This area of Virginia has beautiful serpentine roads with inspiring vistas at almost every turn. This is an inevitable opportunity for a good news/bad news story.
The good news is these Virginia byways provide a wealth of attention-grabbing images for the photographically inclined.
The rolling hills are covered with a patchwork of farms, forests, log cabins, rivers, mansions, shacks, country stores, and picturesque bodies of water.
The bad news is that for every image I have been able to capture, there have been three or four extraordinary images that I was not able to shoot, because these wonderfully scenic winding roads do not have space to pull off the road!
When you drive on Route 53, for example, you need both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road. You are generally driving at 20-45 miles an hour on a road with no shoulders. Even a moment’s distraction can put you in a ditch or into a tree. There are too many trees marked with crosses to commemorate the deaths of drivers who were careless.
The other night on Route 53, I glanced out over a field and saw a sunset like nothing I’ve seen before. The dark blue-violet sky was entirely clear except for a single brilliant red-orange cloud with incandescent edges. This glowing smudge of fire hung just above the horizon and was lit from below by the already vanished sun.
I looked desperately for a turnoff or a place to stop, but I was in a line of traffic and the road was bordered by huge fields with no gates or driveways. I drove another three miles through patches of forest before I could find another place with a view of the horizon.
I pulled into somebody’s driveway and scrambled out of the car with camera in hand. I ran down beside their garage to a place where I could see the last few moments of this sunset spectacle. I was able to take only a few shots before the light disappeared entirely.
This picture provides a mere hint of the earlier splendor. I am showing it here to remind myself that in opportunistic photography, preparedness and speed are essential.
Few among us have the determination to emulate Ansel Adams and place ourselves at a time and place to capture the exact moment when light from the sky strikes an object in just the right way.