Monday, January 31, 2011

Mountain Home - Lydia, Virginia 

If you continue west on Route 33 for about 150 yards past the "wash house," you will see this old house. The mountain rises sharply behind the house which sits on a steep bank above the road. In the summer when the leaves are on the trees, it is easy to miss, but somebody keeps the yard around the house cleared. One day, the house will be reclaimed by the mountains, or, more likely, torn down to make way for Route 33 to be expanded to four lane.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Fresh snow - Greene Mountain Lake, Virginia 

It snowed unexpectedly yesterday morning for forty-five minutes, leaving about a half an inch of fresh snow. I took the camera and walked down to the lake for a few pictures, knowing that the snow would not be around for long. The sun was beginning to come out, and by late afternoon the snow was gone.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Out building - Stanardsville, Virginia

"A shoebox full of snapshots selected at random - some old, some new" 

That is the description of a photography blog that I recently discovered, and the "snapshots" from this shoebox are quiet, well-seen and evocative of time and place.  foto shoebox features both color and black and white work taken over the past thirty years or so and is some of  the most fresh and interesting photography I have seen in while. I look forward to seeing more of this work. With any luck, it is a large shoebox.

I have added foto shoebox to the permanent links in the sidebar.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Winter Color - Near South River, Greene County, Virginia

Fireside Reading

Robert Graves is a poet and novelist, perhaps best remembered today for his historical novel I Claudius. Good-bye To All That is an autobiographical account of his experiences as a soldier fighting in World War I.

Trench warfare was a brutal business that nearly destroyed an entire generation of young men. Sixteen million died in the conflict and another twenty-one million were wounded. Graves survived, although at times death seemed to be inevitable. He writes:
"Beaumont had been telling me how he had won about five pounds' worth of francs in the sweepstakes after the Rue du Bois show [battle]: a sweepstakes of the sort that leaves no bitterness behind it. Before a show, the platoon pools all its available cash and the survivors divide it up after-wards. Those who are killed can't complain, the wounded would have given far more than that to escape as they have, and the unwounded regard the money as a consolation prize for still being here."

Even after the Armistice, the horrors of the battlefield continued to haunt Graves while he was a student at Oxford.
"In the middle of a lecture I would have a sudden very clear experience of men on the march up the Bethune-La Bassee road; the men would be singing, while French children ran along beside us, calling out: 'Tommee, Tommee, give me bullee beef!' and I would smell the stench of the knacker's yard just outside the town. Or it would be in Laventie High Street, passing a company billet; an N.C.O. would roar: 'Party, 'shun!' and the Second Battalion men in shorts, with brown knees, and brown, expressionless faces, would spring to their feet from the broken steps where they were sitting. . . . Or in a deep dug-out at Cambrin, talking to a signaller; I would look up the shaft and see somebody's muddy legs coming down the steps; and there would be a sudden crash and the tobacco smoke in the dug-out would shake with the concussion and twist about in patterns like the marbling on books. These day-dreams persisted as an alternate life and did not leave me until well in 1928. The scenes were nearly always recollections of my first four months in France; the emotion-recording apparatus seemed to have failed after Loos."
Good-bye To All That was published in 1929, is still in print and well worth reading. It is a glimpse into a world that is nearly forgotten today, a time when the promise of the young 20th Century seemed to be dying in the mud of Europe.

Good-Bye To All That by Robert Graves, Random House 1985

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Farm on the South River - Greene County, Virginia 

This is the same farm building that can be seen in the distance through the trees on the right of yesterday's photo of Bull Yearling Run. This picture was taken in January 2010.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011

"Wash House" on Route 33 - Lydia, Virginia

Please visit Photography In Place Print Gallery website to purchase a print of "Wash House"

This house is something of a landmark around here. It is located halfway up the mountain on Route 33, which runs east and west and connects the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge with the Shenandoah Valley, crossing the Skyline Drive at Swift Run Gap.

