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What a Week for my Photography!

I had announce a while back that I was officially launching my photography website and pursuing it more seriously. While I recognize that I may not produce photos like Jimmy Chin or other Nat Geo photographers, I feel like I do get captures that are outstanding.

This past week I was rewarded with a local photography award.  The Loudoun County Government held a contest for Arbor Day. The goal was to submit a photo of a tree in Loudoun County. I knew just the shot. Last fall I happened upon the Phillips Farm Trail in Waterford, VA. My son was practicing soccer and I was wandering around passing the time. As the sky was growing dark, I kept on down the trail. It isn’t a long trail so I was sure I could make it before it got too dark.  As I reached the end this magnificent White Oak tree stood there like a giant. I was immediately in awe. I think I even teared up a bit because of its beauty. They call it “Old John” and it is most likely well over 200 years old. I knew I had to return.

My kids and I had a day to see things so that was our first stop. I knew hw I wanted to photograph the tree and for once, it worked out perfectly. I still want to go back with it in full bloom and see what else I can do with it.  Below is the winning photo. I have also included one with my kids because it shows just how large the tree is (and I didn’t even get the whole tree in the photo).  Today I will be going by the government office to see my photo hanging in the lobby.

The second exciting photo event was when I received the Piedmont Environmental Council’s Annual Report in the mail.  They had requested to use one my photos and I agreed without hesitation. The council does wonderful things with education and advocating for nature. Originally, I thought it would go on the back cover.  I tore open the envelope to find that my photo graced the front cover. I couldn’t believe it.  Yes, it is just an annual report and I didn’t get paid (I wouldn’t ever have requested to be paid for this type of work) but I still feel like it is a step forward.

Photographing nature does a few things for me. 1) First and foremost it relaxes me. I’m focused on one thing and all other stressers go out the window. 2) Second, I get to share these photos with people and make them happy.  And 3) I feel like it is my way to show people that nature needs to be protected. Showing them the beauty around them may be the key to getting them to vote for a candidate that will protect our land or maybe they’ll volunteer to pick up trash or any other action that benefits our world. Spring is a busy time for me so I do not have a lot of time for hiking but I am taking time to photograph flowers, spring, insects, etc.  Whatever I can fit in my schedule.  And maybe one day you’ll see one of my photos in a big fancy magazine (or maybe you’ll purchase one for your own wall).

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Visiting Bush Creek and White Oak Falls in West Virginia

Our original plans for spring break were to stay in our cool cabin for two nights and then head to Claytor Lake State Park for two nights. I was excited to try a new Virginia State Park – especially for the sunset possibilities. As we were coming off of the mountains at Grayson I received a phone call. I didn’t know the number so I figured they would leave me a message if it was important. When I reached the bottom of the trail I checked the message with the little bit of signal I had left:  Claytor Lake had canceled our reservations because the whole park lost power. It would not be restored for days.  Heartbreak. I think they lost power due to the snow storm.

So I figured we’d just drive into town, find WiFi, and I’d figure something out. I wasn’t sure what… well, “town” was much farther than I anticipated so I drove back to Grayson where I knew I had some signal. I called VA State Parks and we settled on Hungry Mother State Park – a place we stayed at two years ago. My son was thrilled because he knew that meant a fire in the fireplace… aka… s’mores. And it was close. But what would we do? My hikes were planned for around Claytor. I researched the awesome Outbound and found some waterfalls. I reached out to an Instagram buddy and he confirmed a location and gave me more tips about it. Perfect.

That location was Bush Creek Falls in West Virginia. The drive was approximately 1.5 hrs from Hungry Mother. I chose to drive on the back roads instead of hitting I-81. Anyone from Virginia knows you avoid I-81 at all costs!  The rural country was beautiful. I stopped to take a few photos (will do a write-up on them later) along the way and on the way back.  Eventually, we reached the falls.

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Due to the melting snow the water was incredibly high. The falls sounded loud and powerful. It was a sight to see. The hike to Bush Creek is only half a mile at the most. I got very excited to shoot the waterfall until I picked up my camera and realized my nub was missing. I’m sure the “nub” has a more official name but basically it is the connector that fits into my tripod. It’s rather important for waterfall photography. I instantly got upset. I thought, “All the driving, time, and now I can’t take photos.”  I turned and saw that my son was upset. He said, “So we’re only here for photos?”  Thanks, babe.  I needed that because I realized, photos or not, I was there for him.

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Thankfully, with my smaller 18-55 mm lens, my camera actually balances perfectly. I could set it on the tripod and it would say there. Of course, I couldn’t get too many good angles it forced me to be creative. In the end, I’m glad for it. The shots I got while resting the camera on a rock/log actually are some of my favorites – perhaps of any waterfall shots I’ve ever shot.  There weren’t a lot of places to stand next to the creek since the water was so high so we didn’t spend a lot of time there.  My Instagram pal had said to continue down the trail. So we did and it was an adventure.

There were little, mini waterfalls flowing down the side of the mountain (?) to our right and then down to the creek. We had to be creative with our crossings until, eventually, one was too deep and we had to just walk through it. As I stood trying to figure out how to take photos of these mini waterfalls my son declared, “That’s it. We can’t go any further.” There were a group of trees down across the trail. I surveyed it and knew we could get through it. One of my goals for the trip was to show my son that just because something requires effort doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing (like homework).  This was perfect.  I found a way through for us and tried to explain this to him. Maybe he’ll remember it in the future.

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Finally, we got to White Oak Falls. They were magnificent. It was a tiered waterfall with huge boulders. I again had to be creative with my shots. I tried a few things. And while I would have preferred having my wide angle lens on my camera, I think I ended up with a couple of photos that show how cool the falls were. I had to stand right in the water for quite a while to get them.  Worth it.

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We meandered back to the car. My feet were soaked and I was anxious to get back and shower. I felt good about the day. I hope it is an adventure my son remembers since we had to walk through water, cross trees, and explore a waterfall. If you’d like to have specific information on how to find both sets of falls, please refer to my post on The Outbound. If you haven’t yet joined The Outbound, please use my invitation link.