The James River Association (JRA) and Richmond-based Outside Ventures, LLC, have embarked on a digital filming project to capture the scenery of the James River in a completely new way.For the first time, online viewers will be able to explore the entire 340-mile length of the James River through high-resolution, 360-degree panoramic images. The Tour of the James will be the first comprehensive photo documentary of an entire river and will allow viewers to travel from the headwaters of the James to its mouth at the Chesapeake Bay.Six cameras mounted on a stainless steel housing 10 feet above the water’s surface will capture panoramic photos every 30 feet from a custom-made pontoon raft floating down river. These high-resolution photos will then be stitched together to create a 360-degree augmented reality map of the river corridor.The Tour of the James was initiated as a result of Envision the James, a collaborative effort between National Geographic, the Chesapeake Conservancy and JRA. It is the hope that the Tour of the James will share the river experience with a wider audience, empowering Virginians to further explore the wild beauty of the James River.The project will include a virtual and interactive interpretation of natural, recreational and historic features in the river corridor, such as notable rapids, boat ramps and Civil War sites.“The project is going well, though slower than anticipated due to lower water in the James. In deeper sections, we can use the 2.5-horsepower gas motor, and we make really good time. But with the lack of rain throughout the watershed, we’re scraping the bottom a bunch and we can’t use that more powerful motor,” said Outside Venture’s Andy Thompson.“It’s important for a couple of different reasons,” said Thompson. “First, it’ll be the first entire river mapped in this way. Google did about 200 miles of the Colorado River. We’re doing the whole James — 340-ish miles — and we’re doing it with better cameras and higher-resolution images. Second, the finished tour will be like a base map that will allow us to create what we call “augmented reality” maps of the river. Imagine a regular 2D map with clickable waypoints (that give you more information/images/video about a given sight) but in 3D. So, for instance, you could use our tours to create a panoramic image map of bald eagle nests in the tidal James River. Or a map of historical sites, boat ramps, fishing holes, etc. The tour of the river and all the sections that we break it up into will be cool, but the really neat aspect of all this going forward will be the maps we can create with those panoramic scenes.”Follow along with the trip via Twitter (#mapJR and #EnvisionTheJames) and Instagram at @Terrain360. To see examples of Outside Ventures’ other 360-degree tours, visit www.terrain360.com.
Being in a touring band can make one pine for home.Good remedy for that? Name your band after your hometown and bring those good feelings and memories on the road with you.That’s exactly what Caroline and Whitney Miller, the sister duo behind Western North Carolina’s Maggie Valley Band, have done. The sisters took the name of their hometown for their band and, after being raised in a house full of music after dabbling with busking, have hit the road.The Maggie Valley Band recently released their debut record, The Hardest Thing, which features harmonies that only sisters can make together and noted guitarist and songwriter David Mayfield in the production booth.I recently touched based with the Miller sisters to chat about the new record, working with Mayfield, and the best things about their hometown.BRO – Let’s go opposite the record title. What’s the easiest thing about making music with your sister?CM – When it comes to the actual music, we never disagree. It’s incredible we don’t have differing opinions on whether it should be softer of more aggressive. She’s my best friend, she’s the only one I don’t have to impress or fear losing.WM – She’s always got my back on stage! We both have the same passion and same level of commitment. I never have to second guess her commitment and work ethic for the band. It really helps to have the same philosophy.BRO – I am very familiar with David Mayfield as a songwriter and a performer. How was it working with him as a producer?WM – It was absolutely amazing. He had so many great ideas, but he was always careful to make sure we got our say on it. The entire time we were recording was so much fun and such a positive experience. I don’t think there is a nicer or more humble person out there.BRO – Favorite sister band?CM – Rising Appalachia.WM – The Lewis Family comes to mind.BRO – “The Hardest Thing” is a featured track on this month’s Trail Mix. What’s the story behind the song?WM – Well, it definitely started with a relationship I hated to see go, but it’s about doing the right thing even when it’s hardest. That might be leaving a relationship, depending on the level of commitment or if it’s truly the best for someone, or retiring from a career if it’s the right time. Sometimes, doing the right thing has no immediate pay off until so much later and it’s hard to see.BRO – I love it when a band pays homage to its hometown in the band’s name. If I end up in Maggie Valley, where is my can’t miss/have to visit spot?CM – Thanks so much. We wanted to give back to the valley that raised us. We’ve lost a lot in the valley in the last couple of years, but for me it would be Raymond Fairchild’s Maggie Valley Opry. Where else can you pay $5 and see a national banjo champion four times a week?WM – Yes, and I would add The Stompin’ Ground to join in on the clogging tradition. It opened in 1982 and has held square dances about every weekend since.Caroline and Whitney have a pretty quiet tour schedule for the rest of February, but they will be all over North Carolina come March. For more information on the band, the new record, or when they will hit a stage near you, please check out the band’s website.Be sure to check out “The Hardest Thing,” along with tunes from Caleb Caudle, Morgan Wade & The Stepbrothers, The Oh Hellos, and many more on this month’s Trail Mix.
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