Tag Archives: landscape photography

The Grain Wagon

grain wagon, grain harvest

The Grain Wagon.

The Grain Wagon

The mid-morning summer sun brightly illuminated
the freshly harvested grain fields.
Alternating light and dark strips of stubble
recorded the back-and-forth path
the huge combine took to do its deed.
The culprit, however, had already left the scene.

The only hint of any harvest machinery
was the bright red grain wagon resting
quietly by a squatty silver grain silo
that glistened in the warm sunshine.
The bold wagon’s fire engine red mocked the
lush greens of the alfalfa and the shade trees.

The sun showed off the barn and family
of outbuildings with equal zest.
A herd of fluffy cumulus clouds
floated shadows that danced upon the distant
mountain slopes dappling dark splotches
across the forest canopy and fertile farm fields.
Exhausted from hauling its multitude of heavy loads,
the grain wagon took no notice.

July 12, 2017

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

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Filed under human interest, Photo of the Week, photography, poem, poetry, rural life, Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, weather, writing

Similarities abound

Shenandoah Valley, fog, farm scene

Fog in The Valley.

By Bruce Stambaugh

It’s been a little more than a month since we moved from our beloved home in beautiful Holmes County, Ohio to our new place of residence in Virginia’s lovely Shenandoah Valley. We knew there would be similarities. We just didn’t know they would abound.

We learned to know the area long before we moved. Our daughter attended college at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg. She met her husband there. Now the school employs both of them, Carrie as a coach and Daryl as part of the administrative team.

In the few weeks that we’ve lived here, we have learned first-hand just how similar Holmes County is to Rockingham County. Those likenesses transcend the beauty of each locale.

former home, Holmes Co. OH

The old place.

Both have wooded rolling hills. Numerous creeks snake through luscious, productive farmland. Not surprisingly, the same staple crops are grown here, which makes sense since we are in the same growing zone. Field corn, alfalfa, wheat, oats, and soybeans create a patchwork of verdant colors. Produce stands dot the countryside here, too.

Livestock includes dairy cows and beef cattle, pigs, sheep, and goats. Long, silver poultry houses can be found high and low across the rural areas of Rockingham County. In Holmes County, they’re mostly white. My guess is that turkeys far outnumber humans in The Valley given the number of those barns I’ve seen. Agriculture is a major economic force for both locations.

Consequently, every now and then when the wind is right we get an acrid whiff that reminds us of home. However, we don’t need a breeze to inform us when the barns have been cleaned.

Just like in Ohio, our house is built on what was once farmland. Only instead of a few neighbors, we have many. We are one of nearly 500 households in our development. Mature trees and manicured lawns predominate around well-maintained homes. People take pride in their property here with equal zest.

retirement home, Rockingham Co. VA

Our new place.

In Ohio, airliners sailed regularly over our home on final approach to Akron-Canton Regional Airport. In Harrisonburg, we have the same effect only more frequently. Jets fly overhead, only higher, on approach to Dulles International Airport.

Unlike our old home, all of the utilities in our housing development are buried underground. There are no streetlights, though. On a clear night, we can actually see the stars better here than we could at our former home.

There are other obvious differences of course. Rockingham County is twice the size of Holmes County in both square miles and population. The boundaries of Rockingham County boast the Allegheny Mountains on the west and the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east.

Massanutten range, Rockingham Co. VA

Massanutten Mountain.

The Massanutten range runs north to south through the center of the county, stopping east of Harrisonburg. It should be noted that the hills of Holmes County are actually the western foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. So we are literally geologically connected.

Once outside the city, the roads of Rockingham County are as narrow, windy, and hilly as those of Holmes County. With Old Order Mennonites thriving in the fertile valley, horse and buggies are nearly as common as in Holmes County.

The culture, local mores, and values are similar as well. Our neighbors exemplify that daily with their friendliness.

Purchasing our home here foretold the familiarity. At the bank, we got our house loan from Julie Yoder. Emily Miller led the house closing. Jayne Schlabach was our realtor. There’s even a Joe Bowman car dealership. In Holmes County, he’d likely be selling buggies.

Just like home, we have the same cell phone carrier with the same quality reception. I have to go to the front porch so you can “hear me now.”

No need to feel sorry for us. We feel right at home in Virginia.

Mole Hill, Rockingham Co. VA

Allegheny sunset.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

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Filed under Amish, family, friends, human interest, nature photography, Ohio, rural life, Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, writing

March in Ohio

Ohio snow, Amish farm

March in Ohio.

When my wife and I arrived home in Ohio’s Amish country recently, we were surprised to see that fields around our home had all been plowed while we were away for a couple of months to avoid winter’s harshness. Usually, plowing extends well into spring. But this year the farmers, especially those using horses to pull the plows, were able to turn the soil during this winter’s mild weather.

That all changed a couple of days ago. We were on the western-most side of the latest nor’easter storm that pounded the East Coast with blizzard conditions. Our share of the snowstorm was more typical of a March snow in Ohio. Most of our snow was lake effect snow driven by strong northerly winds. I was contented to observe the radiant beauty of the snow-covered furrows from the comfort of our home.

