Category: virginia


With the first day of summer just about two weeks away, I start to think of why it is my favorite time of year.  I think the warm weather is a bit of a given, but I have a few other reasons why I love it.

The Pool – I’ve been a water rat since I was a toddler.  I also lived close to the ocean in Virginia growing up.  So, I have spent many hours of my life in the water.  I’ve also been pulled out of the pool (over the side) because I couldn’t breathe more times than I care to remember.  That has not stopped me from going back in.  To this day, I still will spent a good portion of the day in the pool.  I love it!

The Grill – I love cooking on the grill.  I do it all year long, but it’s much more pleasant when it isn’t below freezing outside.  This morning I made bacon in a frying pan on the side burner of the grill.  I like to make it outside so it doesn’t smell up the house.  It doesn’t matter if it’s hot dogs or steak, I love cooking out there.  Plus the grill overlooks the pool.  Bonus!

Motorcycles – Riding is a huge passion of mine.  I still do it in some of the colder months, but like other things, it’s much more enjoyable when it’s warm outside.  Being on a motorcycle is such an amazing feeling.  It’s so relaxing.  It also will make you forget all your problems for a while.  Great for clearing your head.

Friends – This one sort of ties into all of the others.  Summer to me is about hanging out with your friends, having a cookout, swimming in the pool and riding.  There’s something about the camaraderie of bikers that makes you proud to be a part of that family.  I’ve met some of the best people while riding or talking about motorcycles.

Photography – This is also a given.  I do have a photography blog and a Photo Group.  The sun, the flowers, nature, cars and waterfalls all make me very happy when I get out with the camera in my hands.  There are a lot of places that I want to shoot this year.  Hopefully this nice weather (well, before this weekend) will continue and I can check more places off my list.

What about summertime makes you happy?

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People ask me from time to time how I keep such a positive, happy attitude.  I like to tell them that no matter how bad things get, someone else always has it much worse.  I am fortunate to wake up every day with a great family, a gorgeous girlfriend, my health and a motorcycle.  How could you not smile on a motorcycle?

But, I do have days where I am in a really bad mood, or even a funk and there’s one sure fire way to get me out of it – Music.  All I have to do is grab the iPod and pick something out and start listening.   Certain music will instantly put a smile on my face.  It really depends on what type of mood I am in to determine which type of music I need to perk me up.

I like to listen to a lot of different types of music, so I have a ton of music in my iPod Photo I bought in 2004 or 2005.  I still have the old school iPod.  It’s huge, but it still works like new.  About an inch thick, and 60GB worth of space on it.  I put about 4,000 songs on it, so I am not very limited in genres.  I am not a fan of country though.  I hear it’s getting a little more pop-like, but it’s just not my bag, baby.

So, as I was sitting here trying to figure out what to do my blog on, I went looking for some old CDs with old pictures stored on them.  I found an old 50 CD spindle crammed with a ton of CDs that was stored in a tote in the basement.  I was hoping it had the pictures I was looking for on a CD in it, but it didn’t.  There were a ton of burned music CDs and a few actual music CDs in there.  Jackpot!

I think that everyone has that ‘era’ of music that they love.  Well, maybe just old farts.  I am very partial to 90s hip-hop.  It’s my guilty pleasure.   I grew up in Virginia and it was the most popular among the people I grew up with.  I think it was a great time for the genre.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge rock and metal lover, too.  I love old school Metallica (pre-St. Anger) and Rage Against the Machine is one of my favorite bands.  And, much to Kevin Marshall’s chagrin, I love Nickelback.  I’ve seen them in concert three times and they put on an amazing show.

Now, it’s your turn.  Tell me what can put a smile on your face when you’re in a funk.  Music?  Friends?  Shopping?  Alcohol?  Do you have a musical ‘era’?  What type of music do you like?

See ya soon!

When I wrote yesterday’s blog, I started with an idea in mind, but as I typed, something else took over and changed the ending a bit.  The story about my grandfather was supposed to lead up to what originally inspired that blog.  Instead, it turned into how I came to love motorcycles.  Good or bad you ask?  Bonus, I say.

