It was a cloudy day in the D.C. suburbs. We are getting some badly needed rain. And, I had to make a short trip to Harrisonburg, Virginia. So I drive westward on Interstate 66. The clouds were hanging low as I approached the highlands of Shenandoah National Park. A little past the exit to the park, the sun peeked through the clouds. The low lying clouds, the fall colors highlighted by diffused sunlight – it was beautiful. So what kind of photography can you come up with while taking pictures from the side of a highway?
There’s only one way to find out. Slowing down from seventy miles per hour, I stopped by the roadside and glanced across the lanes of the interstate. Nestled in what looked like a small nook by the mountain was a house surrounded by saturated trees sporting saturated autumn colors. Out came the camera. One click. Another click. Another click.
It was time to go back to the highway and head westward towards Interstate 81. The traffic remained relatively light as I reached the junction to I81. Heading south towards Harrisonburg, the sun was beginning to set towards a horizon barely clear of clouds. In some spots. I saw a silo, the sun was setting behind some clouds, and I slowed down again to take more pictures from the highway.
After ten minutes in Harrisonburg, it was time to go back towards the D.C. suburbs. It was getting dark rather rapidly, but in the rear view mirror I spied upon a bright red sunset. The sun was nearly gone as I headed towards an exit at I81 and stopped by a gas station. Through some barren trees, towards Interstate 81, I saw the last vestiges of light.
Who knew that a gas station would be a good place to be to watch the sun set? Photography is incredibly rewarding. Images are waiting to be taken at almost every moment. Just keep your eyes open and your mind free. The pictures will be there for the taking.
Fall is definitely here in Northern Virginia. The trees are finally resplendent in coloration. The lack of rain may have dampened the deep red, orange and yellow hues so prevalent in autumns past, but the warm weather affords many opportunities for walks in the parks and nature reserves that dot the Washington area. Huntley Meadows, with its wetlands replenished by recent rains, is particularly beautiful in the fall. Reflections are a mirror image of reality and with a little bit of help from a slight breeze, the reality becomes a beautiful dream. A reflection seen in a calm body of water can be beautiful. With longer exposure taken with a tripod mounted camera, the slight undulations in the surface, made possible by a gentle wind, transform the beauty of a tranquil day into a treasure of moving colors, a feast for the eyes.
Sometimes, when the light is right, you don’t even have to see the sun to see a beautiful sunrise. With the dust scattering the morning light towards the mid autumn sky, how can one not stop and just wonder at the beauty that is around us. We forget, sometimes, that every day can be special. Each day is a gift. Our mind knows this, but our heart must feel it. In the midst of life’s trials, there is always something that can bring love into our lives. And in truth, as long as love prevails, beauty will always be there.
I was taking a short walk at the local park early yesterday morning when this Northern Mockingbird (which may be ready to lay eggs) decided to take a rest a nearby berry bush. It sat around for minutes, striking various poses. I am not complaining.
I must admit that the russet, orange, yellow and green umbrella of leaves didn’t leave much room for finding birds and taking pictures of them on my walk at Huntley Meadows. I must also admit that it doesn’t take that long to walk a three mile trail, unless you’re walking back and forth looking for birds (and not finding them). As I entered the trail at Huntley Meadows, there were some forlorn photographers, with their long lenses and tripods leaving the park. I didn’t want to ask how the birding was, but after ten minutes of walking, I could not resist to ask someone how their morning had gone. Not a lot of interesting things, or something like that, was the verbal answer. It was a confirmation of a supposition answered in the faces of many a photographer walking the trails at the park. Not very promising, but at least there were leaves.
And a good thing that red, orange, yellow and green were in copious quantity. Did it make up for a lack of birds? No. The lesser number of birds in the park, combined with the masking quality of the colors in the trees, combined with my inadequate skills at bird spotting really limited the number of opportunities for spotting a bird. On a beautiful autumn day, the birds may have been there, but so where the leaves. Still, it would have been nice to find more of our avian friends. A lot more practice at bird spotting lies ahead. A great way to enjoy the wonderful beauty that nature provides.
In my earlier write up, I talked about walking around Huntley Meadows on a windy day. How can one convey motion in a static image? Blur. Wind causes motion over time. Decreasing the shutter speed will introduce blur to an image. This can be used to an advantage. Mount your camera on a tripod and pick a shutter speed around 1/20 of a second or even slower. The result can be interesting.
Why look at the same static pictures of red, orange, yellow, green and brown leaves hanging on the branches of a tree? Make your picture move. Introduce blur.
You can also select a high contrast scene and introduce a little blur.
It’s almost November and the leaves are finally getting some color in Northern Virginia. It’s been a relatively dry summer and early fall. As a consequence, the leaves aren’t really colorful – dull red, dull yellow, dull orange, dull brown. Still, you will find the occasional brightly colored leaf or two.
Fall is a beautiful time of year here in Northern Virginia. The weather is relatively mild. A warm spell can appear like a punctuation mark, like a comma in the middle of a sentence. On such a day in late October, the sun was shining and Huntley Meadows beckoned.
The birds are no longer plentiful, though they are certainly still flying around at Huntley. The mallards have returned, but the swallows, egrets, most of the warblers and most of the herons have migrated southward. Just when the thinning leaf cover makes looking for birds easier they migrate away. The leaf covered trails, a clean boardwalk (the geese are in much decreased numbers), the cool but comfortable weather, the canopy of colors make for an irresistible invitation to spend a few hours outdoors
Roadtrip! A mild October day was the catalyst for a short, mostly unplanned trip to the Fort Valley area of Virginia. After an hour driving westward on I66, and lunch at Front Royal, Virginia, it was time to decide. Visit Shenandoah National Park or drive towards the Massanutten high country?
Virginia is a beautiful state. This is especially true in the fall, when canopies of color cover the hills and valleys that roll westward, rising slowly towards the grand chain of peaks that form the heart of Appalachia. Fort Valley is a valley within a valley, so to speak, nestled between the Shenandoah Valley and the Massanutten mountains.
A mere seventy minutes from Washington D.C., Front Royal Virginia is the gateway to Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park. A launching point to smaller towns and villages that dot the Shenandoah Valley. In mid autumn, the state roads heading west and south are transformed into colorful avenues that beckon further exploration. A left turn at a stoplight. A few miles later, another left turn to Virginia 678. As the road meandered towards the George Washington National Forest, the cloud filled October sky gave way to a kaleidoscope of colors that seemed unending. The red, orange, yellow and green hues of the still leaf filled trees transform into a sonata of color as the road weaved up and down through mountain passes and the valley floor. A quiet Monday afternoon. A stunningly beautiful Monday afternoon.