One Word Photo Challenge: Eigengrau

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Eigengrau, (read: I’-Gen-growl, both g’s hard) is the color your brain sees in the absence of light.

Jenny has chosen a very esoteric color to end her color challenges.  Her final ‘color’ is the absence of color in the absence of light.  Those who understand these things explain that eigengrau is more of a dark grey than a true black, by the way.


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Also explained as ‘brain grey’ or  ‘dark light,’  this color describes what you might see upon opening your eyes in a dark room.

This is a new color term for me, and a fitting way for Jenny to close out this challenge.


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Don’t worry, Jennifer begins a new ‘One Word Photo Challenge’ next week using weather themes.  She starts us off with an easy one:  rain.


Colonial Williamsburg in late afternoon

Colonial Williamsburg in late afternoon


I am choosing to interpret eigengrau as the dark grey one sees when an object is seen in silhouette against a background of light, and the deep shadows where light cannot reach.  Although the Germans, who coined this color term, elaborated an entire cult to celebrate the very esoteric ‘Black Sun;’ I celebrate the life giving sun of visible light. 


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The photos I’ve chosen celebrate the light, which nourishes all life, while also showing us the shadows.

With Appreciation to Jennifer Nichole Wells for her

One Word Photo Challenge:  Eigengrau


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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

Copper: River Beach, Low Tide

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We stopped at the beach right at sunset, Sunday afternoon.


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It was the lowest tide we can recall ever seeing on this beach along the James River.  It was eerie, how far the river flowed from its usual banks.


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The moon was full, which may account for the unusually low tide.  Whatever the reason, I wanted to capture the beauty of the river, the beach, and the evening.


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It was warm on Sunday, and even as clouds blew in at sunset the breezes off the water remained comfortable.  How nice to wander the beach without shivering!


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Eagles filled the air, hunting and calling to one another.  Gulls zoomed overhead, streamlined bodies looking like jets.  Geese honked in the distance.


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Two Osprey’s investigated a tree, considering whether to continue building their nest.  This battered tree has held a nest every spring for years now.


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There are many coppery tones glinting in these photos.  Jenny gave the option to use the color ‘copper’ with or without its metallic sheen.  Perhaps it was the setting sun, or perhaps just the old bits seldom seen, which seem coppery along the beach.


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Appreciation, as always, to Jennifer Nichole Wells for her One Word Photo Challenge:  Copper.

This is the next to last week for Jenny’s color challenge.  Soon her challenge will shift from colors to the weather.  If you follow the link back to Jenny’s post, you’ll find links to other wonderful photos featuring ‘copper.’



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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

Black and White Photo Challenge #5

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When the Osprey Eagles re-build their nests and lay the next generation of chicks, I finally trust that it is spring.  After months of “empty nest syndrome,” we happily spotted brooding Ospreys in all of the familiar trees along the Colonial Parkway between Williamsburg and Jamestown.


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Bald Eagles call to one another in the skies above, and birds of all descriptions may be seen perching on rotting bits of wood along the river bank.


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Ah, the river has come back to life! 

This is the fifth day of the Black and White Photo Challenge which I accepted from Eliza Waters.

So far, I’ve passed it along to Robin, Sarah, Creekrose, and Jane.  You may recall that Jane completed the challenge last month, and you will find links to her posts in  my fourth post.  I hope you are visiting all of these intriguing writers and photographers.  Their black and white photos, poetry and prose are stunning.

Today I am inviting John of A Walk In the Garden to the challenge.  John, a Master Gardener, enjoys the warmer climate of Charlotte, North Carolina.  John and I share a love for our gardens and flowers. We are “dirty hands” gardeners; trying new cultivars, watching for each leaf and flower to come into its prime, and routinely digging in the dirt.

I’m always inspired by his Monday Vases, a collaboration between him and his beloved “arranger.”   Although John is still pondering this invitation, I hope he will decide to play along.


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There are two bald eagles roosting near their nest in the trees across the creek, to the left of the bridge. When you enlarge this photo, you may be able to see them.


It has been an “eye opening” experience for me to see the familiar in a new way through black and white photography, and I hope that John will enjoy this experience as well.

