Tourist in my State – Orange, Virginia

Along the Train Tracks
Orange, Virginia

It’s so easy to be a tourist in my own state – there are interesting things everywhere! The town in Orange, Virginia has some lovely brickwork next to the tracks. There was also a large monument to the memory of the soldiers who died in the Civil War.

Orange grew because of the train terminal. The train brought passengers and supplies from Alexandria, at the other end of the state and carried away produce and products from the farms and factories.

In 1888, a trestle near the town collapsed when a passenger train struck it. The trestle was named after a woman who lived there – Fat Nancy (hmm. . . wonder why that name would stick with me). According to the signage, 34 people died and 11 more were injured.

In 1965, the station was significantly damaged when girders came loose as a freight train came through town. There were no casualties and it was quickly rebuilt.

The train eventually ceased to stop in Orange and Amtrak refused to add the town to the stops. More recently, the buildings were sold to the city and became offices and the tourism bureau.

The town of Orange is located in Orange County, north of Charlottesville, Virginia. It is about a 1.5 hour drive from Richmond. There are several antique stores there, along with other shopping.

Sunflowers In Virginia

“I don’t think there’s anything on this planet that more trumpets life that the sunflower. For me that’s because of the reason behind its name. Not because it looks like the sun but because it follows the sun. During the course of the day, the head tracks the journey of the sun across the sky. A satellite dish for sunshine. Wherever light is, no matter how weak, these flowers will find it. And that’s such an admirable thing. And such a lesson in life.”

― Helen Mirren

I had no idea there were sunflower farms in Virginia! Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery graciously allowed my husband and I to take pictures even though they weren’t open to the public at that time.

Fields of A Thousand Suns
Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery
Goochland, Virginia

As you can see, the clouds were beautiful and dramatic, making the sunflower fields even more beautiful. When a gentle wind came through, they nodded their heads in unison, making for a field of golden delight.

“A sunflower field is like a sky with a thousand suns.”

― Corina Abdulahm-Negura

Plentiful Sunflowers

There were bees everywhere, along with wasps and butterflies. Many sunflowers had multiple bees on them too, rolling in the pollen.

Competition for a Sunflower

The opportunity for taking these photos was unexpected. And what a gift it was! All kinds of pretty pictures came home with us, along with the memories of walking the fields and seeing all that beauty around us. It was a wonderful day.

Life Goes On

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View at Short Pump Mall, Richmond, Virginia

Gretchen Rubin has often said:

The days are long, but the years are short.
I realized that part of why I’m not blogging is that I’ve been busy with so many other things. It’s not good or bad, it’s a season in life.

Last year, my favorite boy toy and I traveled extensively, both in-state and out-of-state. Some of the trips were to see our daughter, grandsons, and bestest son-in-law. One trip was to see my Dad and family in Texas. But mostly we wandered.

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My daughter and oldest grandson

I took nearly 2500 pictures last year, often with my cell phone. It’s always on me, it takes reasonably good pictures, and it’s easier to post to Facebook later.

Continue reading “Life Goes On”

Time For A New Story

Isn't he just handsome? Even if he is a bit impatient with me taking his picture.
Isn’t my husband just handsome? Even if he is a bit impatient with me taking his picture.

As May drew to a close, it became apparent to me that I needed to tell myself a new story. I need a story that doesn’t involve the workplace, doing taxes, being a CPA, or any of the other ways that I’ve defined myself for these many, many years.

I’m proud of my career accomplishments and the hard work I’ve put into being the best I can, becoming an authority in my field, and being a recognized name “out there”. I’ve dedicated myself to learning all I could about corporate state income taxes, showing up when I was needed, being a diligent employee and mentoring those around me.

But that time has come to an end. For the rest of this year, I am on sabbatical and planning what I want to do with my writing and photography as well as seeing that new grandson of mine.

Yes, that is a cannonball in the bricks
Yes, that is a cannonball in the bricks in Yorktown, Virginia

Continue reading “Time For A New Story”

A Late Winter Walk

Path at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia
Path at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

The world is but a canvas to the imagination.
– Henry David Thoreau

A few days before the official start of spring, I took a walk at one of my favorite places, the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. The shadows were lovely, even though the trees are still bare. The crocus were in bloom – just barely – so spring is definitely on its way.

