Patricia Temples Photography

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Archive for the category “ADVENTURES”

Trees and their Stories #2

Today I want to share my American Chestnut photos. American Chestnuts are rare today, having almost been decimated by the Chestnut Blight in the early part of the 20th Century. The blight, a fungal disease, was introduced into this country on a Chinese Chestnut tree brought into the Bronx in 1904. By 1906, 98% of the chestnuts in the Bronx were infected.

Over 100 years ago there were 4 billion chestnut trees in the U.S., many of them in the northeastern states. Within 40 years the trees disappeared. The loss of the American Chestnut was devastating to U.S. economy. It was used for building, furniture, fencing, and the nuts were food for wildlife and humans alike.

These photos of an American Chestnut were taken a couple of years ago in Virginia. I was with a member of the American Chestnut Foundation who had learned of the existence of a couple of small American Chestnuts. The trees were small and are being watched carefully members of the ACF.

American Chestnut Tree

Last June I visited a friend in Belgium who had a European Chestnut on the property where she and her husband were living. There is a huge difference between what I saw there and what I saw in Virginia. This is a healthy group of three trees with new growth and abundant chestnuts on the ground.

The American Chestnut Foundation is making efforts and great strides to create a blight-resistant tree. Read about this here:

In Virginia, the Blue Ridge Parkway has split rail fences, many of them of chestnut wood. Old homesteads were built of chestnut logs, and in my own childhood home, there was a room with wormy chestnut paneling, virtually non-existent today. What a loss.

Trees and their Stories

I recently decided to start another project for an exhibit I will hang in the fall.  Trees came to mind, because I photograph them often, and some of them have great stories.  So, I am going to give you a preview of my plan.

The first tree that came to mind is one I photographed a number of years ago.  The shot was taken at sunset, facing the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.  Yes, the tree was dead.  But it had a history that it could have told if it had been alive.  I had to rely on the memories of local folks who know its significance.

Parrott Farm Schoolhouse Field

It is located on what is known in Greene County as the Parrott Farm.  At the site of the tree was a one-room schoolhouse where the Parrott children and others from nearby homes were educated in the early 1900s.  The locals refer to this as the Schoolhouse Field.  Two months after I made this image, a large storm blew it down.  Here is what remained.

Parrott Farm Schoolhouse Field after

Not far from this location is Westover United Methodist Church on land which was donated by the Parrott/Early families who owned the farm.  In 1913, the first wedding took place in that newly created church.  After the ceremony the bride took a sprig of hemlock out of her bouquet and planted it in the ground behind the church.  This Old Hemlock grew and remains on the property.

Westover view 3

Westover view 1

Another notable tree was new to me this past year. On a property now owned by Spring Hill Church, which is in Albemarle County, near the Greene County line, there was a tree that grew from a number of shoots, forming an interesing multi-trunked base. It was located near a resting place of the former owners of the farm, now donated to the church.

Not long after I made this image, a microburst, as described by nearby residents, split this tree in half. You can see the multiple trunks that created one tree, but which also led to instability in the storm. It was a big loss to the folks of this church who use this property for spiritual and recreational activities.

More on trees at another time. I wish I knew all of their stories.

Harpa Concert Hall, Reykjavik, Iceland

The MOST amazing building I’ve ever seen is located in the capital of Iceland.  It opened in May 2011 after some delays that occurred during the financial crisis of 2008.  The government funded the building, which is used for not only musical events, but also important political and cultural meetings.

Harpa is located on the old harbor in Reykjavik.  The structure consists of a steel framework clad with geometric shaped glass panels of different colors.  In winter, lights transform the exterior of the building into a display of the Aurora Borealis.  During summer, sunlight shining through the glass panels creates patterns and colors on the floor.  The design has won many architectural awards, including the most recent in 2013.

waterfront 2

view of city within.jpg

side view.jpg

Ideas for a name for the concert hall came from Icelanders as well as designers.  The name Harpa was chosen because it was easy to pronounce, and because it refers to a time of year and a month in the old Nordic calendar.  The first day of that month is celebrated as the first day of summer when the landscape comes alive with color.

My photos show you the abstract beauty of the panes of glass.  The image of the girl standing in the pane gives you a sense of the size of these panels.  Notice the color everywhere.

ceiling abstract

A view of the ceiling

inside looking out

Inside looking out

girl in window

Young woman in a glass panel

window abstract

Abstract shapes and colors on the exterior

yellow seats

Seating area

I could have spent a day photographing this building.  As it was, I had only one day to explore the city, so I couldn’t spend it all there.  If I’m ever lucky enough to be in Reykjavik again, I’ll spend a lot of time at this site.  I hope some of that time will be in the concert hall hearing a magnificent performance.

Enjoy this youtube video of the design and construction of this magnificent building.

Iceland: Golden Circle Tour

The last day we were in Iceland, my companion and I took the Golden Circle Tour out of Reykjavik to some of the most visited sites in the country.  We rode in a Nissan 4-wheel drive off-road vehicle with a native Icelander, Ingi. and we were gone for eight hours.  It was just the three of us on this tour and we were able to ask questions and learn a lot of interesting things about the country.

The first stop on this drive was at Thingvellir valley, which is the site of the world’s first parliament.  At this site you are on a seam called the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which is essentially a volcanic seam many thousands of miles long, mostly under the sea.  In Iceland it makes a brief appearance above ground.  When you are standing at the seam, you have the North American continent on the right and the Eurasian continent on your left.  It was at this location that the Game of Thrones was filmed, along with other locations in Iceland.  This geological feature is also referred to as a tectonic plate. We stood on top of the seam and also walked down into the chasm, ultimately reaching a beautiful waterfall.

