Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Monday, November 29, 2010

Airport Hotel, Charlottesville, Virginia 

The Airport Motel had already been torn down to make way for a Walgreen's Drug Store when I took this picture of the sign. When we first came here more than twenty years ago, the motel was already old and run down and renting rooms by the week. It was a low, white block structure that sat on a bank above the road. The bank was cut away and this corner today bears no resemblance to the corner occupied by the Airport Motel. The old sign was taken down shortly after this photograph was made.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Do not - Remington, Virginia 

I have a particular fondness for photographs that include signs and next week we will be looking at some pictures where signs play a prominent role. I hope you will stop by for a visit. Thanks for reading Photography In Place.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving morning, 1959

Before dawn, Dad and I sat in the kitchen, dressed in our warmest hunting clothes. The coffee pot was burping on the stove and we ate breakfast in a hurry. We wanted to be in the woods at first light.

In the woods near our house was a large sawdust pile, surrounded by stacks of rotting slab-wood. It was a good place to hunt and after breakfast we set off in the cold morning air together. I was twelve years old, and happy to have Dad all to myself for a few hours.

We split up when we got to the sawdust pile. I found a spot on a slight rise and sat down to wait for daybreak. The cold air settled around me. I could hear Dad moving on the other side of the sawdust pile.

It was going to be a good Thanksgiving. My grandmother was staying with us for a few weeks. When I was a small child, I called her Dash. Nobody knows where that name came  from, but it stuck. After my grandfather died, Dash moved around, staying with family members, making on and off attempts at housekeeping and being always unsettled. I loved Dash with all my heart and was overjoyed when she came to stay with us. Our small kitchen never seemed as cozy and happy as when I would come home from school and find Dash helping mother prepare supper.

The sky behind the trees on the ridge was getting light.  I sat and watched the sun struggle to shine through a thin layer of gray clouds. It always seems coldest right at daybreak. The Tastykake jingle kept going through my head. My mind was not on the hunt, but on our Thanksgiving dinner. My anticipation was heightened by the cold morning air.

Later that morning, I heard Dad coming through the woods. I could see his red and black flannel hunting cap.  The ear-flaps were down.  I walked around the end of a slab pile and met him under a large beech tree that had been left by the loggers. The squirrels had been cutting beech nuts and the ground was littered with their feast.

    "Did you see anything?" Dad asked.
     "No, sir."
     "Me either. Cold?"
     "I'm OK." I thought about Mom at home in the warm kitchen preparing our Thanksgiving dinner. I wondered if Dash was in the living room watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV.
     "Well, I'm about to freeze to death." Dad said.
     "Me too."
    Dad jacked the shells out of his unfired shotgun. "Come on," he said. "Let's go home."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

George Gilmore cabin, 1873 - Montpelier, Virginia 

George Gilmore was born a slave in 1810 at Montpelier, the home of James Madison, the "Father of the Constitution" and 4th President of the United States. At the end of the American Civil War, Gilmore was freed and in 1873 he and his wife Polly built this cabin on land leased from Dr. James Madison, President Madison's great nephew. Archeologists believe stones and timber for the construction of the cabin may have been salvaged from an Confederate encampment that previously occupied this site.

The Gilmore family prospered and in 1901 purchased 16 acres of land surrounding their home. George Gilmore died in 1905 at the age of 95 and members of his family occupied the cabin into the 1930s.

Read more about Montpelier and the Gilmore family here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Winter comes to the mountains - Madison County, Virginia

Even though Winter does not officially start until December, Thanksgiving marks the end of Fall. The fields are barren, nights are getting longer and mornings are covered with frost. Soon gray clouds will climb over the mountains from the west, heavy with cold winter rains, or the first flurries of snow.

Thanksgiving is the time to store up the fruits of the season and remember the smell of autumn leaves, but the sun is pale in the southern sky and the mountains look lonely and cold through the bare trees.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Last surviving Japanese Maple leaves - Greene County, Virginia 

Heavy rain and wind last week stripped the Japanese Maple behind the house of nearly all its showy autumn foliage, leaving a fading red carpet on the ground, and a few leaves that somehow managed to hang on.