What I was originally going to write was how as a kid, my grandfather worked on small engines.  We would test them out and make sure they would work before he called the owners and let them know they were fixed.  The rest of the story was true, but not where I had originally wanted to go with it.  Here is what I was going to write before I got sidetracked…

My grandfather was very specific about how we mowed the lawn.  He had a system that cut the yard into four sections.  He wanted us to go in a certain direction, never blowing the grass towards the house or the pool.  I thought it was a little wacky as a kid, but now that I am grown up (well, that’s still questionable) I have my own system when I cut the grass, sort of like he did.  I always cut it in a different direction each time.  I usually chose a diagonal pattern across the yard, and the following week, I will do the same, but from the other corner of the yard so they intersect.  I know, riveting stuff, but I do have a point!

As kids, we lived in an old farm house with acres and acres of land and a ridiculously long driveway.  We had so much grass that we actually used two riding mowers to cut it.  One of my brothers would use one and I would use the other.  It was quite the task, but we got it done.

The point I am trying to make is that I never got tired of mowing the lawn.  I hear people all the time saying how much they hate doing it, and it’s such a pain in the butt.  I personally love doing it.  I take great pride in making sure the lawn looks good.  It makes me feel like I have accomplished something.   There’s nothing like finishing the lawn and looking out the window to see how great it looks and the diagonal lines in brilliant green.

The reason I wrote this is to ask you a question – What chore or task did you have growing up that you love still?  Which one do you hate?

See you soon!

P.S. Please check out Rose’s blog today.  Her friend’s daughter has leukemia and they are doing a fundraiser for her tomorrow, Friday the 21st.

As I was mowing the lawn yesterday, something hit me and made me think.  I know, it doesn’t happen very often.  Anyway, I was thinking about growing up as a kid on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.  I thought back to mowing the lawn since I was old enough to safely push or ride the mower.  My  grandfather worked on mowers in his spare time and we were always testing them out when he was done to make sure they worked properly.  The best part was when he would fix go-karts and we could test them out.

I can remember one day he fixed a go-kart and I was testing it around the yard.  I was ripping along at a good pace for the first lap or two, slowing down for the corners and accelerating in the straights.  By the second or third lap, I was all out coming through the corners and sliding the back end around, steering through the corners.  Well, I made it maybe two more laps around the yard before I heard “the whistle”.  When he put two fingers in his mouth and made that whistle, you knew you were in trouble.  Without hesitation, my foot came off the gas pedal and I slowly crept back to the garage.  I was scolded a little for tearing up the lawn when I slid the back end around the corners, but it was more like a life lesson.

We also had a mini-bike back then.  I can remember riding it around the yard and the neighborhood when I was young.  I even remember one time when my brother was riding around the yard and the throttle got stuck.  I can see the grown ups like it was yesterday, chasing hims as fast as they could run.  They caught him eventually and all was well, but it was a little scary and quite humorous.

I remember my Aunt and Uncle coming down from Massachusetts on their motorcycles and my uncle taking us for rides.  It was the best.  When I was 16, my grandfather had an old Suzuki automatic (650 LA perhaps?) that he let me take down the road one day.  That was all she wrote.  Since those days of go-karts, mini-bikes and motorcycles, I have been a motorcycle lover.  I love the freedom and the instant speed.  A lot of sport bikes I have ridden will do 0-60 in under 3 seconds.  That’s faster than a Ferrari.  Now you see why I love riding.  And it’s not just the speed.  It’s the fresh air in your face, the smells, the freedom.  I love it.

So, a big thank you goes out to my grandfather.  He was like a father to me and taught me great things I will never forget.  He also taught how to treat and respect a woman.  He and my grandmother were married for 54 years before he passed away.  They just don’t make them like him any more.  I miss him very much.

See ya soon!

In the Summer of 2006, Rose and I went to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  Even though I grew up three or four hours from the Outer Banks, I had never been, but had always wanted to go.  We set off to see my family back in Virginia, and then on to the Outer Banks a few days later.  One of the main things we wanted to see were the lighthouses.  To our surprise, there are quite a few lighthouses there.

One of our favorite things about lighthouses is being able to climb them and take in the amazing views.  The hike to the top might get you a little winded, but the views make it well worth the torture!  Looking out over the coast makes you wonder about the men and women that kept the lighthouses running before there was electricity.  I can only imagine the monotonous climbs up and down those stairs on a daily basis to keep the light lit.

