A Little Jaunt to Virginia

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Over the past several weeks, I've been wanting to take a long term Trek that encompassed a few planned destinations as well as some scouting.  Either the weather, or my time prevented me from being able make that happen until this weekend.  I managed to get a laundry list of things done prior to the actual weekend with the intentions of going out with the camera for a full day.  I wanted to make that day Saturday, but there were absolutely no clouds in the forecast anywhere in the state (at least where I wanted to go).  This meant harsh lighting, and limited shooting time at the beginning and end of the day.  Sunday was looking more promising though with 75% cloud cover for the entire day, with the possibility of a storm.  This was what I was looking for.

With the clouds coming in around sunrise near Roaring Gap, I chose to concentrate on that section of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I would work my way North into Virginia to scout other locations as I haven't spent that much time on that section.  I wanted to pick out a place that would have a good possibility of a sunrise photo.  Looking back on what has worked before, I chose to go to overlook at Jumping Off Rocks at MP 260.  It is a short hike through the woods in the dark, but the trail is well maintained and I have a great flashlight.

I got up early, and checked the forecast once again.  It was showing the same thing that I had seen going to bed.  It was on...I got up and got ready to roll out the door at around 4:15 am.  Getting up that early allowed me to arrive at my destination right before 6am.  This gave me plenty of time to hike out to the overlook, and get things set up.  Things were going very smoothly...until I arrived and looked up.  Stars...Lots of stars in the sky.  Not a cloud in sight!

By Morning Light
The problem with no clouds is there is very little to reflect the colors of the rising sun.  This puts a damper on photographing sunrises since the primary draw in the color in the sky.  Well, I've learned over the years that when the clouds fail, pull out the long lens that will allow you to grab a very small portion of the horizon.  That small strip will have color due to the haze in the atmosphere, but there isn't much of it.  I added a reverse ND filter to control the exposure and set up my first shot in near pitch black.  With over five minutes worth of exposure, I wasn't happy at all with the outcome.  There was just not enough interest in the sky.  It wasn't until the sun started to come up, that the haze started to light up.  I was finally able to work with that.  It got even better when the sun crested the horizon, but only for a brief minute before the sun got too bright.

Sunrises at this time of year still go very fast, and the sun climbs in the sky much quicker than it does in the middle of winter.  After about an hour of waiting, I had about 10 minutes of action before packing up and going back to the truck.  I kept looking at the sky on the way back and saw that the clouds were NOW starting to enter into the sky.  At least I would have some drama in my skies for the rest of the day.


As you can see to the left, the sky was pretty much washed out.  In fact, for about an hour before I found this location, I was stuck in low clouds and fog.  I could barely see to drive, much less be able to find anything to photograph.  Knowing the weather patterns up here, I knew that eventually this would clear.  I just hoped that it didn't completely clear and leave me with a blank blue sky.  At least with the overcast conditions, I could have my choice of subjects regardless of what direction they had to be shot in.  That is the nice thing about diffused lighting.  The tradeoff is, with this kind of overcast, I can't include the sky at all.  Fortunately, I was in the mountains, and there was plenty of opportunity to find subjects with a backdrop of trees or a hill.

I happened on a barn tucked in below a field of goldenrods which I had photographed years ago.  Ironically, I had first seen this barn on a stormy day, and had tried to include the sky for that shot.  It worked, but not well.  Today's view was much more promising with the golden field in front of it.  I also knew better about how to deal with the sky.  It was a job for my long lens once again, so that I could compress the background and keep from including the sky.

Goldenrod Field
With the narrow field of view, I was able to scale the barn much better with the fence post so that it wouldn't get lost in the background.  Even though I didn't get the lower half of the barn, I think that it is the roof that holds the interest, and since the big story with this image is the yellow flowers, I was quite happy with the composition as a whole.  The trick was waiting for the breeze to die down a little so that I could keep from blurring the flowers.  I have to admit...I bumped up the ISO to 400 to get the shutter speed fast enough to render everything sharp.

After shooting this barn, I was starting to feel the rustic subjects over the landscapes.  That was probably due to the fact that there was no visibility into the distant mountains anymore.  The lighting was right for barns and old houses today.  There were a bunch of them along this section of the Parkway, but only a handful were situated in such a way that I could photograph them sucessfully.

Fading Away
One such barn I found on a road that ran parallel to the Parkway.  I found a way to get around to it, but sadly, I didn't like the point of view that it offered.  I ended up back on the Parkway, shooting through the vegetation with my long lens once again.  This gave me the elevation that I needed to keep the trees covering up the background.  This was a much harder barn to capture than it looks like.  There just wasn't much I could add in with it for a composition.  I finally decided to just rack the lens out and shoot it at 200mm, making it a postcard shot with the strange tree to the right of it to counter the main subject.  Overall, I think that it turned out pretty well, but I was hoping for more with this one.

Before I put my camera up, I happened to see an odd tree on the other side of the road.  It was totally bare, and the bark was bleached.  it stood out because it was surrounded by green foliage and yellow goldenrods.  It was special enough to justify a quick composition or two.  I kept my long lens on, so that I could compress the background, and concentrate on the tree as being the total composition.