Next week is Thanksgiving, at least here in the United States. It is a holiday that celebrates the end of the growing season, gives thanks for the harvest, and anticipates the winter months to come. We will be observing the Thanksgiving holiday next week, all in black and white. Please stop and visit.

Thanks for reading Photography in Place.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mel's Cafe - Charlottesville, Virginia 

"I am an amateur and intend to remain one my whole life long. I attribute to photography the task of recording the real nature of things, their interior, their life. The photographer's art is a continuous discovery which requires patience and time. A photograph draws its beauty from the truth with which it's marked. As soon as I find a subject which interests me, I leave it to the lens to record it truthfully. Look at the reporters and at the amateur photographer! The both have only one goal; to record a memory or a document. And that is pure photography."  Andre Kertesz

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Loading zone - Charlottesville, Virginia 

Today at work we held our Thanksgiving luncheon. Everyone brought a dish and we gathered in a large conference room, fixed up a nice table of food and sat down to eat together. It was a nice preview of the Thanksgiving holiday next Thursday

Without a doubt, eating is the most social of all human activities. We gather to eat at the family table, we invite friends to dinner, we attend church suppers and flock to the fish fry at the fire house. We eat with total strangers at restaurants and meet colleagues for lunch. We treasure our privacy in all things except eating. It seems a bit strange when you think about it.

The rather forlorn looking building in the photo above houses a small restaurant called The Flat: Takeaway Crêperie. It is literally a hole-in-the-wall. One orders through a window right there next to the gas meter and eats outside in public. I've not eaten at The Flat, but I hear that it is good. If you are ever in Charlottesville, give me a call. We will go there together and give it a try.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Maya - Charlottesville, Virginia 

The steady rain that fell today will bring down many of the remaining leaves. The road was covered with them as I drove home tonight. Autumn is drawing to a close, even though the Winter solstice is over month away.  It is still raining--a perfect night to listen to the wind and the rain and relax with a cup of hot tea.

It would also be a good night to delve into the box of old family photos. Years ago when I visited my aunt I would always insist on getting out her boxes and albums of photographs. She and I spent many pleasant hours with the fading and curled prints talking about the people and places that were, even then, passing into memory. Eventually the collection came to me and I never tire of looking at them.

Today I came across a blog called "Forgotten Old Photos."  It is a fascinating look at old photographs found in antique stores and garage sales. In some cases, family members are "reunited" with family photos that have been posted on this site, and there is often an interesting story attached to these found photos. Even if you have your own box of old photos, don't miss "Forgotten Old Photos."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Two doorways - Charlottesville, Virginia 

Doors are perhaps the most common feature of buildings throughout the world. There are buildings without windows, but it is difficult to imagine a practical building without some sort of door. Doors exist in endless variety, from simple gates to utilitarian slabs to elaborately carved and paneled portals. Doors invite curiosity. Doors allow or deny access. Doors protect.

The doorway on the left caught my eye with its gentle brick arch and the trace of some earlier configuration outlined on the brick. The door on the right is set into the brick wall about two feet above the pavement. There must have been a landing with a step or two (or, as we say around here, a stoop) at one time. The stone sill and lintel contrast nicely with the surrounding brick. Both of these doorways open onto a side street and were most probably service entrances.

Pentax MX with Fuji Neopan Acros 100 black and white film.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010

October Color- Greene County, Virginia 

I have mentioned Kathleen Connally's A Walk Through Durham Township (see link in sidebar) before and wanted to call your attention to what I think is an outstanding example of her work. (See it here) It puts me in mind of a 19th century landscape painting, the kind that you might find in an old English manor house, except for the power lines disappearing into the fog.

