Fall in Virginia

Fall has always been one of my favorite seasons. Not even I can say for sure whether it’s my favorite, because I really like Spring, too.

I’ve been busy with my new job. All is going well, but meeting and getting accustomed to new co-workers and learning new stuff is mentally exhausting. By the time evening rolls around during the week — my days have been FLYing! — I’m mentally spent.

We’ve been spending our Saturdays helping my MIL consolidate her belongings in preparation for her impending move into a lovely apartment facility in Perry Hall, Maryland (just northeast of Baltimore). Luckily Mike’s siblings and in-laws have been pitching-in, too.

There’s plenty of stuff I need to do around our house, but I decided to put it off in favor of enjoying the lovely Fall scenery in Virginia.

Maple Tree


Random Pretty Spot
Random Pretty Spot

I like exploring back roads far more than Hubby does. My bike is much smaller and better-suited for the dirt-and-gravel roads sometimes encountered in this region. My bike probably weighs about half as much as his does, the weight is more-evenly distributed (lower), and it has a skinnier profile, so it’s easy for me to stop and park in the grass along a road without having to worry about hindering traffic and/or getting sideswiped.

It really has been lovely. I thought y’all might enjoy some of the images I captured over the last few weeks.

Pretty Old Cabin




Fun Reflection


Interesting Patterns in Nature

How cool is that lichen-covered boulder? It was about the size of a rectangular bale of hay, only it wasn’t rectangular. Oh, it was in a creek, too.



Old Barns


Unusual Fungus


One of My Favorite “New” Roads


Look Closely to See the Abandoned Chimney

This is not the first abandoned chimney I’ve seen, with no trace of its former building in view. I’d love to know the story of that place. It would be a lovely spot for a tiny cabin.

A Peaceful Valley


Longhorns and Old Farmhouse


How cool is that old fence?




Silo “In the Weeds”


Pretty Road


Pretty View from the Pretty Road


Stopped to See Old Farmhouse and Ruins


Old Farmhouse




Farm with View of Old Rag Mountain


Slightly Closer Look at Old Rag Mountain


Lichen-Spotted Shed Roof near Syria, Virginia


Nice View Near Syria, Virginia


Somewhere near Ruth or Lydia, Virginia (I think)




Skyline Drive (a week ago)


Along Skyline Drive


Skyline Drive (a week ago)

I hope you’ve all been able to enjoy Fall, too. Today is the day the clocks “fall back,” so it’ll be getting dark here in a couple of hours. I need to get back to catching up on my chores.

Thanks for stopping by.

Oh, wait. One more thing. This post was written entirely on my new MacBook Air — work-issued — which I am still getting used to. The jury is still out on whether or not I’ll be an Apple convert.

The Death Spiral

My personal computer is dying.

There, I’ve said it.

I’ve known for a while. There have been signs. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been so absent from my regular online haunts, like reading blogs and publishing stuff on my own blog.

I honestly don’t even want to THINK about getting a new computer. I hate having to make decisions about technology, because truly informed decisions take lots of reading, and lots of thought.

And, as soon as you mention needing a new techy thing or other, everyone wants to share advice and opinions. To me, all of that is even MORE overwhelming. Because what is good or works for one person may not be good or work for me.

The latest “sign” is that the network adapter stopped working. So I can’t connect to our home network or the biggest network of all, the Internet. It can probably be fixed. But why bother when I know the thing needs to be replaced. It’s time, really. I have been in denial for MONTHS.

Anyhoo… to change the subject, look at this pretty sunrise.

Pretty Sunrise
Pretty Sunrise

I am a visual person. I really , really love all the colors in nature (like sunrises and sunsets). I’m not usually up early enough to see sunrises and, if I were, I wouldn’t be able to see much of it from my house because I don’t have a very good view of the eastern or western sky.