I call this house the "wash house" because there is almost always laundry hanging on the porch and it has become such a familiar sight to travelers on Route 33 that most everyone knows the place.  The house has been the subject of paintings and I am sure it has been photographed innumerable times.

Last week on a cold and overcast morning, I drove up the mountain to photograph the wash house. There was no wash out that day, and the only sign of life about the place was smoke coming out of the chimney. Maybe it was too cold to hang wash out. I remember helping my mother bring in the clothes from the line when they were frozen stiff. The pants would stand up on their own.

Maybe the inhabitants of the wash house have a clothes dryer now. I hope they do, but the place doesn't seem quite the same without the hanging clothes to brighten up the porch.

(For a more recent view, with wash out, click here)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Winter Color - Greene County, Virginia 

Over the past week or so, there have been several comments online about how winter is not a good time for photography. One person said their camera is packed away until the color comes back in the spring.

This talk about winter being dull and lacking color resulted in a photographic self-assignment to look for and photograph the colors of winter.This time of year the color is subdued and quite lovely in a wintry way. It is cold, and the days are short, but it has been a good time to be out and about with the camera. More "winter color" photos to come.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Blue-jay in falling snow - Greene County, Virginia

Fireside Reading

At the age of sixteen, Edward Maurice signed on with the Hudson Bay Company and found himself living among the Inuit people at a company trading post in the Canadian Arctic. The Last Gentleman Adventurer is a beautifully written memoir of life in the far north during the years between the world wars. It is a story of isolation, courage, and adventure. But above all, it is the story of the Inuit, and a way of life that is now lost.

"A flight of ducks rose suddenly from the lake below me to swing along the river bed, over the tiny white buildings of our post, then out across the bay towards the beckoning hills on the far shore, green and inviting now that the clouds had slipped away from the sun. I watched the birds disappear into the distance on their way southward to the mainland and thought of my family's wish for me to join them in far-off New Zealand.  But a warning from one of President Roosevelt's winter fireside chats came into my mind. Our generation, he had said, had a rendezvous with destiny. Already the distant roll of drums was sounding the first faint call to arms. What better place to await the horror of war than here in this harsh but honest place?

"I hurried back down the hill towards the jetty were the Eskimos were laughing and shouting as they unloaded our supplies for the coming season."

The Last Gentleman Adventurer by Edward Beauclerk Maurice, Houghton Mifflin, 2004 
Read an excellent review here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Old house and auto graveyard - Ruckersville, Virginia 

"Queequeg was a native of Kokovoko, an island far away to the West and South. It is not down on any map; true places never are."  Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Here is a small album of photographs to tell the story of this old house. It is an imaginary album conjured up by an empty house sitting abandoned and neglected in the snow.

The first picture is very old and faded; one corner has crumbled away and the surface is brittle. A man and a woman stand in front of this house many years ago. She is holding a baby in her arms, and a boy, perhaps 6 years old stands in the folds of her long dress. Next to her the husband stares straight into the camera, his hands clasped behind his back. They are wearing their everyday clothes, and look anxious to get back to their chores. Behind them the house, well cared for and neatly painted white, shelters and protects.

Here is a picture of a young man. He is standing in the doorway of what appears to be the kitchen, holding a hunting rifle. Here three young girls sit on the running board of an old Ford sedan. In another snapshot the old man leads a cow toward the barn. They both look surprised.

A young woman, fashionably dressed and wearing a hat, stands in front of a car parked in the front yard. The license tag reads 19 Virginia 36. The photo is creased down the middle; maybe it was folded in half and carried in someone's wallet. The shadow of the porch falls across the windshield, and the girl is smiling.

The last picture in the album is a small color snapshot. The family has gathered in front of the house. Two straight back chairs have been carried out into the yard for the old couple and children and grand-children and great-grandchildren kneel and stand around them. Everyone is dressed up for the occasion. In front a little boy is crying, and the grandfather stares straight into the camera.

