Sherry Friel
Sherry Friel
A Natural Photographer
Sherry Friel graduated from Old Dominion University with a Master of Arts in English and has since spent time as a community news reporter and photographer, a seventh grade English teacher, and most recently worked in healthcare writing and marketing. She continues to work part-time on healthcare-related projects, but her greater efforts today are dedicated to her family and the volunteer work she does in her son’s elementary school library. Sherry is a Hampton Roads native and has lived in Virginia Beach for 17 of those years. She fell in love with Virginia Beach while she was an intern in the city’s public information office, where she worked on a variety of projects that gave her an intimate view of the city’s natural beauty. Sherry enjoys walking the neighborhoods, trails and parks of Virginia Beach along with her husband and eight-year-old son, and capturing points of beauty along the way. Sherry truly “lives the beach life” through her love of nature photography. She and her son share that passion and together have photographed everything from the glorious Spanish moss at First Landing State Park to breathtaking sunsets at Great Neck Park and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Author Entries

The Beach Report – April 11, 2014

Friday, April 11th, 2014 by Sherry Friel

cherry blossom 2Editor’s Note:

Blogger Sherry Friel shares a post celebrating this gorgeous time of year in this week’s Beach Report.  Her amazing photography is always an added treat – enjoy!!

Virginia Beach: Where a glorious wildness grows unchecked and celebrated!

For years I’ve tried to control myself at springtime. My husband, a former roommate, and family are very well acquainted with my flower addiction and have ceased asking me to temper it. Oh no. They know better than to suggest I pare down my floral fantasy fulfillment because honestly, it’d be a wasted effort. Best to let wild things grow unchecked.

And besides, from what I learned this past winter while researching ancestors, my obsession with flora and fauna is entirely in keeping with the natural evolution of my family tree. From as many generations back as I could find, most of my people dedicated their lives to nurturing growth of all kinds. They grew everything from tobacco to vegetables and cotton. But their joy, their passion, was evoked by the miraculous beauty of flowers.

Magnolia MagnificenceHow do I know this? Well, my research came to a complete halt when I came upon my great grandmother’s name. It was Minnie Magnolia. That’s correct, Magnolia. It was as if every question I ever had about myself had been confirmed. Of course I would have a family member with the name Magnolia. But wait, the story gets even better. My Dad shared with me recently that this same great-grandmother had turned her entire front yard into a blooming floral masterpiece. We’re not talking about tight, neat flowerbeds and borders flanking the front porch and yard edges. The flowers practically overflowed beyond the edges, making the yard a stopping point and destination for neighborhood walkers.

Oh goodness, this explains so much. So much. Without even knowing the story of Minnie Magnolia’s Magnificent Flower Garden, I had been carrying forth her divine mission everywhere I’ve lived. Sure, I’ve caught some flack for my extravagant floral leanings-a former roommate once asked if someone had died when she arrived home from work greeted by one of my over-the-top floral displays. Obviously, she had no respect for my mission! And my dear patient husband has all but given up rhetorically asking me each season, “More flowers?” Yes, husband dear. More flowers. You can’t stop this train so don’t even bother! And as if I needed to relay further evidence of this kinship I feel with a grandmother I never knew, there is that photo album of hundreds, yes hundreds of macro magnolia portraits I have taken over the years. I hesitate to even share that one of my favorite movie soundtracks of all time is straight from – you guessed it – the movie “Magnolia.”

So, in honor of Minnie Magnolia, whose spirit I instinctively knew without even realizing it, I will go forth this Spring and partake in all that honors our special kinship. In particular, the destinations I plan to visit include the Hampton Roads Agriculture Research Center, which is home to some of the most gorgeous magnolia trees I have ever laid eyes on. Additionally, I want to stroll through the cherry blossoms at Redwing Park and bask in the glorious sights, sounds and smells of this magnificent season. Will you join me?

Photo credits: Sherry Friel

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Brilliant Virginia Beach. Just Zipping Brilliant!

Friday, April 4th, 2014 by Sherry Friel

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…-John Lennon, from Imagine

Adventure Park 3

Courtesy of The Adventure Park

From the time my 10-year-old son Nathaniel was a kindergartener in Virginia Beach Schools, his teachers discovered early on that he is a bit of a dreamer. “You know,” they’d tell me, “he has a tendency to daydream.” And then I would inwardly cringe, nod that I understood­-oh boy did I understand-and assure them Skip and I would discuss the importance of focus while he is in school. But he truly was focusing-just not on the alphabet or his handwriting. He was scheming and dreaming of ziplines, tree houses and inventions in a way that excited his mind and spurred him into real action.

Case in point: At the age of 5, Nathaniel wanted to know why he could not have cable TV in his room. I brushed the request off, saying he was too young and we did not want to run a TV cable to his room. Completely dismissing me, he proceeded to analyze the cable hookups on my other TVs. In a matter of minutes, while I was shifting laundry from washer to dryer, he had assembled every spare coaxial cable he could find to run a line from the kitchen outlet to the one in his upstairs bedroom. What I am getting at here is this kid does not seem to see any barriers to his goals. His mission is always to figure out how to actualize his dreams. When he decides to tell me his plans, he’s not asking permission or if it can be done. In his mind, it’s just a matter of conversation at that point. He’s already figured out the “how.” As much as I admire this quality in him, and fully see its potential as he matures, there are times when his schemes have been the source of many heart palpitations over the years. (more…)

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Seasonal Variety Provides Inspiration for Virginia Beach Photographers

