Blowing in the wind

spider webs blowing in the wind partial solar eclipse

Blowing in the wind. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

Photography keeps you on your toes. It enables you to always be on the lookout for that unexpected moment in time that will change in an instant. It forces you to focus on what’s right in front of you when you really intended to capture something else.

Such was my situation on the evening of Oct. 23, when we could view the beginning of a partial solar eclipse just before sunset. An Amish friend of mine, who is a real stargazer, invited me to watch the partial eclipse with him. I picked him up at his home near Charm, Ohio, and we drove a half mile up to the top of a ridge where a long limestone driveway wound down to an Amish farm. Three strands of barbed wire fence kept the livestock in the pasture west of the drive.

While we waited for the eclipse to begin, we tried to stay warm even though the sun shone brightly. Our ridge top viewing spot also exposed us to a persistent and chilly northwest wind. It was the combination of the sun’s slanting rays and the invisible wind that illuminated an amazing phenomenon. The sun exposed hundreds, if not thousands, of spider web strings that blew horizontally away from the barbed wire. Stitched to their barbed wire anchors, the strings glowed like silver thread in the setting sun.

I began clicking away. However, my first few shots were too close to the fence. The webs stretched out so far that they looked like scratches across the digital photo. I stepped to the left, and lowered the camera to capture my Photo of the Week, “Blowing in the wind.”

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

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Muses on a fall day

landscape photography, barns, Holmes County Ohio

Red barn. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014

By Bruce Stambaugh

Low, thick rain clouds dampened any chance for a pastel sunrise. Overnight, a steady rain silently soothed the dry Ohio countryside.

The precipitation continued on the backside of a cold front that had passed before dawn. No one in the family restaurant when I met a friend for breakfast grumbled about the morning’s sogginess.

White-breasted Nuthatch by Bruce Stambaugh

White-breasted Nuthatch. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

With the rain and accompanying breeze, golden leaves tumbled down everywhere, sticking precisely where they fell, manicured yards, glassy roadways, muddied farm yards.

The polka dotted landscapes complemented the already picturesque scenery. You would think that red, yellow, crimson and orange spots on green and brown foregrounds would color clash with the soft leafy linear swaths of the rainbow backgrounds. But they didn’t.

One needn’t go out into the mushy elements to inhale the dampened beauty. Leaves cascaded diagonally outside eight-paned rectangles creating natural kaleidoscopes. Out of sight far beyond the windows, a Pileated Woodpecker squawked.

Breaks in the clouds, blue and gray skies

Blue and gray. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

By noon, the rain transitioned to intermittent drizzles. A strengthening sun burned occasional breaks into the misty layers. Glimpses of indigo broke through the unstable gray breeches.

The precipitation regrouped, however, and quickly closed ranks, healing the cracks in the overcast. The quenching rainfall continued off and on the rest of the day.

Strong southerly breezes kept the temperatures tolerable, enough so that windows still stood partially opened to catch what could be the last of autumn’s real warmth. Even when the air chilled in early afternoon and clouds continued the gloominess, fall’s vivid colors boldly splashed bright beauty.

The entire situation seemed improbable, if not impossible. The grayness continued, but the colors radiated as if the dullness invigorated them. Decorative pumpkins glowed more orange. Burgundy mums became potted beacons, like so many buoys, and we were nowhere near a harbor.

Acres of field corn, once rolling waves in emerald oceans, now stood brittle dry and tan, mimicking sandy beaches awaiting high tide. It didn’t rain that much.

cornfield, Amish County, brittle corn stalks

Cornfield. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

Life in Holmes County, Ohio continued unabated by either the showers or the splendor. Traffic actually appeared heavier than normal, both on the highways and at the bird feeders.

Commerce bustled. White-breasted Nuthatches scurried headfirst down a sugar maple’s crackled trunk, hopped to the feeder, and back to the tree satisfied. Blue Jay acorn wars ensued with flashes of blue and clarion victory calls amplified by the dampness.

Nightfall came even sooner than it should have. The persistent cloud deck manufactured more rain. With colder days too soon ahead, any farmer will tell you that it is much better to have the ground well moistened before it freezes.

With no prior killing frosts before this day, I didn’t want to even think that way. But I knew the farmers were right. The rains were welcomed.

It was only one day out of many such fall days. Yet the wet weather, the peeks of sunshine, the brilliant colors, and the lushness of the yards and pastures for this late in the season became a compilation of the cyclical suite we call autumn.

My choice would have been a wind still day filled with fluffy clouds sailing through cobalt skies, a bike ride in short sleeves or a walk in the woods, binoculars and camera in tow. Fortunately, the weather is not yet under human control.

