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.
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.
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.
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.
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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I was happy to have Indigenous People Day to get out for a short hike. I asked my daughter to go with me and she actually agreed to wake up early and go. This was exciting because it has been over a year since she’s gone hiking with me. I told her we wouldn’t go too far and it would be pretty. Check and check.
We woke up at 5:00 am to get to an overlook by sunrise. Fortunately (or unfortunately) there was a lot of fog. Since we would be in the North District for Shenandoah National Park for our hike, the overlooks were few and far between on the east side. They get better as you head south in the park. I found one and we waited. Finally, the sun came up and illuminated the fog. I had not brought my 18-200 mm lens and wish I would have for this morning. I could have gotten a better shot of the fog against the mountains. My wide shot was okay but sometimes zooming in is also good in landscapes.
We drove back towards our hiking location as I worried about the sun being too bright for a waterfall. As we started down our path, I was happy with the cover and the fact that the waterfall was located on the west side of the trail. This means the light wouldn’t reach it for a couple of hours. The hike to Lands Run Falls is very short. It took us no more than 10 mins or so to reach the falls (or the first part of the falls). Some fall colors were showing and leaves were scattered around the rocks. This made for great photos.
I am normally alone when I hike but having my daughter with me allowed me to crawl down the rocks. She handed my tripod to me and I took photos from further down. I debated going farther down the rocks but they were slippery and there was no way my daughter would know if I fell (the falls were that loud). I took some shots and whistled loudly. Thankfully, she appeared. I handed her my tripod again and climbed back up the rocks. As I climbed up, I knew I wouldn’t have made it alone.
The falls were really pretty. I think that if we had continued down the trail we would have come to more falls but I kept my promise. We hiked back up to the car. The whole hike took about an hour. Super short and sweet. On our way home, we traveled through the Virginia countryside. My girl is a lover of small, quaint towns. We drove through The Plains, Virginia and on towards Loudoun County. We had a wonderful time chatting and driving slow.
I get to go back to Shenandoah soon and I’m hoping the trees are popping with color. Fingers crossed.
If you have read my site regularly you’ll know that I have had issues getting my son to get outside with me. He always loved to go hiking and exploring with me and then this past spring he announced that he didn’t like it at all and only went with me to make me happy. While it is sweet he wanted to make me happy – it also stung.
Last weekend we had a free afternoon. His soccer game got canceled so I announced to him that he was going with me outside and that was it. He couldn’t say no. He said, “Okay.” and gave no other argument. I feel like that is a small win. I didn’t have big hiking plans. I honestly wanted to get outside, take some photos, and wander around. Some of our most fun times have been when we just wander from spot to spot.
We ended up at Sky Meadows State Park in Delaplane, VA. We’ve been here a few times and I promised him he could go fishing at the pond. We first stopped and visited the cows. I like cows and think they are funny creatures. I wasn’t too successful and getting them to moo as I usually am but it was fun taking their photos. We headed down a nearby path and honestly, we turned around. It was boring even to me (I had thought it was a different trail). This is what happens when you’re so confident and decline a map.
We decided to drive to a different portion of the park. If you leave the main area and go back to the road, you turn left and there is an old farm across the road with more trails. It is called the Lost Mountain area. We parked there and headed down a path. I guess if I really wanted a nice, pleasant walk I would return to this trail. It was flooded from all the rain and muddy. That really wasn’t an issue but it made it difficult to walk and, again, not much to see. So we turned back, again. I will make a note, though, to return and hike to the top of Lost Mountain.
I took photos of the barn and we headed across so my son could go fishing at Turner Pond. As we drove up, a man was taking photos of a large bass he had just caught. That gave us hope that he would also catch something similar. So we fished. And fished. And moved around. The older man kept catching fish and we caught nothing. But it was a lot of fun trying.
Again, we wandered down a trail that is marked as the start of a 5K. I was more interested in the barns behind the trail and wanted to see if I could get a good photo of them.
As I headed back, my son was on one of the ParCourse things (sections along a trail that allow for exercises). He was trying to balance on a pole and I finally saw glimpses of the boy who really loved the outdoors. He yelled at me, “Quick! Take my picture!” He reminded me of a photo I took years ago at Scott’s Run Nature Preserve where he wanted to “meditate in nature”. I was more than happy to take his photo. We ended up exploring and wandering for about 1.5 hrs and that satisfied me. I love spending time with him outside and seeing how excited he gets. I don’t think he realizes how much he likes it. He commented that the sun was too hot and he didn’t enjoy that. And so perhaps as it cools down he’ll be more open to going with me.
If you haven’t visited Sky Meadows State Park in Virginia, definitely put it on your list. The views are beautiful. They have wonderful trails and you can hike on the Appalachian Trail.