Bleached Bones
This is not usually my kind of photo, but I knew that if Toni knew I had passed it by, she would not be happy with me.  So, I listened to the voice in my head that sounded like her and I created the image that I thought that she would like.  I guess it worked because when I sent her the teaser picture while she was at work, she told me that she loved it..  So, here you go Toni...this one's for you!

After I got everything secured from this location, I marched on Northward.  I had thought about stopping at the Mabry Mill, but decided against it.  I decided this way for a couple of reasons.  First of all, it is the most photographed location on the Parkway, and there is nothing that I can do any different than has been done before.  Second of all, I have photographed it several times before and have been very happy with the results.  Third, I knew that there would be a lot of people there since this is the busy season on the Parkway.  However, when I arrived, I pulled in the parking lot.  It was full.  I looked at the mill, and there were people all around it.  It did not appear any different from any other time I had photographed it.  Yet, something inside told me to get the camera out and give it a try.  Well, I did...

The Mabry Mill
You see, sometimes I just go with my gut and it pays off.  Years ago, I got a picture that I was very happy with with the exception that the water wheel wasn't spinning.  I remember that it started up the minute that I packed the camera up.  I missed out.  This time, however, the wheel was spinning sporadically.  The challenge became timing the shot so that there were no people milling about in the frame, no people in the windows, AND having the wheel spinning.  Talk about waiting for the planets to align just right.  I did have the fortune of getting that lucky timing a few times while I was out there.  This first picture actually happened pretty easy since the line of people waiting to go inside was covered by the mill from this angle.  it was the next one that caused me to pull my hair out!

Turning the Gears
I must have waited for 20 minutes before all the planets lined up and I had a workable shot with no people in it, plus the wheel spinning.  I was very fortunate that this shot happened to be timed right when the wheel started spinning and dumped the accumulated water.  The one second shutter speed blurred the water just right.  I was very lucky to have timed this perfectly...even if by accident or coincidence.  After getting this lucky shot, I decided I had had enough of the crowds and decided to move on down the road to see what else awaited me.

Nowhere to Go
I made my way about another mile on the Parkway and decided to get turned around.  The weather was not improving, and I was just getting further and further away from home.  My plan was to take a different way back in the hopes of finding something else to photograph.  Well, that paid off in a big way!  Not too long after getting on Highway 52 in Virginia, I came up on group of old antique markets.  Beside one of them was a handful of old rusty cars.  Hmmm, could they belong to the antique market?  Well, I went to ask about them and was told that the owner of the market did own the cars.  I was hesitant to ask about photographing them, but after a quick second of thinking about it, I was given permission to go and have my way with the cars.  It has been a very long time since I've found some old iron to photograph and I was loving every click of the shutter.

Forgotten Luxury
These cars were not easiest to photograph since they were right on top of each other.  It took me a little while to figure out how to best capture them.  I started with my long lens and found that I didn't like the perspective at all.  I swapped out with my 24-70mm lens and found that I could get in close and use the wide angle without too much sharing of space with the neighboring cars.  I took group photos, and individual ones.  These cars had character dripping from their rusty bodies, and I was in heaven photographing them!

Peeking Through the Trees
I wasn't sure the models I was photographing, but was very pleased that they were ones that I had not previously shot before.  That helps to make them special in their own right.  With the way the brush had grown over them, I am pretty sure that this was the best time to photograph them.  With the fall leaves, there would have been too much color, making them hard to stand out.  Had I waited till winter, the overall brown tones would have blended in with the cars, again making them harder to single out.  Yeah, I was happy with my luck in finding these when I did.

Moonshine by the Barn
This property wasn't all rusty cars either.  Just around the corner was an old barn tucked into the woods.  Of interesting note, there were a few empty bottles on a drum out front.  Of course, I figured that this had been filled with mountain whiskey at some point and I thought it added a lot of character to the barn.  I grabbed a couple of quick frames before going back to work the cars some more.

I had been concentrating on excluding the sky for most of the time I had been shooting so far.  However, I was looking up and I could see some detail in the clouds starting to form.  It wasn't much, but with a little help from graduated filters, I should be able to bring that detail out in the photograph.  I decided to incorporate the sky a little bit and capture the cars from the opposite angle.

Blue Ridge Autos
The first one that I took turned out to be probably my favorite shot from the day.  I was able to get the four cars all lined up underneath what turned out to be a wonderful sky.  The lighting worked out perfect for the photograph as well. There was something brooding about this picture that just fit the long forgotten relics.  This one worked out so well that I decided to go over to the other group of cars closer to the market and try another one in that same direction.

 I'm not exactly sure what kind of car this is, but I just loved the patina of the paint.  The rubber strap holding the trunk closed was a bonus as well!  I was limited with the possible compositions, but I think that this worked out pretty well.  You can sure tell the weathering that has taken place, and the foreboding sky helps to set the mood for this one.  This was my last picture of the day.

It was getting late, and I was needing to get home.  It was a successful day for sure.  It has been a long time since I've shot over 100 frames in a day.  To have that work out to 13 keepers is amazing!  I'm still perfecting my new workflow, but I think that I have something that will work out very nicely for sure!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for Bleached Bones... So glad you didn't pass it up!!! Beautiful!!!