Cold is a relative thing

It is cold outside.  Heck, it is cold inside.  The first few days of 2018 has been some of the coldest days we have experienced in the D.C. area in quite some time.  Yesterday, I went for a short hike in the park.  After thirty minutes, I was back in my car.  I wasn’t tired.  My hands, however, were aching from being exposed to the cold air.  One of the things that I need to buy are thermal protection gloves that will allow me to take pictures in cold weather.  As it was, I had to take my gloves off every time I wanted to take a picture.

Not that there were a lot of pictures to be found.  It is important, however, to persevere and keep looking for something that may prove interesting.  Practice is important.  In any discipline.  And in photography, you need to constantly look at the world and see what pictures you see.  I must admit, the cold temperatures dulled my desire to look at every angle, at every corner, at every tree or leaf and find a different picture.  I just wanted to walk a little bit and still have fingers that I can move at the end of the day.

So here are two pictures.  Perhaps not spectacular.  Totally reflective of my mood and sentiments on the fifth day of the first month in 2018.  I’ll look at these pictures again, perhaps in the far off future.  And remember that it was cold.

And yet.  I just finished talking with my cousin in Calgary.  She said it was -22F in Calgary over the holidays.  Cold is a relative thing.  In her mind, we are probably enjoying near tropical weather.  Sixteen degrees Fahrenheit?  You think that’s cold?  I imagine that’s what she was thinking when I was complaining about the temperature.

There are things in life that are relative.  And there are things in life  that are absolutes.  It is absolutely cold.  The degree of coldness, however, is all relative.

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Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Even on a cloudy, drizzly, cold, windy, autumn day, Cape Breton Highlands National Park is a revelation.  Cape Breton is an island off Nova Scotia.  Buffeted by the winds of the Atlantic Ocean, the rugged beauty of the island is a sight to behold.  As you drive through the Cabot Trail along the coast, you will pass through this incredible natural wonder.

Driving through Nova Scotia, the seaside towns, the rugged coastlines, the friendly people already provided enough memories to last a lifetime.  And as we drove to Cape Breton, I had expected to see more of the same.  Well, yes and no.  The people were friendly, but the island is more exposed to the winds and tantrums of the Atlantic.  And as we drove through the coasts, the road winding through the mountains on one side and the Atlantic on the other, I could not help but think that I was the luckiest man on the planet.  I know countless people have witnessed the beauty of Cape Breton.  Yet to see it for the first time, to feel the cold crisp wind in your face as you stop and marvel at each curve in the trail, to experience the raw power of nature and the raw beauty that it has to offer – there are few places in the planet that elicit such awe.

I didn’t spend enough time at the park.  That much is certain.  A few hours hiking barely gave enough time to grasp the true beauty of everything that was around me.  Here, at least, are some images from this incredible spot on an incredibly beautiful island known as Cape Breton.

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SONY DSCSONY DSCThis was proving to be a wonderful hike through the highlands.  And then, the forest gave way to the coasts.  What a sight to behold.  I ran into these two women who bicycled their way across Canada.  From Vancouver, to the Canadian Rockies, to Cape Breton – they must have seen so much of what I still long to see.  Probably not on a bicycle, but someday – there are still so many places left to explore.

SONY DSCThe winding roads, the clouds over the ocean, the wind, the trail went on towards vistas that boggle the mind.

SONY DSCSONY DSCAnd then, the sun peeked through.  Just a smidge of sun, a few ticks of the clock – it was enough.

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Sometimes, when a place is really special, even a moment is enough to capture a memory.  And strangely enough, all the time in the world is never enough time to spend in that same place.  Cape Breton and Cape Breton Highlands National Park.  I hear the siren call.

Impressionistic Reflections

Fall is definitely here in Northern Virginia.  The trees are finally resplendent in coloration.  The lack of rain may have dampened the deep red, orange and yellow hues so prevalent in autumns past, but the warm weather affords many opportunities for walks in the parks and nature reserves that dot the Washington area.  Huntley Meadows, with its wetlands replenished by recent rains, is particularly beautiful in the fall.  Reflections are a mirror image of reality and with a little bit of help from a slight breeze, the reality becomes a beautiful dream.  A reflection seen in a calm body of water can be beautiful.  With longer exposure taken with a tripod mounted camera, the slight undulations in the surface, made possible by a gentle wind, transform the beauty of a tranquil day into a treasure of moving colors, a feast for the eyes.DSC09361_sDSC09365_s

Mid Autumn in Northern Virginia

It’s almost November and the leaves are finally getting some color in Northern Virginia.  It’s been a relatively dry summer and early fall.  As a consequence, the leaves aren’t really colorful – dull red, dull yellow, dull orange, dull brown.  Still, you will find the occasional brightly colored leaf or two.

Fall is a beautiful time of year here in Northern Virginia.  The weather is relatively mild.  A warm spell can appear like a punctuation mark, like a comma in the middle of a sentence.  On such a day in late October, the sun was shining and Huntley Meadows beckoned.

The birds are no longer plentiful, though they are certainly still flying around at Huntley.  The mallards have returned, but the swallows, egrets, most of the warblers and most of the herons have migrated southward.  Just when the thinning leaf cover makes looking for birds easier they migrate away.  The leaf covered trails, a clean boardwalk (the geese are in much decreased numbers), the cool but comfortable weather, the canopy of colors make for an irresistible invitation to spend a few hours outdoors

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Autumn in Fort Valley

Roadtrip!  A mild October day was the catalyst for a short, mostly unplanned trip to the Fort Valley area of Virginia.  After an hour driving westward on I66, and lunch at Front Royal, Virginia, it was time to decide.  Visit Shenandoah National Park or drive towards the Massanutten high country?

Virginia is a beautiful state.  This is especially true in the fall, when  canopies of color cover the hills and valleys that roll westward, rising slowly towards the grand chain of peaks that form the heart of Appalachia.  Fort Valley is a valley within a valley, so to speak, nestled between the Shenandoah Valley and the Massanutten mountains.

A mere seventy minutes from Washington D.C., Front Royal Virginia is the gateway to Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park.  A launching point to smaller towns and villages that dot the Shenandoah Valley.   In mid autumn, the state roads heading west and south are transformed into colorful avenues that beckon further exploration.  A left turn at a stoplight.  A few miles later, another left turn to Virginia 678.  As the road meandered towards the George Washington National Forest, the cloud filled October sky gave way to a kaleidoscope of colors that seemed unending.  The red, orange, yellow and green hues of the still leaf filled trees transform into a sonata of color as the road weaved up and down through mountain passes and the valley floor.  A quiet Monday afternoon.  A stunningly beautiful Monday afternoon.

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