Crocus at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia
Crocus at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

The last time I shared pictures from the botanical gardens, it was still early fall (click here to see) and there was an abundance of colors all over. The day I took these photos did not have such. I still enjoyed being there, but had kept my expectations low as to what I would see.

The gazebo at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia
The gazebo at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

When the leaves are down, I see things that are otherwise covered up. I made that observation years ago and it’s still true today.

Greenhouse from the side at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia
Greenhouse from the side at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

Here’s another view of the greenhouse. I don’t normally stand this far back, but I loved the composition of the center of the greenhouse against the empty trees.

Front view of the greenhouse at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia
Front view of the greenhouse at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

I also don’t normally photograph the bridge from the gazebo (my gazebo shots are usually taken from the bridge though!), but once again, I liked how the light played with the shapes. Plus it was pretty empty, so I didn’t have to wait so long to get pictures without people in them.

Looking at the bridge at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia
Looking at the bridge at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

I’ve noticed when I walk the dogs around the neighborhood that the leaves are sounding like fall when they skitter across the blacktopped road. We have a lot of old oak trees around the homes here and they don’t drop their leaves until they’re nearly ready to start putting out new green ones. So everyday there’s more leaves on the grass, the cars, and skittering around in the wind.

Overlooking the pond at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia
Overlooking the pond at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

I was cold. I didn’t wear a winter coat, but I was wearing a heavier hat and my fingerless gloves.


The greenhouse was its usual oasis of warmth and bright colors. I love going in there when it’s cold out! Years ago, a fellow blogger (Patti at A New Day Dawns) left me a comment that the greenhouse was like dessert after a cold day in the garden. I laughed then and I still laugh now at that, because that’s exactly what it reminds me each time I go in there when the garden has so little color. In fact, some of the pictures that I took in January 2012 had more color and foliage than I found in mid-March of 2015.

That statue had a little brown spider (most likely a wolf spider, nothing more) on its head. I didn’t realize it until I was nearly done shooting the picture and the spider moved! And yep, every one of my carefully composed pictures had that little spider on it. I did clone out of the final photo above. Still, wish I’d known it was there. I would have come back later to take the pictures.

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I enjoyed the beauty of the day. No, it’s not the over-the-top cacophony of colors that I see from April to October. But it was pretty, the fresh air was great, and I enjoyed finding new photos that I wouldn’t have probably taken when the trees were in full leaf. It was a good day.

Walls of Creativity, Part 1

During a recent visit to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art (VMFA), I came across an exhibit of 20th and 21st Century Art. Although I’m often not a fan of what is in these galleries, they changed since the last time I walked through there and I was impressed by their creativity. For this week’s photo challenge of “walls“, I wanted to share some of what I saw.


Woman Facing Wall by John DeAndrea

This sculpture is cast from a real model, with the scars and blemishes added in as the artist created her. What fascinated me was that despite the gray tones used on her skin, she was so life like! I fully expected her to lift her head up from the wall and say “gotcha!”. Her muscle tone, stretch marks (look at her right hip), and nails were just perfect.

Woman Facing Wall by John DeAndrea
Woman Facing Wall by John DeAndrea

Here’s a close-up of some details:


The Former and the Ladder or Ascension and a-Cinchin’ by Trenton Doyle Hancock

There’s so much to notice on this picture! I found it easy to look at though – the artist does a good job of moving your eyes around it without causing mass confusion. As for meaning, it’s whatever I, the viewer, want to make of it. Is it about the glory of something past? Or feeling like I’ve never arrived? Is it a commentary on work and climbing the corporate ladder? It’s hard to tell, but I found myself thinking about it for quite a while.

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The Former and the Ladder or Ascension and a-Cinchin’ by Trenton Doyle Hancock

Here’s a close-up of some details:


Zero Hour from the Wayfarer Series by Hank Willis Thomas

According to the sign, this exhibit was to explore assumptions and attitudes about black identity, as well being “an emblem of racial hybridity”. This is the reason for why the model is half black / half in white face.

There were several notable things about this exhibit. As you can see, the model turns from fully black to partially black / partially white to all white as you move from right to left. The glass is frosted, so that no matter where you stand, only one panel is in focus. The rest is blurry. And it seemed that because of that, the model was looking right at you no matter where you stood.