“March in Ohio” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

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Filed under Ohio, Ohio's Amish country, Photo of the Week, photography, rural life, weather

River Sunset

sunset, Amelia River, Fernandina Beach FL

River Sunset.

Sunrises and sunsets captivate me. No two are ever the same. That’s why I often head to downtown Fernandina Beach, FL to photograph the sunset during our winter stay.

The river setting proves an excellent place to capture a sunset’s beauty both in the sky and in the reflection on the river. The near silhouettes of boats and docks also add to the framing and composition of the photo. Of course, the clouds play a significant role in defusing and deflecting the light, creating an array of brilliant colors.

“River Sunset” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

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Filed under human interest, Photo of the Week, photography

Evening Rush Hour

Shenandoah Valley, dusk

Evening Rush Hour.

The traffic that ran on the narrow, winding country road in the agricultural valley intrigued me. The city lay behind me, the Allegheny Mountains before me. In between the cars and trucks buzzed along, often in little packs. Then for minutes the road was quiet, devoid of vehicles. Only the echoes of distant barking dogs and the steady hum of the Interstate two miles to the east were heard.

Why did the traffic bunch up like that, and then nothing, like blue jays at a bird feeder? It was all or nothing. Did they encounter a slow-moving poultry truck or log truck? Did they have to wait until the trucks turned off? They surely couldn’t pass on this skinny road, especially at dusk.

Whatever the answers, it was pure joy to watch this rural world busyness as the sun set behind the thick clouds.

“Evening Rush Hour” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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Filed under human interest, Photo of the Week, photography, rural life

Dawn’s Beauties

Belt of Venus, earth's shadow, sunrise

Dawn’s Beauties.

One of the pure joys of photography is capturing earth’s natural beauty. This photo of dawn’s early light reflecting on a farm pond shows that. However, viewing the scene in its entirety we discover even more natural beauty. Typical of an early fall morning at sunrise, the combination of refreshing, cool air meeting the warmer surface of the pastures and pond creates a fine mist and heavy dew.

Gazing deeper into the background finds even more loveliness. Looking west, the gray-blue of earth’s shadow contrasted by the rosy pink of the Belt of Venus perfect the setting. As the sun rises, however, the scene quickly changes, erasing the magical moment.

“Dawn’s Beauties” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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Filed under human interest, nature photography, Ohio, Ohio's Amish country, Photo of the Week, photography, rural life, weather

Reflections on life and death

braided stream

Capon Run.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I have a lot of time to think as I drive between our Ohio home and Harrisonburg, Virginia where our daughter and her family live. This trip was no different.

Thanks to superhighways, the folded, old age mountain ridges and their accompanying deep gorges and valleys flipped by like shuffled decks of cards. The leaves of their mixed hardwoods already blushed tinges of autumn’s arrival.

I thought about the lone, purple cottonwood leaf our six-year-old granddaughter plucked from a quiet mountain brook just a couple of days previous. She and I had spent an hour or more exploring, talking, questioning, and enjoying each other’s company in the shallow of a peaceful braided stream.

girl in stream

Pointing the way.

I found Maren’s inquisitiveness as inspiring as our rural, mystical surroundings. Our interactive discussion included but was not limited to geology, theology, erosion, evolution, earthquakes, gravity, rock formations, and bird migration.

I don’t know who was more perplexed, me with Maren’s significant, thoughtful questions or Maren with my confounding answers. Trooper that she is, Maren didn’t seem deterred. In fact, one response only led to another question, and another and another.

I had the time of my life, sitting on these ancient limestone outcroppings, their striations complementing their angular positioning. Maren graciously accepted my academic explanation of how they came to be standing on edge after having once been the bottom of oceans eons ago.

She’d continue her inquiry while simultaneously balancing along the exposed rock layers like a ballerina on a precipice. Patches of the early evening sky filtered through the broken canopy of the maples, oaks, sycamores, and cottonwoods that lined the rocky banks of Capon Run. Despite the string of scorching days, the stream’s clear, quiet waters were cold.

We watched water striders break the stillness of the mirrored surface as the spider-like insects foraged. Then came the leaf, a rich, royal burgundy that caught the quick girl’s eye.

Maren snatched it from its slow journey downstream, held it up, and asked what kind of leaf it was. I found its parent tree upstream and pointed it out to her. She nodded and released the leaf back to the placid water.

braided stream, West Virigina

Where we sat.

I remember remarking to Maren how different that lone leaf was in color compared to the thousands of green ones that still quaked on the massive branches in the afternoon’s warm breeze.

Maren liked that leaf, and so did I. I thought she’d keep it for its rarity. Instead, she let it go, enchanted with its slow twirling atop the crystal water, its impressive ability to avoid the creek bed’s rocks and sticks.

I thought about that leaf, those moments with Maren again as I joined a congregate of others to celebrate and mourn the death of my wife’s cousin. As loving words poured out for Pam, it hit me that she had a lot in common with that glorious leaf.