Most of the lighthouses I have been to have had a Keeper’s Quarters where the lighthouse keeper would stay so they were close to the lighthouse to maintain and keep the light on.  Most lighthouses have since been replaced with electronic navigation devices because of high maintenance costs.  A lot of the lighthouses have been sold to private parties.

We had a great trip, and would love to go back and see more of the Outer Banks sometime.  I have a ton more pictures from our trip, so I will post more in another blog someday.  If you’ve never been, please go and check it out.  I found a few pictures I took of the lighthouses we visited in the Outer Banks.  In no particular order, here they are…

See ya soon!

On more than a few occasions, I have mentioned Assateague in my blog.  I have also mentioned that I grew up close to the area and really miss it.  Last week, I got a chance to head to Virginia, and while I was there, I drove over to Assateague to shoot some of the wildlife.  What I saw there was pretty scary.  A winter storm had caused some serious damage to the beach and the wildlife refuge surrounding it.  Trees were down all over the place.  Sand was blown from the beach all the way out to the toll booths some half a mile or more away.

The beach was almost gone.  The roads that usually branch off to the parking area were roped off and giant dump trucks were working feverishly to replace the sand that had been blown or washed away from the beach.  I have never seen it this bad in all my years going there.  Even the day I was there it was very windy.

While I was there I took a few shots of the wildlife.  It is my favorite part of visiting Assateague.  The wild ponies are almost always around, and this time was no different.  There were quite a few out in the pasture.  There are also always some great birds there.  Herons, egrets, ducks, geese and many others.  It is a photographer’s dream.  Here are some shots that I got that day…

Wild ponies and some downed trees

Wild ponies and some downed trees

He took off just as I was trying to get the shot

He took off just as I was trying to get the shot

Soaring away

Soaring away

Hiding from me

Hiding from me

Where is your favorite place to visit?  One that stands out in your mind…

**Note – You can follow Assateague on Twitter @AssateagueNPS **

And no, for once that is NOT a LOST reference.

From time to time, you will read posts from me about “back home” in Virginia.  Today’s blog is about another town close to where I grew up.  The town is called Cape Charles.  Growing up, it was a very poor town, with a lot of run down houses and old businesses that aren’t open anymore.  Over the past five or ten years, the town has been revived.  There are now gated communities, beautiful homes and golf courses designed by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.  It was quite a nice surprise to drive into town back in December and see the wonderful changes that have been made over the years.

Cape Charles is just 15 miles or so North of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.  I learned a neat tidbit of information on this trip.  My grandmother told me that my grandfather used to take the ferry from Virginia Beach to Cape Charles back in the ’50s before the bridge was built.  He was in the Navy, stationed in Norfolk, VA and would hitchhike from Virginia to Massachusetts when he had leave.  Can you imagine that?  He would hitchhike 500 miles to get home.  Back then it was safe to do.  In his travels, he loved the area so much that he moved the family there in 1973 and lived there until he passed in 2006.  He was then, and always will be, my hero.

My grandmother asked me to drive her through the town so she could see the changes that had been made, as it is 30 or so miles South of her house.  We were pleasantly surprised.  I even grabbed a few pictures.  When you come into town, they have a water tower that has been decorated to look like a lighthouse.

Water tower in town

Water tower in town

There were some old train cars by the harbor that made for great shots.  They look like they have been well maintained over the years and some may even still be in service.

Rail car

Rail car

The old train

The old train

As my title implies, there were cotton fields in Cape Charles.  I had no idea they grew it there.  I was driving by the field and was like “what the?” “Is that cotton?”  It sure was.

Cotton

Cotton

Cotton field

Cotton field

At the entrance to one of the gated communities, there was a small pond with a magnificent bronze sculpture of a man fishing with his dog.

Man's best friend

Man's best friend

Have you ever been to Cape Charles, or even heard of it?

A few days back, I wrote about ‘back home’ in Virginia.  I grew up on the Delmarva Peninsula in what the locals call the Eastern Shore of Viriginia, or ESVA for short.  I spent most of my childhood in a small town called Onancock in the county of Accomack.

I was born and raised there until I was 18 and moved to Massachusetts.  That’s another blog for another day.

