Scenic Graffiti II

October 27, 2010

Around this time of year I’m usually in the mountains of Virginia, on the way to visit relatives in my hometown near the West Virginia line. And this season, on two-lane Rt. 32 West, which runs through Goshen Pass on the way to Warm Springs, Virginia, I pulled off as I always do at the nearly waist-high stone wall overlooking the Maury River, some 80 feet below. The view is beautiful but, as I said in last year’s post, it’s hard to photograph scenic images without resorting to visual cliché, so when I visit this spot I like to foreground the graffiti on the wall. New scribbles are added all the time and an update is in order—same place, one year later, but with fresh doodling. And you’ll notice in the last image this year I had photographic competition. (But wait, is the lady focusing on the graffiti, or the fallen leaves—or her foot?)

(Click images for larger views.)

Copyright © 2010 Jim Sizemore.

Crow Happy Hour

May 19, 2010

Photo Doodle

For me, the interesting thing about this picture is what you can’t see—and, perhaps, just as importantly, what you can’t hear. On a trip last fall to visit relatives in my home town, I spent two nights in Lexington, Virginia, which is  40 miles east of my destination. When I’m down that way, I camp in Lexington because it’s a small town situated in a beautiful spot just off I-81, in the gentle foothills where the Shenandoah Valley narrows between the Blue Ridge and Alleghany Mountains. There are lots of things to see and do nearby, in contrast to where I come from, which is also situated in a beautiful area much deeper into the mountains. My birthplace is a depressed (and for me, somewhat depressing) paper mill town very near the West Virginia line. Lexington, being a university town (Washington and Lee, Virginia Military Institute), has all the amenities that come with that, including many good restaurants. It’s a wonderful destination and not just a stopover. On my first evening there this trip, while killing time before dinner, I wandered around town with my new digital point-and-shoot camera and soon found myself in the graveyard in which “Stonewall” Jackson is buried. The historic site is in a residential area on Main Street, just a few blocks south of the business district.

I shot several pictures in the graveyard, but the one above is my favorite. I love the way the late afternoon light comes through the silhouetted trees and creates those long shadows, the darker edges of the image framing some of the gravestones. Of course I was thinking about that when I composed the picture, and that’s also when a sort of eerie-beautiful event took place. As I stood there (and I stayed in that one spot for at least five minutes), a large flock of crows began to swoop in and out between the trees, caw-cawing the whole time as they cavorted. I had seen this sort of “happy hour” bird behavior before during the “golden hour” just before sunset, a favorite time of day, it seems, for birds, photographers and cinematographers. But I had never witnessed it in quite so dramatic a setting and with such loud sound effects. (Imagine being in the middle the gathering-of-the-birds scene in that Hitchcock movie, but experiencing it as pleasant rather than threatening.) This may have been the only time while out and about photographing when I wished that I had video instead of a still camera. Another disappointment: I had hoped to catch a bird perched on the foremost gravestone, but no luck. Not one bird landed while I was there, and even if it had I doubt I would have been quick enough to capture the image. You see, I was still a pretty slow photographer at that point, consulting the instruction book for just about every move I made with my new camera.

Copyright © 2010 Jim Sizemore.

Lexington, Virginia

March 10, 2010

Main Street

Copyright © 2010 Jim Sizemore.

Lexington, Virginia

March 3, 2010

Graves II

Copyright © 2010 Jim Sizemore.

Lexington, Virginia

February 25, 2010

Graves I

Copyright © 2010  Jim Sizemore.

Scenic Graffiti

October 31, 2009

Last week I was driving in the mountains of Virginia, on the way to visit relatives in my hometown near the West Virginia line. About halfway between Lexington and Warm Springs, on two-lane Rt. 32 West, you come upon Goshen Pass scenic overlook. The large pull-off there has a waist-high stone wall to keep cars and people from falling into the gorge 60 to 80 feet below, at the bottom of which runs the Maury River. This time of year the river is low — no cascading white water that thrills the eye in the early spring — however, the views are just as beautiful. As with any tourist, the autumn color display attracts me — but when it comes to photography, not so much. It’s hard to do fall foliage images without resorting to visual cliché, so I had my eye out for compositions that would respect the natural beauty of the area, but also have another level — in this case something a bit humorous, perhaps. Standing by that wide rock wall, all I had to do was glance down to find my subject. Of the seven graffiti samples pictured here, my favorite is “SAUSAGE,” with the little smiling stick figure sausage man.

(Click images for larger views.)









Copyright © 2009 Jim Sizemore.

If you’re interested in taking the same drive, here’s a bit more information about Goshen Pass and nearby attractions, adapted from the “Virginia is for Lovers” website.

Enjoy the natural beauty this area of the state has to offer by following scenic Route 39 up steep mountains and along deep gorges. Begin in Lexington, Virginia, I-81 exit 188, home to historic sites and universities (Virginia Military Institute, Washington and Lee). Start out on Route 11 N and then drive west on Route 39 and head out of town. You will come upon the Virginia Horse Center, a modern facility that operates year-round and hosts horse shows, auctions, festivals and educational clinics.

Proclaimed to be “the loveliest spot in Virginia” you will pass through Goshen Pass, the narrow passage carved out by the Maury River with its steep rocky sides where you’ll see mountain laurel, rhododendron, rocky cliffs and rushing whitewater. Here you’ll find easy access to a roadside pull off from where you might spot someone fishing or enjoying a kayak ride. These are perfect spots for a picnic followed by a refreshing walk along the Maury River’s rippling waters. Restrooms are available here too.

As you continue, you’ll enter the George Washington National Forest, you will soon enter the town of Warm Springs, location of the famous Homestead resort and spa. The Town of Warm Springs got its name from the natural mineral springs that maintain a 98-degree temperature year round. In fact, you might just want to try a dip in the pools.

Taking a side trip off Route 39 in Warm Springs, travel south on State Highway 600 to Lake Moomaw which offers boating, water skiing and swimming, in addition to fishing. Several nearby developed campgrounds offer a good place to stay while you enjoy the outdoors.