Thank you for reading Photography in Place. As a change of pace from all the woodsy scenes, next week we will be looking at photos taken of buildings in Charlottesville, all in black and white. I hope you will stop in and visit.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Civil War Monument - Vicksburg, Mississippi 

Veteran's Day - 2010

The last Veteran of the Union Army died in 1956. The last Confederate soldier died in 1951. Frank W. Buckles is the last living veteran of World War I and is now 109 years old. There are still many World War II veterans alive, but the day will come when the last of these brave men will also pass into history. It is fitting that we remember them, and their sacrifices, and honor the living and the dead.

Read the History of Veterans Day here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Edge of the woods- Greene Mountain Lake, Virginia 

At the wood's edge, seedlings, saplings, and bushes flourish. Understory trees like the dogwood and persimmon reach out to the light. Wild flowers proliferate along roadsides and fence-rows.

Forest edges have increased dramatically since the pioneer days of North America when forests blanketed the country. As fields are cleared and roads are built, new forest edges are created, and the resultant "edge effect" has a significant impact on the ecology of the area. Somewhat surprisingly, forest edges tend to be beneficial overall, expanding the habitat for plants and animals that could not thrive in the shade of a mature forest.

About a year ago, a road was bulldozed through the woods near our home, creating a new forest edge. This photo was made as I stood in the dirt track and looked into the trees that, not too long ago, stood in the middle of the woods. The edge created by the new road is already beginning to change, and it will be interesting to see the "edge effect" develop over time.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

November Color - Greene County, Virginia 

Fall colors are still with us here in central Virginia. This photo was taken last Saturday morning from my front yard, using a long lens to "reach" the trees that rise along the lower slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Monday, November 8, 2010

November  morning - Greene County, Virginia 

A bird flew into the window this morning. Molly raced across the room to see, her eyes suddenly bright with feline curiosity. The doings of birds fascinate and excite Molly, and she positioned herself in front of the window to watch.

Birds fly into the large windows that face the mountains from time to time. Often they recover and fly away after spending a few woozy minutes on the ground. But not always. I looked out the window at the sparrow  and knew she would not be flying away. She made her last flight toward the trees and mountains reflected in the glass. The unyielding reflection broke her neck.

My wife was still asleep as I put my shoes on and went outside. On the deck lay the sparrow, small and  beautifully made. In my hand, the brown body was still warm. Molly watched out the window.

Behind the garden shed, one slit in the earth with the shovel made an adequate grave.  I tamped down the soil with my foot and spread  brown leaves over the unceremonious grave. As I walked across the yard, the morning sun topped the hill behind the house and illuminated the leaves of the Japanese maple, brilliant red. In the house, the excitement over, Molly was back in her bed. We were, all of us, in our place.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Moon rising over Atlantic - Corolla, North Carolina 

Earlier this week, I mentioned Natty Bumppo in this post about the wild horses that roam on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Natty Bumppo, of course, is the hero of the five novels that make up the Leatherstocking Tales, by James Fenimore Cooper. The Last of the Mohicans (1826) is perhaps the best known book in the series.

What made me think of this as I was trying to slip quietly through the woods to get close enough to photograph a wild mare and colt, was this passage from Mark Twain's sarcastic and hilarious take down of Cooper's work:
"Another stage property that he [Cooper] pulled out of his box pretty frequently was the broken twig. He prized his broken twig above all the rest of his effects, and worked it the hardest. It is a restful chapter in any book of his when somebody doesn't step on a dry twig and alarm all the reds and whites for two hundred yards around. Every time a Cooper person is in peril, and absolute silence is worth four dollars a minute, he is sure to step on a dry twig. There may be a hundred other handier things to step on, but that wouldn't satisfy Cooper. Cooper requires him to turn out and find a dry twig; and if he can't do it, go and borrow one. In fact, the Leatherstocking Series out to have been called the Broken Twig Series."
The piece is called "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses." Read the whole thing here.

Thanks for reading Photography in Place. I hope you will come back for a visit next week. We will be looking at some of the fall color back home in Virginia.