Recently, due to the oppressive Mid-Atlantic heat and humidity, and the fact that I work from home so have nothing to really force me out of the house, I’d been feeling rather house-bound. Like a cabin fever sort of thing. I got outside, but only in the evenings when walking the dogs. Not only did that feel hot and uncomfortable, it was also LOUD because of the stupid cicadas. They’ve been quite loud and quite incessant for WEEKS. If you’ve never had to live with the darn things and don’t know what I mean, make sure your sound is turned on then follow this link.

So I decided to head to the beach for a few days. Hubby hates the beach and I really wanted to swim in the ocean one more time before beach season ends. I am a remote employee, so I just moved my office and altered my hours for a couple of days. I worked in the early morning and late afternoon/evenings and had midday to hang out on the beach.

It was a refreshing and much-needed break.

While there, since I had to get up early to work anyway, I made sure to enjoy sunrise from the beach. I mean, I had to sit somewhere to drink that all-important morning coffee, right?

I don’t take pictures just for the sake of taking a lot of pictures. I take pictures trying to capture — and share — the beauty (and other stuff) that I see.

I’m always saying, you can’t just take an occasional snapshot here and there and expect to have a bunch of great photos on hand. You have to take a lot of pictures in order to capture a few good ones.

Anyone can push a shutter and capture a moment. I throw away/delete a lot more images than I share. I think most good photographers do. That’s another key to being good, knowing when you have created/captured something that’s not so good. If it’s not good or it’s even really bad, DON’T SHARE IT.

I actually captured quite a few decent sunrise pics, but I think the one I shared above is my favorite.

If you’d like to see some of the “bloopers” watch the video I embedded below. There’s sound, so you may want to adjust your volume before pressing play.

I hope to make more-frequent appearances once I have procured a new personal computer.

The Rosiest Gal I Know

A Labeled Specimen

I have met some really cool people since moving to Virginia in 2011. It’s hard to believe it has already been five years! Well, not officially five until September 30/October 1, but that’s close enough. Sometimes it still feels so new…

But, back to me having met COOL people. One of the interesting localish ladies I’ve befriended is Connie Stevens Hilker. Some of you may remember her from this 2014 post of mine. According to the bio on Connie’s blog…

…I started Hartwood Roses, an educational rose garden in Virginia that specializes in rare and unusual antique roses. I know a lot about roses, old houses, carpentry and remodeling, and am an expert day dreamer. You will often find me working in the garden, planning a home project, building something, or hanging out in a cemetery …all of this has come in handy as my husband and I restore our historic home (built in 1848) renovate the outbuildings, and design the gardens.

She loves animals, too. She’s a supporter of dog rescue. She paints furniture. She’s just a really fun gal. And she’s married to a guy named, Steve, an artist who also seems like a cool chap. Here’s a recent pic of the two of them from Connie’s blog…

Steve and Connie
Steve and Connie

Aren’t they a cute couple? They’re grandparents, too.

Now for the point of this post… Connie and Steve hosted an open house/walking garden tour this past May. It’s an annual thing, I think. After seeing all of their preparations online, I thought it would be fun to go.

Illustrated Map of the Property

There was a map and everything. If you click on any of the images in this post, a larger version will open so you can see details.

Hartwood Manor
Hartwood Manor – photo courtesy of Connie


There were LOTS of different rose varieties.

I hadn’t told Connie I was coming. She was a little surprised to see me, but I think Steve was more surprised to see this granny pull into his yard on a motorcycle. I hadn’t met Steve before that day. Of course, I felt like I knew him to some degree through Connie and her social media posts.

That’s Connie on the left chatting-up some other visitors.

It’s a big yard with a lot of different gardens and planting areas.

Front Hybrid Tea Rose beds, laid out English-garden-style.


Rear outbuildings; L-R, Carriage House Garage, The Shack, and the Greenhouse.


5_Miniature Garden_IMG_0197
There’s the large Miniature Garden behind the outbuildings.


The Barn and Cottage toward the rear of the property.


6_The Barn_IMG_0220
English Rose garden near The Barn


Rose Tree (a climbing rose went crazy, resulting in this happy accident)

That’s an overview of the property. Isn’t it delightful?

