600 Miles Later

The video is done! I wanted to hold off on this post until the video was finished so I could share the whole story all together. As this video hopefully shows, every day on the Appalachian Trail had its struggles and its rewards. The towns, people, and views we encountered all added to the experience. I could never capture or share all the memorable moments we had along the way but I tried to cut together a collection of scenes that give a feel for life on the trail.

Some of my favorite stills from the journey.
























The 28th annual Batteau Festival is underway as participants float, paddle and pole their way from Lynchburg to Richmond on the James River. It is something I have wanted to participate in as well as photograph but until today hadn’t been able to do either. Today, the boats hit the half-way point, marked by a festival in the town of Scottsville, where they where they will spend the night.

Creeper Trail

Writer Brent Wells and I took an overnight trip to Damascus, Va., last month for a story on the Virginia Creeper Trail, a 35-mile bike trail that follows an old railroad line. We wanted to scope out the trip that tens of thousands of riders take each summer: riding in a van to the half-way point, saddling up on rented bicycles and leisurely winding 17 miles downhill through the woods back into town. With lots of little stops and sights along the way, it is easy to spend several hours on the trip; even more if you are an easily-distracted photographer (sorry, Brent). We met lots of great people on the ride, including a local legend who has logged over 175,000 miles on the trail (photo 9) and a fun group of young families that invited us to crash their house party afterward (not pictured).

Bogotá, Armenia, Salento

Selection of photos from Colombia, during a week-long trip I recently took with my parents. Our long-distance friend, Diego Mendoza, was marrying Angelica Bonilla in Bogotá and they invited us to attend. We took the opportunity to spend a few extra days visiting Armenia and Salento, also hiking a day in the Cocora Valley. The food was wonderful, the weather cooperated when it really mattered, and the people we met were all very patient and helpful.

I took all of these with an iPhone or Canon G10, a refreshing departure from the 5-lb Nikon and bag that I haul around for work. I wanted to both test the range of those cameras as well as force myself to experiment with a different shooting style.

Old Time Railroad

The Appomattox train station hadn’t seen a passenger arrive in over 20 years until earlier this month when nearly 1,000 visitors rode the railroad into town and spent the afternoon soaking up some history. I was let on the train while they were out and about. I walked through the train of extravagant old cars, a hodgepodge of carriages from rail systems across the country.

Strange Street Scenes

I’ve had some interesting luck feature hunting lately. Fall brings out the weird, it seems. A few weeks ago I came across Bobby Jefferson making repairs to his sister-in-law’s Ford Taurus on Pierce Street in Lynchburg. It looked a lot worse than it was.

And last week I was about to give up and head back to the office when I noticed a hot air balloon descending on the Lynchburg suburbs. I chased it for about half an hour before it finally touched down in the middle of a neighborhood. The balloon pilot said he was aiming for a field about 150 yards away but in ballooning that’s about as close as you can get.

Flying Solo

Last night, while picking up a few groceries, I got a call from reporter Alicia Petska informing me that the assignment she and I would be working on today had been confirmed for 7 AM. I am not a morning person so this wasn’t exactly welcome news. However, as far as assignments go, photographing a new pilot flying solo for the first time sounded pretty neat and being outside I thought I might get lucky with some nice morning light.

The morning clouds were just breaking up as I rolled into Falwell Airport at 7:05 and saw Alicia already waiting outside the hangar. As I sat yawning in my car, Alicia kept commenting on how “buttery” and “wonderful” the light was, which was true. A few minutes later our pilot-to-be and his instructor showed up and led us inside. Chris Tugman was celebrating his 16th birthday, the first day that he would be eligible to test for his pilot certificate, and he seemed calm and focused. By testing early in the morning he was likely to be the youngest licensed pilot in the country (world?) for at least a day.

As far as I could tell, watching from the tarmac as Chris circled overhead and landed a few dozen yards away, he did everything perfectly. While he was airborne, a few members of his family showed up and were waiting to cheer for him when he stepped out of the cockpit, smiling. It was a good morning. Alicia’s article also came together very well.


Inspired by a fellow blogger who also didn’t know what to do for Mother’s Day, I am dedicating this post to the woman who has given the most of herself to enable me to be where I am today. I am not writing this as a list of all the things my mother has done that inspire me. Rather, I want to share some of the biggest lessons I have learned from her and show how they came to be.

Karla was born in the tiny farm community of Munich, North Dakota (pop. 210), and for some reason (or perhaps that very reason) she has since traveled all over the world. I don’t know where her spirit to explore comes from but I know I have inherited it. And she has only ever encouraged me to blaze my own trail. My appreciation for the world around me began with weekend camping and hiking trips. As a family, we endured mosquito swarms, downpours and sleepless nights. But, believing that there is an obtainable solution to every problem, I learned how to see through obstacles in my way over the years. Before a family trip to Australia, she learned to swim so we could all go snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef; in preparation for a trip to Colombia, she and my father learned Spanish. I couldn’t ask for a better model for trying new things. And I have seen how easy it is to make a difference in others’ lives. A couple years ago she began training as a Red Cross volunteer, to assist victims of fires and other disasters. Now, when she sounds tired on the phone in the afternoon, I know she was probably up all night working an event. The balance of fun, work, conservation, indulgence and taking everything in moderation is the lesson I will continue to practice all my life.

Despite all she has seen and done, I believe her small-town upbringing lets her enjoy life’s simple pleasures, like a sunny day or the wind in her hair.

I love you, mom!

Leaning over the edge of a whale-watching boat in Maui last year.

True/False Scenes

One of my favorite weekends of the year exceeded my expectations. Again. I have never been to another film festival so I can’t say for sure, but I have heard from many people that True/False is the best film festival experience in the world. I like to think it is not too big but not too small. There are always more things to do than I have time for but I still end up running into the same people around throughout the three-day whirlwind.

See you at #tf2013!

indiewire.com picked up some photos by me and fellow T/F-er Mo Scarpelli!