Tag Archives: Virginia

A Recalibration of Compromises

Big Meadows area of Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Kirk Tuck recently used this phrase in regards to making choices between camera options, specifically about different lenses.  The full quote follows:

The “science” of optical design can not have changed a tremendous amount in four or five years so you have to understand that the “new versus old” shift is largely a recalibration of compromises. Buy the new one and watch your left biceps atrophy. Buy the old one and suffer the dreaded effects of manual portage. Suffer the ruinous added weight of the original for the extra 1% of quality in the corners or choose the lightweight version and forever wonder how much optical magic they had to remove to get the lens corpulence under control.

It occurred to me, however, that the concept applies in a much broader context, especially in recent months.

Every decision we make requires some effort to balance the options, to compromise.  Do I want the camera with the big sensor that is huge, heavy and requires a large suitcase to cart around, or am I better off with the compact camera with a smaller sensor, small but excellent lenses and “good enough” image quality?  We want to travel – we love to fly but not not any time soon.  We have spent a lot of time on cruise ships but won’t for a while.  Our trip to the beach worked out really well – just like living at home but with better scenery. 😉

We love to eat our but have limited our restaurant outings.  We’ve gotten even better at preparing simple but delicious meals at home – much to the delight of the bathroom scale!

Kathy and I are currently in the process of planning a road trip to the Pacific Northwest.  The places we’re planning to visit are the places where we’re less likely to encounter big crowds.  As crazy as it sounds, we’ll probably drive within a few miles of Yellowstone or Glacier National Parks, but have no intention of stopping.  First, crowds are not our thing.  We probably would be doing pretty much the same thing even without all the Coronacrisis hoopla.  But second is that we don’t want to have to deal with the logistics of large crowds.  Third is that when we do go to those parks we want to be able to spend several days or even a couple of weeks there.  That isn’t the plan for this time.

Our recent drive to Ohio and Wisconsin taught us that we can eat, sleep, pee and get gas just about anywhere.  Sometimes it requires a little compromise on location or timing, but it can get done.  Ultimately, once we solve that basic equation we can go just about anywhere!

People ask us why we don’t buy an RV.  For some people it’s the perfect solution.  For us, we like knowing that when we get to the motel, tired after or driving or exploring all day, we don’t need to spend another hour setting up camp.  I can have cocktails made within minutes after arrival!  And the next morning, we grab a cup of coffee, drop the keys at the front desk and get on our way again.  Neither option is right or wrong, just different ways to calibrate the compromises.

None of our choices are either/or or yes/no.  We need to consider what we can do instead  We have to look at the options and recalibrate our compromises.  Our priorities, if you will.  It can be hard, particularly for those of us who don’t care for change.  But the effort is worth it, because there are still plenty of things to do once we have worked out the details.

Big Meadows area of Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

The Sessions Hotel in Bristol VA/TN

The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia

It’s not often we get to stay at a brand-new hotel.  It’s even more rare to be the very first people to stay in a hotel room.  But that was our experience at The Sessions Hotel in Bristol, VA.  The hotel had just opened a week or so before our visit, and a paper in our room asked for feedback since we were the first ones to occupy the room.  Cool!

The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia

When we were making our plans to return home from Wisconsin, Bristol was in the right location for our last night’s stay.  We had been to Bristol before, but had only stayed at the usual next-to-the-freeway chain hotels.  When I searched on hotels, one of the search results was ‘The Sessions Hotel, A Tribute Portfolio Hotel’ by Marriott in downtown Bristol.  The price was a little higher than the freeway-side options, and the location was shown as being right in the center of town.  Whenever possible we like to be “in town” so we can walk to dinner and shops instead of searching for a place to park.  So what the heck?

Bristol is a historic town situated on the VA/TN border.  In fact the VA/TN state line runs right through the middle of State Street, the main street through town.  Bristol’s primary claim to fame is as the Birthplace of Country Music, so named because of “The Sessions,” recording sessions that took place in Bristol in 1927.  These recording sessions launched the widespread appeal of musicians who, up until that time, had been known only locally in the areas where they performed.

