The morning sun cast an illuminating light on the colorful deciduous trees west of Harrisonburg, Virginia, in the heart of the pastoral Shenandoah Valley. Cloud shadows played across the Allegheny Mountains that divide Virginia from West Virginia and served as a quiet backdrop for the colorful foreground. Also, note the rolling fence in the front of the scene mirrors the undulating mountains in the background.
Our friend had the right idea. But then, he had been to Knick Glacier near Palmer, Alaska, several times. While the rest of us scurried around exploring moraines, discovering wildlife, and capturing as many photos of the incredible scenery as possible, Doug leaned against a rock and just relaxed. With this view, who could blame him?
The afternoon’s sun illuminated this already impressive natural wonder near Lexington, Virginia. The unusual rock bridge formation, once owned by Thomas Jefferson, is the critical feature of Natural Bridge State Park.
I particularly liked how the sun’s deflected rays seem to glow beneath the arch of this natural wonder.
Photography helps keep my mind sharp. It motivates me to see the beauty that is all around me, to photograph scenes that I couldn’t even imagine existed.
With a few wispy clouds in the evening sky, my intended mission might be to capture a lovely sunset, only to be disappointed as the sun sinks below the horizon with unremarkable results. Nevertheless, I stick to the objective, looking for opportunities for creative shots as I traverse the countryside.
I arrived at the Pleasant View Old Order Mennonite churchyard shortly after sunset. Baren deciduous trees and a few evergreens populated the property, planted in part to shade the horses during the Sunday morning worship service. This was a weekday. I had the place to myself.
I could see the Allegheny Mountains to the west outlined by the evening’s golden light. When I came to this particular spot, I was transfixed. The trees seemed to guide my focus through the opening in their canopy far above and beyond the lovely skyline. There was no irony here whatsoever. The modest, horse-and-buggy driving Old Order Mennonites were spot on to declare this vista a pleasant view. For me, being in this moment was a spiritual experience, one of those spontaneous happenings in life that catches you by surprise and stirs your soul.
Once I saw the mountain I couldn’t stop looking at it. I pulled into nearly every scenic overlook along the circuitous route to Mt. Rainier to gaze at this beauty and take her photograph. She didn’t seem to mind in the least.
It was my first visit to Mt. Rainier National Park. Yet the majestic mountain drew me in like a long, lost friend. The mountain embraced me rather than the other way around. Still, our feelings toward one another were mutual.
I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. This was a nondiscriminatory attraction. Peoples of all races, religions, cultures, and ages shared the same awe. It showed in their various displays of excitement, photo ops, and quickened pace up well-marked trails.
The weather likely affected my initial reaction. From the time we left friends’ home north of Seattle, Washington, low, thick, gray clouds rolled through the sky. I had visions of not being able to see the peak at all.
As we approached the park’s boundaries, a meteorological switch appeared to have been flipped. The cloud blanket disappeared, and we drove through forests of tall evergreens crowned by clear blue skies.
The chalky waters of the rushing White River contrasted nicely with those greens and blues. The frothy river owed its origin to the melting snow of the magnetic mountain miles away. Its snow-capped peak glistened in the morning sunshine.
When we arrived at Paradise Lodge in the mid-afternoon, there was no room at the inn. No worries for us; we had reservations. I just couldn’t find a parking spot so many admirers had gathered at the mountain’s base.
With all this natural beauty, I wasn’t about to complain about such trifles. I explored the many trails that lead away from the visitor center and the lodge while my wife rested. The trails were easily traversed, paved even, at least until they grew steeper up the mountainside.
Consequently, the paths were packed with curious souls like myself. Young and old, pedestrians and those in wheelchairs, all inhaled the luxury surrounding us. Here in the higher altitude, the air was pure, crisp, fresh, delicious even, sweetened with the faint fragrance of blooming wildflowers. Birds chirped and headed for cover as the incredible mountain drew us closer.
Soon, however, the crowd clogged the trail, like a bear jam in Yellowstone National Park. To my surprise, that’s exactly what caused the delay. A young black bear grazed on ripe blueberries only 30 to 50 yards up the slope from the trail. We couldn’t believe our good fortune.
Satisfied with my observations, I moved on. Near a gurgling alpine brook, a gaggle of teenage girls seemed uncertain about what to do. When I told them about the bear, some screamed while others wanted to know where. I showed them, and I think all of their jaws dropped simultaneously.
That evening, I found an excellent spot to view the sunset and was not disappointed. Odd shapes of wispy clouds floated carefree over lower peaks to the west. The thin clouds reflected deep blues and warm pinks and oranges. Though the sun had long dipped below the horizon, it was as if time itself had stood still.
The next morning my wife and I had that same trail nearly all to ourselves. We stood in awe and admiration as the sun’s first rays planted a good morning kiss on the mountain’s peak.
In that cool, pristine, peaceful moment, we were in no hurry to leave. Who would be when under the spell of such a mother of a mountain?
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.
I was contemplating long and hard about what to do for my last Photo of the Week post for 2014. I thought about picking out the best photo I could find to cap off the year. When I looked out the window yesterday morning, I changed my mind. The small flock of Eastern Bluebirds that frequents the peanut butter suet feeder in my backyard had arrived. So had the bright sunshine, more a rarity in northeast Ohio than the secretive bluebirds.
I grabbed my camera and was fortunate to capture this stunning male sitting atop the feeder, basking in the morning’s sun rays. The sun illuminated the already beautiful bird all the more. I found the iridescent tail feathers incredible. I searched no more.
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