo shoot when I did. There surely were other dogs around. It was a great experience and I took away some nice images.

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Old Fashioned Shopping

Oh how nice it might be, to go back in time to shop in stores where just about everything was hand/machine made and locally grown in America. Not that foreign made goods and produce are not acceptable today, they certainly are, overall. My point is that life seemed much simpler early in the 20th Century. Choices were much more limited than they are today, and people interacted with store owners and employees more than they do today, such as standing in line at a chain grocery store check out, with automated scanners and payment terminals. I share with you some recent photos I made at two General Stores in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Enjoy.

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Posted by on July 26, 2015 in America's Past, Photo Stories

 

Sew Good

For a good portion of the fifty-plus years I have been married, I’ve watched my wife perform magic with thread, needles, and her skilled hands. She’s like many other ladies in that regard who sew and make wonderful items, and in the case of this brief photo story … quilts … colorful quilts. I’d like to introduce you to a quilting and sewing shop in Stuart, Virginia. Stuart is one of my favorite locations to visit, being that it is located about thirty or so minutes from home. When I go there, my camera is always in hand.

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Stuart is home annually to the very popular “Strawberry Festival” and hosts other gatherings of this nature, attracting thousands from across the region. The town is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and takes its name from the famous Confederate Civil War hero, Major General J.E.B Stuart. Sitting in the middle of the town on Main Street is “Quilted Colors.”

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When you enter the shop you are immediately made aware that “colors” is what this place is all about. Susan Branham manages the shop, in addition to teaching music to middle and high school students in Henry County. Susan taught all three of our grandchildren, so I’ve seen the excellence of her abilities in that regard. I was not always aware, however, of her interest in sewing and quilting. But, through my wife, I gained a new appreciation of the breath of her skills.

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Susan is offering her shop space to other quilters in the area, to display their personal quilting projects. Many visitors to the area will thus have an opportunity to see some “mighty fine work” (as is said hereabouts). For instance:

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I couldn’t end this story without showing at least one photo of some “tools of the trade.” And in summary, Quilted Colors is a special place to visit, and of course to enjoy being a part of the Piedmont Region of Virginia’s quilting family. Happy sewing ladies!

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Posted by on June 8, 2015 in People, Photo Stories

 

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Boone’s Country Store

My wife Barbara is an avid and skilled “quilter” who has decorated our home (and others) with her beautiful work. She has formed a strong bond with others locally, who share her interest, and I have to say after spending almost 30 years in the Army, with her having to move from place to place an average of every 2-3 years, she deserves having such close friends. Her group travels in our region of Virginia and North Carolina to visit “quilt shows” and to buy what seems to me to be an endless amount of cloth material from which to make their quilts. “Fat Quarters” they call it. I’ll call it “material.” Anyway, one place they frequent from time to time is Boone’s Country Store about an hour’s drive from home. I decided I had to go see this place myself and took my camera along. Besides the large amount of sewing and quilting products in the store, they sold fresh cooked products such as bread and pies. That’s what I was interested in, plus some homemade cinnamon hard candy. Below is what I saw, in part. Note the last image being my contribution to some “country-style” photos I normally make.

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Posted by on May 31, 2015 in Photo Stories

 

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A Merry Christmas Family

I’ve posted photo stories before about the wonderful neighbors we have where we live in SW Virginia. I’d like to continue this now by highlighting the family who lives across the street from us. This year, they decided to do some “extra” Christmas decorations about their home and adjoining yard. When I saw what was going on as the decorations were being put up, I immediately saw a great photo story just waiting for me. So, here is that story.

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This is Daniel, Sarah and daughter Sophie. Daniel serves in Law Enforcement as a uniformed officer, while Sarah works at the local hospital as a Registered Nurse. Both have helped me on many occasions in numerous ways, and have always been extremely kind and generous. They are, in short, a perfect family to live near, as are others in our neighborhood. When Dan decides to “do something” he goes into the project with an extreme amount of energy and creativity, never letting anything stand in his way. Like, for example, when he decided this year to get a BIG Christmas Tree.

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He found this very beautiful natural Blue Ice Cypress Tree, which he planned to locate in the high-ceiling family room of their home. Its original twelve-foot height had to be shortened at the base by a foot, because when he first drug it into the house, its top scraped across the ceiling. Once inside, and with step ladder close at hand, he decorated it and then stood by with pride looking at what he’d accomplished. I wish more people would use “natural” Christmas trees but alas times have changed. The sweet smell and touch of the tree made me harken back to when I was a young boy helping my family decorate our tree; much, much smaller I might add.

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Now, let’s get to the heart of this photo story, the decorations. Unlike the popular seasonal movie, “Christmas Vacation” with a home almost completely covered with lights, Dan took care not to overdo it. Beautiful describes the results as captured by my camera lens.

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Looking about the yard in front of their home, I saw several inflatable decorations which I felt added greatly to the festive scene, and together certainly serve as a prime “drive-by” attraction for those cruising through the neighborhood seeking Christmas cheer. One by one, here they are.

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By the time I’d completed my photo session, the skies had darkened completely, and what I saw through my camera lens made me wish I could start all over. But, there are only so many ways to compose camera scenes, and I did not want to overdo my efforts. Keep it simple is my standard motto. But, what Dan and Sarah have created about their home this Christmas is far from being simple. It’s not easy to place all those lights, position and secure all those inflatable decorations, and to do everything in such a way that it looks (in a word) perfect. If you think young Sophie was not involved in this process, I can assure you she was. Nothing excites a child more than seeing “Christmas” all about them. Merry Christmas to all!

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2014 in Architecture, Photo Stories

 

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