Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Have a wonderful Christmas season and a prosperous New Year!

To all the readers of Photography In Place, thanks for visiting this year, and a particular thanks to those who took the time to leave a comment.

This will be the last post of 2012. We will resume our regular posting schedule on January 2, 2013. Hope to see you here next year, and Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Simple Christmas

All Saints Episcopal Chapel - Albemarle County, Virginia

House Finch

George Gilbert pushed open the door of the old stable and stepped into the dark interior. The building sagged, the roof leaked and one corner had slipped off the stone foundation. For years his wife has been after him to tear the old stable down, and George had to admit that the building, no longer fit even for storage, was an eyesore.

George leaned against the rotting sill of the small window that looked out over the farm where he had lived all his life. The sun was down and it was nearly dark. Stars were just becoming visible in the clear sky and it was going to be a cold night. On the other side of a small field where his father had once tried to raise tobacco stood the old house, a dark shape against the trees. His father built that house and George was born there. Just a couple of hundred yards to the east, his father helped build the house where George brought his new wife to live over fifty years ago.

"Grandpaw? Are you in here?"

"Yes, come on in."

"Grandmaw says for you to come. She sent me to get you." George's grandson stopped just inside the door. A scraping, rustling noise came from the darkness behind the stalls. "Grandpaw?"

"It's all right, Paul. Just some birds roosting back there. I have been watching them come and go."

"What do you keep in here? It smells funny."

"Don't keep anything in here now. When I was a boy your age, my daddy kept his two mules in this stable. Their names were Pike and Amos. Pike was a lovely gray mule, and Amos was black. My mother called them Salt and Pepper, but their names were Pike and Amos."

"This is a stable?" Paul looked around in wonder. "They had the first Christmas in a stable. Mary went to it on a donkey. Did you like our Christmas play at church? We didn't have a real stable."

"Yes, I liked it very much and you were a terrific shepherd."  George and his wife had driven over to the old country church for the annual Christmas pageant, and George sat uncomfortably in the overheated sanctuary to see his grandson dressed in an old robe and carrying the shepherd's crook that he had made for him.

"Mom said she didn't think you would come but I hoped you would."

"I wouldn't have missed it for the world." They stood in silence for a few minutes. In the dim light, George couldn't see the expression on Paul's face, but the boy seemed lost in thought.

"You know, when I was a boy I used to come here when I was in trouble, or I needed to think. I would lay down over there in the straw next to Pike and tell her all my troubles. She was a good listener."

"Did you talk to Amos?"

"No, Amos was not interested in much of anything except himself and Pike. And besides, he was apt to kick. Gave me some nasty bruises. No, I stayed pretty much away from Amos."

"Where are Pike and Amos now?"

"Come here." George lifted the boy up to the window. "My daddy took care of those mules for many years, even after he got a tractor and they got too old to do much work around the place, and when they died, he buried them over on the edge of this field, just by that far line of trees."

There was a scuffle and flapping of wings in the darkness behind them and then a bird began to sing in the darkness. George recognized the song. It was a house finch, like the one his mother rescued from the cat and nursed back to health the summer George graduated from high school. Unable to fly, the bird spent that summer in a cage on the screen porch. It sang all day.

After a minute the house finch in the stable stopped singing and in the silence, with the warm weight of his grandson in his arms, George stared through the window at the bare winter field. He thought about his father and mother and all the years gone. Suddenly he missed them and he missed Pike and Amos and he missed his mother's crippled house finch that sang from its cage one Christmas Eve many years ago.

George gave his grandson a rough hug and put him down. "Let's go see what your Grandmother has for dinner. You know, I'm not sure, but I think I saw something under the Christmas tree with your name on it."

George pulled the door to the stable closed behind him and watched his grandson run up the worn path to the house. His wife was waiting at the back door. "I'll be right there," he called to her and turned to look out over the land that he had known since birth. In the dark, he could just make out the barn, weathered but still solid and strong, and beside it the machine shed that he and his father had built when he came back from the Army. And all around, the fields, and the night and the stars above. Another Christmas Eve, night of miracles.

