Category Archives: Travel

An Early Fall Getaway

Morning light and clouds at Pounding Mill Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway MP 413

Kathy & I had a last-minute chance to take off to the mountains this past weekend and meet up with some friends.  There are definitely signs of color in some spots, primarily the higher elevations.  We didn’t spend a lot of time photographing, preferring instead to explore the towns of Waynesville and Sylva.  I did manage to crawl out of bed early on Saturday for an attempt at sunrise, but we left with no evidence that the sun had risen other than the fact that the sky got lighter.  We did end up seeing some sun later in the day and on Sunday, but for the most part things were on the cloudy and foggy side.

Like many weekends in the mountains, this was one of widely variable conditions.  We found sun in some spots, were totally socked in with fog in some spots.  We discovered fall color in some places, while in others summer was still holding on tight.  We stopped by a waterfall along one of the side roads and in 15-20 minutes didn’t see a car, while earlier on the Parkway traffic was starting to get busy.

Waterfall on West Fork Pigeon River, Route 215 Lake Logan Road, Pisgah National Forest

I’m still struggling to find my photographic “groove” and I didn’t help myself much this weekend.  I guess I’ve just allowed myself to get out of practice.  It has been a crazy year so I have a good excuse, but it’s frustrating to feel so out of it, creatively.  I’m back on the upswing though, and am confident that I’ll get things back on track over the next month or so.

All in all we had a great weekend.  Good food and good times with friends are tough to top!

City lights of Hendersonville, NC shine through the pre-dawn fog from Pounding Mill Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway MP 413.

***

 I love the Blue Ridge Parkway, and it is one of my favorite places to visit any time of the year, especially in the fall.  But more and more I find myself struggling with the sheer number of people that head for the Parkway when the leaves start to peak.  In particular I’m bothered by what appears – to me at least – to be an increase in the irresponsible behavior and lack of respect that some drivers have.  This past weekend I witnessed a number of “bad apple” drivers, in particular motorcycle riders, doing stupid and reckless stunts.  Passing on curves and in no-passing zones, tailgating and intimidating drivers who weren’t going fast enough to suit them.  It really takes away from the peaceful experience that I have always gone to the Parkway for.  I understand that not everyone goes to the Parkway for peace and quiet, but when the antics of a few people manage to wreck the experience it is hard to tolerate.

I had already made plans to experience fall in other places this year, but after this past weekend and some similar experiences last year, I think I’m going to wait until I have time to plan my visits in mid-week to hopefully avoid most of the crazies.  I realize that most drivers and riders are careful and responsible, and that for the most part their biggest offense is making a lot of noise, but I think I’ll wait and head back in November and December, when only the most hardy adventurers are willing to brave the elements.

Morning light and fall color at Pounding Mill Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway MP 413

Fall happens everywhere, and I think my goal for this year will be to find Fall in some of the less-discovered places!  We’ve got some interesting adventures coming up, so stop by again soon to see what we’ve been up to.

Morning light and fog at Pounding Mill Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway MP 413

P.O.P.T.P.

This wasn’t my idea…she just stopped in front of the camera. Sometimes you take what you get!

It’s been sort of an unofficial and undeclared project of mine to take photographs of people taking photographs, aka Pictures Of People Taking Pictures.  ‘Unofficial’ because I don’t “set out” looking for such photos, I just happen upon them.  ‘Undeclared’ because I haven’t published or printed any groups of them.  I just have a growing number of “P.O.P.T.P.s” in my collection and sort of figured that one day there would be enough decent ones to make up a series.

I was on the beach at Hilton Head a few weeks ago taking photos at sunrise.  Most people see the tripod and walk behind me.  A few of them are so oblivious to my presence that they walk right in front of the camera.  Occasionally they stop.

This woman was with a group of 4 people walking by.  I was set up for my shot and had Live View activated, so I was able to watch the scene in case they “posed” for me.  One of the hidden advantages of Live View is perhaps the ability to take pictures when it doesn’t look like you are taking pictures?  I was able to watch as they walked into my scene.  I thought they were going to keep walking, but at the very last moment this woman stopped and took several shots.  While she was standing still I was able to click off a few frames of my own.

Protection, or Overkill?

Curves and Angles

When I was growing up I had an aunt, or a cousin or some relative who had the seats in her car covered with plastic.  I always thought that was a little strange, to take this nice comfortable fabric and cover it with hot, sticky plastic, just so it wouldn’t get dirty or wear out.  I don’t remember for certain, but I think she might have had the furniture in her house covered in plastic too.  People used to – probably still do – use plastic carpet runners to keep people from walking on the carpet.  I’ll admit that I can see the logic in covering carpet with carpet runner, in the winter, when it used to snow, and we people would come in the house with snow on their boots.  But in the middle of summer?  Nah!

