Friday, April 21, 2017

Scouting on a Sunday

On Sunday it was scouting time for me with Emily and Jason. We trundled off from the Culpeper area, choosing country roads to explore, rather than sticking to the highways. We rumbled along small lanes, stopping at small churches, houses or anything that caught our interest.
We stopped for a picnic lunch by the side of the River James, a joy to sit on the grass, feel the warm sun, and not be bitten by bugs or feel the discomfort of humidity, these will be hitting us soon when summer explodes upon us, as it did last year. Back in the car we continued our scouting. We'd done a lot of stopping and starting but then spotted a small house tucked away in a wood. It looked so pretty that we pulled over for a closer look. Set in a quiet woodland with a creek down below, In a spot that would likely never be developed, it was peacefully beautiful here. We roamed around the abandoned structure and walked inside.
I fell in love with this house, and we all agreed it felt welcoming, unlike many abandoned places we've previously entered. I could have sat there all afternoon. It wasn't beyond saving and I wished I could afford to buy it and leave my job. Even the kitchen was still cute and could be restored, keeping parts with character intact. There were pretty covers over the flues which I'd never seen before, and a cool screened porch with a brick floor. I would even have the beaten lino recreated, a pretty design I'd never seen before. There were even English bluebells in the garden. There was a good aura about the place, it felt like it had been a happy home, I could imagine the smells of home baking in the bustling kitchen, pies cooling on the cute window ledges and an early morning cup of tea enjoyed in the screened porch while mist weaved through the trees. It was a delightful haven, and hard to leave behind.
We wandered around other buildings, one with sagging upper floors that were held up with stacks of bricks or cinder blocks,and wonderfully weathered wood on ancient structures, An unusual sculpture outside a church caught our eye, intricately carved of St Mary Katharine Drexel. It looked like bronze but when I touched it, my fingers were coated in oil, which was actually protecting wood. A few taps on her arm confirmed it was wooden.
We stopped off at Lickinghole Creek Brewery to sample their beers but I was disappointed. Reminding me of Adroit Theory with heavily flavored and sickly sweet brews, I wasn't impressed. Jason was dropping off under the blazing sun so we didn't linger. Heading north we stopped at a mansion I'd been looking at for years but never wanted to explore on my own.
The sun was slowly dropping down towards the horizon, the Golden Hour, throwing a warm glow over the grounds. We managed to find an entry point and climbed inside. The house had once been quite grand but vandals had been in and trashed much of it. Thankfully spray paint hadn't been used, yet, and most of the fixtures were mostly intact.
I loved the windows, with deep windowsills, which had once looked out on to peaceful fields. The back of the house still did but the front now had an ugly strip mall across the road, and the traffic was noisy.
I loved the old bathrooms. Usually I have zero interest in photographing these rooms in abandonments, but I would love a bathroom like one of these. The retro fixtures and fittings must have been top of the range in their day and even the tiling appealed to me.
We walked around the outside, discovering huge wrought iron gates which the residents had once driven through at the bottom of the driveway. The paint was peeling off the exterior, plasterwork beginning to crumble, the house's decline had accelerated in the past couple of years. Jason imagined the house restored as a bed and breakfast with a restaurant offering dinners and drinks on a patio at the back. I hope someone saves it before it's too late, especially before it's razed to the ground to make way for McMansions. We got back into the car for the last time and continued driving as darkness fell, leaving the old houses to stand silently once again.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Holland in Haymarket

With spring having sprung quite rapidly, I was anxious to partake in some fresh air and sunshine, so took off an afternoon to go photograph the tulips at Burnside Farms in Haymarket. I had to pay $6 just to enter the field but if you want to pick the flowers or keep the bulbs, they also charge by the stem or per bulb collected in your basket. The place is really set up for families, with play areas for kids and huge garish plastic clogs amid the tulips for kids to pose in while doting parents took their photos. There was even a collection of wooden clogs which could be worn for the occasion if desired. I tried to ignore all this and focused on a quieter area further down the field where hopefully I wouldn't get too many people in my shots.
The best way to achieve this was, after much wriggling and stretching, bending and crouching, squatting and kneeling, was to simply lie on my back and point my camera upwards. I got an interesting perspective of the flowers and definitely no people. I did get very grubby though and cursed having worn yellow jeans.
There were some parents there who were very serious about their child portraits, the subjects wearing frilly dresses or shirts to match the fields, carrying baskets or favorite cuddly toys, and posing in the many props provided by the farm. There was even one mother who had hired a professional photographer, who, loaded heavily with video equipment, lenses hanging from his belt and lighting attached to his torso which was pointing out in all directions, was trying to coax a small girl to skip between the rows of flowers. This did capture my attention for a short while, but I soon turned away and continued my wriggling on the ground, pointing to the sky, and likely looked like an upturned beetle, with my arms and legs waving as I struggled to get the best angle without damaging any of the leaves or blooms.
I did eventually return to a more vertical stance, capturing the flowers from a more traditional vantage point, also taking a few close ups. There were some beautiful varieties here, some of which I'd never seen before, and I could understand the draw of this place. A great option for choosing your spring blooms for the following year by simply selecting the flowers from here, then pulling up the bulb. It was a riot of color, looking very much like the photos of the bulb fields in Holland that I'd seen and remember my grandmother visiting, then talking about for years. This was the best that I'd see this in this part of the world, I'm sure, and it was indeed spectacular. Everybody, kids included, seemed to respect the blooms, I didn't see one downtrodden flower or leaf.
I eventually stood up and was surprised to look about and see that the crowds had considerably diminished, with only a few of us remaining. I sincerely hoped I hadn't scared anyone off with my cavorting between the rows, but at least it gave me the opportunity to grab one quick shot of the field sans a human population. Then, off home for a shower and clean clothes!