Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Day in the Countryside

Sunday morning, I met up with some friends to go on a photo drive through the countryside. After a humungous omelette brunch at Bob Evans, we trundled off through Loudoun County with eyes peeled and feet hovering over brakes in case we saw something that warranted an immediate stop and shutter snap.
This chap was the first to be photographed and I was fortunate enough to get in close and keep a steady hand since I'd not got my tripod.

We then came across this abandoned tractor in the middle of a field. Photos were taken quickly as the insect life was teaming beneath our feet.
Our next stop was Temple Hall Farm Regional Park where we met many friendly animals that we were able to pet. There were few people here and we pretty much had the place to ourselves so it was wonderful to spend time with the animals. Most were friendly but the chickens made a right racket and those that were loose set up a dreadful row every time we went close.
 Someone left an egg behind!
There were still sunflowers in full bloom and covered with blister beetles, most of them bonking.
 After walking around in the blazing sun, we were in dire need of refreshments, so just down the road we stopped at the Fabbioli Winery and had a tasting of their wines with locally made oregano cheese and raspberry fudge to go with the raspberry desert wine. Obviously purchases were made and we walked back to the cars with bottles clunking to continue our quest.
We took White's Ferry across into Maryland and after grabbing some sodas at the local shop, we headed for Poolesville, named after two brothers who bought land in 1760 and formed a settlement.
This is the Town Hall which sported the largest burglar alarm I've ever seen, on the side about 2ft tall.
And Yay, abandoned buildings! The gas station and bank on opposite sides of the road from eachother looked like they'd been empty for some time. But there is plenty of growth in this small town and it is in danger of becoming a suburb of D.C. as it spreads out.
There were small antique and craft stores and one had posted a notice saying it was closed due 'granddaughter's wedding'. How quaint! After ambling around for a while, we headed back to our cars and then for home with full camera cards and bottles of wine waiting to be opened.

Abandoned Paint Factory, Baltimore

On Saturday morning, Emily, Mukul and I went scouting around Baltimore and ended up exploring an abandoned paint factory which used to produce paint for ships and boats but closed down in 1988.
  There were some interesting doorways and the many windows let in plenty of light along with gallons of rainwater which dripped continuously from ceilings and pooled in large puddles on the floor.
This 'doorway', which was actually just a painted rectangle on the wall, and windows reflected in the water kept me busy for a while with my camera.

There was still plenty of color on the walls and empty tanks although paint was peeling in great chunks and dropping to the floor from the damp.
Rusty paint lids were scattered on the floors along with labels but not a paintbrush in sight!
This old temperature gauge was hidden behind smashed glass and a few broken desks were disintegrating in crumbling offices.
The building sat empty until 1995 when Environmental Health found drums, tanks, vats and thousands of containers with solvents and paint related materials. There were also underground and above ground storage tanks filled with similar materials which had to be emptied and removed.

A tank must have been removed from here. The removal action cost $1.4 million and a later clean up in 2001 cost $800,000. There has been little interest by developers since then so the factory remains open to the elements and fellow explorers.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Reamington, VA

While we were at the Flying Circus, Barb and I left for a while to grab something to eat. We were starving by 10am and the airshow hadn't started cooking lunch food so we went a few miles to Reamington which is a tiny town in the boondocks. We saw this cute little house surrounded by roads but each wall was covered with flowers.
We went to the Corner Grill where the staff were more than happy to let us order a lunch rather than breakfast even though we were too early. I had an fabulous cheesesteak. After, we emerged into the blazing sun and decided to walk up and down Main St to work off our lunch. There were very few shops but each was brimming with character.

This old hardware store was built in 1917 and still has the original elevator inside. It used to have a black and white movie theater upstairs in the 30's and then was a chicken plucking factory for a few years before it became a hardware store in 1947.

The builder carved his name and date in one of the bricks in the wall.

Further down we came across The Farmer's Wife which was a store I shall definitely come bak to visit. When was the last time you saw milk in these containers? The ice cream in the freezer is also made locally.