Now for a bunch of pictures of their gorgeous roses.

One of my favorite pics from the day.




This flower is a unique shade of dusty lavender; the pic doesn’t do it justice.




Tea Rose




This is a George Washington cabbage rose that dates back to 1860!


Tea Rose


My Favorite Flower




Connie  did a post back in June — she’s FAR more timely than me — with pics where she labeled a lot of the roses.

If you’d like to read more about their old house, check out the “home” section of Connie’s blog. WARNING: you may fall in love with these peeps if you read all about how they restored that beautiful old barn.

Impressive, right?

Enjoying the Painted Sky

I’m a visual person. I love color, shapes, patterns, angles, etc. And I really love seeing a pretty sky. And interesting clouds. Heck, I even like a completely empty sky when it’s that amazing, intense blue you usually get after a huge storm has passed. You know, since the storm has almost completely scrubbed the atmosphere of moisture.

Anyway… I captured quite a few sky shots the other day at the Blackwater Refuge. Some are even good enough for me to want to share here.

As dusk was nearing.

As I’m looking at these pics, I see my CMOS sensor needs to be cleaned again. Sigh… Maybe no one else notices or even knows what that means? LOL.

Sun Dog?

That picture doesn’t do the sky justice. The spot of intense color was neat to see. Those instances of color are very fleeting, so I had to work fast, and I didn’t capture it very well.

I had to darken the final image, using PhotoShop, to make the intense color appear in the photo. Now the picture just looks too blue to me. I decided I’d share it anyway.

Setting Sun


Shortly After Sunset


Another of my favorites.


Almost gone!

I love how the short contrail/flat-and-skinny cloud toward the top, center part of the frame is lit up.

Dark but still pretty.

I get very excited when I see the sky lit up, and I usually start clicking away at the shutter button, trying hard to capture the color appropriately or at least in a way that’s pleasing to the eye. The problem is, I don’t always remember to make sure the horizon is flat.

Since I’ve mentioned that on here, I figured I’d give you an example.

Way crooked horizon. See how it slopes to the left? Not good.


Flatter, but still not perfect.

The second shot is passable, but it’s still not perfect. I can’t remember if I was trying to capture a flat horizon with that shot, or if I just got lucky.

Below is an edited version of the same, passable shot.

IMG_3417 edited
Flatter with more-intense color.

See how much better?

Is it me, or do the clouds look like a goose in flight?

Here’s another look at that same cloud formation.

Painted Sky

A pretty end to an interesting, but cold, day.

Few White Faces at Blackwater

I went to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge yesterday with hopes of seeing big flocks of Snow Geese. I’ve been thinking about visiting that place since October, when I failed to see Snow Geese during my visit to Chincoteague. It’s a three-hour drive from my house, though. Sometimes it’s hard for me to justify — to myself — investing an entire day just to go see a bunch of birds.

So, when I learned of a dog transport passing through this area, I figured I could multi-task again. I could help transport the dog AND drive to Blackwater.

ellie's map
Ellie’s Transport – Rustburg, VA to Whiting, NJ (not the actual route)

Originally, I was supposed to take Ellie from Warrenton to the other side of DC. But I figured if I carried her to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the folks on the NJ end might appreciate traversing ruralish highways instead of Interstate 95.

I was right. 🙂

Ellie with her foster Dad, Bob Fairbanks

So, after handing Ellie off to her foster parents in Queenstown, MD, I drove about another hour to Blackwater.

Pretty Day at Blackwater
Pretty Day at Blackwater

It was around 3:00 when I got there, and there wasn’t a whole lot of daylight remaining.

Unfortunately, there were few Snow Geese to be found. I did get lots of other cool pics, though, and quite a few crappy ones.

Before I share my captures, I will say this… I am no bird photographer. I take pictures of birds, but I don’t have the right equipment, i.e., a big-ass, expensive zoom lens and industrial-strength tripod, to capture technically good bird photos. I just take snapshots.

