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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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Small Town, Michigan

Over Thanksgiving I traveled home to be with my parents for Thanksgiving. I enjoy taking my camera and seeing what I can discover while I am there.  I had a list of places I wanted to go for photos and I made it to almost all of them.

One plan I had was to photograph some of the dams that make up part of the Shiawassee River.  This river flows through my town and there are various dams along its path. I had originally wanted to photograph a few of these.  I was able to accomplish… one.  Sometimes when I’m home there just isn’t enough time.  But the afternoon I arrived I bugged my dad to show me where one of the nearby dams was and we headed out there even though it was cold.

This particular dam is in Corunna, MI.  From the photo you can see the cement portion of the previous dam. There used to be a mill at this location and that is what is left.  Apparently, in the summer, they will be re-doing this whole dam and removing it. Instead, they will be placing large boulders.  To me, that sounds good because I imagine it will cause a cascade-type effect which would be far prettier to photograph.  I did not make it to other Shiawassee Dams but maybe I will in the future. Another item on my list was barns. I was told that barns sell well at shows and so I had a plan.  Thankfully, there are numerous bars around my hometown.  I took photos of a bunch while my daughter drove.  A few didn’t turn out as good as I would have hoped but I got one that is perfection. Funny enough, I shot it with my phone. I hadn’t grabbed my camera yet and I couldn’t pass it up.  I’ve already sold two prints of it.

 

 

 

 

I also wanted to photography my downtown.  Owosso is a quaint town that has seen a bit of a revitalization as of late.  There are now some really cute shops and one fantastic coffee place.  Fosters Coffee has some of the best coffee I’ve had anywhere.  At this visit I simply got a white mocha latte. The best part is it isn’t overly sweet (like some places). The flavor is subtle and you still have the richness of the Espresso. We took our time to support Small Business Saturday in town and I loved taking photos of the architecture.  Much of it has remained unchanged since the early 1900s.

 

 

 

 

On Thanksgiving we headed to my brother’s house in Holland, MI.  After sufficiently stuffing ourselves with incredible food we headed to Mt. Pigsah. I had never climbed this “mountain” so I was excited. It consists of 239 steps and once you reach the top you can see Lake Macatawa to the east and Lake Michigan to the west. There is a trail that continues through the area but we did not have time to take it.  We, instead, headed to Holland State Park to see the sunset.

 

 

The wind was whipping pretty hard at the beach. It wasn’t long before I couldn’t feel my face or fingers. I had hoped the sky would clear a bit for the sunset and instead it cleared completely. And while that is nice, it does mean less drama. I took photos of the Harbor Light (Big Red) and the golden tones on the beach. I felt pretty happy with my advancement of my photography skills to take some cool longer-exposure shots of the sunset. I wasn’t quite sure how they would turn out but I am pleased with them.  When we finally got back to the car, my whole body was frozen (keep in mind the temperature was only about 44 so it wasn’t even that cold. Yes, I have lost all ability to survive Michigan winters).

 

 

 

 

The last item on my list was The Polar Express.  You may wonder about that because don’t a bunch of cities have rides on trains that they call The Polar Express? Yes. However, none of those are actually on the very train used as the model for the movie The Polar Express. That steam engine lives right in my hometown and can be classified as THE Polar Express.  The last time I tried to photograph the train I failed miserably. I didn’t know what I was doing so I was excited to try again.  Because we missed the morning trip, we headed down to the train depot around 5:00 pm.  The sun was setting so this makes for a difficult shoot.  Low light and fast train.  I found a good spot to set up my tripod until a vehicle came and parked right in front of it.  Words were exchanged and it was declared that I owned that whole parking lot so they eventually moved.  The trail started and I shot off a bunch of photos hoping at least one would be good.  After it left the station I hopped back in the car and raced back to my parent’s house.  Please note that “raced” is a liberal term I applied to going 22-25 mph behind a car that was going the exact place as me and there was no way to get around them.

We got to the train tracks down the street and I jumped out, ran across to a brush area, and had just enough time to pop my camera on the tripod before it flew past us.  I felt pretty confident about these photos because I had positioned my car to shine its headlights on the train.  I’m pretty pleased with a few of the photos.  Next time, I will take a large light and only be at the tracks down the road and have someone shine the light as I take photos (or, you know, catch the morning train when there is light).

 

 

Overall, it was a great trip.  I love my photos.  I think that I really captured my hometown and the rural area where I grew up.  If you’d like to see all of my photos please click on the link below.  Prints area available (just comment here if you’re interested).

Meandering Through Virginia

This past Saturday my kids and I set out to see some sights. Our first stop was in Waterford, Virginia. This a small historical town in rural Loudoun County. When you drive through you get a sense the town hasn’t changed much since the 1700s and that’s precisely the way they like it.  Our stop was at the Old Mill to walk the Phillips Farm Trail. I happened upon this trail a couple of weeks by accident. Sometimes I like to drive aimlessly on country roads to see what I can find. As I had passed the mill I saw some signs and stopped to read them (doesn’t everyone?).  They showed the trail and I went back to walk it.  My son was at soccer practice so I had limited time. It was also growing dark with every step but I was intent on making it to the end.

