It’s that time again, the time when we turn the calendar to a new year. While in many ways it is an artificial time period – my friend Paul refers to January 1 and December 31 as “markers” – it’s as good a way as any to mark the passage of time, and if we wish, to reflect back and look ahead.
A lot of people seem to be expending an awful lot of energy worrying about 2017, but that’s mostly wasted on things that can’t be changed or controlled. Kathy & I take a more positive view and look at every new year as a new opportunity for adventure. We get a new allotment of vacation days (yay!) and replenish our vacation budget (yay!) and start looking for interesting ways to spend them both.
We started off the new year with a trip to the NC mountains. The threat of possible snow and ice eliminated our plans for a quiet midnight at one of our favorite spots on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but we still made the best of a damp and dreary weekend.
I hope everyone’s 2017 is off to a good start and look forward to sharing a new adventure this coming year!
Finishing up my photos from Winston Salem a few weeks ago. I’m pretty happy with these, overall, considering I’m usually a color guy. 😉
About a month ago I received an email from Marriott telling me that my points were going to expire because I hadn’t stayed at a Marriott branded hotel in almost two years. What – how could that be? As it turns out it was right. Our last stay at a Marriott was early December 2014, which is when we took our last cruise. For some reason the only place we seem to favor Marriott hotels is in Florida. Most other places we go either don’t have them, or we have choices that we like better.
I didn’t have too many points to lose, but I never like giving up points. And it gave us a perfect excuse to travel – what a deal! We looked for something fairly close to home that wouldn’t cost too much, and ended up deciding to head to Winston Salem, NC. We had been there before, but it was quite a long time ago, so it was as good as a new destination for us. So we went.
We had no idea ahead of time, but as we walked around town on Saturday afternoon we noticed that the police were blocking off Fourth Street, which ran near our hotel. We asked a few questions and found out that they were getting ready for their Christmas parade that evening. Cool! So we did the sensible thing and found a place to watch right outside a craft cocktail bar, so we would be able to head inside as soon as the parade was over. While not “cold” by a lot of people’s standards this time of year, the temperature was in the upper 30’s, and the bourbon was calling!
Since the parade didn’t start until 5:00 it dark pretty fast. I knew I was going to have a problem with shutter speeds, so I decided to go with the flow and capture the motion by making intentionally blurry photos. It took a lot of attempts to get a few that captured the mood, but I think I got enough to make a reasonable representation.
Kathy & I just returned from a week in Nevis, a Caribbean island that along with St. Kitts is part of the West Indies. This was our second visit there, after thoroughly enjoying a visit there last year. It is a small, quiet and friendly island, with great people, a number of nice restaurants and plenty of scenic views.
This is photo is one of a number of blog-worthy photos that I will share as I get them processed. In the meantime I wanted to get something posted to break my drought!
I’m finally getting back to looking at some of my photos from our visit to Kentucky in …. oops, September!? How did that happen? Our first stop was at the Jim Beam Distillery in Clermont, Kentucky.
Every distillery seems to have their own “claim to fame” in terms of being first, longest, oldest, etc. But it’s hard to argue with a company that can say “Jim Beam is the World’s No. 1 Bourbon.” And you would be hard pressed to find a distillery in Kentucky that doesn’t trace it’s history back the Beam family line in some way. In fact many and perhaps most of the Master Distillers at Kentucky distilleries today either have the last name of Beam or are somehow descended from the family.
For many people, Jim Beam is synonymous with Bourbon. In fact, that’s what we drank almost exclusively until we started exploring other brands. Like anything, there are lots of choices, but ultimately it comes down to preference and choice.
When we last visited about 10 years ago, Bourbon had not become mainstream like it is today, and the visitor areas consisted on a small tasting room and gift shop. Today, the company has built a huge gift shop, tasting room and museum and is very user friendly. The tours are let by very knowledgeable guides, and very little is “off limits.” Photos are encouraged and welcome, which is a refreshing change from some of the places we visit.
I didn’t end up taking many “artsy” photos, but between my phone and my camera I did end up with quite a collection. These are just a few of my “blog-worthy” photos.
For anyone interested in Bourbon and just a nice, friendly old fashioned place to visit, you can’t get much better than Jim Beam!
Shelby, NC is a town about an hour or so west of Charlotte along I-85. While I knew a little bit about the town and it’s history, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that in all the time we’ve lived here I mostly regarded Shelby as someplace to get through on the way to or from the mountains.
Friends of ours recently moved to Shelby, and we spent a recent afternoon and evening walking around downtown, having dinner and listening to some live music. The downtown area is a far cry from the Shelby I previously knew, and as the county seat for Cleveland County is quite a bustling place.
