Daffodils

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Each year in February, but never so early in the month here in SW Virginia, the bright green stems of one of my favorite flowers start pushing their way up out of winter’s ground. I’ve not seen so many in full bloom about our expansive yard, portions kept well maintained by hired hands, because my back and legs aren’t up to it any more. I’m mindful of that, but not so much when I’m walking about with camera in hand looking to see what I can find on a sunny day. My wife suggested I needed a special “Daffodil” post, so here you go.

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February Vegetation

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Flowers and other interesting looking vegetation seems to be all around me this year in SW Virginia. Warmer temperatures have helped. I found many nice photo opportunities yesterday and I’d like to share those with you.

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Landscapes in January

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In SW Virginia at this time of year, it may seem a challenge to find colorful landscape photo compositions, given the primary yellow-brown colored vegetation and often overcast skies. However, I’ll take that challenge on any day. It just makes me look harder. And, as you can see here, I did find some worthy photo opportunities. Not great, mind you, but definitely colorful.

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A Blue Ridge Discovery

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I’m thankful living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains where in an hour’s drive I can be standing where I made this photo.  If you’re wondering why they are called “Blue Ridge” mountains this image might help. It’s all about the haze on the horizon, some natural some manmade. Today, I’m just a “looker”a short walk away from my car parked off the road, with camera in hand, clicking away. But, there was a time still fresh in my memory when I’d park my car, toss a daypack on and head right down the middle of this location, following marked trails, to experience the joy of discovery. In these high mountains above 3000 feet, hidden in  hollows, there is remarkably well preserved evidence left by those hearty folk who once lived in the wilderness.

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I’d like to say I hiked to this rustic old cabin on a hillside but I didn’t. I spotted it in the woods as I was driving along a narrow mountain road. But, it fits my story, so bear with me. When I discover places like this, either on foot or via car, I always take a few minutes to wonder who lived there and when. I can easily visualize a hound dog barking at me if  I wandered too close. I can see an old woman sitting in the open front door waving at me to come share a cup of coffee, or a biscuit left over from breakfast. It’s easy to get caught up with these type thoughts. In today’s world, many of our poorest city folk live better than did those in remote Blue Ridge Mountain valleys. Every day back then must have been a struggle.  Hunting game from sunrise to sunset, miles away from home. Finding and gathering scarce wild edible plants. Carrying water from nearby streams, and chopping seemingly endless amounts of firewood. So, when I find a place like this I’m thankful for the many blessings we have today.  Still, it would have been an experience I’d love to have had, living in the wilderness back then. Actually, via books I read every day, and through the lens of my camera, I do live that way … in my mind. That’s pretty special.

My Passion

It’s good being older and retired professionally. But, not necessarily enjoyable. Things get in the way. Health issues, lack of resources (like time), and simple laziness. Also, while carrying around an aging body, regardless of the positive motivation provided by health trackers such as Fitbit, we realize we’re just getting old and no matter what we do, our legs ain’t gonna function as they once did. I’ve learned a good way to make things better, however, no matter how creaky old my body is. I’ve found one thing to keep me fresh and motivated every day. It’s photography.

During a second professional career I had to learn how to become a good photographer. I had to learn how to use top level cameras and computer software such as Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator and Lightroom. I worked hard and became pretty good, even if I do brag a bit. It was all fun, and I gained a lot of satisfaction when people responded favorably to my graphic design and photo compositions. Over the years I sought better tools and techniques to improve my work. I was quick to upgrade software to the latest version, quick to buy a newer and “better” camera, and spent many hours engaging in online discussion groups seeking the views of others similarly motivated. Slowly I became a “gear freak” and for instance would order a new camera bag right away after reading an enthusiastic review. There always seemed to be an illusive “something” out there I needed, but hadn’t yet clearly defined.

The ultimate result of all my activity back then turned out to be a storage closet full of items either obsolete or no longer used. I never sell anything “old” because I’m a sentimental collector. I’ve gifted some of my old gear to family and friends, but now most sit stored away in their original packaging. That doesn’t mean I’m no longer making photos and sharing them with others. On the contrary, I’m more active photographically today than I was then. The difference is I no longer yearn for a new or  better camera. I have two I’m pleased to say I use daily. What brand/model they are isn’t important, but I’ll say they are fairly small, light, and exceptionally good. My point is that I’ve personally experienced a span of time when we went largely from Nikon or Canon film SLR cameras and professional level lens, to digital models with excellent lens, to lighter and equally good mirrorless cameras with their own smaller lens. Now, we have crazy good “phone” cameras perhaps better in some situations than any of the above. And then there’s the software involved. It’s an “App” world now and I’m thankful for it. I said farewell to Adobe many years ago. You were great for a time and I relied on your products every day. Now, you are no longer relevant. I’ve found much better (for me) computer, tablet and smartphone programs  that get the job done faster, more enjoyably and easier than I could have imagined just a few years ago.

It’s great being fully retired and able to spend most of my time out looking for photo opportunities rather than messing with them digitally, hour after hour, to give me just the “right” look. My stuff winds up only on my Photoblog, and if people don’t like what they see that’s fine with me. I’m no longer getting paid for what I do. But the deal is, I’m feeding my passion and that’s all I seek.

Trees for Me

Trees are all around most of us. I’ve never lived in regions where they are few, and I doubt I’d like it there if I had. Yesterday while driving back home, I saw an area on a side road where lots of tall pine trees were growing, all about the same age it seemed, by their similar appearance. I lived in West Germany for several years during the 80s and saw many pine forests like this, all carefully maintained, with open areas between trees. I absolutely loved walking there. I remembered Darmstadt and Karlsruhe when I made this photo.

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While out in the woods on another day recently, I saw the tree below that apparently was home to some small critter, perhaps a Chipmunk. I loved the color of the soft green moss growing around its base. Like I wrote in the title, “trees are for me.”

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A Winter Stream

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It’s not always possible in SW Virginia to see a sparkling and fully flowing stream in mid-winter, because normally it might be encased in ice and covered with snow. But, this year is unusual in that regard, as I sit here typing this entry, with predicted temperatures in the low 60s, versus normal being in the 40s. The aspect of this small stream that caught my eye were the colors all around, especially the dark blue hues in the above. The green vegetation is Rhododendron if you’re interested in such, and is an evergreen seen in many locations in SW Virginia, along with it’s “twin” Mountain Laurel. Why not get out and about and discover beauty in your area.

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