At the end of this short trail is the most wonderful White Oak tree I have ever seen.  Its branches sprawl out across the area by a cute little dam. They estimate that it has been around since the late 1700s. That’s a 200+ year old tree. Amazing. I wanted my kids to see it.  They were also impressed. Immediately my son went to cross over the dam.  The dam was built in the 1800s by a previous mill owner. You can see his name and date in some cement (dated 1908).  The dam is built by boulders and it is easy to walk on it.

dam

The dam at the end of Phillips Farm Trail

We took some time for photos and walked back to the car.  From there we had intended to go to Stoneybrook Farm Market in Hilsboro, VA. They have the most delicious egg sandwiches and my son has been begging me to go. Alas, they are closed on Saturdays. We happened to end up by CEA Farms. We decided we would eat there instead. Inside their building you can try their own meat and order off of their menu.  Everything tasted fresh (if you’re a vegetarian/vegan I recommend skipping this as I saw no vegetarian options).

After picking out pumpkins we left and started our drive to Shenandoah National Park. It was a beautiful day and driving on the country roads was a joy.  As we passed through Berryville we came upon Dinosaur Land. Immediately, my son asked to go. I didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to visit this landmark so we stopped. Dinosaur Land consists of a playground-sized area made up of hard plastic or metal replicas of dinosaurs. Some are in better shape than others.  I realize it is intended to be educational but it was also pretty funny. We took some fun photos and left (I have not yet processed these photos. I will have to add them later).

Finally, we reached Shenandoah. It was so crowded. I generally stay away on days like Labor Day, Memorial Day, etc. because it is when everyone decides to go. Although it wasn’t a holiday the weather was warm and people were hoping to see the fall colors.  Oops. The colors were worse than when I was there a couple of weeks ago. I’m not sure how that works or if it was the way the light was hitting the trees or what. The kids and I roamed around in the big tree area that I love so much and stopped at Range View Overlook for a couple of photos.

Eventually we made our way back to Browntown Valley Overlook in the northern district.  In hindsight, I think that the sunsets are far better in the central district. I say that because as the sky turned a bright pink it seemed like Hawksbill (I’m guessing here – I have no idea what mountain it was) was blocking the rest of the sky. I still got a couple of good photos but I bet it was better from my regular Spitler Knoll.

treeatnight

Sunset at Browntown Valley Overlook

Browntown Valley Overlook

Capturing the stars

We stuck around for the stars. Unfortunately, the wind picked up and it got super chilly. It wasn’t pleasant outside of the car.  I did my best to practice with my night photography and then we packed it up to go home. I have to say it was such a wonderful day. My kids didn’t fight (much). They posed for photos. We saw amazing things.  And the end of the night, before going to bed, my came and gave me a big hug and said, “Thank you for taking me all around, Mama.”  Cue heart melting.

kidswithtree

Love these kids!

Summer Adventures

The summer is flying by so fast. I feel like I haven’t accomplished as many things as I wanted to this year. Last year I was training hard for my Trifecta. I miss being in that kind of shape. I haven’t had many chances to hike. I have had injuries (sprained ankle and a sprained knee). I’ve been recovering and managing my asthma. I feel like a mess.

One of the highlights was accompanying my daughter to her softball tournament in Clearwater, Florida. I considered this a vacation even though I knew I wouldn’t have tons of free time. As we were driving from the airport to the hotel I marveled over the numerous birds I saw (that we don’t have here in Virginia). My daughter asked, “When did you start liking birds?” Hmm. I wasn’t sure. I guess when I started photographing them and seeing the beauty in their feathers, colors and shapes. I was anxious to take photos and explore the area. Let’s be clear, I was anxious to take photos of anything.

Honeymoon Island State Park

Osprey are some beautiful birds. I caught this outside of my hotel balcony.

The sunsets in Florida were ‘wow’. I’m sure the people I was with were tired of me saying, “Oh my gosh. It’s so beautiful.”  I’m happy to have gotten some amazing photos that really show off how colorful they were every night. I even managed photos of lightning and fireworks.

Pink and gold sunset

Pink and golden sunset

In my recovery news I have been given the okay to start running. I am in panic mode for my upcoming Spartan Sprint in September. I know I can manage the course but I haven’t been upper-body training like I should have been. I actually got fairly depressed after my knee sprain and went down a dark hole. I considered dropping out of the Spartan and just giving up. I’ve slowly been coming out of that. The best thing was walking into the side room at my gym yesterday and my coach had installed a rope. I flipped. I can’t climb the stupid thing but at least I can train on it. I figure if I can practice enough maybe that will be 30 less burpees I have to do. This is just a hodgepodge of stuff but I haven’t been writing here much.  I’m hiking this Sunday and hopefully the following weekend as well. I’m going to try to do what I can before the kids go back to school and life gets crazy again. I hope you enjoy the photos!
Cave Falls or Hazel River Falls