One of the attractions that Tammy and I enjoyed during our fall visit to Asheville, NC was the Biltmore Estate. The first phrase that comes to mind when I attempt to describe Biltmore is "jaw dropping". The place is huge - the house is 175,000 square feet with 255 rooms, and the land encompasses 8,000 acres. It is the largest privately held home in the United States.

Arriving at the estate is somewhat like arriving at a large theme park - except that it is immensely prettier. You are directed to one of several parking lots and then ride a shuttle bus to get to the front door. All along the route to the home, however, you are passing through cultivated farm land, or forest with subtle hints of planning, such as a raised bed of flowers nestled back in what would otherwise be a natural stand of trees.

We toured the inside of the house, and saw the grandeur of the place, as well as portions that were the behind-the-scenes support for the household - kitchen, servants quarters, laundry, etc. They have rules against photography inside the house, so your image of the place is going to have to be built from photos found on the official Biltmore website.

Luckily they do not have any rules against photography outside of the house. There you will find plenty of subjects to keep your photographic attention.

Stone Figure

Stone Figure

Stone Face in Sun

I am thinking of getting downspouts like these installed at my house ;-)


Besides the immediate vicinity of the house, there are several trails you can wander to explore the manicured grounds.

Fly on Flower

Grand Tree




All things considered, the Biltmore Estate was a fantastic way to spend a day.

To Asheville

Last fall, Tammy and I took a weekend trip down to Asheville, NC. We had attended a home Virginia Tech football game on a Thursday night, and left for Asheville from Blacksburg on Friday morning. Because we were already in the western part of Virginia, we took the opportunity to travel to Asheville via the very scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. This route, coupled with the fall foliage, made it a very enjoyable. The fall foliage was maybe past its peak, but it was still definitely worth the view.

Fall Foliage

Another attraction along the Blue Ridge Parkway is Mabry Mill. The mill, and its reflection in the adjacent pond, is the subject of a myriad of photographers. The restored mill provides a glimpse into the history of western Virginia, and an opportunity for you to try your hand at capturing one of the most photographed scenes to be found along the Blue Ridge Parkway. My attempt was done near mid-day, and is a bit too over-exposed for my tastes.

Mabry Mill

The area surrounding Asheville, North Carolina has its own set of unique attractions. The most famous is probably the Biltmore Estate (the subject of another blog post). Another option, one that Tammy and I took advantage of, is Chimney Rock.

Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock is part of the North Carolina state park system. It is really more a tourist attraction than a place to get back to nature. The center-piece of the attraction is a 325 foot high column of granite, perched on the side of a mountain, that gives astounding views. Your drive into the park gets you most of the way up. After you park your vehicle, you get to pick which phobia you would like to appease in order to get to the top. You can either climb up a series of wooden boardwalks and staircases (and deal with your acrophobia), or just take an elevator (and deal with your claustrophobia).

Up To The Top

Ultimately, the final ascent to the top of the rock requires you to climb a short flight of wooden steps. I have a bit of acrophobia, but I managed to get all the way to the top with some additional stress, but otherwise without incident. The views are simply incredible.

Lake Lure from Chimney Rock

10 Weeks and 5 Days

It has been 10 weeks and 5 days since my last post. Writing this post feels a bit odd. I feel like I am returning to some regularly occurring meeting where everyone else has been attending, and dutifully marking me absent. With my return I feel like I need to offer up an explanation for my absence.

During my absence, I was giving serious thought to what my relationship should be with this blog. Should I just ignore it? If I do not ignore it, what should I do differently? What is keeping me from updating it? My thoughts varied considerably, but I have managed to consolidate things down into a nice summary.

I am too busy to maintain a blog. This was where I was just too busy with other things in my life to spend any quality time here, with no expectation that more time would become available. Some examples: the demands of my job, the holiday season and my love of college football.

I am having a hard time finding exciting content to blog about. There were points over the past 10 weeks where I was ready to spend some time on this blog, but my ideas for content were either altogether absent, or just unexciting to me. Was each winter really only going to bring yet another series of photos of Hermit Thrush and Ring-necked Duck?

To be a better photographer, I need to do some things differently. I enjoy my self-paced improvement of photographic knowledge. As I became a better photographer, I recognized that I needed to change how I did certain things. Towards that end, I made some significant changes to my "digital darkroom" - the process I use to move a photo from my camera to some end point such as a print, Flickr or this blog. This included a switch to shooting RAWs instead of JPGs, the purchase of Adobe Lightroom (and the associated self-education that comes with new software), changes to how I organize and store my photos, and a new backup philosophy (which is really still evolving). I wanted more control over certain areas within that process, and to get that control, I had to make some radical changes to other parts of the process.

I need to accept the amount of time I have for, and the priority I can give to, the hobbies that I enjoy. This was where I came to grips with the amount of time I can really commit to my hobbies. This blog represents just one final step in a series of steps that begins with me making time to go outside to take pictures. In between the trip outside and this blog is that "digital darkroom" thing I mentioned above. And interfering with all of these are the usual real-life things that you would expect. The most important of my varied hobbies is the actual time outside. The photographs and blog posts are just side-effects from that core activity.

So here I am, 10 weeks and 5 days later, ready to resurrect my blogging presence. I expect to generate a new post about once a week. Same as before, the content will be focused on the outside, with a preference for the avian.