One of my favorite places to visit is the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia. I am pretty lucky to have access to both states. For me, the drive to my nearest access to the park is about two hours away. Each year I look forward to visiting the Parkway even though I see a lot of the same locations. A lot of people may find it crazy that I go back the same locations and photograph the same sites. For me, each visit is different depending on the time of the year.
This year was different for me because I purchased a new lens and a new camera and of course, I had to test them out at the Blue Ridge Parkway. The parkway was a great place to test my lens and camera. I have access to beautiful mountains, landscapes, valleys, and historic sites throughout the Parkway. I wanted to test out my new Canon 80D and see how well the dynamic range was on the camera. I had read the dynamic range was very impressive. I was very impressed with some photos I took while on my trip.
My first stop on my 9 hour trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway was the Mabry Mill in Virginia. The Mabry Mill is one of the most photographed locations on the entire parkway. Thousands of visitor from all over the world viist the Mabry Mill each year. Below is a little history of the mill.
Around 1905 Ed and his wife Lizzie Mabry set in motion actions to realize the dream of their own gristmill. With the help of a neighbor, Newton Hylton, they built the gristmill, waterwheel, and water supply flume system with hard work and hand tools. By 1908 the gristmill was in operation and people from as far away as eight miles were bringing their corn to be ground. Also by this time, Ed Mabry was ready to move on to his next project which was to build a sawmill on the left side of the gristmill. While Ed was busy building the sawmill, Lizzie took over the milling duties at the gristmill. Many said Lizzie was the better miller of the two. There was a problem though. Because the streams used to supply water to the mills were small, there was not enough needed water power. Due to the lack of water power, the process of grinding the corn at the Mabrys’ mill took longer than at some of the other nearby mills. Mills with plenty of water power would at times grind too fast. The resulting friction turned to heat which would then burn and scorch the cornmeal leaving it tasting bitter. Because of the low water power problem at the Mabrys’ mill, it was known as a slow grinder. Due to this problem, the Mabrys could not grind the corn fast, but they also never burned or scorched the cornmeal which resulted in some of the best tasting corn meal around. This news spread fast which brought many loyal customers to the Mabry’s little mill.
Soon the sawmill was finished and Ed began to build a woodworking shop on the right side of the grist mill. This shop had a double-bladed jigsaw, a wood lathe and a tongue and groover all run by the water-powered waterwheel. This completed the gristmill complex with the sawmill, gristmill and woodworking shop all attached.
I really enjoy photographing the mill and try to visit each year. Last year, I got a take a great photo of the mill in the winter and frozen ice was on the wheel of the mill. This year I got a great shot in early Spring. The mill opens up in later April each year. For photographers, photographing the mill can be a challenge due to crowds each year. It is good to plan your photo shoot at the mill early in the year or after late October. In late October, the mill will be closed but it is easier to photograph the mill.
I was able to get a couple of other images with my new camera that shows off the dynamic range of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Since it was Easter weekend I photographed this very colorful display that was positioned along the roadway. I had to stop and get the image. Last year I stopped in October and the display was covered with hay and pumpkins. This year's display featured some very colorful displays for Easter.
Another great image was an image of the blue ridge mountains. I found this image fun to shoot. I wanted to capture the mountain range and the lone tree in the foreground gave the image a dramatic feel to the image. Many of the trees have so much character and a photographer could spend a week exploring just the trees along the parkway. I love the blue colors of the mountains and this photo demonstrates why the Parkway is so special.
I had a great time testing out my new camera and telephoto lens. I always enjoy visiting the parkway because every visit is unique. If you get a chance to visit North Carolina or Virginia, you have to take a day or two to stop and photograph the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is must-stop for any landscape photographer.
Until next time, keep shooting!