I discovered this nice view while driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway, about 15 miles south of Roanoke. What made me look was the winding dirt road that led to a small house, sitting in a location that to me looked like a place I could quickly grow to love, were I to live there. It was a “path” that led my eye to a destination which I could see—the house. Other paths in life may not be so obvious, such as in the photo below.
Here, the hiking path leads into a deeply wooded area which could contain challenges and obstacles unseen. Still, we usually discount the unseen and enter down paths such as this because we have faith that we’ll be safe regardless. I like this photo composition because of what we can’t see in it. We can imagine, and that’s one thing about photography that means a lot to me.
My objective here, using color photos I made at a historic exhibit I visited in the Blue Ridge Mountains, was to transform some of my compositions to become more rustic, and perhaps more like they were decades ago. This is all part of the fun of photography today.
I have been to Smart Look Recreational Area along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia many times (Milepost 154, elevation 2500 feet) and this view is one which I always am drawn to. I wanted to position myself far enough away from the historic log cabin, using a wide angle lens on my camera, so that the fence would bring the viewers eye into the composition with the mountain skyline in the background. I think the scene would make a nice painting.
I’m always looking for scenes with “leading lines” to point to the prime focus in an image, in this case the nice tree. The fence leads your eye to the tree, and when it’s all backed up by “puffy” clouds, the picture becomes even better.
And lastly, when using a wide angle camera lens, I like to get down close to something in the foreground that catches the eye, and then allows one to look further into the image. In this case the large stone which someone placed on the fence railings served my purpose. Why the stone was put there in the first place is a mystery to me and that makes it all the more interesting. So, in summery, beauty in nature is where you find it, if you’ll just look.
Living here, I visit Uptown Martinsville frequently looking for photo opportunities. I decided to focus on compositions I felt would look good in black and white. Here are several examples. Note: Most digital cameras today allow one to set the camera in “black and white mode.” I don’t do that, preferring instead to download the image first to my computer, and then use processing software (Adobe Lightroom) to convert the color image to black and white non-destructivly, so that I can keep the color version original in tact. Of course, you need post processing software, but Lightroom is just one of many, some very low cost. It’s all about being creative.
The Dan River is an integral part of history in the Piedmont Region of North Carolina and Southern Virginia. During the 19th century, the Dan was essential in the development of cities and towns as “bateau” crews and small stream launches used it for commercial river transportation. The Dan is the only place left in North Carolina where remnants of the bateau systems can still be seen today. This wall mural located on one side of the Historical Society Building in the “Leaksville” portion of Eden, North Carolina, represents the legacy of those who once traveled up and down the Dan River.
Mabry Mill is a watermill located on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Floyd County, Virginia. It is a tourist attraction mainly for the picturesque views of the mill itself. A short trail around the mill connects historical exhibits about life in rural Virginia. The mill was built in 1910 and over the years its condition deteriorated significantly. It was restored during the early 1940s when the parkway itself was relatively new. Since then it’s been rebuilt several times, including the pond adjacent to the structure. Today, the mill is one of the most photographed and painted attractions along the 469-mile route of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Living (fortunately) less than an hour’s drive away, I can visit the mill when the mood strikes — summer, fall, winter and spring.
I’ve pretty much photographed the mill from all angles, close up and far away. I decided recently to try my hand with a new wide angle camera lens at the mill, looking for a “new” composition I’d not tried before. The first image above is what I call a “standard tourist composition.” Compare that with my second and third images below which (to me) seem much more interesting, photographically and artistically. As I’ve written before, try to be different and look for photo compositions most people overlook.
Here’s a mix of photos I made recently that mostly focus on brick buildings in the background. I like that sort of composition because it usually has lots of contrast, as well as some nice colors.
During the summer we receive some early morning and late afternoon thunderstorms here in SW Virginia, and after they are finished it’s nice to walk about the neighborhood with camera in hand to record what one can see. I like it when I can capture water drops on flowers and such. Colors seem so much brighter too.
Making photographs of urban architecture is fun and also educational if you take the time to examine the history of what it is you are photographing. It’s not hard to find such interesting scenes around SW Virginia, given the the number of long-closed textile plants that once were economic engines for the Commonwealth of Virginia and the United States. Here are some examples made in Eden, North Carolina.
To get these shots I had to patiently sit on our back porch, holding my camera at eye level and waiting. These guys, Yellow Finches and Hummingbirds are very skittish and don’t like much movement around them. But, over time they get used to you, thankfully. This is what I call “fun” photography.