Thursday, July 29, 2010

Blueberries, Butterflies galore, wildfowers, and great vistas at Dolly Sods WV

It's been a super busy month with Ines designing wedding albums for all of our June brides, creating slide shows and also dealing with our July Arlington Memorial Service albums, videos and slide shows. We finally reached the point where we could attend a concert at Wolf Trap last night (Steve Miller Band) and than turn off the computers today and jump in the Pathfinder for a totally extemporaneous trip.

It's something I've always done. Just get out and go and explore new roads. Today we ended up at Dolly Sods Wilderness area in West Virginia. When we left the house my only goal was altitude with cooler temps. I was thinking Skyline Drive but I was pulled to the west. Our route required navigating some gravel and rutted roads but we ended up at a bit over 4000 feet away from the DC heat with a nice breeze and wonderful vistas that would remind you of the western US.

Actually the area is compared to the ecology of Canada above tree line with rugged rock cairns and paths meandering through blueberry patches. I think Ines could have parked and just spent hours plucking and eating sweet blueberries free of chemicals and whatever.

The streams were quite dry climbing up and down from the high country but what amazed us on top were the huge numbers of butterflies of all types crowded next to each other on the thistle plants. I've been to butterfly habitats at places like Brookside Garden in Montgomery County and Meadowlark Garden in Reston and although they are a great place to photograph butterflies what we found at Dolly Sods was a huge step up in quality and quantity of these lovely creatures.

I would of course want to use a nice short telephoto with macro capability but what I had handy was the Nikon 70-200 f2.8 lens with VR function. This is an image from a quick series I did in just a couple of minutes.

We were home by 6:30PM after a wonderful day of decompressing and now back to processing our July weddings and corporate work. We now have a goal to visit what for us is a new discovery Dolly Sods in the evening and different seasons plus stuffing more blueberries down our gullets. Dolly Sods is very different from lower Canaan Valley and the ski slopes although they do adjoin each other.

One note you may want to avoid this wilderness area if you don't have an SUV or car with good tires.
Don Harper

The Edge Photography Studio

Friday, July 23, 2010

Wes Skiles Adventurer, Photographer, Videographer and great guy is missed.

Wes Skiles: The abrupt loss of a great person, explorer and photographer.

On Wednesday one of my heroes died. Wes Skiles was the consummate caver diver, adventurer, photographer and videographer. His death comes as National Geographic features one of his images on the cover of the August issue and a long feature inside about the wonderful blue holes in the Bahamas. Without checking I think he's been a photographer for at least 4 major articles in the Yellow covered magazine.

Wes survived many adventures against all odds and his favorite quote on facebook really sums up what he was about.

Actually a advertisement for Shackleton's expedition to Antarctica: "Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success". Pretty much reflects my real life...

A modest man that found public speaking a hurdle to deal with he always said to his friends. "Let me know I'm talking to my friends give me a big "Hey Now" when I get up to the podium."

I can't say his loss is unexpected, rather I'm surprised he made it as many years as he did.

I think Wes felt the same way, a sense of wonder that he was still here after some really amazing expeditions.

I spent a lot of time caving with the National Speleological Society and even more time diving as a PADI instructor and underwater photographer, but when I tried cave diving I found the avocation that just had odds stacked to badly out of my favor. It was one of the few crazy things I've done that made me say "No this isn't a good idea". Wes did this for decades and created wonderful images, added greatly to our knowledge regarding the underwater and subterranean world from Australia to his home in the Florida springs.

I see the luminescence from his fins lighting the dark sea as Wes strokes ahead of us leading the way through the darkness on the ocean at night. Wonders to see and new frontiers to explore. There are rare chances for someone to be the first person to see a place never before visited by man. Wes was one of the few of us to enjoy that thrill.

At Ginnie Springs on Wednesday his friends will gather to celebrate the life of Wes Skiles. I wish I could be there and shout out "Hey Now"

And Wes in turn I expect you to reply and let us know you reached the other side and shout out a big "HEY NOW".

RIP for Wes Skiles

Wes Skiles Memorial Service and Website