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Zero Hour from the Wayfarer Series by Hank Willis Thomas



Vessel by Radcliffe Bailey

Surprisingly, this was not about Christopher Columbus (notice there is only one ship). It was about slavery. The artists’ ancestors escaped slavery through the Underground Railroad by following the North Star. The ship represents passage from Africa, the glass is displacement, and the map is the Mason-Dixon line along with the regiment numbers of blacks who served in the Civil War.

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Vessel by Radcliffe Bailey

Here’s some detail:


Four Men in Formal Attire (after Guston) by Charles McGill

Before I explain this picture, take a close look at it. Does it remind you of anything? It did me and I don’t mean in a positive way either. It strongly reminded me of the hoods of the Ku Klux Klan.

Reading the description, that is what the artist wanted. I’d even go another step and say that the rims of the golf bags remind me of chains used to bind slaves together around their waists. I would have never imagined golf bags to be so evocative, which is why I found this so creative.

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Four Men in Formal Attire (after Guston) by Charles McGill


Xilempasto 6 by Henrique Oliveira

This was the first museum piece sold by this artist. It consists of plywood that has been soaked, stained and painted. In the end, it looks like driftwood, doesn’t it?

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Xilempasto 6 by Henrique Oliveira

Here are the wall cards explaining each picture. I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour. Whether you like what the artist did or not, it was certainly different!

To see what others did with this challenge, click here.


The Joy of Common Work

Visitors Center at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia
Visitors Center at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

. . . Do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.
– Robert Lewis Stevenson

It’s easy for me to get caught up in wanting everything fancy, just like I think everyone else has it.

But of course, very few have everything fancy. For most of us, we have to cook and wash dishes, do laundry, clean, and take care of our children and / or pets.

There’s a joy in it – in the routine of scrubbing pots, folding clothes or sweeping floors. There’s a joy in the pleasure of a dog when you’ve bent over next to them to put on your shoes and they can look up at you and wag their tail.

Joy is everywhere, but we have to remind ourselves to seek it and be aware of it in the little things in our lives. To not let daily living overwhelm the sweet little things of our everyday actions.

For your amusement, below is the original and some experiments. I like the one that includes the “worn brick” texture and really found it hard to choose between it and the one I finally used. Both look good, but for different reasons.

What Is Orange?

So what is orange?

Orange is warmth and sunlight, whether on my face or basking in a smile from my daughter.

My daughter in downtown Bar Harbor, Maine.  Post processed with Topaz Effects "Exposure Correction" and on1 frame "Platinum Brush".
My daughter in downtown Bar Harbor, Maine.

Orange is the glory of flowers, showing off their brilliance for all to see and enjoy.

Marigolds taken in the gardens at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.  Processed with Topaz Impressions "Abstract 2" and on1 border "Dano".
Marigolds taken in the gardens at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.

It is delicate sunrises and spectacular sunsets.

Sunset in Richmond, Virginia.  Post processed with Topaz Effects "Warm Tone 2" and on1 border "Sloppy Border 8".
Sunset in Richmond, Virginia.

It is fruits and vegetables, lined up gaily, whether for eating or decorations.

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Pumpkins taken in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.


Orange is the first beauty of fall, the beginning of the long slide into winter (of which I’ve had enough, thank you).

Gazebo at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia.  Processed in Lightroom with on1 border "Ghost Effect Black".
Gazebo at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia.

It’s the color of a beagle’s head, waiting to be petted.

Beagle in the backyard.  Post processed with Topaz Impressions "Oil Painting by Jim LaSala" and on1 border "Russell".
Beagle in the backyard.

To see how others interpreted this week’s photo challenge for orange, click here.

Inspiration and A Funny Story

I’d like to thank Robin at Reflections For My Soul. The flowers she posted reminded me of warmth and sunlight. The day I viewed them, we had just had sleet and snow and then the temperatures went below freezing and stayed there.

Funny story there – I have two Robin’s who follow my blog and regularly leave comments. Yep, two of them. So when Robin at Reflections For My Soul started following me, I was initially confused, thinking that Robin at Breezes at Dawn had changed her avatar from the pictures of her crossed feet to that of a western style hat. It took me a few days to realize that no, I actually had two blogging friends named Robin and they were not the same person.

