Every year the Batteau Festival sneaks up on me, and every year I regret not taking the week off. Right now, a number of my friends are making their way from Lynchburg to Richmond on simple, unwieldy boats known as “batteaux.” Over eight days, 15-20 of these boats navigate the James River, accompanied by dozens of kayakers and stand-up paddle boarders who camp with them along the shore each night. They endure all kinds of weather as they make their way 120 miles through Central Virginia just as the river traders did centuries ago. On Saturday night, at least, the weather was perfect. After the sun set and candle lanterns glowed in the dark, I walked out onto one batteau that was tethered to the shore and felt like I stepped back in time. There was a warm breeze and all I could hear were frogs croaking and the rush of the water. Around one lantern on a nearby boat, several people sat talking, dressed historically as the original boatmen would have, in simple, loose, light-colored cotton shirts and pants. Of course, there are plenty of modern conveniences that help now—propane cookstoves, electric bilge pumps, weather tracking apps—but there is something valuable about preserving traditions like this one. I’m already looking forward to next year.
They endure all kinds of weather as they make their way 120 miles through Central Virginia just as the river traders did centuries ago.
Each time Sara talked about the shoot she wanted to do, it got more elaborate, eventually including makeup and costumes somewhere in the woods. Then one Saturday afternoon in November, when we were both stressed out about other things and in need of a break, we decided to scrap the plans and just go shoot. We didn’t even know where we were going when we started driving.
I’ve taken a ton of portraits this last year and I try to keep experimenting with different styles. Sometimes the location inspires the feel of the shot, other times I use my own light and try to create a mood. I enjoy the challenges with each shoot and I am always left wishing I had more time or equipment at my disposal. This is a very broad set and there might be a re-post or two here.
I recently realized that I haven’t yet posted any photos from my new job at Randolph College. Like the students I photograph every day, I have learned a lot in this semester back at school. I’ve felt drawn to this school since I moved here in 2010. The spired, stately, brick buildings overlook one of the main roads through Lynchburg and they always seem to glow in the sunlight; out the back there are incredible views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Many of my first friends in Lynchburg were students or alums of Randolph. Which may not sound surprising until you consider that the school’s entire enrollment is under 700. Although I miss many things about the college life I see around me, I am very happy to be climbing my way out of the student debt hole rather than digging further in. I’ve kept busy on this 100-acre campus and enjoyed some different kinds of assignments for the school’s magazines and web sites. The title of this post is the school’s motto, which translates to “A Life More Abundant.” It is simple but really speaks to the heart of what, I think, secondary education can provide at its best (plus it makes you sound smart to use Latin words). This is a very random sample of photos from Randolph from the last year.
Today I am leaving my job at The News & Advance to hike a section of the AT with my brother, Samo. We’ve been toying with the idea for almost a year and I’m thrilled that it’s finally going to happen. My 3+ years at the paper in Lynchburg have flown by and I’ve learned more than I ever expected—about photography, about life and about myself. It’s no small decision to leave a great job, especially these days, but some opportunities only come once and I’m ready to start a new adventure.
Keys for the Hill City is a new public art installation in Lynchburg: 5 donated pianos were decorated by local high school students and placed along Main Street for anyone to use. I have played them a few times in passing and regularly see people use them on their lunch breaks or while walking around in the evenings. We are all hoping they are treated well so they come back again next year. I followed students at Brookville for a month as they worked their piano and put it together as a slideshow after it was unveiled.
I was in the next town over when I heard there was a train derailment about three blocks from my apartment. Booked it back and was able to find some vantage points as local and state police pushed everyone back and secured the site. Last I heard no one was hurt but the crude oil that spilled will be terrible for the river health. More updates tomorrow, I’m sure.