There are no more imaginary pictures, but the rest of the story is easy to make up. After the old couple are gone, nobody knows what to do with the house, which needs a lot of work and lacks modern conveniences. It is closed up. The eldest son takes over the farm, builds a nice modern house up on the new road for his family and plants all around the empty old house. On a summer evening, he can look out his back door and see the second story window of his old bedroom above the corn. But he is not able to sustain his family with the farm, and finds a job in town. The man down the road buys the old pasture field to expand his junk yard business.  Rows of rusting automobiles begin to fill the field beside the old house where the cows once grazed.

The roof is leaking, vandals have broken in, mice gnaw the woodwork and the front porch is gone. The story told by an old house is complete, and soon to be lost.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Winter Sunrise - Ruckersville, Virginia

I stopped on my way to work one morning last week to take this picture. The sun was just above the horizon and the eastern sky was tinged with red. A trace of snow on the ground made the morning seem colder as I walked through the frosty grass to stand by the fence. All was quiet; the cows were in the barn waiting for the sun to dispel the cold shadows in the field. It was a lovely morning, and I was tempted to stay and watch the light change as the sun came up, but it was very cold, and I had to get to work.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Phelps Lake, North Carolina 

This will be the last of the pictures from my two trips to North Carolina last Fall. Lake Phelps was our last stop before heading home. This inland lake is 5 miles across, but with the rain and mist, our view of the water was limited.

Next week, we will  be posting pictures taken close to home. It is mid-winter here in the Blue Ridge mountains, and the theme of next week's photography will be cold and snow. I hope you will stop by for a visit.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Small building beside the Scuppernong River - Columbia, North Carolina 

This small building in Columbia, North Carolina is not an architectural treasure, but it was interesting and I stopped to photograph it. I took one exposure with the Pentax MX on black and white film, and a couple of digital exposures with the Pentax K10D. All shots were taken from about the same position.

The digital black and white was converted in Adobe Camera Raw from the same file as the color version above. The film version was shot on Fuji Acros 100 and scanned. I prefer film for black and white work, but am surprised at how similar the digital and film versions are. The film version has a slight edge in my opinion. And I like the color version better than I thought I would. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on how the digital images compare to the film image. 

Digital Black and White

Film Black and White

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Jesse N. Cooper house -  circa 1900  - Columbia, North Carolina 

Heading west on Route 64 from Manteo, North Carolina, the road takes you through miles of mostly unpopulated,  low lying swamp. Gradually, the land begins to rise and farmland emerges. The first town we came to was Columbia, on the banks of the Scuppernong River. It was time for lunch and Mike's Kitchen was a welcome sight. The restaurant is located in town, and occupies a building which, according to our waitress, used to be a grocery store.  The grilled chicken with mashed potatoes and green beans was good on a rainy Saturday afternoon in December.

Our time in Columbia was brief, and the rain discouraged photography, so I took very few pictures. The Jesse N. Cooper house, pictured above, is one of many fine examples of residential architecture in Columbia dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The Columbia website has  pictures of 20 significant buildings, presented as a walking tour of the town. I plan to go back and spend some time photographing in Columbia.

As a reminder of how easily old buildings can be lost in the rush to "modernize," take a look at this post on Mike Johnston's The Online Photographer about a lovingly restored bungalow style house that has been "remuddled." The before and after pictures are not for the faint of heart. Small towns like Columbia are important repositories of our architectural history. May they be spared the ravages of money, poor taste and pretentiousness.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Plantation Hospital, Somerset Place, North Carolina

Both of these pictures were taken last December when I visited Somerset Place in northeastern North Carolina. When we got there, a light rain was falling and I had about thirty minutes to photograph before it started raining too hard to continue. Most of the pictures were taken with the digital Pentax K10D but these black and white photos were taken with the Pentax MX on Fuji Acros 100. I have added a gallery of additional photos from Somerset Place to the Photography In Place Facebook page.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Scuppernong River, Washington County, North Carolina 

The Scuppernong is a blackwater river in northeastern North Carolina. Sixteenth century explorers first noted the large muscadine grapes that grew in this area. The scuppernong grape was named for the river and is the state fruit of North Carolina.  This picture was taken on a cool and rainy Saturday afternoon in December at a river landing near Creswell.