Shelby is the birthplace of a number of famous people, including country songwriter Don Gibson, legendary banjo player Earl Scruggs, and country music singer Patty Loveless. Throughout town are a number of statues in the form of record albums that commemorate a number of Gibson’s more famous creations.
No small town would be complete without a number of interesting restaurants. We only tried one, but plan to return often to try some more.
This past weekend, Kathy & I paid a long-overdue visit to one of our favorite day-trip destinations, Chateau Morrisette on the Blue Ridge Parkway in southern Virginia. Those who know us well understand that most of our favorite destinations involve something to do with food and wine. Chateau Morrisette is one of the largest wineries in Virginia, and also happens to operate an award-winning, AAA Four-Diamond restaurant. Chateau Morrisette has both food and wine!
Our timing worked out that we were able to have a nice dinner, proceed to one of my favorite sunset destinations for photography, and return to the restaurant for dessert before starting the drive home. How hard is that?
The Saddle Overlook is a few miles north of the winery in an area called Rocky Knob, and is so named because the “saddle” is a low area between the two peaks of Rocky Knob. It has both easterly and westerly views, so depending on the time of day there are frequently interesting things to photograph. Most of my time there has been spent at sunset. The west view has an interesting panorama of the valley and Buffalo Mountain in the distance, but as with most sunset locations it is most interesting when conditions result in a nice sky.
When we first arrived at the parking area there were a few cars, mostly families returning from an earlier hike and a few people just hanging out in their cars. No obvious overload of photographers like some of the more popular spots in North Carolina. Not too much was happening in the sky, and with a general absence of clouds I knew that the best photographs would likely come after the sun had set.
The parking lot has a really nice view, so it is possible to just sit in the car and watch the sun go down. And I could have simply set my camera up in front of the car so I didn’t have to go far. But preferring to work alone and having been at this place before, I have a favorite spot down the hill and off to the side so I can get out of the way of the “tourists” and generally avoid the chatter that inevitably happens when the “drive-by cell phone photographers” start filtering in right at sunset.
Things happened pretty much as expected, and as soon as the ball of the sun sunk below the horizon, the engines started firing up, car doors slammed and in 5 minutes the place was practically deserted. Figuring that it was probably safe to retreat to a spot closer to the car before it was too dark to see, I gathered my gear and headed back up the hill toward the car to complete my evening’s work. I set up my tripod again and framed up a few more shots.
Pretty soon I hear a couple of guys behind me that were looking at the image on my LCD and commenting on the great color I was getting. One guy walked over and started asking me questions and repeated his comment about the nice color I was getting, and I explained that even though it was dark, there was a lot of color in the sky until well after the sun goes down, but that most people miss it because the best color often happens after most people have packed up and left. That they think the sun crossing the horizon is the “main event.” He seemed surprised to hear that but agreed that based on what he saw on my screen it must be true. Seeing is believing! With that, his buddy announced that it was time to go, and he ambled off with a “nice talking to you” and was gone.
I never mind chatting photography with an interested observer. I probably didn’t make a convert, but hopefully I spread a little knowledge. It interests me though the most people just don’t take the time to look, or to think about the things that we photography nuts take for granted.
We made a quick stop in Abingdon, VA on the way from Bristol to Bardstown, KY. I’m pretty sure I have been in Abingdon at one time or another, but we wanted to check the place out for a potential long weekend visit.
Of course because there is a train station there – actually two, a freight depot and passenger depot – it gave me a good excuse to stop for a few photos.
According to my metadata we were stopped for less than an hour, so our stop is hardly representative of what there is to see and do there. Abingdon has a large arts community and is known as being the home of the Barter Theatre and the Virginia Creeper Trail, and the Appalachian Trail passes close to Abingdon.
Abingdon is about 3 hours by car, at least the way most people would go, but about 4-5 hours for those who like to take the scenic route. Definitely close enough for a weekend or even an overnight visit. We’ve got it on the list for a return!
Perhaps as self-compensation for not shooting as much as I’d like to do, it seems that I have been loading up on Fuji lenses. Every time I think I’m done I decide to buy “just one more.” And I’m perhaps just a little embarrassed to say that I am now up to 8. Yikes! I just recently I sprung for the 35mm 1.4 lens. Going a little bit counter to conventional thought (who, me?), I considered the newer and slightly less costly f2 version in favor of the somewhat dated but still quite worthy older model. I put it through some initial paces on a quick walk around town this past weekend. So far I must say I’m impressed and happy with the purchase.