If you would like to participate in the challenge, and have not been invited by a blogging friend, please accept this invitation from me.

I invite you, now, to explore the world of black and white photography.  Please accept my invitation in your first post with a link back to this page.  I would appreciate it if you would leave a comment with a link, as well, so I will make sure to find your post. 

The rules of the Black and White Photo Challenge are simple:

  1. On 5 consecutive days, create a post using either a past or recent photo in black and white.
  2. Each day invite another blogging friend to join in the fun.

Although this is my last official challenge post, I will continue to use black and white photos on occasion because of the unique perspective they offer.  But now I want to share one more photo, taken this afternoon in color. Although technically color, the effect feels very “black and white.”


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These guys watched over us all afternoon as we worked out in the front garden.

My partner says that at times a few more showed up, but these buzzards remained  our faithful companions.  I’m not quite sure what they expected…. or hoped for.... but let’s just say that we are fine this evening, and so is the cat!

Woodland Gnome, 2015

Black and White Photo Challenge #1, #2, #3, #4

River Beach, July Morning

Beach along the James River

Beach along the James River

We awoke to a morning cool and bright, with a steady breeze energizing the garden, and us.

Every leaf and vine sparkled with raindrops left from the storms which blew through all day yesterday, and late into the evening.

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With the garden already rain soaked, we felt free to take off this morning for a rare visit to the beach.

We wanted to enjoy the early morning quiet, bury our feet in the sand, and enjoy the cool winds  blowing in across the river.

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Most Virginia beaches are  river beaches. 


A Bald Cypress grows here along the beach.

A Bald Cypress grows here along the beach.


The Chesapeake Bay begins just north of Virginia Beach, and is fed with a succession of rivers which drain thousands of miles of land from the Allegheny mountains to the coast.

The Eastern Shore, as we call it in Virginia, forms a narrow, sandy buffer between the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the beautiful Chesapeake Bay.


Osprey eagles have claimed this hunting blind in the middle of the James River.

Osprey eagles have claimed this hunting blind in the middle of the James River.

Our James River begins far to our west across the mountains, at the confluence of the Jackson and Cowpasture rivers.

It meanders across the state, accepting water brought to it from many other small rivers along the way, through Richmond, until it empties into the Atlantic just to the south of the mouth of the Bay.


A Great Blue Heron lands on the opposite shore, at the mouth of College Creek.  The Spanish landed here in 1570, and traveled northwards towards the York River, where they attempted to plant a colony.  It was attacked by the Native American nation living here at the time.

A Great Blue Heron lands on the opposite shore, at the mouth of College Creek. The Spanish landed here in 1570, and traveled northwards towards the York River, where they attempted to plant a colony.  It was attacked by the Native American nation living here at the time, and the Spanish focused their energy elsewhere.


The York River, a few miles to our north, is the southernmost Virginia river to empty into the Chesapeake Bay.

Working northwards, there is the Piankatank River, the Rappahannock River,  the Wicomoco River, and finally the Potomac River; whose bank forms Virginia’s northern boundary near the coast.

If these names sound a bit strange to your tongue, it is because they reflect the language of the Native Americans who loved this land before the English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Polish, German, and Africans came to claim it from them.

Looking across the James towards Surry County..  New contruction will begin soon on the point of land to the left.

Looking across the James towards Surry County.   New residential  construction will begin soon on the point of land to the left.

Many of my friends, when I was growing up, spent weekends and summers “at The River.”

Only they spoke it, “At The Rivah.”

Since I grew up near the James and the Dan rivers, this was always a bit of a mystery to me.

The Marina of a large neighboring community

The Marina of a large neighboring community


Years later, living along the Rappahannock,  in that secretive and enchanted part of the state known to us as, “The Northern Neck;”  I finally understood them.

Miles and miles of sandy beaches line these narrow fingers of land outstretched into the salty Bay.


Beaches just like this one line miles and miles of Virginia's rivers as they near the Chesapeake Bay.

Beaches just like this one line miles and miles of Virginia’s rivers as they near the Chesapeake Bay.


This once was the land of oysters and Blue Crabs, fishing boats, thousands of wild shore birds, camp grounds, artists’ colonies, and tiny coastal towns.