Photography In Place is one year old today.  Thanks to everyone who visited last year and I look forward to another year of sharing with you.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Barn, snow, mountains - Greene County, Virginia 

This is the final picture from my walk in the snow the day after Christmas.

Next week we will be posting some additional pictures from my visit to eastern North Carolina last month. I hope you will stop by to visit and thanks for reading Photography In Place.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Farm buildings - Greene County, Virginia 

After taking the picture shown in yesterday's post, I continued to walk along the fence-row until I reached this group of farm buildings. This is another scene that I intended to be a black and white photo but I ended up liking the way the color showed up through the light snow.

By this time, it was late afternoon and I was getting cold so I put the camera away and headed for home.


The photography I find most interesting is rooted in place, and I recently found a blog that explores the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina with some outstanding photography and words. I have added Blue Ridge blog to the Links in the sidebar and recommend that you visit. It is a friendly place.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Winter field and barn - Greene County, Virginia 

After the bluebird flew off (see yesterday's post below), I continued my walk in the snow.The path through a narrow strip of woods led me to the edge of a field, and the barn in the picture above.

As a general rule, I know before I bring the camera to my eye if I am taking a black and white or a color picture. Of course, when I am shooting black and white film, there is no question about this, but even when I am shooting with the digital camera, I am thinking of the picture in either black and white or in color. I saw this field and barn in the snow as a black and white, and shot it with the intention of converting to black and white in Photoshop.

But when I got this picture on my computer screen, I found that I liked the color version better, even though in the field I thought of this as a black and white picture. The subdued colors seemed to match the feel of that late afternoon in the snow, and the cold winter light.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Lake covered with snow - Greene County, Virginia 

Sialia Sialis
The snow storm that moved up the Atlantic coast on Christmas passed to the east of us here in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We got a few snow flurries on Christmas Day, and the next morning we had about an inch of snow on the ground and in the trees. Enough to be pretty but not enough to cause problems.

The lake has been frozen since early December, and the snow on top of the ice painted the entire lake white. The picture above was taken while standing on the earthwork dam that forms the lake. There was no sound, and all was still and cold. As I turned to continue my walk, an Eastern Bluebird flew across my path and lit on some thorns a few yards in front of me. Bluebirds are not very numerous in this area and I was surprised to see one in winter. I barely had time to get the camera up before he flew away. I did not see him again.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Frozen edge - Greene Mountain Lake, Virginia 


Welcome to Photography In Place for 2011. Here in the Blue Ridge Mountains, my wife and I had a quiet Christmas and New Year at home in front of the fire.

The new year is a time for house-keeping, and we have planned a few changes.

I am possibly the last person on the planet to get on Facebook, but I finally took the plunge at the urging of my daughter in Colorado. You will notice that there is a Facebook "like" button on the bottom of each post, which will make it easy for Facebook members to share favorite Photography In Place posts with their friends. Also, in the sidebar is a link to the new Photography In Place Facebook page.

Also this year, I will be adding label to each post. The labels represent categories such as "barns" or "urban architecture" that will make it easier to find related posts. By clicking on a label, you will be able to see all of the posts that share that label. This is a standard feature of most blogging software, so this is nothing new. I have not used labels in the past because I thought they sort of cluttered up the bottom of the post, but as the Photography In Place archive of posts grows, I think this feature will be helpful. I am in the process of labeling last year's posts.

We will continue to post regularly at 8 am Monday through Friday, with an occasional weekend post. Thanks for reading Photography In Place, and I hope you will visit often in 2011.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year on the Blue Ridge Mountains 

Happy New Year. This morning when I got up, there was a splash of sunlight on the mountains welcoming 2011.