Landscapes in January

img_0231

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.

dscf5244

img_0229

A Blue Ridge Discovery

dscf3415

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.

dscf3428

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.

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.

img_0260

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.”

img_0245

A Winter Stream

stream1

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.

dscf5232

dscf5230

Wind on the Water

img_0247

I was out making photos this week at a rather sheltered spot on a very windy day, and decided on a whim while driving home, to make a quick stop at a favorite photo location of mine near home: the overlook at the Philpott Lake Visitor’s Center near Bassett, Virginia. When I got there this is what I saw. Strong, steady winds with gusts I estimated to be above 50 mph had whipped up whitecaps on the water’s surface, and it was almost turquoise in color. I guess a combination of dark clouds with shades of blue sky in between made it look that way. Gusty winds coming down slope off distant Blue Ridge Mountains blew my hat off (I caught it) and made it very difficult to hold my camera steady. Life is never boring when opportunities exist to see such beauty in nature. I’m sure glad I followed my instinct to stop by the lake on my way home. Here’s more of what I saw that day.

img_0249

img_0253

Closed for the Winter

dscf5225

A very popular location in SW Virginia at which to enjoy yourself is Fairy Stone State Park, with it’s swimming, kayaking, canoeing, and fishing lake, plus many amenities designed especially for younger children. Now, it’s closed for the winter. Heavy rains have muddied the normally clear blue, spring-fed water, while fallen leaves and other debris have cluttered usually clean, white sandy beaches.

dscf5220

During warm summer days, there would be rental kayaks and canoes lined up along this shoreline, with fees being paid in the shed in the background. A different summer scene would be present below, with more rental boats lined up.

dscf5216

Fishing in the lake, both from shore (below) and on the water, is very popular; however, in the midst of winter, the lake is mostly deserted. Pedal boats are currently stored under picnic shelters, waiting to again be put in the water in just a few more months.

dscf5226

dscf5228

Also sitting idle are gymnastic facilities designed for young children. I’ve been there in the midst of summer and this specific place is packed with shouting, suntanned kids, while nearby parents watch happily.

dscf5227

Distinct contrasts between seasons in many locations all across northern regions of America may appear rather sad and drab when not snow-covered. I don’t look at it that way at all. It’s just a promise of what lies ahead.

Misty Morning

img_0204

There are moments that pass quickly before our eyes. It’s wonderful when we can capture them using a camera of any sort, so we can share with others  what we saw during those fleeting seconds. As I walked out the front door this morning to our street-side mailbox to retrieve the morning newspaper, the scene above is what greeted me. Thankfully, I had my iPhone 7 Plus camera in my pocket or I’d have seen it, but couldn’t share. After this one, I made another.

img_0209

This image was my favorite. Like many photographers do, I call the sun’s rays shining through trees or clouds, “God’s Beams.” These scenes started my day off right. I hope they improved your day as well.

 

Martinsville’s Lake Lanier

After all the snow and extreme cold we’ve had over the past week, I decided yesterday I needed to get out and about, even if it was cloudy and in the mid 40s. I spend a lot of time with my cameras, driving around Martinsville, Virginia where we live, looking for interesting sights and memories to share. Why I picked going to Lake Lanier I don’t know. As the next image shows, I’m glad I did.

Version 2

I made photos of the boat house and canoes laying on shore from various angles. Had it not been cloudy as it was, I’m not sure I could have captured the soft look I did.

p1050283

p1050316

And there’s the wildlife. Ducks, geese and two magnificent swans were there … the latter swimming up next to shore where I was standing. I felt like they were posing for me. Perhaps they were.

p1050310

p1050309

p1050308

p1050306

As I was walking around the lake (about an hour’s leisurely stroll) I spotted an adjacent pond with an interesting fishing pier projecting out. Peaceful indeed.

p1050299

The lesson learned for me that day is that it’s not the weather that matters, it’s what we do with it.

First Snow

img_0180

As the sun lowered in the sky late this afternoon, after twelve hours of moderate to heavy snowfall (the first of 2017 for us here in SW Virginia) the beauty of our back yard made me smile. I made the Barn Quilt you see attached to the side of our storage shed for my wife Barb several years ago, and its color, that of the shed and the dark blue sky really made this scene memorable. I believe this will be just one of hundreds more I’ll record during this new year. Many to share here.

Thinking Different in 2017

img_0159

I listened to a talk recently that discussed how “what we think”, can define “who we are.” If for example, in 2016 we awoke every day worrying about a problem or situation in our lives we had to face that day, and let that define how the day went, we’d walk around sorta miserable all the time. If we continued that thought process day after day in 2016, by the end of the year there might be a good chance that pattern of thinking would carry over into 2017. Unless we change the way we think. Such as looking at each day as an opportunity to conquer some challenge, meet some goal, do good things for others, or being truly thankful for all the great things in our lives. If we think that way in 2017, even though in reality we still have all the same challenges we had in 2016 (maybe more), perhaps our attitude about ourselves and others in 2017 will be significantly better. I choose to think differently. Happy New Year.