I also have to say that it was very windy and cold there yesterday. Temps hovered around 40 degrees F (about 4.5 C), but the wind made it feel much colder. The wind also wreaked havoc on my focus. Using a zoom lens requires a tripod and/or a very steady hand. Although I had taken the tripod along, I didn’t bother setting it up because of said wind.

The first set of pics was taken with my point-and-shoot camera.

Looking out over the water.

Blackwater — a tidal wetland — is a pretty place.

I really enjoy visiting tidal wetlands.


Cool — and mysterious! — pattern in the ice.

I really like my captures of this pattern in the ice. I’d hoped the folks at the visitors’ center could explain how it was created, but they were equally intrigued.

A bit of grass in the foreground, while blurry, makes this shot, I think.


Nice colors, eh? The sun was setting.


One of my favorite sunset captures.

My point-and-shoot — a Canon G16 — is a higher-end camera, and it has pretty good zoom capabilities, but digital zoom is only good if the light is bright and the camera is very still. Remember, it was windy. And daylight was fading fast during my visit.

The pics shared below were all taken with my DSLR camera, equipped with a zoom lens.

Just a pretty picture.


This image of a Great Blue Heron is blurry, but I think that adds to the shot.


Same bird, slightly more in focus.

I like how you can also see the bird’s feet in the second picture.

I saw quite a few herons yesterday.

I like the blurry marsh grass in the foreground.


That’s an eagle atop of the snag.

This guy (or gal?) was kind enough to land right in front of my car.

Looking for attention?
Looking for attention?


I’m a sucker for interesting reflections.


There’s that interesting pattern in the ice again.


Great Blue Heron


Same bird, different orientation.

I stopped at the visitors’ center for a potty break, to warm up, and to ask about the Snow Geese. I was starting to think they’d all flown north already (Blackwater is one of several over-wintering spots for them on the East Coast).

That’s where I captured this eagle shot, which I posted to FB with the caption, “Got really close to an eagle! That’s a phone pic, no filter.”

Close-up of an Eagle!
Close-up of an Eagle!

Of course, the prankster in me left a few important details out of that caption. It was a real, but dead, stuffed, and mounted, eagle in an exhibit.

The volunteers at the visitors’ center told me the Snow Geese were spending their day in nearby fields, off-refuge, eating. While there was still sufficient light, I set out to see the elusive Snow Geese.

Snow Geese


Snow Geese (some were quite far from the road; see the white dots in the background?)


Snow Geese

After observing them for a bit, I drove back to the refuge, hoping maybe they’d return before dark.

Canada Geese

Note, I did NOT say Canadian Geese. They’re CANADA Geese, people, not Canadian Geese. That’s one of my pet peeves when people talk about birds.

Along Wildlife Drive at the Blackwater Refuge.


Great Blue Heron

If you look at a larger version of this image (just click on the picture) you’ll see that its neck feathers were blowing in the wind.

I captured quite a few nice sunset shots, which I’ll share in a separate post.

The Snow Geese did return to the refuge, but not until after sunset. I DID capture a few shots with the point-and-shoot, but they were blurry.

One blurry, dark photo of Snow Geese in flight.


The pics I captured during my previous visit are better. The first image shown below is a good pic from my visit in 2011, when I still had a separate moto blog.

Snow Geese in Flight


One of my favorite bike pics.

It’s really pretty amazing to see — and hear! — hundreds of geese in flight. I guess if you like that sorta thing.

If you’re curious, here a link for more info on about Snow Geese. And here are some nice pics captured by someone else — found via Google — that clearly show Canada Geese beside a Snow Goose.

I must say, it was nice being out in the world for a change. I hope you enjoyed your virtual visit. 🙂

The Beach at Daybreak

Thanks to the alarm on my phone, I was able to get out of bed before sunrise on Saturday. I never use an electronic alarm at home, I have two canine alarms.

Neptune was just as lovely in the morning light as I thought he would be. I’d figured the sky would make a nice backdrop for him.