She, too, had lived a royal, purposeful life for her family, friends, and those whom she served as teacher, principal, and play director. For all who knew and loved her, Pam had fallen much too soon from the tree of life.

My wife and I are grateful for the creativity and joy our grandchildren bring to life. We are equally appreciative, like so many others, of Pam’s leadership and devotion to family, faith, and community.

Just like Maren’s mauve leaf, we had to let Pam go, too. Joyfully her journey ended more blissfully than that serene mountain stream setting.

potted flowers

For Pam.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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Filed under family, friends, human interest, nature photography, photography, rural life, travel, writing

Christmas in the Mountains

Christmas tree farm, West Virginia

Christmas in the mountains.

I pass by this scene on every trip between Holmes Co., Ohio and Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Due to schedules or weather, I never had a chance to photograph the beauty of this Christmas tree farm in the mountains of northern West Virginia. But my latest trip proved the perfect opportunity. I wasn’t disappointed. The early morning sun highlighted the various greens and browns of early September, and the rows of evergreens added a geometric touch to the natural beauty.

“Christmas in the Mountains” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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Filed under Christmas, human interest, Photo of the Week, photography, rural life, travel

Backlit Cloud

windmill, clouds at sunset

Backlit Cloud.

My wife and I are fortunate to have the view to the west that we do. Farm fields flow down and away from our home until they meet a steep hill that juts into the western horizon. A windmill that supplies water for our Amish neighbors serves as the centerpiece for the view.

We have lived here for 37 years, and each evening brings a new look west. I recently found this golden glowing backlit cloud hovering beyond the windmill.

“Backlit Cloud” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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Filed under Amish, nature photography, Ohio's Amish country, Photo of the Week, photography, rural life

Summer’s peak is upon us

Amish farm, wheat shocks

Grains of summer.

By Bruce Stambaugh

At this time of year, I especially like to frequent one particular lofty spot a few miles from home in the township where I live in Ohio’s Amish country. The view alone keeps me inspired, thankful and refreshed.

From there I watch the sky dotted with patches of cottony clouds tease the earth. Sun and shadows ripple across golden wheat shocks, lush rows of cornstalks, and ripening honey-colored oats. Green alfalfa already blankets the floor where the shocks stand.

I look west far across the Killbuck Valley to the up sloping hills miles away. Tin topped roofs twinkle in the morning light as the clouds and sun play their game of tag.

eastern bluebird eggs

Eastern Bluebird eggs.

Turning east, Berlin bustles with the business of tourists and locals alike. Even with binoculars, I couldn’t see the money exchanging of course. It just does as cash is traded for fresh peaches and cucumbers and t-shirts.

All the while I unknowingly entertain a family of Barn Swallows teetering and twittering on a power line. Eastern Meadowlarks fly their funny flight from fence post to nest, gurgling all the way.

Back home, the House Wrens begin their second nesting in the ceramic nest bottle hung up for them. The adult Baltimore Orioles lead their fledglings to the grape jelly feeder, encouraging them to partake. The young just squeak and childishly flap their wings.

The Eastern Bluebirds carefully attend their bright blue eggs in the box attached to the old clothesline pole. A bowl of fine grasses and soft pine straw caress the delicate eggs. It’s their second clutch, too.

The Chimney Swifts are as active as any time since they arrived in early April. Their young prattle their pleasure each time the parents swoop into the chimney with a force that rattles the fireplace doors.

The birds made quick work of the ripened black raspberries while we were away for a few days. They left their thank you notes where I was sure to find them, splattered on the sidewalk.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.

At my neighbors, the Purple Martins hold court discussing their eventual departure. Too soon, they’ll join the orioles and others on their long journey.

Other symptoms also point to the fact that we indeed are halfway through the summer. Queen Anne’s Lace, bulbous red clover blossoms, and cerulean chicory blooms decorate even the busiest country road.

Well-attended domestic flower gardens are in full bloom. Roses have replaced tulips, and dainty poppies with pastel crepe paper petals wave in gentle summer breezes. Fragrant milkweed flowers sweeten the air, attracting bees, butterflies, and other assorted insects.

The first tomatoes, like green golf balls, swell on the vines. Warm nights and bright sunshine will soon transform them into juicy redheads if the rains return.

I got a surprise verification of summer’s peak from a rare source. I encountered a small wagon train of folks traveling the local roads. They have done so in early July for 22 years now. The troupe from northwest Ohio camps at local farms always energized by the hearty welcome they receive.

Towns and civic organizations hold annual festivals to celebrate the season of plenty. They also try to make a little money while they’re at it.

The heart of summer beats loud, strong, and sure this time of year. I love to take its pulse. Its healthy palpations are life-giving, uplifting, invigorating, and transforming.

This summit of summer enables us to appreciate all of life’s goodness. Let’s enjoy the momentous moments before they wane.

grain crops, Amish farm

The long view.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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Filed under birding, birds, human interest, nature photography, Ohio's Amish country, photography, rural life, travel, weather, writing