Too Lazy for Sunrise

Today, we can’t buy a cell phone without being offered a “screen protector.”  I don’t understand why I would buy a fancy new phone with a gorgeous display and stick a piece of foggy plastic on it.  So it won’t get dirty?  It’s a touch screen, for Pete’s sake!  It’s going to get finger marks on it!  When I bought my last laptop, one of my students was appalled that I hadn’t paid another $50 or more for some rubberized piece of goo to cover the computer.  I said, “someone went to a lot of trouble to make this computer look so nice, why would I want to cover it up?”  We get sold $10 UV filters to put in front of our camera lenses, we can buy “skins” to cover up our cameras and lenses, but for what?  So it won’t look like we use them?  Come on, we don’t use them enough as it is, why cover it up with some aftermarket stuff someone thinks we need, just to keep our gear looking nice.

I have no idea why that was stuck in my head today.  Well actually I do, and I feel much better now.  Thanks!

Stucco Shadows

A Week At The Beach

Sunrise on the Beach, Hilton Head Island, SC

I’ve been away for a while.  I didn’t go far, but things are finally settling down after a difficult and hectic August.  Kathy has gotten her Dad’s affairs pretty much in order, and to the extent that I’ve been able to help I have helped.  Work demands have taken some of my attention too, so there just hasn’t been a lot of time for writing and creativity.  The blog got pushed to the side for a little while, but here I am.

Sunrise on the Beach, Hilton Head Island, SC

Kathy & I spent Labor Day week at the beach.  Besides all the hoopla that was already playing out in Charlotte (the DNC, for those who pay even less attention than me) it was time for a break.  Kathy was just about wrung out and so was I, so it was perfect timing.  A trip to the beach was definitely in order.

Our “beach of choice” is Hilton Head Island, SC.  We’ve been going there for years, starting with a weekend each year, then a week, and now we try to get there for a week and several weekends each year.  We like it there, the beach is beautiful, and it’s generally quiet.  There is plenty of activity for those so inclined, but this year we literally rented beach chairs for 7 days straight and sat on our backsides.  We walked, talked, read and just generally chilled.  And I took a few photographs.  Not many, but I managed to haul myself out for sunrise a few mornings, and even got Kathy to come with me for one (I promised her breakfast!).

Sunrise on the Beach, Hilton Head Island, SC

One of the best things about “going to the beach” for us is the state of mind we go with.  We don’t live hectic lives by a lot of peoples’ standards, but it gives us a chance to “put it all away.” And yes, while the DNC was perhaps a historic event, just because it happened to be in Charlotte didn’t change my lack of interest, and it certainly didn’t give me reason to turn on the TV.  We don’t watch TV anyway, so we certainly don’t do it at the beach.  I guess we had a TV, but I never opened the doors of the entertainment center to look.

Sunrise on the Beach, Hilton Head Island, SC

I do very little blog reading or Facebook on vacation.  I don’t have a need to post constant “jealousy updates” that my friends can “Like” and tell me how lucky I am.  I do some photography but that is not the focus of our time or attention there, and unless I have a rainy day with nothing else to do, I’ve gotten completely away from processing photos.  I prefer to live in the moment, and the minute I put my nose into the computer screen “the moment” goes away.

The same holds true with writing.  I sometimes think I’d like to spend some time writing while I’m at the beach, but instead what I do is think and take notes. For the same reasons I don’t like to process photos, I don’t want to take time and attention from being there.  In many ways I write for escape, and when I’m already “escaped” I want to keep it that way.  So I think my thoughts and make my notes to refer to later when something sparks the need to write.  I plant seeds.  I like it that way.

Sunrise on the Beach, Hilton Head Island, SC

We don’t completely escape from reality on vacation.  Hilton Head has numerous wonderful restaurants.  We have a number of “have-to” favorites and always like to try some new places.  This year the new ones were about 50-50 successful, some of the old ones are getting a little old, and a few places we had been to only a few times but tried again were worth a visit.  We sometimes get out to do some shopping or visit a gallery or two, but this year the weather was so beautiful we didn’t have a reason to leave the beach.  We do more of that in the winter if we visit in January or February.

Sunrise on the Beach, Hilton Head Island, SC

But we’re here now, back to “reality” for a little while.  I’ve got some photos to share and a few stories to tell.  And we’ll be back to our usual traveling routine after a few weekends at home.  So, sorry if you missed me, but thanks for sticking around.