It is a slow, clannish, rural way of life lived along country roads lined with wildflowers and farms.

Life has changed, even there, as pollution washing into the Bay kills the sea life which once fueled the local economies.


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Still, it is a different world from the land of “Virginia Beach,” tucked into the southeastern most corner of Virginia.

Gateway to the Outer Banks  of North Carolina, and the miles of sandy Atlantic Ocean beaches to our south, the “resort strip” of hotel lined, manufactured beaches and beach cottage rental neighborhoods; the resort city is a place apart from the rest of the state.

It has taken on an urban feel.  Bulldozers rake the beaches each night, and dredges re-build them periodically with sand from the shipping channels.

Container ships and Naval vessels pass just offshore.


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While our Atlantic beaches are mostly dead now, with little sea life left for miles offshore; our river beaches teem with life.

Grasses and trees grow right down to the water, sinking their roots into sand, soil, and stone.

Fish jump and birds swim.

Bald eagles converse during their morning hunt.

Bald eagles converse during their morning hunt.


Eagles and herons converse during the morning hunt; while cardinals, goldfinches, and red winged blackbirds glide from tree to tree in the thickets.

Dragonflies form thick clouds over the grasslands and marshes.

Empty shells wash up on the beach, evidence that clams and other shellfish can still live here.


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The pollution washing into the James from every farm and town it touches along the way has not completely overwhelmed it yet.

This is one of the most “alive” areas along the Virginia coast now.

We never fail to find nesting eagles along the banks of the James.  They are a harbinger of the river’s health and vitality.


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While we can never restore a natural environment to its state at some arbitrary point in the past; we can preserve, and sometimes even improve, the environment as we find it.

This has happened here. 

The early colonists clear cut much of this area; overpopulated it;  polluted it;  and planted crops, such as tobacco, which depleted the soil.


Native Black Locust trees, full of seedpods, grow along the beach.

Native Black Locust trees, full of seedpods, grow along the beach.


Since this strip of land was converted to a National Park early in the 20th Century, and since Federal law limited the most harmful chemicals which destroy bird populations, there has been a resurgence of life along this stretch of the river.

Native species of trees have grown back, grasses have covered the fields, marshes have evolved into their current state of beauty.


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Deer populations are stronger now than they were in the 17th century, largely because they are unchallenged by predators and are rarely hunted.

Nature never finds itself completely in balance.  Things are always shifting.

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James City County recently approved construction of a new section of a  neighborhood which fronts this river.  It  will have its own devastating impact on the beaches and wildlife  for years to come.

But for this moment, this morning, the James River beach near us was mostly a place of beauty. 

We hope it will remain a cradle for wildlife, loved and protected, for all those generations yet to come.

Bald Eagle, resting along the river's bank this morning.

Osprey  Eagle, resting along the river’s bank this morning.

Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014


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The Colonial Parkway was a popular place for families to gather this Father’s Day weekend.

We were so happy to find Osprey Eagle families in some of the many nests we watch.

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Most of the Osprey and Bald Eagle couples have little ones in their nests now, and so stay busy feeding them.

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This couple found a few minutes to relax and enjoy the river just before sunset yesterday evening.

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Since there is always work at hand which needs attention, and hungry mouths to feed,

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One must take one’s moments of sheer peace and relaxation where one can….

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Photos by Woodland Gnome, 2014

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May Evening

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“When despair for the world grows in me,

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be —

I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water,

and the great heron feeds.

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“I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought or grief.

I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light.

For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

Wendell Berry

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We came out of the coolness of the house this evening as the clouds were gathering, sun setting, and temperatures dropping.

We first went to visit and photograph a friend’s garden, and then drove right past the road towards home heading for an evening drive along the Colonial Parkway.

Our friends' forest garden, full of Mountain Laurel and lush with trees and ivy.

Our friends’ forest garden, full of Mountain Laurel and lush with trees and ivy.

The water, marshes, wildflowers and great trees make this a soothing place.

Such a treasure of mostly undisturbed eco-system where the great birds find safe havens and abundant food for their young.

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After the first mile we spotted a Great Blue Heron wading in the marsh near where fishermen park and wander down to the bank of the creek with their coolers and poles.