Hallway outside our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Key cards for our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Sitting area of our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Sitting area of our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia

According to the Marriott website, the Tribute Portfolio is a collection of boutique hotels designed to reflect the character of the city in which they are located, operated independently but under the Marriott umbrella.  Each hotel has its own theme, decor and vibe.

The hotel occupies three buildings that previously housed a mill and warehouse.  The public spaces and rooms were all designed around the theme of The Sessions.  Music-inspired artwork, furniture and accessories abounds in the public areas, and each room is uniquely decorated with the theme of a specific recording.

From the hotel website:

“Situated in the heart of the Birthplace Of Country Music, our boutique hotel is named after the 1927 Sessions made by Ralph Peer and a few others. Bristol’s energetic passion for country music is reflected throughout the hotel’s thoughtful décor with curated pieces and musical offerings. Experience a free-spirited environment in repurposed buildings where rustic meets contemporary. Rest comfortably in uniquely designed rooms and suites with exposed brick and modern furnishings. Indulge at Southern Craft restaurant, an upscale wood fired smokehouse, offering award winning barbecue, classic favorites and sides. Sip cocktails on the rooftop bar and lounge by the cozy fire pit overlooking the city of Bristol. Get pampered at the Vision Salon and Day spa with invigorating spa treatments and body rituals. Host a special event in our indoor or outdoor music venues with a music stage or attend one of the concerts at our Bristol, VA hotel.”

Shower in our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Bathroom in our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Bathtub in our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Framed guitar picks in our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Do Not Disturb sign in our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia

Our room was Room 224, which was a Junior Suite.  The room was named after the tune “Tell Mother I Will Meet Her,” recorded by Ernest Stoneman.  The room number plaque outside the room had a replica of the record label, and in the room was a framed copy of the lyrics.  The “Do Not Disturb” sign was a wooden record with “Time For A Rest” imprinted on it.

Shadows at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Shadows at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Shadows at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia

We didn’t explore the hotel much since we were only there overnight, but we certainly enjoyed our room.  We did not, for example, sample the rooftop bar, but we did have breakfast at the adjacent restaurant.  A lot of the amenities were still being finalized, as there were still painters touching up some of the rooms and hallways during our stay.  Our conversation with the manager indicated that there are plans for an outdoor music venue and other additions in the near future.

Overall the hotel was nicely done.  The decor and furnishings are of high quality, and the bathroom is the kind that makes you want to call a bathroom remodeler as soon as you get home!  The hotel is a couple of steps above the typical “chain” hotel, and just the kind of thing that Kathy & I look for when we’re looking to get away  but don’t want to drive too far.  Bristol isn’t exactly known as a foodie mecca, but we don’t consider ourselves foodies anyway.  There are plenty of unique, interesting and local places to eat – just the kind of place we look for.  Who could pass up a hotdog or two from a place called the Earnest Tube (as in the musician Ernest Tubbs) or a place called The Angry Italian?  We did pass them up this time, but would definitely put them on the agenda for another visit!

Southern Craft BBQ Restaurant in Bristol, Virginia next to The Sessions Hotel
Southern Craft BBQ Restaurant in Bristol, Virginia next to The Sessions Hotel
Southern Craft BBQ Restaurant in Bristol, Virginia next to The Sessions Hotel
Southern Craft BBQ Restaurant in Bristol, Virginia next to The Sessions Hotel
Light fixture at Southern Craft BBQ Restaurant in Bristol, Virginia next to The Sessions Hotel

Bristol and The Sessions Hotel is definitely on our short list of places to return to when we are looking for a few days away.  We hope they can start the live music back up soon.  It would be a great place to visit this fall when things cool down and the leaves heat up!

Earnhardt-Petty Mural at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Birthplace of Country Music Mural in Bristol, Tennessee
The Earnest Tube restaurant in downtown Bristol TN/VA
Train station in Bristol, Virginia
Downtown Bristol TN/VA

Now You See Them…Now You Don’t

Angry surf on the beach at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia

I’ve been going back through old image folders looking for unprocessed photos that are worth spending time with.  I recently came across some photos from a visit to Chincoteague, Virginia in 2010.