George turned toward the house. She's right, he thought to himself, I really should tear the old stable down. Maybe come spring.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Simple Christmas

Somerset Place - Washington County, North Carolina 

This picture is a repeat from last Christmas, but it captures perfectly the idea of "A Simple Christmas." This is the last weekend before Christmas and I hope your preparations are not so hectic that you cannot make time to stop and enjoy the season.

Please stop by on Christmas Eve for this year's Christmas story, and as always, thanks for reading Photography In Place. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Simple Christmas

Preddys Creek Baptist Church - Albemarle County, Virginia

Year by year it seems that Christmas decorations become more and more elaborate. It is fun to drive around after dark and see all of the decorations, but some are a bit over the top, it seems to me. Sometimes simple things are best.

A simple wreath on a wooden door (this one hand made by a Sunday School class, from the looks of it) holds more meaning for me than all the electric lights and inflatable Santas in all of Virginia.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Third Sunday - December, 2012

St. John's Chapel - Louisa County, Virginia

Yesterday afternoon my wife and I drove over to St. John's Chapel in the Green Springs Historic District. The church was built in 1888 and looks today much as it would have looked in the 19th century. There are no modern additions, no plumbing and no electricity. The interior is heated by a wood stove and lit by candles.

As we were walking around the grounds, a man and his small son stopped, unlocked the door and went inside to load the stove with kindling and wood, ready to warm today's Christmas candle light service. He invited us inside to see the interior of this remarkable building.

We sat for a moment on a simple wooden pew, and visited an earlier time. It was late afternoon and the air was cold both inside and out. There were no Christmas decorations in sight, but I couldn't help but feel a touch of Christmas spirit inside this simple and austere chapel.

Friday, December 14, 2012


Somerset, Virginia 

For one reason and another I have not been able to get out and take pictures for the past couple of weeks, so I have had to dig into my archives a bit this week. This picture was taken in September 2012 at the Somerset Steam and Gas Pasture Party (see here).

Have a great weekend and don't forget to check in on Sunday for Third Sunday. And as always, thanks for reading Photography in Place.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cypress swamp #4

Merchant Millpond State Park - North Carolina

Over the years we have spent a lot of time poking around the marshes and tributaries of the Potomac River and found that each marsh or creek has its own unique ecology. In one place a creek winds through tall marsh grasses dotted with red-winged blackbirds. A few miles away a small inlet leads into a shallow marsh choked with lily-pads where snakes and frogs are the only wildlife visible.

The same has been true in coastal North Carolina. While you might suppose that one coastal swamp is just like another, we have found that each area we visit has its own unique mix of terrain, foliage and wildlife. The Alligator River Refuge is quite different from the Dismal Swamp which is not very like Merchant Millpond.

A small boat is the ideal way to taste the individual character of these places, and to appreciate the extraordinary variety of the natural world. And whether you encounter a blackbird or an alligator, each trip is worth every mile and every minute.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Cypress swamp #2

Merchant Millpond State Park - North Carolina

On a map, Merchant Millpond looks like a large lake, but cypress trees grow out of the water in profusion and there is little open water. It is a good place, I expect, to get lost and we were grateful for the marker buoys to help guide us through the maze of cypress trees. On this trip, we were able to explore only one small area but we plan to return this spring for a more thorough visit to this isolated and fascinating wetland.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Cypress Swamp #1

Merchant Millpond State Park - North Carolina 

In the middle of November, I made another visit to eastern North Carolina. My fascination with this area began several years ago with a trip to Buffalo City and the Alligator River Wildlife Refuge. Since then we have made a number of trips to the swamps and marshes of North Carolina, exploring each one in our small inflatable boat.

Norfleet's Millpond was formed in 1811 and the gristmill, sawmill and associated businesses became an important part of the Gates County economy. The millpond became known as Merchant's Millpond. Shortly before World War II the mills closed down and much of the land was sold to developers. Nine hundred and nineteen acres were donated to North Carolina and Merchant Millpond State Park was established in 1972. Since then additional donations have increased the size of the park to  over 3250 acres.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Pond and mountains

Cyrus McCormick Farm - Raphine, Virginia 

Earlier this month I made another visit to coastal North Carolina. Hope you will stop by next week for some pictures taken while exploring a lovely cypress swamp in Merchant Millpond State Park.