Barb had a hard time choosing from the hundreds of herbs, spices and cooking ingredients. I bought some herbs and spices and wanted to buy more but since we were returning to the airshow, I couldn't leave anything perishable in my car.

This old building built in 1903 used to be a motel, a dance hall and a co-op, and is now being restored but is currently empty.

This sign by the railway had us laughing. We also went into an old junk/antique shop where I bought an old Polaroid Swinger and was entranced by a small 14" flagpole with the stars and stripes. When I pressed a button the national anthem played and a motor made the flag ripple as though in a breeze. We headed back to the airfield promising to return to this sleepy little town.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bi-Planes and Balloons

Very early on Saturday morning, my friend Barb and I set off for Bealeton's Flying Circus, only an hour and 20 minutes from my house. We got there about 6:20am and arrived in heavy fog but were greeted with lots of smiling faces. There weren't too many people here apart from serious photographers but everyone was cheerful and chatty. As ragtime music played, we roamed around the field inspecting 1940s bi-planes, nosing around hangers and watching hot air balloons being unfurled on the damp grass.

Although the balloon above looks enormous in its photo, this was actually a small remote controlled balloon that kept the crowds amused until the sun burnt off the fog. It flew for over an hour and only used about $2 of gas.

As the fog lifted, more balloons were rolled out in the field and quickly filled with gas. As the fans filled out this balloon on the ground, small children were allowed to explore inside. Lucky things!

A couple of HDR images.

This guy went up in a lawn chair instead of a basket!

We met Bonnie & Lee who were celebrating their 27th wedding anniversary with a ride in a bi-plane and a tethered balloon. We all agreed this was a wonderful venue, like stepping back in time in the deep south; the atmosphere was so welcoming and all the staff so cheerful and polite.

This gentleman celebrated his 77th birthday with a ride in a hot air balloon and even climbed in and out of the basket with little help. A gem of gossip - one of the pilot's friends took Michael Jackson up in a balloon 6 months ago in Middleburg, only 30 minutes from my house.

This is a 1941 Boeing Stearman, PT-17 which belongs to a pilot called Dave Brown and I went up with him for the first acrobatic flight of the day. We climbed to about 3000ft and then the fun started. We looped the loop a couple of times, did a screw roll and he generally just threw the plane all over the place. It was marvellous! I tried very hard to get some video footage and a running commentary but the wind whisked all my words away so all that can be heard on the video are strong gusts. The video starts about halfway through the flight and I had to fight at times to keep the camera above my head. I had to chop the video into 2 parts and the links are here, part 1 and part 2.

This is Dave after the flight as I climbed down from the wing. He told me that I had had the best flight of the day since we'd been fortunate enough to share the sky with so many balloons.

I was grinning like a cheshire cat afterwards. A parachute had to be worn since the plane was tilting more than 60 degrees and I was casually shown which ring to pull if we tipped out, and no waiver was signed! This place is awesome, nothing like rude frigid northern Virginia.

The air show comprised of all older planes which performed acrobatics. This guy, Kirk Wicker flew in his plane up to 4300ft, cut the engine, looped the looped, screwed down to earth and then landed smoothly to coast up to the wildly clapping audience without turning the engine back on. Amazing.

I was sad to leave the airshow and it's wonderful atmosphere with smiling staff, but cheered to realize that it isn't too far from home and has a full summer schedule so I may well be back before the shows finish for the year. The website is worth looking at and gives you a feel of the place. I sincerely hope this wonderful step back in time never becomes commercialized.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cheeky Squirrel

A couple of days ago I saw an article which really made me chuckle. A couple on holiday had set their camera on timer and were posing by a lake. As the shutter snapped a curious squirrel popped his head up and got in the photo. The story was hilarious and the original photo is priceless and it got me thinking how I'd like that little chap in some of the photos I've taken, looking as though he just accidentally happened to be there. The results are below.