Before and After

Interested in the before and after of these photos? The sunset was truly that spectacular, being caused by a fire in the Great Dismal Swamp (yes, that’s really it’s name), causing a high level of air pollution due to the particulates it was throwing up.  The best camera is the one you have with and that night it was my old Canon point and shoot, the Pro1. It didn’t have a lot of megapixels, but I got the shot! I posted another version of this several years ago, here.

In the last few weeks, I’ve had some discussions with Stacy Fisher at Visual Venturing and Dee & Gee at Dee Gee’s Photograph Australia about camera gear and post processing our pictures. The reason I bring it up is to encourage you to look closer at these pictures. It is wonderful to have good gear, which is why I upgraded last year from the Canon Rebel 3Ti to a Canon 6D.  It’s also wonderful to use camera raw to get some extra help when post processing your photos.

But we can take the pictures from the old point and shoots, the pictures we took in jpg instead of camera raw, and the pictures that are just marginal, and make them better. They’re still usable! Yes, they might be better with a better camera, but at least for me, it was an evolution. My husband about sat on me to get to me upgrade my old point and shoot to a DSLR, the Rebel (I wouldn’t spend more than that). Even then, I wouldn’t shoot raw nor was I using Lightroom yet. Finally – FINALLY – I started using Lightroom. Cee Neuner and Steve Schwartzman in the blogging community encouraged me to shoot raw when I asked how they were shooting reds without the colors looking muddy.  My husband was happy for someone else to convince me to do it since he was unable to do so.

So here are the before and after shots, with the camera and type of shot used. Remember that with a jpg, the camera is making post processing decisions for you. That is why, straight out of the camera, a jpg looks pretty good. With camera raw, the camera makes no or minimal decisions, depending on your settings. You have to tell it everything, which is why the raw pictures below look so poor. The upside is there is a great more data available, so a picture can be really pushed with processing before it develops problems.

Taken with the Canon EOS 6D, using camera raw:

Taken with the Canon Rebel 3Ti, using camera raw:

Taken with the Canon Powershot Pro1, using jpg:

Taken with the Canon Rebel 3Ti, using jpg:

Taken with the Canon Rebel 3Ti, using jpg:

Taken with the Canon EOS 6D, using camera raw:

So stay encouraged. Keep taking pictures. Keep improving. And keep using the old pictures as well as the new. You’ve worked hard for your inventory and even if you can’t use them now, who knows what future software will make them usable?

For those who read this all the way to the bottom (thank you!), here is a final thought:

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness; touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments and life itself is grace.
– Frederick Buechner, American writer and theologian

Have a good week!


Weekly Photo Challenge: Scale

In 2012, the Richmond Virginia Art Community joined with national street artists to create murals on the flood walls along the James River Canal (media coverage is here and here).  Because it was on the path I walked during lunch, I had the opportunity to watch as it was being created and later, the final product.  I’d never gotten around to posting these before and thought they’d be perfect to share for this week’s photo challenge on scale.

You get an idea of the scale of this project here:


Maybe this one gives you a better idea of how huge these murals were.  My sister took this picture of me last spring when she came for a visit:

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Here are some of the finished murals:

The “James” written on the wall is a reference to the James River, from when it was polluted and smelly.  It’s tremendously improved these days (thankfully).

The murals are still there.  Each year since they were done, the city has added murals in other places.  It’s purpose is to bring art to Richmond, cover up blank walls, and show off the arts.

There were other noteworthy things the day I took these photos.  A woman was walking two baby goats along the canal with a leash and collar, just like the many dogs that walk there.  I wasn’t the only one to stop and pet them and they created quite a buzz.  In a corner by the murals, a growing collection of memorabilia was left.  It contained all kinds of things, from clothes to eyeglasses to a clock.  I’m not sure what its purpose was, but over the next few weeks it got bigger and bigger.  After a few rains, someone (probably the city) cleaned it up.


In general, the murals highly creative and quite complex.  Some of it was tactless and tasteless (little kids walking by do not need to see naked boobs).  That’s not a surprise.  Everyone has a different idea of what is good and proper.  While most of the artists worked in teams, one artist had his young children help paint the bottom of his mural.  I enjoyed watching them – the kids were enthused to help Dad and their Dad seemed to be enjoying the time spent together.  It took the artists a long time to finish their portion of the flood walls (I think at least two weeks for most of them).  It’s certainly distinctive and worth seeing if you ever come to Richmond, Virginia.

To see how other photographers interpreted the word “scale”, click here.