A nice Saturday morning – sunny and cool. A typical mid Atlantic November day. Huntley Meadows beckoned. It’s never a good sign when you get there a half hour after sunrise and people are leaving. And truth be told, it was three hours of looking for something other than a red winged blackbird. You can hear the kingfisher, but it was far away. You can see the mergansers but they were far away. A blue heron flew in but it was far away. Heck, I probably should have stayed far away from Huntley as well, and catch a few more ZZZs. Oh well, at least there was a collection of water on the ground over some leaves. You just go with the flow. Even if the water is at a standstill (or nearly so).
I wanted to go to the same place, on two consecutive days, at almost the same times, to see what kind of pictures are there for the taking. So off I went to Huntley Meadows last Saturday and Sunday. Yes, more bird pictures.
On Friday night, I made up my mind to wake up early and take a walk at Huntley Meadows. It’s been a while since I spent a few hours at Huntley. Spring went quickly and the summer heat is oppressive. The birds are most active in the early part of the day.
I’ve been using my Sony RX10IV for most of my photography lately. This is a great camera. It’s light enough to carry everywhere and it has an incredibly useful zoom range and good built in image stabilization. Where I used to carry a tripod and a long zoom into Huntley, I just carry the RX10IV and shoot away. It’s very liberating.
One thing about the setup that I find indispensable. Without the tripod, you try out different angles on the same subject. Not that you can’t do that with a tripod mounted camera, but it’s a much faster process when you use a handheld camera with a nice lens that you know can do what you want it to do.
What I really wanted to do is shoot bird pictures. Alas, although I got up before daybreak, I hesitated long enough (about going out in the heat) that by the time I did get to Huntley, the sun had been out for almost an hour and a half. Not great. And so, the birds that I hoped to see were not in view (they were probably there, I just could not find them). There were ospreys flying and diving, but they were never close enough to get good pictures of them diving. There were herons that stood on the water, but they were just lounging around. There were egrets, further still, also lounging around. A bluebird sang then went into its nest. Birds aplenty? Yes. The early bird gets the worm is a saying that applies to humans, especially bird photographers. The early guy with the camera gets the birds.
Still, there was a goose that wandered into close proximity. And with its partner, flew up into the sky in an opportune moment. I was tracking an osprey, but saw the two large birds in the periphery of the scene, turned around and pressed the shutter button. The RX10IV has a great AF system. It focuses quickly and tracks the subject quite well. Not quite as good as the top of the line Sony A9, but that’s a bigger camera and the lens I want to use with it won’t be out till next month. And if someone wants to give me that lens, well, I’d take a picture for you.
And that’s how I managed to get a decent goose in flight picture. Born of frustration, but given an opportunity to do something unplanned. Sometimes (actually, most of the time), opportunity knocks. You just need to listen for the sometime faint sound (or in this case, a momentary rush at the edge of the viewfinder). You never know what’s out there. And that’s a good thing.
And there were other things aside from birds. I almost got sunburned staying out too long. And didn’t bring enough water. Still, it was a nice morning to sweat. Take pictures. And be inspired.
So go out there. Take a walk. Be surprised. And let nature rejuvenate your mind and soul.
After a slew of fairly warm days, I decided to take a walk at one of the local wildlife refuges in Northern Virginia. Huntley Meadows is one of my favorite places to take walks (with a camera, of course). There is a central wetland (fairly small) that hosts an abundant variety of birds (especially during the warm months of spring to fall). In the midst of a relatively warm winter, there have been days that observers reported a wide variety of birds in the refuge.
Yesterday (Saturday) was not one of those days where birds were plentiful and easy to find. I am sure that trained eyes would do better than I did, but it was barely above 20F when I left for the refuge (about ten miles away), after the sun had been up an hour. Surprisingly, there were a fair number of people walking around the park. And there were a fair number of disappointed photographers.
It was cold. And for the day (at least in the morning), the birds were few in number. Oh, there were ducks of several sorts and there was an osprey (or something like it) that flew over the boardwalk for a scant ten seconds. Aside from that, nothing. It was a cold day for this human. I suppose the birds don’t really want to go out and about when the wind is brisk and the sun barely peeking out of the clouds.
Oh well. There were still ducks.
Autumn in Northern Virginia. Huntley Meadows in Alexandria, Virginia. In the middle of suburbia, the woods and wetlands remind you of the true beauty that nature brings.
Why is the familiar different now
The river by the bend
The trees, the rocks, the birds, the sky
A thousand steps walked alone
In solitude, nature was my friend
And yet today, even as the bird sang its welcoming song
As the winds of winter give way to the blossoms of spring
As the water lapped gently on the rock strewn shore
I heard my heart speak
In winter’s depth a flower bloomed
Joy came forth, the soul consumed
A life, thought dead, was vital still
And so it was this winter day
That the steps familiar had a different strain
There is beauty everywhere
And time enough for us to share
And coming soon, the Old House Brewery.
On a rainy mid winter day, the urge to drive to the countryside was too much to resist. It was cloudy, drizzly, cool (but not too cold), grey and wet near Washington DC. It was cloudy, drizzly, cool, grey and wet in Culpeper, Virginia as well. And yet, none of that mattered when I visited Old House Vineyards and Distillery. The vineyards and winery that Patrick and Allyson Kearney developed in the Virginia countryside is a wonderful place to visit. And on a soggy Saturday morning, the mood was anything but damp. Wine, chocolate fondue, good food, what could be better?
Rum. Maybe not better, but the spirits sold by the distillery certainly lifted the spirit of this damp visitor from the DC suburbs.
A walk to the World War II themed ABC store was greeted by several samples of Old House Bumbo 1758 Spiced Rum and Grog 349 Rum. Brewed in house by Keith Ballurio, the rums are enticement enough to make the drive through the rain more than worthwhile. Ryan Kearney, the other partner in the distillery business, has a wonderful vodka and an agave nectar that provide even more reasons to drive to the countryside.
And did I say that the place is beautiful? This is a great place to celebrate a wedding. A vineyard, a lake, wine, vodka and rum. Oh, the bride and groom would be ideal accouterments as well.
On this day in February, a groundhog was walking the grounds. Maybe winter isn’t over after all. One thing is certain. No matter the season, Old House is certainly worth a visit. And after a few tastings, you will probably go home with a bottle (or two, perhaps even more) of wine, vodka, rum, agave nectar,… I did.
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.