Ben's Photo Blog

Photos from my various adventures

Archive for September, 2009


Posted by Ben on September 28, 2009

Here’s another pair of pictures from my random journey yesterday.  They go together pretty well.



The polarizing filter worked wonders on that second photo.  I lined up the shot so that the camera was in the shadow cast by the platform at the top of the tower.  And for all of you trigonometry buffs out there, can you figure out the height of the tower based on these two pictures?  If you can do it without looking at the last post, congratulations 🙂

Not too much to say today…


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Posted by Ben on September 28, 2009

I have always felt that spontaneity is something that has been seriously lacking in my life.  It’s very rare for me to leap into something headfirst without sitting down and thinking it through.  And while caution is all well and good, sometimes you do need to throw it to the wind.  Too often I’ve let my head talk my heart out of something, rationalizing it away as too risky or just not worth it.  And the worst part is that I don’t even realize that it’s happening most of the time until it’s too late and I’ve missed my chance.  I feel like far too many of my regrets are from things I haven’t done and wished I had rather than things I have done and wished I hadn’t.  Sometimes the consequences are known, like deciding whether or not to go to a party with friends.  Other times, there’s just no way to know, for example in telling someone you care about just how you feel, and boy, have I talked myself out of that one too many times to count…

Anyway, you’re probably wondering, if you’re actually reading this, “Hmm…usually the first thing is a picture…”  Well, I’m getting there, I promise, there’s just a little more needed as an introduction here.

The last couple of days here in Blacksburg have been pretty miserable weather-wise.  Don’t get me wrong here, the football game in the rain yesterday afternoon was one of the best ones I’ve been to since coming to Tech.  But it did my heart good to see the sun poking through the clouds again this morning.  I also realized over the course of breakfast that I didn’t have any homework due tomorrow since my Advanced Discrete Math professor had been out of town and hadn’t given us an assignment last week.  Almost on the spot I made the decision to just take a nice drive through the country this afternoon.  A quick google search for “southwest virginia scenic overlooks” gave me my destination: Big Walker Lookout Tower.  Ten minutes of fiddling with google maps later, I had a route there and back.  Of course, I opted for the more scenic way since it was such a nice day.  I scribbled down some notes on a sheet of paper, grabbed my camera and my iPod, and was out the door.

Here’s a link to the route I ended up taking (slightly different than my original plan after missing a turn on the way back):
If you zoom in enough on point B you can see a good aerial view of where I ended up!

I started off heading North on 460 until I got to the town of Narrows, where I veered off to follow Virginia Highway 61 to the west.  This was a really cool little two lane road that pretty much runs parallel to the Va/WV state line.  There was also a creek that runs alongside the road for most of the way that I drove on it.  After all of the rain we’ve gotten over the past few days, it was running pretty high and fast, but there weren’t many places to pull off the road to take pictures.  I drove past a lot of farms and pastures down in the valley floor, and it was really cool to be able to look up at the steep mountain ridges on either side.

Once I got to the town of Rocky Gap, I turned South onto Scenic Highway 52 (judging, by the name, that it would be prettier than just taking 77).  There were quite a few stretches on this road that made me remember just how much I love driving through the mountains; both the scenery and the twisty roads.  Eventually I made it to where I was going.  I rounded a curve on the mountain and saw a giant 120 foot lookout tower ahead of me.  After parking my car, I rushed up the steps to the top of the tower and was rewarded with a magnificent view, and some pretty strong winds.



I think one of the coolest things was the shadows moving across the floor of the valleys from the clouds above.  Everything was beautifully green.  I bet in a couple of weeks when the trees start to turn that the view would be even better.  At the bottom of the tower was a swinging bridge that didn’t really go anywhere, but was fun to walk across.


In addition to the tower and bridge, there was a really neat old country store.  They had everything in there from crafts to homemade jams to ice cream (which was quite tasty).


