Cloud Whisperer

Backroads cemetery is the right place at the right time for clouds

The clouds would not relent. They insisted I drive home the longest way necessary to feature them in a photograph yesterday afternoon, with or without the competing fall colors, as long as they got feature focus. And of course, I was guiding them into place as much as they were demanding I stop at that place and take some glamor shots.

The finest specimens were south, as I headed north towards home. So I had no choice but to follow where the sky lead me. And in so doing, as fate would have it, on a road I’ve taken a few times, I discovered an old cemetery I’d never noticed in those passings.

Almost all of the gravestones were old. The most distant birth date I could make out on the weathered stones was in the late 1700s. Many markers consisted simply of upturned rocks–probably marking the graves of slaves. None were massive and pretentious. Some–like the one in the foreground here–were wonderfully overtaken by lichen. This one, one of the largest grave stones, was festooned in a halloween-orange covering, which drew my eye.

Why, then, have I chosen instead to render this in black and white? Click image for larger view.

The colors were super-saturated–a true Kodachrome afternoon. But the color threatens to overwhelm the message of the image.  They are both pleasant. But I’m moving more and more to monochrome these days.

I’ll have a few more cemetery shots in the coming week, and from farther along my afternoon detour, some landscapes where the polarizing filter really did a number on a sky already a deep cerulean blue.

So I hope, wherever these particular low, fast-moving specimens have gone, that they approve of their portrait here, and I appreciate them complying with my requests to float perfectly positioned in this composition. It’s a mutualistic relationship I enjoy as a cloud whisperer.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I really like the photo…….. especially since I really like photos of old cemeteries………….. I think black and white works really great for this photo……. splendid composition.

    More photos of cemeteries……….