Angry surf on the beach at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia

The ocean was particularly angry one morning, and I remember standing on the beach shooting the surf while trying to keep myself and the camera dry from the salt spray.  In order to slow the shutter speed down enough to show the motion, I had stopped my lens down to – according to the metadata – f40.  I didn’t remember having a lens that stopped down that much, but sho-nuff the old Canon 100-400  did!

Angry surf on the beach at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia

Of course, at f40 every dust spot on the sensor is going to be visible, and on some of these photos there were dozens, perhaps a hundred or more.  It’s a pretty safe guess that the reason these photos hadn’t been processed was because of all the spots.  I’ve never been meticulous about cleaning my sensor, and it shows.  But one of the advances in Lightroom that I am now able to take advantage of is the Spot Removal tool.  The technology has improved dramatically over the last 10 years, to the point where I was able to salvage this photos.  It involved a lot of clicking and a certain amount of adjusting, but a lot less futzing than I would have had to do back then!

Angry surf on the beach at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia

A Thing For Train Stations

Train Station in Pulaski, Virginia

It’s not exactly an obsession, but one of the things I look for when we travel (other than lighthouses and covered bridges) is train stations.  They are generally very easy to spot, as their architecture tends to be quite unique.  They are usually, but not always, located next to railroad tracks.  Sometimes they are still active passenger depots, but more often than not have been converted to offices, civic centers or meeting halls.  I’ve seen some that are police stations, city halls and even restaurants.  Most heartbreaking for me is when I see one in disrepair.  It takes a lot of money to keep these places up, but they are an important part of history and I love to see them being used and maintained.

Train station in Dublin, Virginia
Train station in Dublin, Virginia
Train station in Roncevert, West Virginia
Train station in Roncevert, West Virginia
Train station in Roncevert, West Virginia
Train station in Roncevert, West Virginia
Train station in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
Train station in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
Train station in Sugarcreek, Ohio

Waiting Out The Color

Sunset at The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan Virginia
Sunset at The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan Virginia

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?

Sunset at The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan Virginia
Sunset at The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan Virginia

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.

Sunset at The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan Virginia
Sunset at The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan Virginia

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.

Sunset at The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan Virginia
Sunset at The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan Virginia

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.

Sunset at The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan Virginia
Sunset at The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan Virginia

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.

Sunset at The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan Virginia
Sunset at The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan Virginia

A Quick Stop in Abingdon, Virginia

Train Station in Abingdon Virginia
Train Station in Abingdon Virginia

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.

Train Station in Abingdon Virginia
Train Station in Abingdon Virginia
Train Station in Abingdon Virginia
Train Station in Abingdon Virginia
Train Station in Abingdon Virginia
Train Station in Abingdon Virginia

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.

Shadows on a stairway in Abingdon Virginia
Shadows on a stairway in Abingdon Virginia

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.

Babycakes Unique Eats bakery in Abingdon Virginia
Babycakes Unique Eats bakery in Abingdon Virginia
Babycakes Unique Eats bakery in Abingdon Virginia
Babycakes Unique Eats bakery in Abingdon Virginia

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!

Abingdon Virginia
Abingdon Virginia
Abingdon Virginia
Abingdon Virginia

Passing Through Bristol

Bristol Sign recognizing the City of Bristol in both Tennessee and Virginia. The sign spans State Street, so the sign has a half in each state.
Bristol Sign recognizing the City of Bristol in both Tennessee and Virginia. The sign spans State Street, so the sign has a half in each state.

On our recent adventure to Kentucky, Kathy & I decided to break up the drive by spending our first night in Bristol – but is Bristol in Tennessee or Virginia?  As it turns out, it is a town in both Tennessee and Virginia!

