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Manassas National Battlefield

A couple of weeks ago I was suffering… not from a cold or sickness or anything serious… just suffering from not having been outside very much. I’ve popped out here and there. I even got outside when it snowed. But a couple of weeks ago, I was tired of the rain. I also feel weird when I don’t “experience” a sunset for awhile. I saw that the clouds were going to clear out and that was my cue to get somewhere.

I decided on Manassas National Battlefield because I had seen a lot of cool sunset photos there and wanted to try for my own. One of the nice things about the place is that there are any number of compositions to be had. There are buildings. Monuments. Canons. Houses. The wide open spaces really give you a lot of options. I reached out to someone who had just moved to the area and asked if he wanted to go as well. We met there and wandered around chatting and shooting. I was worried that I hadn’t really gotten many good photos. I shot handheld for much of the early evening. As it turns out, the sky wasn’t very dramatic. The clouds moved out entirely. Thankfully, though, the sun was powerful and provided a beautiful glow.

One thing I have been attempting is to take more shots at different exposures and combine them. I have done it in the past but I feel more confident with it now and have learned how to do it better. I can honestly say it made the difference with my photos. Have you been to Manassas National Battlefield for photography? I know that I can’t wait to go back. I didn’t care for any of my canon photos so maybe I’ll try to capture them in a more interesting way.

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Smalltown USA

I grew up in a very small town in Michigan. I didn’t think much of it while growing up until I moved out here to the DMV area (Washington DC, Virginia, Maryland). It was then that I realized how tiny my area is and how rural it is. I do enjoy going back to visit but I could never live there again. My parents are still there so I do end up in Michigan 2-3 times a year. I wish it was more but alas, life.

The kids and I were there for Christmas this past week. I did not have very much time for photography and didn’t have any time to get out and hike. There are a couple of small trails I try to go to while there but just didn’t have a chance. My father is not quite home bound but he can’t walk for very long and uses a walker. It does make me sad because the love of the outdoors was instilled in me by my father. He used to always go for walks – long ones. There are train tracks near the house and he’d walk down those any chance he got.

The photos I took this past week are rural photos. They showcase the county where I grew up and the history.

First, THE Polar Express. The Pierre Marquette 1225 Steam Engine was the model for the movie The Polar Express. Each year, you can buy tickets to ride it from my hometown up to another small town where they have a Christmas village. They try to make your experience like the movie so they have bells and hot chocolate. It runs right past my parents’ house so I always try to get a photo of it. I am incredibly happy with my photos this year and am featuring one below. I just ordered a large metal print of this and am excited to receive it.

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Pierre Marquette 1225

As I was out driving around, I came across what I thought was an old chapel or church. I did some research and found out it is actually one of the first schoolhouses in my county. It was built around 1849 for $166. I love that fact. $166… the money was from the taxes. I found out it is privately owned. If I would have had more time, I might have called the people and asked to photograph the inside. In all my years growing up, I had never seen this.

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Dewey Schoolhouse

I really enjoy photographing barns. In the right setting, they can be beautiful. And one thing is for certain, there are numerous beautiful barns in Michigan. I had read about an octagon barn in the area and really wanted to see it. Like a dork, I had driven the wrong direction and missed it. My sister stopped in to see me and said, “Hey! I know of a barn you might want to take pictures of.” and told me about the same barn. She told me exactly where to find it and I took off. I have to say it is a wonderful barn. The country roads near me are often empty so I was able to park and take as many pictures as I wanted. I took many barn photos on my trip but this one is my favorite.

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Octagon shaped barn in Shiawassee County, Michigan

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with the photos I took. I really wanted to get to a Wildlife Management area while there but, as mentioned, I ran out of time. Note to self: Save up more vacation hours. I feel like I was truly able to capture the feel of my county. Wide open fields. Barns. Bare trees in winter. I’m going to share one last photo below. I saw this tree with shoes hanging from it. It felt very random because there is nothing near this tree. Maybe a farmer in the area started it? No idea but it was humorous.

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Shoe Tree

All rights reserved. Any usage or reproduction of these images is against the law and violators will be persecuted. Do NOT save my photos. Thank you.

Potomac Wayside Park

I often lament that there are not that many waterfalls closer to me. Sure, there is Scott’s Run Nature Preserve and that is a really cool one. And of course, all of the ones in Shenandoah National Park and along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I just really wish I lived right next to one I guess.

