If you have any interest in cameras and find yourself in central Virginia, the Camera Heritage Museum in Staunton (pronounced STAN-ton) is a must-see. Located in a former camera store, this place is crazy full of cameras of all kinds, and the stuff in the showroom is only part of the collection. According to the guy we talked to (mostly he talked to us!) they have store rooms throughout the city with more cameras. They just don’t have room to display them all. They claim to be the largest camera store open to the public in the US, and although I have nothing to compare it to and even after visiting the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, I believe it!
Check out their website. It tells you more than I can ever tell in a blog post. But you definitely have to see it in person to really appreciate it!
Kathy and I embarked this past Friday on our Great New England Road Trip, spending our first night in a very non-New England (but still lovely) Staunton, Virginia. Beverly Street in downtown Staunton, Virginia (pronounced ‘Stanton’) is blocked off so restaurants can do outdoor dining. I shot this after dinner at Emilio’s, an excellent Italian restaurant located on the street behind my vantage point for this shot.
The photo is a teensy bit soft as it was taken handheld at 0.8 seconds, ISO 6400. 😉
Several weeks ago in my Art vs. Decor post I included photos from the NASCAR Hall of Fame here in Charlotte. I got a number of favorable comments about those photos which are among my favorites. They are favorites partly because they represent some of the “landmark” locations in Charlotte, but mostly because people who ought to know where they were taken are often stumped because it isn’t the usual view.
After working on the “Frozen Moments” photo I was perusing the folder for another visit to Roanoke, VA and came across these photos of the Taubman Museum of Art. While designed by a different architect, there are some obvious similarities between this building and many other famous landmarks across this country and around the world. Interestingly, the Taubman is essentially “right next door” to Billy’s restaurant from that rainy photo. I had much better weather for these photos! 😉
As it turns out, The Taubman was designed by architect Randall Stout, who had his own firm when he designed this building and others, but had spent 7 1/2 years with Frank O. Gehry and Associates. Gehry is known for his works that include The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and it is evident to me that Stout was heavily influenced by that aesthetic.
By the way, the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte was designed by another famous firm, I.M. Pei, known for many famous buildings, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and the “Pyramid” at The Louvre in Paris.
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.
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!
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.
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.”
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!