Once there was a small, but thriving community of Axton, Virginia. Today, only a few empty buildings and a rusty water tower remain where two rural roads intersect. It’s a great place for photographers however, and that’s why I was there a few days ago.
Our neighbor has a large variety of produce growing in his backyard garden. One patch has two rows of corn, which now show long tassels on top of each stalk, signaling ripening of the cobs below. In the midst of all this is a home-made bird house waiting for a suitable occupant. Perhaps Blue Birds. The scene made for a nice abstract photo.
I don’t spend much time looking specifically for photo opportunities of birds, but once in awhile I get lucky and see a “target of opportunity.” First, skittish Cardinals usually don’t wait long for one to make a photo. I recently saw (through our kitchen window) a male Cardinal sitting on our backyard shed roof. It was loudly chirping, probably seeking to attract a female. I grabbed my camera fortunately with 55-200mm lens attached, which was sitting on my desk where I’d placed it while downloading images from the day prior, and hustled outside expecting to make several nice images of the bird. After the first try, my camera alerted me with a message on the LCD screen that there was no SD card inserted. Stupid me, I’d left the card in the reader I was using to download photos. So, I went back inside and installed the card, hoping the Cardinal would remain where it was. It did, and I was able to make this photo. Nothing great, but definitely rewarding after all I’d gone through.
Second, I was recently sitting in a chair outside during sunset, waiting for the light to create a good view of clouds to the west. Just as I was ready to go inside after making several “OK” photos, I looked up and saw a Turkey Buzzard quickly sailing by. Thanks to a fast focus I made the shot. Again, not that great of an image, but I sure was happy to make it. During these times of limited travel due to the pandemic, small photographic successes “close to home” mean a lot.
I don’t usually write opinion oriented material for my Blog, but today I’m going to make an exception. Joy is defined as “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.” Every image I make with my camera began as something I saw that captured my interest. Like this photo.
When I decide to click the shutter to record what I see, the result winds up in my computer hard drive collection, some deleted others saved, cataloged by year in specific albums, most all to remain unseen forever by others. When I used film and had my photos printed, many wound up placed in family scrapbooks that could be passed down to following generations. This is not so with digital photos stored on my hard drives. So, why do I do this if no one else but me will ever see the hundreds of photos I make every year?
True, I could follow the example of social networking junkies who post online many photos and videos they make, no matter their nature or quality. I’m not criticizing what these folks do … it’s what they “do” and if that brings joy to them so be it. I suspect, however, that most are not making photos or videos for the personal joy of it, but rather are being driven by an ego-boosting need to receive praise and gain attention and recognition from others. “Likes” and “followers” if you will.
Several months ago I began to somewhat fall into this mode of thinking, and found myself out and about seeking photo compositions, not so much for the personal joy of it all, but simply looking for a few select photos I could use to meet my self-imposed deadline to have a new photoblog post so as to keep my online publication current, and to hopefully gain a few more “views” than normal. One day I asked myself why I was so concerned with what others might think about my photos. I’m not in the business of selling my work, even if there was potential for such, which there isn’t in my judgement.
Now that I’m fully retired and deal daily with health and age-related challenges that often overwhelm my mind with negative thoughts, “finding joy” is very important. Spiritually, I realize I’m not alone and faith will carry me along. That process is made so much easier when I grab my camera every day and get out to record the beauty I see all around me. Not to display the results online for others to see or comment on, but merely to make me thankful I get so much personal enjoyment at this stage of my life from this wonderful hobby of ours.
This peaceful farm scene is just two blocks away from our home. It’s nice to live in a small town residential area with such a variety of potential photo compositions within walking distance..
One of my favorite movies is “O Brother,Where Art Thou.” Toward the end, there is a climactic scene where our three main characters are seeking their way, trying to stay clear of pursuing lawmen, back to a Tennessee depression era farm location where they are told by the farm owner there is “treasure” and they will know they have arrived when they see” A happy little tire swing.” Once there, they don’t see it. One character explains. “Where’s the happy little tree swing?” They notice fearfully it’s been replaced by three hanging nooses put there by waiting corrupt lawmen. Not to worry, God intervenes and they survive. So, wherever I see a tire swing I think of this iconic line from my favorite movie.
This photo is one of my favorites. I’ve been there many times, alone and with others. It’s located near 3000 feet elevation along the Blue Ridgeway Parkway. Perhaps one reason why I enjoy going there are thoughts I have about what it would have been like to have lived as a young adventurous barefooted boy in the adjacent farm house of which these outbuildings are a part.
Close enough to sit on the small dock on a hot summer’s day, feet dangling in the cool water, cane-pole fishing for an elusive bass or catfish, and still hear my mother’s voice calling for me to come home … time to eat. Maybe her reward would be a string of fish already caught. I could swim in this pond as well, carefully watching for various critters hiding in the grass. Snakes maybe.
Not shown in the photo are nearby open fields, providing unlimited opportunities for me to explore. I would have been told my limits, however. A well known terrain feature is Buffalo Mountain, which can be seen for mlles. I might have been told to always keep “the Buffalo” in sight. In the winter my wandering would be less. And, I would be told to stay away from the frozen pond. It gets very cold at 3000 feet, but in this part of Virginia it can also warm well above freezing in winter, making for thin ice.
In my mind I sense itches caused by chiggers and mosquito bites. I hear frogs croaking and crickets clicking, bees buzzing and various song birds calling. I visualize Turkey Buzzards, Eagles and Hawks gliding along in circles high above, surrounded by puffy clouds and blue sky. Soft breezes with the scent of fresh cut hay tease my nose. Sneezes would be common as a result.
As a summer’s day ended, and I lay on a quilt pallet my mom would have placed for me on our screened-in porch so I could be cool, compared to my usual bedroom in an attic space, I’d pray for the next day to be as exciting as the one just ended.
Photographs permanently record what we see, and later form the basis for special memories related to the moment we clicked the shutter.
Even with extreme cold, this single Pansy bloom made me smile and marvel at it’s hearty nature. It’s an example of how one can overcome challenges in life. And then, here’s a rather simple photo below that inspired me when I saw the composition. as the sun peeked over the roof of our home early the other morning.
I often take my camera with me when I walk to get the morning newspaper. Walking up the driveway back to the house I saw this “golden” scene. I’d just experienced a minor challenge that poked its ugly head in my mind. When I downloaded the image on my laptop, I realized how truly blessed I was on this day … overall. Sometimes we can be inspired in ways unexpected. I’m thankful for that.
Traveling in Arctic regions via sea or ground transportation is a unique experience. The treeless, rugged landscape views are impressive. I discovered other photo-worthy scenes during a mid-summer visit to far Eastern Siberia in Russia several years ago.
Various discarded items related to 19th Century maritime operations (ship’s rope above), along with remnants from original whaling settlements can be found. Colorful flowers bloom in strange places.
A flittering and tiny male Snow Bunting stopped nearby and remained long enough for me to make a memory.
After I downloaded the image below, I realized I had a very nice composition that tells a story … man vs nature.
Lastly, I discovered several items left behind by those once once living there, such as an old “two-holer.” A metal teapot and rusted lock were special. As I walked away I wondered if I was the only person having discovered these common items, left unseen for so many years in the very remote Providence Bay region of Eastern Siberia in Russia. I wondered if anyone else would see them in the future. It was an experience and privilege of a lifetime to be there.