Author Archives: Joe Benning

About Joe Benning

Author, photographer, musician and entrepreneur...

The Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens is an immense collection of botanical gardens in Kennet Square, PA. It is largely the creation of Pierre DuPont who originally bought the 1,077 acres to preserve the trees growing there. Located in the Brandywine Creek Valley, it is one of the premier display gardens open to the public year-round. 

Pierre DuPont, who was 36 years old when he bought the property, did not originally intend the create Longwood Gardens. Within a few years though,  he transformed it from a country farm into a leading horticultural display gardens. It was opened to the public in 1921. The Gardens have attracted over 1 million visitors a year since 2012. 

We recently visited the Gardens and took a few photos; some are shown below. 

A water show wiith some fountains at Longwood Garens
Photo taken on the grounds of LOngwood Gardens at dusk as the lights came on.
A Wooden Bridge
Colorful path in Longwood Gardens
Lake with Pop-up Luminaries
Fountain Display at Longwood Gardens


Asheville, North Carolina

The New York Times describes Asheville as a big blue dot amid a sea of red voters in western North Carolina. And it is that. It is also a tourist mecca and home to the Biltmore Estate. Built by George Washington Vanderbilt between 1889 and 1895 it is, according to Wikipedia, the largest privately owned house in the United States and a prominent example of a Gilded Age mansion. 

Originally built as a summer home, today with its 250 rooms and 130,000 square feet of living space, it serves as a museum. Vanderbilt commissioned the  architect Richard Morris Hunt to design the house, and Frederick Law Olmsted to design the grounds. Olmsted is famous for his design of Central Park in New York. He also designed Divine Park in Spring Lake, NJ. 

We visited the Biltmore and spent a few days looking around Asheville just recently. A few shots from the trip are below. 

Wide angle photo looking out over the city of Asheville, NC, as the sun begins to set behind the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Asheville, NC, USA — December 4, 2021. A 200mm telephoto image taken in Asheville, NC, looking down from a rooftop.
Asheville, NC, USA — December 4, 2021. A photo looking down onto a rooftop cocktail bar and dining area in the afternoon.
Asheville, NC, USA — December 6, 2021. A photo pf the billiards room decorated for Christmas in the Biltmore mansion.
Asheville, NC, USA — December 6, 2021. Photo of patrons viewing an immersive multi-media exhibit on Van Gogh’s life and art on display at the Biltmore estate.
Asheville, NC, USA — December 6, 2021. Photo of a mock-up of Van Gogh’s living quarters in the south of France.


Newport, Rhode Island

In October it was off to Newport, Rhode Island for a family wedding. (Congrats, Steve and Madison).

Newport is a gorgeous town—picturesque, very much a New England vibe, and with a lot of history. We got a chance to do some sightseeing amid all the festivities that included the famous cliff walk. 

If you get a chance to visit—go. Here below are a couple of shots from our time there. 

Sunset in Newport
Newport, Rhode Island, USA — October 23, 2021. A wide angle early morning photo of Bowens Wharf in Newport.
Newport, Rhode Island, USA — October 10, 2021. A woman walks on the beach in Newport, Rhode Island near the famous cliff walk.
Newport, Rhode Island, USA — October 21, 2021. Newport Marina
A long distance shot of a sea gull standing in shallow water while waves in the background begin to come ashore.


Fall Comes to Reston

Fall has finally arrived. This fall the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival returned to Reston Town Center. Sponsored by the Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art, the festival provides a forum for artists to display their work and offer pieces for sale. This year’s festival was rescheduled from May of 2021 to September 9 though 12 of 2021. All in all a welcome development after last year’s festival was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A few shots taken at the festival are below. Also include is a photo of looking over Reston West and the changing colors of Autumn.

