Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Frozen foray around Front Royal

Saturday was a complete snowstorm from morning 'til night. I had a lazy day with the cats just watching TV and the snowflakes swirling about the house. Sometimes I could barely see across the hill and the flakes were as large as quarters. The snow was still falling when I went to bed. I knew the temperatures were rising dramatically the next day and so resolved to go out and shovel snow again as I really wanted to get off of the hill.
I was delighted when sitting down for a morning mug of tea I heard the tractor come up the hill and half an hour later I had a clear road. I only had to shovel for an hour to clear the car and my parking area and then I could leave. Grabbing my camera I headed off towards Front Royal.
I stopped at Lake Frederick to see if the lake was iced over. There was evidence of vehicles having come down and driven around the parking lot but nobody had stepped into the snow. I was the first one to do so and had to be careful of what I shot as I didn't want my footsteps messing up the images.
I loved the boats covered in snow, especially the speed boat, but I couldn't understand why it had been left there to get filled with snow which would then turn to ice and possibly damage the boat.
Only two cars came down while I was there taking photos but neither stopped and got out. A shame, it was so pretty by the water's edge. But it was nice to have the place to myself and I enjoyed the childish delight in being the first to plant footprints in that pristine smooth snow. I was also curious to know what had caused that large cracking in the ice, almost as though something large and hard had fallen on to it but there were no rocks or debris on the clean surface. It must have been a huge lake monster banging his head on the ice from underneath.
I got back in the car and driving back up the hill decided to head to to the valley that Melony and I had driven through last weekend. It had been approaching dusk as we passed through with temperatures plummeting so we hadn't stopped to photograph anything interesting.
The creek was covered in snow and ice when I got there with the wall of icicles looking immaculately bright and clear. When we had passed last time someone had painted them in different colors; I was hoping that effect would be gone when I came here and I was gratified to see them clean and untarnished again.
A random set of goose tracks, 11 footprints where I suppose he quickly landed, took a few steps, and then flew off again.
I loved this old house that I passed. I had photographed it last year but today it looked different against white snow instead of green grass. The colors of the interior really punched their way out of the image making an impact against their monochromatic surroundings.
I made a few more stops on the way back home, approaching Marshall as the sun dropped, and managing to grab a couple of quick shots before the light left the day completely. I'm still learning with this new camera but am constantly amazed at the quality of the images when I download them. I'm not doing hardly any editing on the shots, just a tweak here and there, but the increase of detail, color and sharpness is a huge improvement from my previous cameras. My trusty G15 will still accompany me on my explorations as a reliable backup and I'm really looking forward to seeing what the Sony will produce on my next trips.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Captivating Caverns and Fearful Floats

With temperatures in the single digits, there was no chance of trying out my new camera on pretty landscapes of ice and the dusting of snow we'd got overnight. It's been so frustrating having all new camera equipment and not being able to get out and use it, so I thought a day underground and inside buildings would work well. Melony came over and we decided to go back to a favorite place of mine, a little known Americana gem in Quicksburg called Shenandoah Caverns.
 We stopped briefly to shoot some ice on water but it was just way too cold and we both headed quickly back to the car. We arrived at the caverns and found there were few other people there. Our group was only going to be about 10 and I was personally looking forward to being in a nice comfortable temperature of 55°, a constant in the caves all year round.
 I liked this carved chap standing outside the entrance.
We rode down in the elevator and I eagerly pulled the lens cap off my camera and started snapping. I really couldn't decide whether I preferred shooting while using the viewfinder or by looking at the monitor so I ended up using both. I let the camera choose its own ISO setting for the images and focused on getting the light and speed correct. And then fretted as I had no time in which to check anything as our group was moving quite fast. Melony and I were the only two with cameras and obviously we couldn't hold up the group, but our guide, Hannah, turned  out to be really accommodating and readily held back a few seconds longer occasionally so we could get our shots. but I still had no time to check so I just carried on shooting and kept my fingers crossed.
It wasn't until I got home that evening and downloaded my photos when I saw how well the camera had performed. I had really jumped in at the deep end by starting out photographing dark caverns but I was elated when I saw the results. I whizzed through processing, hardly editing at all, and was amazed as I looked a image after image and saw the clarity of my subjects. The Sony has a new revolutionary stabilizing software inside and it really performed well. Even the close up in the Cascade Hall, above, came out better than hoped.
 There were a few thin pieces of rock that hung down that resembled rashers of bacon when the light shone through.
Melony homing in on some stalactites.
The Rainbow Lake.
The Capitol Dome.
And a final rasher of bacon!
We were feeling pretty warm when we surfaced from the caverns. It had been hot and humid down there with more water dripping from the roof than I remembered from my last visit. We ripped off our jackets and continued with the Main Street of Yesteryear.
I mentioned to Melony that the place rather creeped me out with the floor boards creaking and the sound of old motors straining to turn over as they made the old store window displays come alive. Another couple entered and after hearing the sounds whispered as they read the 'Welcome' sign that it was like a 'Welcome to Hell' I was feeling pretty disconcerted by now and tried to focus on taking shots of cute furry animals and magic princesses, rather than over painted clowns and fierce looking soldiers. Time had not aged some of these models gracefully and quite a few looked like Stephen King props.
We then made our way to the American Celebration where I was itching to see Melony's reaction to the size of these creations. We entered the dimly lit and musky smelling warehouse and looked up. I wasn't disappointed. Melony was quite taken aback and in awe. There are 27 full size parade floats here and over 100 props. We had the place to ourselves too as a mother and child were finishing their tour.
A cute turtle, made entirely from organic matter, one of the rules of the Rose Parade.
King Neptune is pulled by a sea serpent here, but originally this was St George slaying a dragon, and then the chariot was also used on a Roman Gladiator float.
I loved this huge American flag but on my last visit was unable to convey the enormity of it. today a little girl helped by perching in front. Made of 5000 square yards of crushed silk, crushed entirely, one handed, by a single employee who scrunched for 250 hours.
Throughout the museum the floor is laid with presidential red carpet and apparently some folks have refused to walk upon it in case Bill Clinton's feet had passed across it previously.
Melony commented that this place was creepy too. I'm not sure if it was the dim lighting, the old smell, the silence as we walked beneath these huge objects or the sound of the occasional motor that would start running when a red button was pushed. But she had a point. I uploaded a video so you can all hear one of the floats working. It's strange, but seeing these on TV, you're caught up in the happy atmosphere and only see these humungous creatures for a few minutes, when they seem bright, cheerful and happy, but when you stand in front of them, and can look long and hard, the sombre silence of the warehouse makes them appear garish and ghastly and managed to set me a little on edge.
And just to end the day on a creepy note, this clown in the Yellow Barn caught our eye. I was just glad he wasn't looking directly at us!