Tectonic plates 1

North America on the right, Eurasia on the left.

Tectonic plates 2

Down inside the rift.

Tectonic plates 3

The Icelandic Commonwealth lasted from 930 to 1262.  The first Parliament convened in 930 ad at Thingvellir.  All this time, Iceland was an independent nation. The Althing (Icelandic Parliament) in Thingvellir held the supreme authority of the country. The Althing was both a legislative and judicial assembly. There, disputes from all over the country were resolved.  This was considered the “Golden Age of Iceland.”

After 1262, Iceland became a part of the monarchy of the Norwegian King and later of the Danish King. The Althing nevertheless continued to convene in Thingvellir as a legislative assembly and judicial court up to the end of the 18th century. Thus, Thingvellir, as in earlier times, was a centre of national life at the time of assembly each year.

After we left this amazing area, we drove to see geysers (gay’-seer, as pronounced by Icelanders).  We spent almost an hour there, enjoying lunch in a nearby restaurant after experiencing several eruptions and walking around the area looking at wildflowers.  The most active geyser in this area erupted every 5-7 minutes.

Geyser 1Geyser 2Geyser 3Geyser 4

After our lunch break, Ingi drove us toward the glaciers.  Along the way he asked us if we were ready for an adventure.  Two eager replies of “Yes!” led him to immediately drive off the road as he approached a bridge, going through the small river rather than over the bridge.  Water flew all around us and we had a great laugh before he resumed his travel on the road.  We drove for a bit and approached glaciers in the distance.  Ingi stopped the vehicle, got out saying that he had to prepare himself and his vehicle for the next leg of the journey.  I had noticed he was wearing sandals with socks, so I figured he was putting on boots.  I was partially correct.  He was also deflating the massive tires on this vehicle from 25 psi to 4 psi, to get traction on the glacier, which was of course soft snow now that the weather was warming.  And, off we went, bouncing along over rough terrain covered with 20″ of snow.  At some point I said to Ingi, “You really enjoy this, don’t you?” and he replied enthusiastically and with a big smile, “Yes, I do.”  We stopped on the glacier and walked around a bit, taking in the sight of beautiful white snow.

Glacier vehicle with mtns

Glacier 1Glacier 2 lake

After using an air compressor to refill the tires, Ingi drove us to Gulifoss waterfall.  We spent a little time there with many other people walking around to get all the angles of the waterfall.  It was a busy place.


I may post one more blog about Iceland.  There are some things I learned about the country from Ingi, and from our City Walk tour of Reykjavik  that we took the first day in Iceland that I want to share. Interesting country, for sure.

Icelandic Horses

On my Iceland Adventure, I told my companions that I couldn’t go home without photographs of the Icelandic horses because my husband wouldn’t let me in the door without them.  We had two opportunities the last day of the trip, and the horses didn’t disappoint.

These special horses are a pure breed.  No other horses are allowed in the country, and if one is purchased and removed, it cannot return.  They are smaller in stature with luxurious manes, and they have a special gait called the TOLT.  Watch this youtube video of this gait, and notice that the rider is not moving at all despite the speed of the horse.

Here are the photos I took that got me back into my home after the trip.  Enjoy these beautiful creatures.

My Iceland Adventure, Part 5

When we left the Westfjords we took a ferry to Flatey (Flah’ tee) Island, a beautiful small island with a handful of houses and a hotel.  Hotel Flatey consists of two converted warehouses which accommodate a total of 27 people. My room was a single, small with eaves, but certainly comfortable and suitable for our stay.  The restaurant at the hotel served delicious soups and dinners, and the stay on the island was peaceful and relaxing.

Hotel Flatey

The red and green buildings were Hotel Flatey.

Buildings with hotel on left

Hotel Flatey is on the left side of this image next to the yellow building.

The island has a number of summer homes and places that the seasonal hotel employees stay while working on the island.  The buildings are so colorful.  You could easily walk the entire island and we did so many times.

There are only two couples who live on the island full time.  The remaining activity on the island is for tourists and summer home residents.  I had the good fortune to meet one of the residents, an older lady who told me they live on the island year-round to take care of their sheep.  She calls a friend on Snaefellsness Peninsula who does her grocery shopping for her and puts it on the ferry for her to pick up.  She told me the hardest part about being on the island in the winter is lack of social activity.  She and her husband have four children, eleven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren who live in Iceland.  The photos of the church with the tractor are of her husband.  I was there to try to get a photo of the church with two buildings that look like they are very close to it, but in fact, they are some distance away.

Church with tractor

Tractor working the land in front of the church

Church, library and tractor

You can see how far apart the church and the library are.

Church at midnight

This photo of the three buildings was taken at 11:44pm.

One interesting thing I learned from the trip to Flatey has to do with the collection of eider down.  I have done a little reading on this and it is fascinating.  The eider duck is plentiful on Flatey and nearby islands. Women harvest the down from nests for use in pillows and comforters. Due to hormonal changes during the egg-laying period, the females sheds this incredibly light and soft down into the nest. This leaves an egg-warming spot on her belly, but the down also provides protection for the eggs and young from predators.  Eider down is the only down on the market that comes from a live wild female bird, and it is not plucked from the bird, so it does no harm to collect it.  When the down is removed from the nest, the collectors replace it with grasses and hay they have carried for that purpose.  The majority of eiderdown on the world market comes from Iceland.  One comforter with eiderdown filling may contain raw material from over 60 nests.  I didn’t get a good photo of the down because at the time I didn’t realize how significant it was.  I was mainly interested in the eggs in the nest.  We were walking down a path beside a fence, and startled the mother off the nest.  I snapped a quick photo so she would return.  I wish I had been more careful.

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