Bristol Sign recognizing the City of Bristol in both Tennessee and Virginia. The sign spans State Street, so the sign has a half in each state.
Bristol Sign recognizing the City of Bristol in both Tennessee and Virginia. The sign spans State Street, so the sign has a half in each state.
Paramount Theater on the Tennessee side of State Street in Bristol Tennessee
Paramount Theater on the Tennessee side of State Street in Bristol Tennessee

Many folks – including me for a long time – had always thought of Bristol as being in Tennessee.  But the state line runs right down the middle of State Street, so the businesses on the north side are in Virginia while those on the south side are in Tennessee.  And both sides of town have their own city government.  Interesting!

Train Station, Bristol Virginia
Train Station, Bristol Virginia
Train Station, Bristol Virginia
Train Station, Bristol Virginia

What attracted us to Bristol to cause us to decide to stop there?  Well for one thing they have a very nice train station, and there is some interesting history in Bristol, particularly related to the early roots of country music.  We made a quick overnight stop and managed to hit some of the highlights, and now we’re talking about a return visit, when we can spend some more time seeing more of what is there.  It was a nice town to visit and we hope to get back there soon.

Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol Virginia
Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol Virginia
Sun and shadows on a building along the Virginia side of State Street in Bristol Virginia
Sun and shadows on a building along the Virginia side of State Street in Bristol Virginia
Sun reflecting off windows onto the blank side of the building next door. On the Virginia side of Main Street in Bristol Virginia
Sun reflecting off windows onto the blank side of the building next door. On the Virginia side of Main Street in Bristol Virginia

Farmer’s Market

Farmer’s Market in downtown Roanoke, Virginia

I really love fall because it is a great time to travel and take photographs.  But the hard part about fall is that we do a lot of traveling and take a lot of photographs!  I was already a few weeks behind on processing my photos from the last two weekends, and then this weekend I went and took another 1,000 or so photographs, so I’m even behinder now than I was before.  But we’ll slow down a bit in November and December, so with any luck I’ll have some time to get caught up on my processing and my writing.  Wishful thinking, perhaps, but that’s the plan.

Farmer’s Market in downtown Roanoke, Virginia
Farmer’s Market in downtown Roanoke, Virginia

Over the weekend of 10/19-10/21 we headed to Roanoke, VA to spend time with our good friends Steven and Cheryl.  One of the things I had been looking forward to was visiting their Farmer’s Market, which is right downtown, in the Market Square area.  There is a block-long section of street that has been permanently set up for local farmers and craftspeople to display and sell their goods.  It was quite an experience, and for me it was a real photographic treat.  And all I did was shoot vegetables!  I could have make an entire day photographing people, although many of them were not nearly as photogenic as the food. 🙂

Farmer’s Market in downtown Roanoke, Virginia
Farmer’s Market in downtown Roanoke, Virginia

I’ve not spent a lot if time at farmer’s markets, although I certainly need to do more of it.  The quality of food for sale is much better than that found at even the better local grocery stores.  Most if it is truly local, and you can be pretty sure that whatever you buy was picked just a few days before you bought it.  We always tell ourselves that we don’t buy enough produce to make it worth the trip, but I think there’s a lot to be said for buying fresh and for buying local.

Farmer’s Market in downtown Roanoke, Virginia
Farmer’s Market in downtown Roanoke, Virginia

The fall colors were coming into their own while we were there, and I’ll try to follow up with another post on that subject in the next few days.

Farmer’s Market in downtown Roanoke, Virginia
Farmer’s Market in downtown Roanoke, Virginia

I have a number of friends who seem to be able to race home and see who can be the first to process and post photos from their weekends, but I don’t seem to be able to come close to that, so I don’t care to waste much effort trying to compete.  In the mean time I’m currently trying to download and process another batch of photos from our two latest adventures.  One of them was for a paying client today, so I’ll have to give those photos a higher priority.  But I’ll get back to these soon, so stay tuned.

Farmer’s Market in downtown Roanoke, Virginia

Special thanks to Riverstone Organic Farm from Floyd, VA for allowing me to shoot their vegetables!

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