However, Potomac Wayside Park is only 30 minutes away. I feel like calling this a “park” is a bit of a stretch.  The first thing to know about this park is that there is parking for about three vehicles. That’s it.  When you drive up to it, there is a large, long paved area but they (Loudoun County? NOVA Parks?) call most of it a roadway. And they don’t allow parking there except for the very end of it. If you decide to go, go early (no later than 9:00 am).  It is unfortunate that there is so little parking because the area is beautiful.  If you go during the summer, you’ll see that the Harpers Ferry Adventure Center uses the full length of the “roadway” to park for their tubing expeditions. I know, it seems unfair that they get to use it for commercial ventures while the rest of us cannot.

When you arrive… very early in the morning…you’ll see a sign at the start of the trail.  The trail is incredibly short and it will take you directly to the waterfall. Each time I have been to the falls there has been a good amount of water. The name of the waterfall is Piney Run Falls.  It dumps directly into the Potomac. I once visited during the winter and it was pretty much frozen solid. It looked amazing.  There are some large rocks to climb on but just be aware that they are very slippery.  On a hot day, feel free to wade into the water. It feels amazing.

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Piney Run Falls

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Further down the trail

Frozen Waterfall

Frozen Piney Run

If you continue down the trail, you’ll come to the Potomac River.  From there, you’ll have a great view of the bridge that connects Maryland and Virginia to your right.  And to your left, you’ll see Harpers Ferry.  I suppose you could fish from this area. I would recommend swimming here as the current can be strong.  The chances of seeing an eagle fly by are very high. When the water is lower, there are exposed rocks where you can sit and relax.

Piney Run

Harpers Ferry

Piney Run

The Bridge

This is one of my favorite spots in Loudoun County. Because I go very early, I have it to myself each time. While it is a shame the parking lot is so small, I guess, it is also a blessing. It would probably be overrun with people if it was larger. It is a balance.  I definitely recommend visiting Harpers Ferry after seeing the falls. There are a number of smaller trails to explore.  Or you can do the Maryland Heights Trail which will give you an incredible view of the entire area.

Rural Virginia

One of the joys of hiking in southern Virginia is driving through all of the rural roads. When possible, I make sure to take the back roads and stay off of the highways. While I was growing up in Michigan, I lived in a somewhat rural area. We had our share of barns, farmland, cows, etc. and I always wanted to live in a big city. Funny how things change.  I am not a “country” person in the stereotypical ways. I hate country music. I wouldn’t want to live on a farm. But I do dream of living in a rural area when I retire.  I live pretty close to rural areas now but because it is forever-expanding, we still get a lot of traffic.

When I was driving on some of the roads around Bland, Virginia there was no one else on the road with me. I had the luxury of pulling over, jumping out of my car, and taking photos. Sometimes I still felt rushed and do wish I had taken just a couple of extra seconds to check my camera but I was able to capture some photos that give me that “feel”.

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Rolling hills, cows, and the Blue Ridge Mountains

 

One of my favorite photos is of a church. I had passed it on our way to Bush Creek Falls. Lo and behold this was a rare moment I had someone behind me. I saw it too late and couldn’t pull over. However, on our way back, I made a point of it.  I think about this whole 3 minutes of time and it still makes me laugh.  The area where I pulled over was a parking lot of a closed business.  I stepped out of my car and immediately some dogs on the property across the street started barking. That woke up the cows and sheep on the farm adjacent to them and they mooed and baaed. I was in the middle of an intersection trying to get my settings right while it sounded like a farm erupting. Then, at the house to my right, I heard a screen door slam. If you have spent any time in the country or a country town, you know the sound. They have different sounds. And this particular slam was one of, “Who is that out in the intersection, making all the animals go crazy, taking photos of this church?”  I finished and ran back to my car before someone yelled at me.

 

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Old Sharon Presbyterian Church, est. 1805

Needless to say, I probably didn’t need to fear. I emailed the photo of the church to an email address I found on the small town’s website. The lady was very gracious and told me all about the church and history. I am sure no one would have been upset with me. Just a small anecdote to share how life is in some very small towns. When you travel, do you take the back roads? If you don’t, I highly suggest it. Especially with our mapping tools we have these days. It is almost impossible to get lost so taking side roads isn’t a big deal.