A landscape photo looks out over the lush scenery of Reston Virginia to the Blue Ridge Mountains as the seasons change; a plane in the sky is from Dul
Reston, VA, USA -- Sept 10, 2021. A woman walks by booths set up for the annual Northern Virginia Art Festival in Reston, VA.
Reston, VA, USA — Sept 10, 2021. A woman walks by booths set up for the annual Northern Virginia Art Festival in Reston, VA.
Reston, VA, USA -- Sept 10, 2021. People browse art exhibits at the Fine Arts Festival in Reston, Virginia.
Reston, VA, USA — Sept 10, 2021. People browse art exhibits at the Fine Arts Festival in Reston, Virginia.

Note: All photos protected by copyright.


More on the Outer Banks

There is a lot more to see and do on the Outer Banks in North Carolina than just hang out at the beach–which truth be told is pretty enjoyable by itself. There are plenty of other things to see. Among them are the lighthouses at Bodie Island and Cape Hatteras, the Jockey Ridge Sand Dunes, Corolla Park, the town of Mateo and the Roanoke Island Lighthouse. And not too far away is the Kitty Hawk Museum that celebrates the first flights of the Wright brothers. We visited them all. Some photos are below, available for licensing at

Corolla Park, NC, USA — August 17, 2021. A curvy path leads to the historic Whalehead Mansion
A wide angle photo of the desert like Jockey Ridge sand dunes in the Outer Banks of North Carolina
Manteo, NC, USA — August 15, 2021. Wide angle photo of a boat steering past the Roanoke Marshes in stormy weather.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
Nags Head, NC, USA — August 9, 2021. A horizontal landscape photo of 2 park rangers standing at the entrance to Bodie Light Station Keepers Quarters.
Nags Head, NC, USA — August 9, 2021. Photo of the Bodie Island Lighthouse on a summer morning.
Kitty Hawk, NC, USA — July 27, 2021. Tourists walk toward the Kitty Hawk Museum.

Duck, North Carolina

Summertime and the living is easy. Especially in Duck, NC, where we will be for the rest of July and most of August. The place is hopping. Vacation season is here and it looks like people are making up for the horrible 2020. 

The setting is gorgeous; the weather is terrific and there are plenty of excellent restaurants. But to get in, it’s best tp make a reservation well in advance. 

We arrived late Friday afternoon and have already gone to some fine restaurants and to the beach. Here are some sunrise photos, beach photos and night photos, with more to come as the month progresses. 


At the Beach, Duck, NC
Woman Walking on Beach at Sunrise
Cocktails in Early Evening
Boardwalk at Night
Moon Rises Over Duck, NC

Off to New Jersey for a Wedding

We recently traveled back up to New Jersey to attend the wedding of our nephew Kevin McDonald to Becca Lipke. The wedding had actually been scheduled for 2020, but due to the Covid pandemic, it was postponed for a year. With things finally opening up, the wedding went forward. 

The ceremony took place at Hudson House on Port Liberte. It overlooks the Hudson River, with spectacular views Manhattan’s downtown skyline, including Freedom Tower and the Statue of Liberty. 

While we were in Jersey City we took a walk through the Newport section and then the Hoboken train station. Here (below) are some photos from Jersey City and the train station. 


A photo of the downtown New York City skyline as seen from Jersey City on a summer morning.
A wide angle photo of buildings on the Jersey City waterfront.
A wide angle photo of a walking path along the Hudson River in the Newport section of Jersey City.
Hoboken, NJ, USA — June 19, 2021. A red headed woman walks in a streak of light in the Hoboken train station in New Jersey.
Hoboken, NJ, USA — June 19, 2021. Commuters walk through the inside of the Hoboken train station in NJ.
Washington Blvd, Jersey City, USA — June 19, 2021. A wide angle photo of outdoor dining spots along Washington Blvd in Jersey City, NJ.

Spring is Here

In a few short weeks spring emerged in Northern Virginia. Grey is out; green is in. One of the great advantages of Northern Virginia is its great variety of parks and gardens managed by the Fairfax County Parks Authority. From Meadowlark Botanical Gardens to the wetlands in Huntley Meadows Park to the children’s exhibits in Frying Pan Farm Park, there is a lot to see. 