The Eastern Shore is a very small quaint area, heavily reliant on the surrounding Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay.  Lots of friends, and even some family worked on the water to make a living.  The area is also very reliant on farming.  Quite a bit of the land there is farmland.  After being in such a populated area, it is strange to go back and see the miles and miles of wide open fields and wooded areas.

My title refers to a small island on the Eastern Shore called Assateague Island.  Assateague is where we always went as kids.  It was ‘the beach”.  as a child, I can remember 25 or 30 foot tall sand dunes with stairs over them to take you out to the warm sand of the beach.  Today, after many hurricanes and Nor’easters, you can sit in the parking lot and see right out to the ocean.  It is very sad to see this when I go back to visit.  I guess I am lucky to see anything at all, as they have to truck sand in every year to restore the parking lot and part of the beach, just to keep their main tourist attraction going.

On the island, there is a National Wildlife Refuge, and a lighthouse.  The refuge is home to many wild animals, and I try to get there and photograph them every time I am in the area.  The biggest draw are the wild ponies.  You may have heard of Misty – written by Marguerite Henry.   No relation to me, as far as I know.  Every year, they swim these wild ponies across the channel and auction them off at the “Pony Swim“.

Nursing Pony

Nursing Pony

Resting

Resting

The lighthouse has always been near to my heart.  You can see it coming from Chincoteague across to Assateague Island, and I have been to see it many times.  Growing up, you could walk the sandy trail to the lighthouse and take pictures.  However, you were not allowed to go inside the lighthouse.  Back in 2006, my girlfriend Rose and I were heading to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, and made a pit stop on the “Shore” to visit.  Rose had never been, so I took her to Assateague to check it out.  We walked down the little sand covered path and were very surprised to see the lighthouse door open.  Cool, I thought.  Must be a gift shop.  Not only was it a gift shop, it was a tour that allowed you to climb the lighthouse.

Assateague Light

Assateague Light

Awesome!  Let’s do it!  We climbed to the top and got another pleasant surprise.  You could go up into the actual light  area of the lighthouse.  The view was amazing.  You could see all of Assateague and most of Chincoteague.

Round and Round We Go

Round and Round We Go

Inside the Light Area

Inside the Light Area

Me Inside the Light Area - Photo by Rose Winters

Me Inside the Light Area - Photo by Rose Winters

We have been back a few times since then, but you aren’t allowed to go into the light area anymore.  Someone purchased the lighthouse and fixed the catwalk area on the outside.  Now you can go outside the lighthouse up top and walk around, just below the light.  Again, a stunning 360 degree view around the lighthouse.

So, if you’ve never been, it’s definitely a great place to visit.  If you’ve been, or live there, let me know.

See you soon...

See you soon...

In case you have asked that question, I took my header picture  at my cousin’s wedding back home in Virginia.  You see, I grew up in Virginia on the Eastern Shore.  Many of you may know it as the DelMarVa Peninsula.  Others may know areas near where I grew up such as Assateague Island or Chincoteague, home of Misty.

My cousin Bo married his wife Melanie at Camp Silver Beach, along the Chesapeake Bay.  The grounds were beautiful.  I do a lot of shooting, but wedding photography is not something I want to do.  I am afraid of screwing up or not capturing the right moments of someone’s special day.  That’s another topic for another blog.

So, me being me, I of course brought my camera with me to get some photos. It turns out that the photographer that was shooting the wedding had sort of a connection to the bride.  Melanie had been the photographer’s flower girl many years ago and the photographer was doing the shoot as a wedding gift to Bo and Melanie.  Very cool!  So, I introduced myself to Deb, and told her that if I get in the way of her shooting, just yell at me and tell me to get out of the way.  She obliged by saying that I was more than welcome to shoot along with her and even offered me use of her low light lens, as my speedlight had broken.

As we were shooting the bridal party pics on the beach, this amazing sky formed right behind us.  It was perfect.  After the bridal party shots, I grabbed a series of shots across the horizon and stitched together the panorama that is now my header.  I was so happy that I was able to be part of this shoot, without the pressure of ruining the wedding should the pics not be good.  I ended up getting a ton of shots over the two days there.  Here are some of the shots;

The Bridal Party

The Bridal Party

The Men

The Men

The Kiss

The Kiss

You can see the rest of these pictures at http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelthenry/sets/72157622565027980/

All photos ©Michael T. Henry and may not be used without permission.