Sunrise on the Beach, Hilton Head Island, SC

Finding A New Normal

South Beach Marina, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

This year has truly exemplified the term “roller coaster ride.” Kathy’s Dad died last week after an extended illness.  Her Mom died in May.  They had both been ailing for quite some time before they moved to an assisted living facility in April of this year.  In between we managed to squeeze in a trip to the beach, several weekends to the mountains, including a great weekend with friends at Shenandoah National Park in April.  Then her Mom died in May, later in the month we took a wonderful vacation to Alaska and California, and since then we managed to sneak in a few weekends away, but in general the last several months were consumed with taking care of Kathy’s Dad.

It’s been a tough year.

Kathy & I love to travel, obviously.  And we often use our travel as a way to escape – both mentally and physically – from our everyday realities.  The last 6 months or more have been emotionally and physically draining, and we feel fortunate to have been able to intersperse the grief and sadness with some well-timed getaways.

Beach at Sunset, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

It’s surprising how the body and mind can take on additional burden without us realizing it, until such time as the burden is lifted from us and we realize how much we had been carrying.  We are starting to feel that lifting now, and it may take a while longer before we fully appreciate it.

We were talking with friends this past week and one of them mentioned that we would be “trying to find our new normal.”  That comment hit home for both of us, and we have talked about it a lot over the last few days.  I really like the concept of “a new normal,” as if feels like what is happening to us now (I say ‘us,’ but of course Kathy has been carrying the burden, and I have been supporting her as much as I can).

It’s a huge change, to go from caring for two people who have loved you for your entire life to having them gone completely in a few short months.  I went through it myself years ago and it still comes back and smacks me in the head when I least expect it.  And I suspect it will continue to do so for a long while to come.

South Beach Marina, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

The attraction of this “new normal” idea is that it presents one of those rare times when we have at least a little bit of influence about what that “normal” looks like.  Will it mean big changes for us?  Probably not.  But I know that losing both of my parents at an early age – my Mom was 53 when she died, my Dad was 54 – has had a profound influence on how I have looked, and how I continue to look, at my own life as I approach (and hopefully pass) those ages.  Let’s just say that I’m hoping for a heck of a birthday party for July 2013!

The concept of “a new normal” is very appropriate to me, because it aptly describes the adjustment process that inevitably takes place when a major change occurs in our lives.  Many of these changes are very subtle, such as not having to remember to make a phone call, or not having to plan our route so we come home via Statesville.  Some of them are pretty major, as in the fact that having someone living close by and being primarily responsible for their care was one of the major influences to us in terms of staying in the area.  Does that mean we’re going to sell the house and move to Alaska?  Not today, but when we do decide it’s time to sell the house – which is the only “physical” thing keeping us here – who knows?  The kids are here, and our jobs (for as long as we want them or as long as our employers want us) are here.  But fewer ties mean more possibilities.  And that is what “new normal” means for me right now.  What will it mean in a few months or a few years?  Time will tell, but I’m looking forward to figuring it out.

South Beach Marina, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

We had already planned a trip to the beach over Labor Day weekend, but we had an opportunity to extend that into a full week.  I think a week of sand, sun and ocean will do us good.  Some quiet time to think and talk, a nice beach for long walks, and a number of good restaurants where they treat us like locals.  It is one of our favorite places to visit, and a good place to start getting in touch with our new normal.  Indeed.

A Visit to Roanoke

Mill Mountain Star in Roanoke, VA. In-camera HDR with Canon 5D Mark III

Kathy & I recently visited Roanoke, Virginia to visit with our friend Steven Norris and attend the opening of a gallery show that Exposure Roanoke is having at a gallery there.  We had visited Roanoke many, many years ago, and had good but fading memories of the place.  We had been intending to return for a long time, and this gave us a good chance to go.

Evening shower, Roanoke VA

We didn’t have a lot of time there, but we stayed at the Hotel Roanoke, which gave us easy access to the downtown area.  With the expert guidance of Steven & Cheryl we visited some of the downtown highlights on Saturday night, and I returned for a little shooting on my own on Sunday morning, before meeting up with our friends for the sumptuous breakfast buffet at the Hotel Roanoke.

I’m not exactly sure what ‘Tomato Water’ is, but if they can make a Martini out of it, how bad can it be?

Roanoke is a railroad town, having grown around the success of the Norfolk & Southern, now Norfolk & Western.  A lot of coal moves through Roanoke.  With a population of just under 100,000 with 303,000 in the MSA, it’s a happening place without the sprawl and congestion of larger cities.  Situated right near the mountains and The Blue Ridge Parkway and an easy drive from Charlotte, it’s a place we need to spend more time visiting, especially with friends there.