I spent a while there talking with a couple of the other visitors, some of whom seemed to be regular customers of the ice cream shop, and a few of the people working there.  All of them were really nice and very pleasant to talk to.  Eventually though, I decided it was time to head home, so I took off down 52 again until I hit State Road 717 heading east.  This was another little two lane road that wound its way through a valley between two high ridges.  At one point, I made a quick stop along the side of the road to take some pictures of some horses out in a field that had the sun shining down just right.  I didn’t get any really good pictures, but as I was getting back in the car, one of the horses decided to come investigate the strange person at the fence.  Not wanting to miss a chance at a good close-up photo, I got back out of the car.  By the time I made it back to the side of the field, all three horses had decided to come see what was going on.  Out of the three, my favorite was the lighter brown one.



The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful.  More beautiful scenery and winding mountain roads until I hit Highway 100.  I missed a turn, but it ended up being alright, I still ran back into 460 eventually.

Overall, it was a great day.  I think it did me good to get out of Blacksburg, which has been a little stressful over the past few weeks.  It also did me good to get out and explore places that I had never been before, which coincidentally gave me a great excuse to just go out and take pictures.  However, I think what did the most good for me today was actually making the decision to just go out and do it.  Sure, it may have been a better use of my time academically to stay in and get some work done ahead of time, but I’ll deal with those things later.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to find, or make, the time to do this again soon, maybe once the leaves really start changing colors.


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Posted by Ben on September 23, 2009


About a week and a half ago, we had our annual “Nerdfest” Ultimate Frisbee game with the other honors dorm, Hillcrest.  Unfortunately, my wrist was still injured at this point, so I wasn’t able to play, but I did end up with some good pictures.  I definitely don’t have much practice taking action photos, but the extended zoom on my camera does make it easier.  I know a fast shutter speed is essential to capture “still” images; this one was about 1/400th of a second (ISO 200), and I think it worked pretty well.  The expression on both of the faces are great, and it seems like luck that I managed to get the frisbee in there too.  I also think that Burruss makes a pretty good background for the shot.

I can’t claim that much actual composition took place before I took this shot since the game was moving so fast, but it turned out really well.  One convention I’ve read about in taking sports shots is to leave space in front of the subject for them to move into.  I got the reverse effect in this shot, creating “dead space” behind the two.  However, I think it really works with this picture, in effect emphasizing the ground that the two have covered to reach the frisbee and that there is no one else around them.

We ended up winning the game pretty handily 13-4, a good start to the Nerdfest season.

Well, I’ve got my first major exam tomorrow night in my Real Analysis course, so I should probably be getting off to sleep at this point.


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Posted by Ben on September 21, 2009


This photo shows the late-day sun shining through some tall grasses along the edge of the duckpond.  I was walking by these plants when the sun suddenly came out from behind a cloud and lit them up.  The illuminated plants themselves are really cool, but I also like the contrast between the streak of brightness running from the top right to the bottom left and the darker areas in the top left and bottom right.  I think it also helped having a fairly solid, dark background to the shot that was out of focus and blurry.  Though you can make out a tree trunk in the background near the left side of the picture.  The little bit of light coming in from the top left corner almost makes me think this picture comes from more of a steamy jungle setting than a relatively cool evening in Blacksburg.  I also like that all of the plant stalks are leaning to the same side, as if they were reaching out toward the light.

Sorry again for the long time between photos, I’ve been stressed out about a lot of school-related things over the past couple of weeks.  However, I’ve made a couple of changes that I think should help settle things down again.


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Posted by Ben on September 15, 2009


Ugh…Last week was rough.  Lots of work and not nearly enough time for all of it.  However, I made it through, and Saturday brought one of the greatest things about living in Blacksburg: Hokie Football!  I don’t have too much insight to give into any of these pictures, but I got some pretty cool ones, and I’m falling even harder for that 20x zoom on my new camera 🙂  The next picture comes from the pregame ceremony:


Our quarterback:


If you look closely, you can still see the ball in this one:


A tradition in the stands (and yes, we did a set of 52 at the end of the game):


Another kinda cool shot of the QB:


The Main Campbell crowd that was still around at the end of the game:


Sorry for a fairly “light” post, hopefully I’ll find some free time in the next couple of days to get back to the regular blog format.


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