Neptune at Daybreak

I took several shots, naturally. The one below would be my favorite if it weren’t for the playground equipment in the lower left-hand corner. If you want a closer look, just click on any of these images and a bigger version will open.

Neptune from Another Angle

As for the sunrise, I captured a bunch of sunrise images, too. Not every frame I captured is worthy of sharing.

None of my followers come to mind when I say this… people who routinely share every single frame they capture make me crazy.

Cloudy Morning

It was quite cloudy that morning (Saturday, November 7). Clouds can be good and bad. Too many, and the sunlight is obscured. I like some clouds because I think it makes the sky more interesting.

Sunrise, Straight Out of Camera (SOC)

I don’t always edit (aka PhotoShop) my pics beyond re-sizing before posting. With sunrises/sunsets over water or some other flat horizon, I usually have to. Because no matter how hard I try, I can almost never get the horizon level enough.

I mention editing, because it’s easy to make a good picture look better with image editing software, as shown below, using the same image as shown above, adjusted for light.

Sunrise, Adjusted for Light

Sometimes, I’ll adjust for composition, too. Below is the same image again, cropped so the sun is in the right third of the frame and the reflection of the sun on the water is in the lower right-hand quadrant.

Same Image, Cropped

Why am I telling you this? So you’ll understand that when I say an image is straight out of camera or SOC, it means I think I and my camera have captured it perfectly. That’s not an easy feat.

SOC with Slanted Horizon

The horizon isn’t horribly slanted, but it’s slanted enough that I notice.

Same Image with Horizon Leveled

Leveling makes a difference, doesn’t it? (Sorry if I have just cursed you with the needing to have a level-horizon thing.)

There’s a lot to think about when trying to get a good picture — composition, light, focus, level horizon, etc. — and leveling the horizon is the one I forget and/or fail at most often.

Captured with the Point and Shoot (SOC)


My Favorite Capture of the Morning (SOC)


My Third-favorite Capture (SOC with leveled horizon)


Another Nice Shot (SOC)

When using an automatic camera, the point at which you focus will determine the amount of light captured in your shot.

My Second-favorite (SOC)

The wider focus in the above shot made the camera let in just enough light to capture the foreground detail, but still leave some blue in the sky.

Now, that is a sunrise! (SOC)

In the images immediately above and below this paragraph, zooming in/focusing on the brightness of the sun meant the camera let less light in, which is why everything else is darker.

Loving all the colors. (SOC)

Achieving just the right balance takes practice and experimentation, too. The angle of the light is also important.

SOC with Leveled Horizon

That shot would have been nicer with a slightly darker sky, but then you wouldn’t have been able to see my footprints in the sand. I can use PhotoShop to darken the sky a bit if I want.

All of the images shared thus far were captured on my point-and-shoot, i.e., automatic, camera. It has a variety of manual options, but I have yet to learn how to use them. I can be a lazy photographer at times.

The next few images were captured with my digital SLR camera (interchangeable lenses, easier-to-use manual settings, manual focus, etc.).

This could be a tad darker, I think. But it’s still a decent image.


Sasquatch Tracks


SLR Capture (SOC)

Playing with the light settings and using manual focus let me capture those wispy little clouds in front of the dark, background clouds.

My Favorite SLR Capture (SOC)

In the SOC version, you can’t really see the sun’s rays like you can (subtly) in the below version, which I adjusted slightly for light.

My Favorite SLR Capture (after light adjustment)

Not surprisingly to me, I captured more shots worth sharing with the point-and-shoot than I did with the SLR. I’m out of practice. It takes thought to get the right light settings on that thing, and I am very rusty.

All of the pics would have been better had I thought about using the tripod. I did say I can be a lazy photographer…

I could’ve stayed longer to watch as the sky continued to change and capture more images, but I knew I’d gotten a few good ones. AND I had things to do.

It’s hard to pic a favorite, isn’t it?

Those fish make me smile.

Next up, some fun images captured in and around Virginia Beach.