And the parks are a great place to take photos. So here below are a few recent ones from Huntley Meadows. More from other locations will be arriving in the coming weeks and months. 


Alexandria, VA, USA — April 8, 2021. P vertical photo of a jogger running on a trail in Huntley Meadows Park.
A landscape photo taken with a zoom lens of wetlands in Huntley Meadow Park in Alexandria, VA.
Alexandria, VA, USA — April 8, 2021. A photo of phtographers working thoer craft in Huntley Meadows Park.
Landscape photo of a goose looking out over a section of the wetlands in Huntley Meadows Park.

Photos from the Past Year

The year 2020 is just about gone;  a year defined by politics and a pandemic. It is a year that I expect few people will remember fondly. 

At the outset of the year most eyes were fixed on the Democratic presidential primary, not to mention the impeachment and Senate trial of President Trump. Who remembers that now? It seems so long ago. But it wasn’t. 

By March the year had morphed into one in which the focus became the Coronavirus, taking countermeasures,  and a frantic search for a vaccine. Mercifully the drug companies were successful in finding several vaccines, and in record time. 

But not before American life turned upside down. Governors began issuing orders, often unilaterally, requiring citizens to wear protective masks, restricting travel and closing all but essential businesses. Essential businesses included state liquor stores and lottery sales. In parts of the country, churches and religious services didn’t count as essential, at least until the courts stepped in. 

The travel and hospitality businesses took a giant hit. Plenty of small businesses will never re-open. Big cities took a big hit. Manhattan is like a ghost town; some estimates put office space occupancy at around 12%. People who can work with a laptop and an internet connection are doing so from home. City real estate prices are plummeting; the suburbs are soaring as people look for more space and home offices. 

We lost a dear friend in May when Ron Thau passed away after a long illness. 

But there is some good news amongst all the doom and gloom.

Amid all the chaos and conflict, the November elections came and went, accompanied by long lines and mail-in ballots. There was a huge turnout; the largest in percentage terms since 1900 when William McKinley thrashed William Jennings Bryan. In that race McKinley won a second term in a rematch against Bryan. Unlike today, Bryan (the loser) accepted the result. 

Vaccinations of front line medical personnel began in December. More slowly than hoped for, but the process is now underway. 

Most important, two family members (our nephew Tom Benning and our  niece Shannon McDonald) announced engagements at Christmas time. 

I have included some photos below from 2020 that reflect some of the tumult of the year. Here’s to a brighter 2021. 

Pre-pandemic Politics Photos

Washington DC, USA — January 24, 2020. A Park Police Officer directs traffic at the annual March for Life in Washington, DC.
Leesburg, VA, USA. Residents attend a crowded town hall meeting in Leesburg Virginia.
February 3, 2020. Man with a protest sign in the District during Trump impeachment.
Leesburg, VA, USA — January 25, 2020. A concerned citizen addresses a Leesburg Virginia Town Hall on the subject of gun control.

The Pandemic, Isolation and Social Distancing

Reston, VA, USA — April 25, 2020. A man wearing a face mask carries his take-out dinner in a bag; others wait for their orders to be fulfilled.
Reston, VA. USA — November 3, 2020. Photo of a man sitting quietly in Reston Town Center Park while bathed in soft afternoon light.
Reston, VA, USA — Nov 3, 2020. A wide angle photo of a woman taking a walk in Reston Town Center Park on an Autumn afternoon.
Reston, VA, USA –June 3, 2020. A wide angle landscape photo taken in Reston Town Center where stores and restaurants are beginning to re-open from lockdown.
Reston, VA, USA — November 29, 2020. Photo of a young woman in a park minding 2 cups of coffee while waiting for a friend.
Reston, VA, USA — September 2, 2020. Wide angle photo of a nearly empty park in Reston Town Center

Long Lines at Voting Places

Fairfax, VA, USA — Long lines await early voters in Fairfax Virginia.
Reston, VA, USA — October 27, 2020. Voters line up to vote early in Reston, VA