Roanoke VA at night
Roanoke VA at night

Despite the amazing number of railroad tracks, there are numerous bridges and pedestrian walkways, so getting around is easy.  Our hotel had a walkway right across from the entrance, so we could be in town within minutes of leaving our room.  And with the exception of going out to the gallery, once we parked our car we didn’t need it again until we left.  My kind of place!

Pedestrian overpass in Roanoke, VA

We didn’t visit the Transportation Museum, deciding to spend our limited time seeing more of the town.  We did visit the O. Winston Link Museum on Sunday afternoon and learned the story of Link and is railroad photography.  The Link museum is a fascinating place, located in the former N&S passenger depot.  It’s definitely a must-visit for any photography and/or railroad buff.

Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke VA
Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke VA
Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke VA
Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke VA

The Taubman Museum of Art is across the tracks from the Link Museum, and provides an interesting architectural contrast with much of the older architecture in the area.  I got the impression that there were only two opinions about the place most residents considering it either a hideous eyesore or beautiful.  In my opinion there’s no point in making an art museum look like a Wal-Mart, so I guess I would fall into the “beautiful” camp.  I’d vote for spending my tax dollars on it.

Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke VA

We had a nice weekend in Roanoke, a wonderful visit with Steven and Cheryl, and hope it isn’t another 30 years before we return for another look.

Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke VA

A Stop at Mabry Mill

Blacksmith shop at Mabry Mill, at MP 177 on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan, Virginia

Kathy & I headed to Roanoke, VA this past weekend, and as we often do we took the “slow way,” stopping at Mabry Mill, on the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP 177 in Virginia.  There’s a little restaurant there and some of their buckwheat pancakes are “just the thing” if you like that sort of thing.

Barn and vines, Mabry Mill, at MP 177 on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan, Virginia

The mill itself is probably the single most photographed thing on the Parkway, so I don’t even aim my camera in its general direction these days, unless there is something really special to shoot.  After our sumptuous breakfast we took a few minutes to wander the grounds before heading back up the road.  They were setting up for their weekend demonstrations, and I got a couple of nice shots in the blacksmith shop.

Blacksmith shop at Mabry Mill, at MP 177 on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan, Virginia

Here are a few photos from Mabry Mill to satisfy the curious until I get the Roanoke photos processed.

Old wagon at Mabry Mill, at MP 177 on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan, Virginia

Just One Shot

Rain, Billy’s Restaurant in Roanoke, VA

Kathy & I spent this past weekend visiting friends in Roanoke, VA.  More on that later.

Sunday afternoon we were walking around the downtown area, when a thunderstorm passed through.  Taking refuge under the overhang of the City Market, we were right across the street from Billy’s, a restaurant we had stopped at for cocktails and appetizers the evening before.

The girl in this photo is a hostess at Billy’s.  During the height of the downpour, she pulled up in front of the restaurant in her car, and one of her co-workers from inside came outside under an umbrella and handed her another umbrella through her car window.  She then drove around to the side of the building to park.  Sensing a possible photo opportunity, I maneuvered into a position I thought might be suitable, and waited for her to come down the sidewalk.  As she approached the front of the building, I lifted my camera, took this one shot, and she immediately covered her face with the umbrella and that was it.  But this is the shot I was looking for, and the expression on her face makes it for me.

Passing the Umbrella, Billy’s Restaurant in Roanoke, VA

The photo itself is probably not a big deal, but what excites me the most is that I envisioned the scene, saw it coming and made it happen.  The fact that I only got one shot is interesting, but I only needed one, right?

More to come on the rest of our wonderful visit with good friends, but I wanted to share this one before I go back to working on the rest of my photos.  I’ve got a few more!

Long Overdue

Kathy & I had been trying to find a weekend to head to Waynesville, NC – our favorite little town in the NC mountains – since March.  With the exception of our Alaska and California adventure, things just haven’t been very conducive to getting away for the last several months.  We finally had our chance this past weekend and took advantage.

As luck would have it we didn’t get a lot of relief from the high temperatures, as Waynesville – while about 10 degrees cooler than Charlotte – was still unseasonably hot, to the point where most of the HVAC systems were doing their best to keep up.  Most of them were up to the task, a few were not.

We wisely headed out early and got our in-town sightseeing done early.  In the heat of the afternoon we headed up to the Blue Ridge Parkway for a few hours, and while it was 97 in town, it was an unusually warm but relatively cool 84 at Waterrock Knob, an overlook and visitor center at 5,820 feet.  After a stop for ice cream it was back to town for a nice dinner and some rest in our thankfully-air-conditioned room.

Sunday was spent getting back to reality, and after a stop in Statesville here we are.  A couple of work days with a holiday sandwiched in, and before we know it we’ll have another weekend!

No serious photography this trip, but I had a camera with me at just about all times!