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.

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