No one was fishing tonight, so we pulled in , and I hiked back to where I could get a clear view of the heron through the trees .

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A peaceful and soothing evening, but you must know that the air was thick with Mayflies and heavy with the approaching rain.

Definitely not a place I wanted to linger, with flies landing on hand and camera as I searched for that angle with a clear view through the dense branches.

Flies still hovering, I slipped back into the cool safety of our car for a short ride to the parking lot

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We had already spotted two more herons on the opposite bank, and a Bald Eagle watching from a pine.

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Another hike down the path to the beach, but the breeze off the James River smelled fresh and kept the flies at a distance.

The beach was nearly deserted; the best time to find birds.

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After yesterday’s crowded lots and full beaches, we enjoyed the silence and emptiness of the park this evening.

Fellow photographers leap-frogged with us from spot to spot along the way to Jamestown Beach.

My partner has a good eye for spotting wild life, and often mentions turtles and ground hogs, rabbits and lizards- only a few of which I see.

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He spotted this next heron, and made a wide U-turn to head back to share it with me.

He simply said, “Have your camera ready.”

What a beautiful surprise when we pulled up, alone on the road, and close enough to take photos from the car’s open window!

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We watched the clouds grow heavier and closer against the water.  We could smell the coming rain.

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The geese were gathering into flocks for the night, the solitary herons looking for one more fish before their sharp eyes could no longer penetrate the shallows were they waited.

Ospreys, deep in meditation on the abundant beauty of it all, sat still as sculptures on their nests.

This early summer evening offered its gift of peacefulness, wrapped in thick, fragrant May ethers.

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The Mayflies gradually faded away; and as evening turned to shadows, we allowed ourselves another moment to contemplate the abundant beauty of it all.

“To stand at the edge of the sea,

to sense the ebb and flow of the tides,

to feel the breath of a mist moving over a great salt marsh,

To watch the flight of shore birds

that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents

for untold thousands of years,

to see the running of the old eels and the young shad to the sea,

is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal

as any Earthly life can be.”

Rachel Carson

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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May 23, 2014 Mountain Laurel 064

Here in James City County, Virginia, we live “elbow to elbow” with wildlife of all sorts.

Situated between Tidewater and the Piedmont, a lot of our land remains undeveloped as forest, marsh, or swamp.  Our older neighborhoods were built to blend in to the environment.

Only in recent years has our county government focused more on making money than on preserving the beautiful and rich environment we’ve inherited.

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We watch the clear cutting for new shopping centers and housing tracts with great sadness.

Not five miles from here, a developer is cutting new roads through the forests, destroying creeks, ravines, hillsides, and habitat in order to create a new office and retail park near a new hospital complex.

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Someone is making gazillions of dollars, but acres and acres of beautiful forest and wildlife habitat are destroyed each day as this project continues.

I can only imagine the back room negotiations which allowed this project to move forward.

James City County was known, at one time, as an area with an unusually high number of different species of birds.

Part of the path of annual migration up and down the East Coast of the United States, birds have been drawn to our area to rest and eat along the way.

Many,  like these lovely eagles,  make our community their home, too.

Just a few years ago, an out of town owner planned to develop this beautiful bit of land with several new homes squeezed in between College Creek and a major road.

The presence of eagle’s nests was one of the factors which helped stop the deal from progressing.

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We are always glad to see the eagles.  Their very presence is testament that the land and water are still clean enough to support them and their eaglets.

So long as they choose to live here, we know the environment will support us, too.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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This pair of Osprey Eagles was trying to build a nest for themselves in a tree along the Colonial Parkway when we spotted them on Saturday afternoon.

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My partner spotted the birds sitting in the tree, and pulled into a parking area across the road.  Their tree sits less than 20 feet from the roadway, in an  open area.

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When we stopped, one flew off, leaving his mate perched on a small branch.  He soon returned with a branch to lay the foundation for their nest.  As we continued to watch, he came and went several times without finding a good position in which to leave his branch.  Eventually both flew off together.

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We hope they found a better tree for nest building.  One with perhaps a little more privacy, a little further from the main road, for raising their family this summer.


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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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