Like my farmer friends love to say, “We’ll take what comes.” It’s what we did, and I was more than grateful to be able to do so.

fall colors, changing leaves by Bruce Stambaugh

Gold and red. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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Walking home

Amish couple, Holmes County Ohio, autumn leaves, country scene

Walking home. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

This time of year, the mixed deciduous leaves in Ohio’s Amish country are at their peak. You might expect me to choose a photo of a pastoral scene of a stand of golden sugar maples, or a treeline of reds, yellows and oranges as my Photo of the Week. Instead, I have selected this simple shot of an older Amish couple slowly walking home on a mid-October Sunday evening.

I was taking landscape photos of the lovely leaves. Near home, I stopped to take a photo of the golden sugar maples at my neighbor’s colonial style farmhouse. As I exited my vehicle, I noticed another neighbor, Christ, walking down the small knoll in front of the home. I respect the Amish desire to not be photographed. So I waited until he would pass. When he reached where I was standing, we began talking as neighbors will do. Soon his wife joined us. He had come to meet her on her usual evening stroll. Christ’s knees no longer allow him to accompany her on the steeper hills his wife walks.

I told them that I wanted to take a picture of the Kaufman house with the trees so nicely brightened by the evening sun, but that I had waited until he was no longer in the frame. Christ, who is 82, just smiled and said, “I don’t mind if you take my picture.” So I did, making sure to honor their beliefs by not getting a face shot.

Having this congenial elderly Amish couple in the foreground of the photo opposite the tans of the unharvested soybean field added a touching human element to an already pretty picture. “Walking home” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

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Cold weather can’t cool the warmth of a birthday party

Lego Dolphin cruise boat, grandkids

Ready to launch. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

By Bruce Stambaugh

We wouldn’t have missed this birthday bash for the world. As Maren’s grandparents, we were among the chosen few to attend her fifth birthday party.

Like we needed an excuse to visit. Nana and I would gladly traverse the 350 miles across eight mountain passes between our home and our daughter’s in Virginia’s always-lovely Shenandoah Valley to attend this special event.

Unfortunately, a dubious hitchhiker volunteered to accompany us on our trip. The nice Virginia weather changed to the stuff we had left in Ohio not long after our arrival in the valley.

We weren’t going to let a little discomforting inclemency spoil our celebrative spirits, however. The blue-eyed towhead Maren would turn five regardless of the climatological elements.

The party was just what Maren ordered. You would think a five-year-old girl who loves pink would go glitzy when given the chance to help plan her own party. But no, Maren only wanted family, plus a few close neighbors.

That is exactly what she got. She was the youngest in the cozy crowd.

Surrounded by her parents, her two ornery older brothers, and her MawMaw and Nana and Poppy, a festive evening of fun began with the opening of gifts and cards. What does a preschool girl get for her birthday? Why, jewelry of course, and books, and the one gift Maren hoped to receive, a Lego Dolphin Cruise liner.

The wet weather did postpone the only outside activity planned. The breaking of the piñata had to wait until the next morning.

While the kids went to a room to assemble the multitude of plastic pieces to create the boat, the table was set, and dinner prepared. Dessert was a delicious and preciously decorated cake done by a family friend. Of course, multicolored sprinkles, including pink, speckled the creamy white icing.

A candle in the shape of the number five topped the tiered, sparkly cake. A lone, perfect flame danced atop the crooked candle until one strong puff from the five-year-old snuffed it out.

Maren and her parents posed for a photo, and then it was back to the dry dock for the kids to complete the boat building. With three young engineers, the cruise ship was assembled in record time, encouraged on by teenage neighbors. The youngsters were all smiles when the last piece snapped into place.

birthday party, birthday cake, girl and parents

The Birthday Girl and her parents. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

However, there was one remaining meaningful gift for the birthday girl. The graduate school tenant who occupies the apartment in the basement of our daughter’s home brought a rather special surprise. It seems earlier in the year Miss Maren had secretly negotiated a contract with the tenant, who wanted to raise a garden, including watermelons.

Since Maren loves watermelon, she took it upon herself to wrangle a deal that had her receiving a portion of the ripe melons. Being a good sport, the tenant, majoring in peace studies, put her lessons into practice.

As the crops grew, however, nothing more was said about sharing the watermelons. Apparently, Maren was more satisfied with sealing the deal than cashing in on it.

Maren may have forgotten about the compact, but the tenant hadn’t. The last gift presented to Maren was a miniature watermelon saved just for her.

