Monday, July 24, 2017

Rolling hills suit Virginia winery just fine

The rolling Piedmont hills of central Virginia are luscious real estate for vineyards, and I stopped at one of those -- Barboursville Vineyards -- on May 17 early into my latest swing to the East Coast.

It was late in the afternoon, and we arrived there about 45 minutes from closing. But we paid the $7 to taste a handful of wines then used the remainder of late afternoon daylight to photograph the beautiful grounds.

We passed another winery -- Horton Vineyards -- featuring a castle-like structure visible from the roadway en route to Barboursville Vineyards. And skimming a map of the area, we noticed still two other wineries, Reynard Florence and Burnley vineyards were within reasonable driving distance. Ah, what could have been if we had only started our visit in the morning.

There's not a lot of context required for the pictures appearing below; they're all shots of the landscape around Barboursville Vineywards, a shot of the main building where visitors go for tastings and finally a shot of a nearby church and its graveyard and the roadway hopefully depicting the rollings hills I mentioned in the lead paragraph.

As usual, click on any image to bring up a larger, sharper version. This is particularly useful if you access the blog using a mobile device. Click on the link in this sentence to view a full gallery of the images I made from my visit to Barboursville Vineyards.

Photo geek stuff: I shot all of my photos with my Canon 6D and Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di PZD VC lens equipped with a B+W polarizing filter. I bracketed all compositions for three exposures to allow for melding in high-dynamic range (HDR) software in post-processing, and I believe all of the images in this post were treated that way.














Next up: Alexandria, Va.

Previous posts in this East Coast swing series:

James Madison's Montpelier

George Washington's Mount Vernon

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Home of the nation's first president
has a spectacular view of Potomac River

For my posts on visits to the Virginia homes of Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and James Madison, I made a point to lead the post with tightly cropped shots of the main homestead. But I had a dilemma when trying to decide how to lead with my post about George Washington's Mount Vernon, which I visited on May 18.

I could fall into the pattern employed for posts about the other presidential plantations I visited and go with a tight shot of the front. I could change course and get a shot of the side of the home facing the Potomac River. Or I could lead with a shot of Washington's view of the river from the backside porch (Because of the spectacular river view, I imagine some might even consider this side "the front").

Well, you can see what I chose -- a long-range view of the "front" side, something visitors behold when they approach the grounds after wading through the hall of exhibits at the welcome center.

Don't worry; I'll show other perspectives before this post concludes, including all the ones mentioned above. I think the ideal initial look would be the one used on the front page of the home's website (see link in the first paragraph). Alas, that was an aerial shot of the river side, which includes its two portico wings, and I had no access to a helicopter or drone to grab such a perspective!

Mount Vernon is a short jaunt from the nation's capital, but Washington didn't have the opportunity to indulge that commute. Although the new capital was established in Washington D.C. in 1790, the White House wasn't available for occupation until 1800, when John Adams was president. So during the construction years of 1791-1800, the first president began his first term using executive offices in New York City briefly before moving to Philadelphia, where he spent the remainder of his time in office.

After his two terms as president ended in March 1797, Washington had only two and a half years to spend at Mount Vernon. He never saw the 19th century, dying on Dec. 14, 1799, at the age of 67.

As usual, click on any image to bring up a larger, sharper version. This is particularly useful if you access the blog using a mobile device. Click on the link in this sentence to view a full gallery of the images I made from my visit to Mount Vernon.

Photo geek stuff: I shot all of my photos with my Canon 6D and Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di PZD VC lens equipped with a B+W polarizing filter. I bracketed all compositions for three exposures to allow for melding in high-dynamic range (HDR) software in post-processing, and I believe all of the images in this post were treated that way.

The river side of Mount Vernon (above), where most visitors made a point to sit on the porch and soak in the vista overlooking the Potomac River (below) that George and Martha Washington enjoyed. 


Above: A tighter crop of the front side of Mount Vernon, with the portico wings leading to side buildings. 

Above and below: Example of two exhibits in the welcome center area of the grounds.


Above, a composition juxtaposing the foreground cart, located at the fringe of the landscaped area of the grounds with the bridged entrance to Mount Vernon's forested area in the background. Below, a shot taken during the quarter-mile walk along the trail inside the forest.  