All of the pictures from my visit to North Carolina were taken with the Pentax K10D and the Pentax FA 50mm f1.4 lens. The 50 mm lens is a very moderate telephoto on the K10D (equivalent to a 75mm on a 35mm film, or full-frame digital). I thought the lens would be a good compromise, but often wished for something wider. I know I should be using a zoom, but for some reason I just don't seem to get along well with zoom lenses.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Reflections - Milltail Creek - Dare County, North Carolina 

The still, black water of Milltail Creek reflects the trees and sky with such an illusion of depth that the exact location of the water line on the shore is often hard to detect. Several times my eyes were tricked into thinking that leaves floating on the surface of the water were suspended in the air. Looking down, the surface of the water disappears and the boat seems to float in air with the upside-down trees and sky falling away below.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

American alligator - Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge - North Carolina 

Saturday was our last day in North Carolina, and the plan was to return to Milltail Creek and follow it out to the Alligator River which, according to the map, was a distance of 4 miles each way. With an early start, we expected to be back in time to visit Somerset Place in the afternoon.

The launching area was deserted when we arrived and we had the water to ourselves. The morning was sunny and cool with hardly a breeze. As we headed downstream, we began to see alligators in the water.

Aside from the alligators, we saw a few ducks, one blue heron, and an eagle. It was a quiet morning. We followed Milltail creek at a leiusurely pace as it wound through the cypress swamp and it took nearly three hours to reach the mouth of the creek where it flows into the Alligator River.

The trip back was slow and peaceful, and we saw a couple of alligators sunning on the marshy bank. I brought the boat as close as I dared to a fairly large alligator. He watched warily but did not move a muscle as I took a few pictures.

It was nearly 4:00 by the time we got the boat out of the water and back on the truck. The visit to Somerset would have to wait for another time. This time, the day was perfect.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mare and colt - Northern Outer Banks, North Carolina 

The wild horses of North Carolina's northern Outer Banks are believed to be descendants of Spanish mustangs which arrived on ships in the early 16th century. The have roamed freely across the barrier islands for centuries, but the recent explosion of tourism and development has encroached on their habitat, making their future uncertain. Several groups, including the Corolla Wild Horse Fund are working to preserve the remaining herd.

I spotted this mare and young colt in heavy underbrush while hiking. Since I did not have a long lens with me, I did my best Natty Bumppo imitation trying to creep close enough to get some photographs. The horses spotted me right away and, unimpressed by my stalking ability, continued about their business completely unconcerned with my presence. 

The next day after visiting the wild horses, we were back at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, where I had the opportunity to photograph an alligator. I will post pictures of this excursion tomorrow .

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge - Dare County, North Carolina 

The swamp water is stained the color of strong tea by the tannins that leach into the water from decaying vegetation. The surface looks black, and on a still day, the reflections in the dark water are fascinating.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sawyer Lake - Alligator River National Wildlife Preserve, North Carolina 

"Sea Eagle" ready to go

On a crisp October morning, we drove across the bridge that links Manteo and the Outer Banks to the North Carolina mainland. Our destination was Buffalo City, an abandoned logging town that prospered from around 1870 until the middle of the twentieth century. The site of the town and logging operation is now within the 152,000 acre Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.

We turned onto Buffalo City Road in the hopes that we might be able to explore the ruins of the old town, but after about two miles, the road ended at Milltail Creek. There was no sign of Buffalo City.

We were greeted by the pungent smell of the swamp as we got out of the truck. A map of the refuge showed several water trails through the area, and since the inflatable "Sea Eagle" was in the back of the truck,  we decided to explore Sawyer Lake, which was about 2 miles away according to the map.

Navigating Sawyer Lake
We followed a narrow canal which opened up into the lake. The land surrounding the lake was low and swampy, with no place to land and get out of the boat. The lake was secluded and  pristine, with no sign of human habitation. We met one other person all afternoon.

Twenty five miles from the Outer Banks, we found ourselves alone in a natural world, with little to remind us of the shops and condos and the crowds who flock to the beach to get away from it all.

Snapping turtle