The watermelon gift was a cool idea that warmed the congenial birthday gathering all the more. Unless it was a stowaway, I don’t think the fruity cargo made the maiden voyage of the Dolphin, however.

birthday party, watermelon, gift

Watermelon surprise. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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Tunnel silhouettes

railroad tunnel, silhouettes, photographer, subjects, Bruce Stambaugh

Tunnel silhouettes. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

My wife and another couple came upon this trio in an old train tunnel in Barnesville, Ohio. Our friends have been life-long train enthusiasts. We were exploring the old downtown in southeastern Ohio when we found this tunnel. As we approached one end of the tunnel, we noticed a young couple posing for a photographer at the other. I couldn’t resist photographing the crisp silhouettes of the three as the photo shoot concluded. I especially liked that the couple held hands.

The changing fall leaves and the afternoon’s diffused light that reflected off of the wetted tunnel wall helped accentuate the three subjects, who were holding a brief conversation as I took their photo. “Tunnel silhouettes” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

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The good and the bad of being noted

Colorful leaves Holmes County Ohio by Bruce Stambaugh

The red barn. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014

By Bruce Stambaugh

When I learned that Holmes County, Ohio ranked third in the world on National Geographic’s list of best places to view fall leaves, I smiled broader than a white oak leaf. I was overjoyed for the national notoriety of our picturesque county.

I’m not sure what criteria they used to rank the global locales to gain such stature. I’d like to think that there was more to it than seasonally colorful leafage.

Amish buggy fall leaves by Bruce Stambaugh

Pretty ride. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

I hoped our fertile fields and comely homesteads, our quaintness and inherent hospitality helped. It’s hard to resist chestnut horses and black buggies driven by friendly, plainly dressed passengers passing sun-drenched woodlots flashing all of autumn’s bright, warm colors.

The area’s fall beauty is ubiquitous. From Glenmont to Winesburg, from Walnut Creek to Lakeville, from Limpytown to Lake Buckhorn, the autumn vistas are amazing.

Then my grateful grin narrowed to a willow leaf’s width. I winced just thinking about our already clogged roads during the fall.

I was glad our bucolic area had received such a high recommendation from such a reputable source. But I found the potential consequences of that distinction a bit intimidating. How in the world would our infrastructure handle the onslaught of additional leaf lookers that were sure to appear?

Though pretty year-round, there’s no arguing that fall is prime time when it comes to the natural beauty here. A bonus is that the scenery is always changing given our varying topography and variable weather. It can be sunny in the highlands, and socked in with soupy fog in the lowlands.

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In minutes that scenario most likely will change with the wind or the warming of the atmosphere or both. One minute you can barely see your hand in front of your face, and the next the sun is illuminating superb settings.

There’s beauty around every turn no matter where you are exploring, and in Holmes County curves and hills abound. You can circumnavigate the area every day and watch the scenes transform.

Having lived here all of my adult life, I’m likely prejudiced about the splendor of the local landscapes. Given this recognition, forget about the four corners of the world. The four corners of Holmes County are all you need to satisfy your desire for leafy vistas.

There are just too many good spots to view leaves to even think about making a personal list to share. Instead, just grab a map, drive in any direction and look. You’ll see what I mean. You can’t get lost either. All roads lead to somewhere.

A word of caution is in order, however. Our narrow, curvy roads are heavily traveled, with few places to safely pull off for photos. You may have to just take it all in as you go, and only stop where it is safe to do so.

There is an exception to that rule, however. The Holmes County Trail runs diagonally through the heart of the county for 15 miles from Killbuck to Fredericksburg. The photogenic panoramas and outdoor exercise will equally invigorate you.

The trail is for bicyclists, pedestrians, joggers, and horse and buggies only. No motorized vehicles are permitted, which makes for a safer, quieter trek to observe fall’s colors. The trail can be accessed in several locations, too, with vehicle parking provided.

I don’t recall what the first two locations were on National Geographic’s list. I just know that in the fall Holmes County is a giant, multihued maple leaf for all to admire.

Amish farm by Bruce Stambaugh

Long lane. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

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Plumbago

ground cover by Bruce Stambaugh

Plumbago. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

In the fall, we are often mesmerised by the colorful leaves of the changing deciduous trees all around us. In our observations, we sometimes forget to look down. I recently spied this lovely groundcover, Plumbago, on the campus of Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VA. In the spring and summer, the dainty emerald leaves highlight the petite indigo flowers.

As you can see, as I did, the leaves have turned russet, red and burgundy, while the little flowers continue to bloom. Wouldn’t this make a great jigsaw puzzle?

“Plumbago” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

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