The distinguished 16-sided barn at the end of the forest trail, which is not far from a lower access to the Potomac River (below). 


George and Martha Washington are buried in the mausoleum above. Visitors can get as close and the iron bars, which I did to capture the photo of the first president's tomb below. 


Before the mausoleum was constructed, the Washingtons' remains were entombed in this vaulted area not far from the newer mausoleum.

Above: One of many out buildings on the grounds not far from the main manor. 


A view of the right front portico and side buildings (above) and a detail shot of the cupola and weather vane atop the manor. 


Views of the right side portico from opposite sides. The one above is from the river side, looking toward the front. The one below is from the front, looking toward the river. 


The entrance to Mount Vernon's garden (above), followed below by photos taken throughout the garden.






Next up: Barboursville Winery

Previous posts in this East Coast swing series:

James Madison's Montpelier


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Constitution father James Madison's home has sweet view of mountains

In the rolling hills of central Virginia, about 30 miles from Thomas Jefferson's plantation at Monticello, is Montpelier, the home of James Madison, the fourth president of the United States, father of the Constitution and architect of the Bill of Rights.

Montpelier, located in Montpelier Station near Orange, Va., is as well-maintained as Monticello. Although there are tours of the home, photographs inside are not allowed (which also was the case at Monticello and Mount Vernon). Special tours are offered that devote information and deserved attention to Madison's contributions to the U.S. Constitution, and I took advantage of that.

Unfortunately, I encountered two disappointments on May 16, the day I visited. For one, there was a large gathering outdoors (left) on the home's back lawn, putting a damper on the historic aesthetics for picture purposes on any kind of shot of perspective shot. On the other hand, the gathering enabled me to grab the closeup shot you see at right, which included a bottle of Brut Cuvee 1814 sparkling wine from Barboursville Vineyards, which I would visit the next day.

For another, the iconic left front-lawn temple -- a gazebo-like structure with Roman columns built over a two-story ice well in the early 1800s -- was roped off from access while it undergoes a massive renovation (below).


Aside from those annoyances, I enjoyed my tour of the grounds. Like Jefferson and George Washington, Madison made a point to provide himself, family and visitors a stunning vista of the Virginia landscape from his home. 

Washington's home overlooks the Potomac River, while the estates of Madison and Jefferson enjoyed views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. From the front porch, Madison could look out over his expansive plantation and, in the distance, take in the view you see below. 


By contrast, Jefferson's home was built on a very large mound; his vistas involved many hills and dales closer to the eye.

Near the graveyard at Montpelier, I chatted with a man who saw me taking pictures and said he lives in the area and has been out to Montpelier at dusk on several occasions to photograph the sunset over the mountains. I was there in early afternoon, nowhere near having that opportunity unless I camped there all afternoon, but I could envision the colorful drama one could espy from that vantage point.

As usual, click on any image to bring up a larger, sharper version. This is particularly useful if you access the blog using a mobile device. Click on the link in this sentence to view a full gallery of the images I made from my visit to Montpelier.

Photo geek stuff: I shot all of my photos with my Canon 6D and Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di PZD VC lens equipped with a B+W polarizing filter. I bracketed all compositions for three exposures to allow for melding in high-dynamic range (HDR) software in post-processing, and I believe all of the images in this post were treated that way.

Above and below: My favorite landscapes from the shots I took at Montpelier.


Another perspective of the front of Montpelier. Below, a view of the backside.


Above: Likenesses of Madison and his wife, Dolley, greet visitors outside the welcome center.

Above and next seven below: Like Jefferson's Monticello and Washington's Mount Vernon, Montpelier has a formidable garden that is well-maintained. These photos were taken in the garden. 








Above and next two below: Behind Madison's temple is a decent-sized hill that leads to a pond and these scenes.



Above are the obelisks for James (foreground) and Dolley Madison as you approach the graveward from the home. It was near here that I ran into the man who talked to me about taking sunset photos at Montpelier. Below, from a vantage point on the opposite side of the graveyard, Madison's obelisk looms large and center among other markers.


Above: Another landscape to close this post on Montpelier.


Next up: Mount Vernon, home of George Washington.