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Rainy Weekend

March 24-25

Written March 28

Dear Friends and Family,


So,  how did my big plan for a weekend of photography work out?  Coulda been better, but, as I learned later, it coulda been worse.


I started by checking out of the Lynchburg hotel well before sunrise.  I wanted to be up at "Natural Bridge" for the early morning sun.  Good for pictures, you see.  One of the benefits of jet lag, East-to-West, is waking up early, so I hit the road at 5:30 for the 45 minute drive.

On the road, the rain did nothing but get worse, the higher I went up into the mountains.  When I reached my goal, I had time to spare.  In fact, when I got to Natural Bridge it was dark, rainy, and completely discouraging.  No pictures except one fuzzy shot to prove I was here.  OK, what next?

I'd been to Roanoke before, and liked the little downtown and the extensive train museum, so that became my next goal.  After another hour of driving through the rain, I stopped in Roanoke for breakfast and a quick internet fix, thanks to Starbucks.  Things were not looking good. 

After my break, I went downtown to check out the farmer's market.  The problem here was that this is indeed a market for local farmers and, at this time of year, farmers have very little interesting to sell -- or to take pictures of.  Again, a single picture to prove I was there.

N Bridge mascot
Roanoke Market
N. Bridge Mascot
Roanoke Market

So, what next?  It was still rainy, wet but not drowning anymore.  Maybe a drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway would be OK after all, so that's where I headed.  From here on, I'll let the pictures speak for me.

Parkway sign
view too
Parkway Entrance
Ominous Clouds
More Clouds

Despite the dark clouds, and the bare winter trees, the vistas from the road were attractive enough that I kept popping off the road to click some more.  My most ambitious shots were "pans", where I would stitch together shots later, in the "darkroom."  The following two panoramas were composed of six or eight individual photos, stitched together with an amazing piece of software called Hugin.  I like the technology and the pictures are OK enough to give some sense of what I was seeing. (The pictures that come up with a click are pretty detailed, but not nearly as detailed as the originals.  I can't wait to try this technique on more interesting horizons.)


Notice particularly, the lower edge of the clouds.  As the day wore on, these clouds went away, came back, got lighter, got darker.  I was concentrating on using them for picture backdrops, so I appreciated the variety, but the sunnier periods definitely were best.

sunny view
more sun

Since I was up early, I decided to stop early.  I got off the Parkway at Fancy Gap, which is truthfully more gap than fancy.  Nonetheless, there was a selection of chain hotel-motels (does anyone call them that anymore?) and I landed in a pretty large room at the local Best Western.  Nowadays, the main attraction of a room is the wifi connection and here the service was mediocre, good enough to call home via Skype however.

While I was on the phone to Marianne, I commented on how dark it was, for 3:30 in the afternoon.  Those white, puffy clouds had definitely turned dark and sinister.  Pretty soon, it was raining heavily, and then came hail.  The rental car ended up with a coating of pea-sized ice balls.  After I hung up, I turned on the TV and was greeted with a tornado warning for the Tennessee county I was in.  Later, I listened to the news and damaging high winds and golf-ball sized hail had been reported up on the Blue Ridge Parkway, exactly where I had been hours before.  Glad I decided to quit early.


So, that was my Saturday.  All in all, an OK excursion.  The rainy, gray skies had parted enough for a few pictures, nothing wonderful, but enough to give me more practice with my camera and technology*.  I just hoped for better Sunday weather.


Sunday dawned as wet and dreary as Saturday.  I had decided that my goal would be Jonesborough, Tennessee, mostly because it was another state and sounded quaint.  The drive from Fancy Gap was a couple of hours through rural Virginia and Tennessee.  All of it was actually pretty pleasant, much different from back home in rural Bavaria.  It seems every home had property around it and, mostly, things were orderly and reasonably prosperous looking.  I mention all this because I think I had a prejudice of what these "backwoods communities" might look like.

Jonesborough itself was pretty dead.  On Sunday morning, the only busy places open were churches and there were several.  The downtown commercial area was completely closed, except for a single restaurant that opened at 11:00.  Nevertheless, wandering through the small downtown revealed interesting history.  Ever hear of the State of Franklin?**  One could imagine a completely different feel in the sun, with crowds.  Maybe next time.

My pictures were limited to "architecture" and not spectacular, but it's all more practice.

And so it went.  A rainy weekend.  Not bad, but there have been better.

d120325_51_OPEN.jpg d120325_52_ChasterInn.jpg d120325_53_TaylorHome.jpg d120325_54_Emancipator.jpg d120325_55_hotel.jpg

Chester Inn, town's oldest commercial building (1779).
Taylor Home, oldest building (1788) and one-time home of future president Jackson
The abolitionist paper Emancipator was published here in the 1820s.
Cute little hotel.
d120325_58_shopping.jpg d120325_57_house.jpg d120325_59_shopping2.jpg d120325_56_office.jpg d120325_60_Sign.jpg

** History footnote.
The Lost State of Franklin

Prior to Tennessee statehood, the east Tennessee region almost became the state of Franklin. After Jonesborough was founded in 1779, a group of citizens from this and the surrounding area (then a part of the Western District of North Carolina) felt they were not represented fairly nor protected by their state leaders. On December 14, 1784, delegates from these areas convened in Jonesborough to approve the formation of a new state, the state of Franklin, named after one of the great leaders of the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin. This new state ensured citizens could create their own laws and elect their own leaders.

Jonesborough served as the capital of Franklin until a new capital was established in nearby Greeneville. John Sevier, one of the most influential leaders in the development of Franklin, was elected its first governor in March, 1785. Franklin functioned as the nation’s fourteenth state until 1788, but was never recognized by Congress. After many negotiations and skirmishes, which climaxed in the Battle of the State of Franklin, North Carolina once again reclaimed the lands. Today, the State of Franklin is often remembered as the “Lost State of Franklin”.

* Technology footnote.
I recently bought a GPS "tracker" so I could tag all my pictures with their location.  This little device, along with software and some work on the computer, will place latitude and longitude in the data for each picture.  (Digital pictures come with data nowadays, quite a bit of data.) 

The cool part is that, with lat/long, the software will also look up on Google Maps the name of the town, state, and country.  This is a real time saver for finding things later. map
Finally, a special technique for shooting panoramas.  You see, one of the problems when shooting six, or eight, or ten shots of a horizon, and then shooting another series of a very similar horizon, is knowing when one series starts and another stops.  Today, I tried out a "handy" technique I had read about: a shot of my hand between every series.  I know, it sounds simple enough, but it works.



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