Winter Travel

By Roger (6 Feb 2014)

While Mark is hibernating, working away in his cave until the temperatures are warmer than 80, I love winter and getting out in it. I've been out around town during our recent snow events because, if you want a photo of town, in the winter, during a snow shower, at night...well...you have to be there.

Old Town Manassas snow shower

Old Town Manassas snow shower

My first photo weekend for 2014 was a trip to Smithfield, Virginia. It is a lovely town, situated on the Pagan River. They had eight inches of snow a couple of days before my arrival, and much of it was still there. It's only a few hours from my house, and I've never been there. That's reason enough for me, but the initial draw was another of the Civil War sesquicentennial events.

There was a small skirmish at Smithfield on January 31 and 1 February 1864. A small Confederate force repelled an equally small Union raiding force. There was fighting up and down Main Street until the Confederates brought out a couple of cannons. The Union gunboat Smith-Briggs was brought into the Pagan River to pick up the Union soldiers and effect a retreat. The Confederates fired a shot that disabled the gunboat, putting an end to that strategy. Prisoners were gathered, and the boat set ablaze. When the munitions exploded on the boat, there was more damage to the town. Your history lesson for this week is concluded with the obligatory photo of cannon fire.

Cannon fires in Smithfield re-enactment.

Cannon fires in Smithfield re-enactment.

After making some photos at the re-enactors' camp, I set off for the Main Street area on a one-man photowalk. Since I had never been there before, I was looking at everything with “new eyes.”

What a great place, full of friendly folks! I live in a suburban neighborhood in northern Virginia; it is very conveniently located but not terribly interesting. I really liked Smithfield's tree-lined streets and the big, old houses with turrets and fancy porches. It seemed like the idealized small town where the old folks sit in rocking chairs on the porch, while they play endless games of checkers.

Don't you just love these old homes?  Church Street, Smithfield, VA.

Don't you just love these old homes?  Church Street, Smithfield, VA.

Smithfield Inn porch rockers.

Smithfield Inn porch rockers.

I'm old enough to know that the reality of heating and maintaining those houses may have dampened my fantasy of living there, but, since I was only there for the day, I didn't have to deal with that conflict. The historic and picturesque town made for a very pleasant photowalk. After a couple of hours and five miles, I meandered back to Smithfield Station (link), at the end of Church Street and the approximate location where the Smith-Briggs exploded and sank. What luck – right there was an excellent restaurant to cap off a great day.

You can see why I'm always trying to get you (and me) out there. You will see skill improvement and have more fun if you keep your photography muscles toned from frequent use. I make sure I designate some time for some dedicated photography work every month – regardless of the season. I work on post-processing and other small stuff during the week whenever I can, but I also need to schedule chunks of time solely for my photography.

This trip allowed me to add to my personal project and work on a variety of photo subjects I wouldn't normally pursue. You, obviously, don't need to spend the night away from home every time you go. But, when your wife is having a sisters weekend at your house, don't grump about it – grab your camera and hit the road for some fun.

Wish there were some interesting clouds for the sunrise at Smithfield Station. Guess I'll have to go back and try again.

Wish there were some interesting clouds for the sunrise at Smithfield Station. Guess I'll have to go back and try again.