End of the (VA Wine) Trail

Mountainrose Vineyards, Wise VA

A vineyard echoes the brilliant autumn colors of surrounding woods at Mountainrose Vineyards in Wise VA (HDR Image).
Autumn Vineyard (HDR)

A couple days ago Nancy and I finally made it to the far “end” of our “150 wineries” tour. Mid-way through the “Nine Days of Virginia Wine” ramble, we finally got to the winery that is in the most remote corner of Virginia from our Northern Virginia base. Mountainrose Vineyards is located in Wise, Virginia, near the southwesternmost corner of the state. We arrived at Mountainrose in late morning after a beautiful, scenic ascent through gorgeous farmland and glorious fall foliage. As usual, there was no time to stop on the way up to Mountainrose; we had a schedule to keep! (And also, I was enjoying driving my manual-transmission Audi along windy country roads. Stopping would have meant first slowing down ….)

I was captivated by the scene as soon as we pulled up. As usual, Nancy sat in the car to make notes then bolted for the warm and homey tasting room. I was out of the car immediately — Out in the field to capture that magical scene. Up in the hill country, it was well into fall. The trees were already at their peak and the fresh mountain wind was beginning to denude the colorful woods. It was mostly overcast up in the hill country that day; for much of the day we had a glowering, dramatic sky (threatening, but never actually raining on us) — but every once in a while the fresh wind would rip away the cloud cover to briefly reveal a brilliant blue sky.

I kept my eye on the light outside throughout our tasting. Periodically I would nonchalantly wander over to the door … then bolt out to make another attempt at capturing that vineyard scene in one of the sunlit moments. Nancy would be chatting with tasting room attendant Opie, then realize I was off again. I suppose it was probably a bit disruptive to Opie and Nancy.

Finally, I think I got the shot. The extreme dynamic lighting of the scene made this another perfect situation for HDR, so I was shooting nine-shot bracketed bursts. Timing was critical; since I was planning to combine multiple exposures, I needed to capture the scene at a time when the wind had parted the cloud cover, but at the same time pick a relatively still moment to minimize movement of the leaves and trees. Believe it or not, the above image is not retouched in any way; it is processed using Photomatix Pro’s HDR processing, but nothing was retouched in post-processing. This may be one of those very rare occasions when the photo viewed later actually reveals more color and drama than the mind remembers.

(Nikon D700 with Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom, ISO 200, f/7.1. HDR from a series of bracketed shutter speeds to capture a range from -4 to +4 EV.)