Enjoy the weekend and thanks for reading Photography In Place.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Montpelier Hunt Races

Montpelier, Virginia 

Friends invited me to attend the 78th running of the Montpelier Hunt Races at Montpelier, the family estate of President James Madison. The event was held on a cool fall Saturday morning on the first weekend of November. This was my first time at a steeplechase event, and it was more difficult to photograph than I imagined. I was not prepared for the speed of the horses, and catching them as they came over the jumps took reflexes better than I possess.

After the first race my friend previewed the photos I had taken and tactfully advised me that it was best to get the whole horse in the frame. She was right, of course, and I did better by switching to a wider lens, but this shot does suggest a bit of the intensity and speed of the race.

These horses are approaching the jump. If you look closely at the two horses in the lead you can see that they are both completely airborne, with all four hooves off the ground.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Monday, November 26, 2012

"Wash house" on Route 33

Lydia, Virginia 

We photographed this house on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains in January 2011, but the wash was not out that day (see this post). I have been meaning to get back and get a picture of the house when the wash was on the line on the front porch. This picture was taken the last weekend in October while there was still some autumn color on the mountain.

Please visit Photography In Place Print Gallery website to purchase a print of "Wash House on Route 33"

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Greene County, Virginia 

We will be taking a short break over Thanksgiving and will resume our regular schedule on Monday, November 26th . This year, our Thanksgiving story is called The Squirrel and the Crow 

Have a great day tomorrow and thanks for reading Photography in Place. 

The Squirrel and the Crow 

A Thanksgiving Fable

One chilly November morning, a gray squirrel was gathering food for the winter. He was a very gray gray squirrel, for he had seen many seasons come and go, and he knew just where to hide his winter food, safe from nosy groundhogs and thieving bluejays. Soon the winter snows would fall.

Presently, he came to a road that runs through the wood. He stopped on the edge of the road, flicking his tail nervously. Just then, he heard a loud voice, coming from high above, and he looked up to see a shiny black crow high on a branch overhead.

"CAW! Be careful friend, for a dangerous menace hurtles up and down this path, and it flattens any creature that gets in its way." The crow was hungry and quickly made a plan. "Wait, and I will watch  and tell you when it is safe to cross, for I have keen eyes and from my branch I can see very far."

The squirrel settled on his haunches beside the road. He arranged his tail into a question mark over his back and waited. He waited for what seemed like a very long time before the crow spoke again.

"Get ready!" the crow cawed and spread his wings. "Now! Now! Now!"

But the gray squirrel, instead of starting across the road, turned and looked up at the crow. "Thank you, kind crow!" he called, but his words were drowned out by the roar of a big black car that hurtled down the road just as he spoke. The disappointed crow flew off  and the gray squirrel scurried safely into the woods on the other side of the road.

Back in his warm den, the squirrel ate a feast of hickory nuts and some red berries that he had saved special to celebrate the beginning of winter. Then he burrowed into his nest and arranged his tail to keep his feet warm. The light was fading and he listened to the sound of the wind in the trees.

It is a good thing to always give thanks, he thought to himself and soon he was sound asleep.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Third Sunday - November 2012

Bear Creek Methodist Church - Hinds County, Mississippi 
"Bear Creek Methodist Church was established in the early 1820s under the leadership of Reverend Thomas Nixon. The first sanctuary, a log cabin structure, was built in the late 1820s. The third sanctuary, this vernacular Greek Revival structure was built in 1856."
from roadside marker erected by Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fence, tree and clouds

Cyrus McCormick Farm - Raphine, Virginia 

This Sunday we will be featuring a church building in Bear Creek Mississippi on our regular Third Sunday post. Hope you have a nice weekend and thanks for reading Photography In Place.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Cyrus McCormick Farm

Raphine, Virginia

The 620 acre estate of Cyrus McCormick, the inventor of the first mechanical reaper, was known as Walnut Grove and remained in the McCormick family until 1954 when the family donated the property to Virginia Tech. Today the original buildings, including the family home, workshop and mill are open to the public. Virginia Tech operates the Shenandoah Valley Agricultural Research and Extension Center on the property.

Cyrus McCormick demonstrated the first successful reaper on a nearby field of oats in 1831. The picture above shows the McCormick workshop.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Shenandoah Valley Railroad Locomotive 40

Staunton, Virginia 

Bear with me for just one more locomotive photograph from my visit to Staunton last week. This EMD GP9 was built in August 1955 as Chesapeake and Ohio 5940. It went through several owners over the years, and is now in active service for the Shenandoah Valley Railroad.

I was barely a teenager when the last steam locomotives were taken out of service in the United States and many of those were replaced by EMD GP7s and GP9s in the 1950s. The opportunity to photograph working steam is long past but there are still early diesels in service along many regional and short line railroads around the country.

At some time in the future, the opportunity to photograph these will be gone, just as the opportunity to photograph steam locomotives is gone today. Photographers will look back and wish they had been around when diesel locomotives built in the 1940s and 50s were still in service. It is a rare opportunity to photograph a part of railroad history before it becomes another museum exhibit.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Former Maine Coast Locomotive 367

Staunton, Virginia 

This Alco RS-11 was built for the Norfolk and Western Railroad in 1958. Earlier this year, it was acquired by the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad and is currently undergoing rehab in Staunton. The plan is to put #367 back into service as a back-up locomotive on the Shenandoah Valley Railroad. The paint scheme for the engine has not been determined, but it will no longer be in Maine Coast livery.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Shenandoah Valley Railroad Locomotive 8701

Staunton, Virginia

Last week I spent Friday afternoon photographing over in the Shenandoah Valley. Near the end of the day I passed through Staunton on my way home and spotted these Shenandoah Valley Railroad locomotives alongside old Route 11. This locomotive is a Whitcomb  RS-4-TC  built for the United States Air Force around 1954 for service in the Korean War.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Autumn Color #5

Turkey Ridge Road - Greene County, Virginia 
"Every farm woodland, in addition to yielding lumber, fuel and posts, should provide its owner a liberal education. This crop of wisdom never fails, but it is not always harvested" - Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Monday, November 5, 2012

Autumn Color #1

Greene County, Virginia 

This week we are going to be looking at the last of the Autumn colors here at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. These pictures were taken just before hurricane Sandy hit. The fall colors have been somewhat muted this year, partly because the trees lost a lot of their leaves before the colors peaked. The storm stripped even more leaves, but there are still patches of color here and there, mostly in the understory trees.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Lauri Ellen

All of the black and white pictures of Mystic Seaport this week were taken on a trip to New England in September, 1989. This picture was taken on that same trip somewhere on Cape Cod. I don't remember shooting any color film on that trip so most likely my wife photographed this little flat-bottomed dingy.  The black and white of Mystic Seaport was shot on Kodak Plus-X with my Pentax MX SLR, which I still have and use.

If you were in Sandy's path, I hope that recovery is well under way, your lights are back on and life is returning to normal. Enjoy your weekend, don't forget to set back your clocks Sunday morning, and as always, thanks for reading Photography In Place.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mystic Seaport

Mystic, Connecticut 

Another photo from an 1989 visit to Mystic Seaport Museum. I believe that the masts in the background belong to the 1841 whale-ship Charles W. Morgan.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saturday morning

9:21 am - The rain is starting to fall 

Bracing for hurricane Sandy, although it looks like the worst of the storm will be passing to the east of us here at the foot of the Blue Ridge.

The first hurricane that I remember was hurricane Hazel, a category four storm that made landfall near the North Carolina/South Carolina border on the morning of October 15, 1954. I went to school that morning, but we were sent home early in the day as the storm approached. That afternoon, I watched as the wind completely destroyed a barn in a nearby field, and after that Mother and I went to the neighbor's basement to ride out the storm. Later in the afternoon, the winds died down and I went outside in the eerie eye of the storm, and then the wind returned and the storm raged into the night. The storm was frightening and exciting and we ate in a restaurant because there was no electricity. I remember it all quite vividly.

Over 1200 people lost their life in Hurricane Hazel.