Monday, February 17th, 2014 by Sherry Friel

nathaniel snow boardThis past winter, I found myself so immersed seasonal holiday activities, my camera stayed in its bag for what seemed like months. By the time February hit, I couldn’t escape that perpetual feeling that something was missing. And then it occurred to me the role photography plays in my life: It is my source of balance. I am happiest with my camera in hand, and my eyes scouting around for beauty. Flowers and nature have always been the most compelling sources of inspiration for me, and this season, for one reason or another, I let that inspiration fall into dormancy. But not for long! I soon found myself fascinated with the ice and snow that visited Virginia Beach recently.

snow branckWhat struck me the second day of being snowed in was the gorgeous way the white snow crystals traced the fragmented beauty of tree branches. Now, I love trees even in the winter because without leaves one can truly see the skeletal, miracle network of branches and nature’s symmetry at work. The snow, like the leaves, highlights the complexities of nature’s art in a way that is truly mesmerizing. So I took hundreds of photographs at every angle. When I uploaded these images into my computer, it was delight all over again after seeing how the browns and whites contrasted against the unbelievably blueness of the sky. Wow!

Another source of photographic inspiration was the way my son and his friend tackled the snow projects of their dreams with persistence and true teamwork. From snowmen to igloos to snowball fights, they managed to achieve it all while racing against the knowledge that the snow would melt soon. They wasted not one minute and I enjoyed documenting every aspect of their precious, albeit short-lived snow days.


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Visitor or Local, Don’t Miss The Sandler Center’s Free ‘Out of the Box’ Performance Series Every Thursday

Thursday, January 16th, 2014 by Sherry Friel

fac_performancehallLast year about this time my family and I visited Washington D.C. We made some pretty enduring memories but one that continues to shine brightly is the time we spent watching the free weekly shows at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage. I remember thinking how cool it would be if we could do this back home at our own Sandler Center for the Performing Arts (SCPA) in Virginia Beach.  But then I quickly realized that of course we can! We had already seen the delightful “Lollipop Concert for Children” put on by Symphonicity several times and participated in many events at this extraordinary venue in the heart of Town Center.

Photo credit: Sherry Friel

Photo credit: Sherry Friel

We are especially excited about the ongoing emerging artist series, Out of the Box, at the SCPA. From 6-8 p.m. each Thursday, the series will feature live music from the region’s best acts. This special event, in collaboration with Paul Shugrue of Out of the Box on 89.5 WHRV, is free and open to the public. The Thursday performances began Jan. 9 and will continue through Feb. 27.

Out of the Box Performance Schedule Beginning Jan. 16:

Jan. 16 – JoAnna Lynne & Chidori

Jan. 23 – Logan Vath

Jan. 30 – Gina Dalmas & the CowTippin’ Playboys

Feb. 6 – Nate Sacks

Feb. 13 – Bimini Rd.

Feb. 20 – Skip Friel

Feb. 27 – Seth Stainback & Roosterfoot

If you haven’t visited SCPA yet, then you are in for a real treat. The city’s newest facility for performance arts was dedicated in 2007 and, according to its web site, is not only heralded as one of the region’s most stunning structures, but also among the nation’s most acoustically sound venues for the arts. I can attest to both and look forward to attending this much-anticipated series.

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The Beach Report – December 27, 2013

Friday, December 27th, 2013 by Sherry Friel

Editor’s Note:

Blogger Sherry Friel’s last post of 2013 is a beautiful way to close out the year.  The Shorelines blogging team hopes you’ve enjoyed following us as much as we’ve enjoyed writing for you. We eagerly look forward to more sharing from a local’s perspective in 2014.  Happy New Year!

Season of light, hope and faith sustains me

Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

~George Bernard Shaw

sunsetWith the holiday season upon us, I find myself contemplating the beauty of light. It is, after all, among the most powerful faith symbols throughout a multitude of religious traditions. Being raised in the Christian faith, I have long associated this season of cold winter darkness with an evening long ago when a most powerful light appeared as a guide to three wise men in Bethlehem. On that chilly December night, the winter months were transformed into a season of light, hope, and unwavering faith that at the core of humanity burns a flame that cannot be extinguished.

Whenever I see flickering lights and candles illuminating this magical season, my spirits are warmed and a calm peace settles within me. Evidence of humankind’s formidable spirit seems to be everywhere, from piles of neatly-wrapped presents beneath Angel Trees to generous donations at food pantries and charities. People seem eager to give just a little, in hopes it will make a difference in the lives of others less fortunate. And it does. As Helen Keller noted, “I am one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” Such generosity in action reminds me to never lose my fervor, hope, and faith in the good people surrounding me.

As 2013 comes to a close, I hope to take one last walk down the Virginia Beach shoreline and watch the Holiday Lights at the Beach beam against the inky night sky for a final show. I want to feel the shorebreak lapping against my feet over and over in perfect rhythm, while I try to remember that living life, really living it means allowing each new year to arrive as fresh and excited as a thunderous wave crashing homeward. I want to look back at the previous year with appreciation and reverence for its goodness while at the same time igniting a deeper desire to do better moving forward. Will you join me?

Photo credit:  Sherry Friel

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The Beach Report – December 13, 2013

Friday, December 13th, 2013 by Sherry Friel

This week, blogger Sherry Friel shares about a local tradition that is fun for the whole family. You may enjoy it so much, you make it a holiday tradition for YOUR family.

fireplace fun

The Friel Family Yule Lighting!

One of my fondest holiday memories took place when my son Nathaniel was just 7 years old. Fascinated with building a real fire and living life the old-fashioned way, he convinced me to let him pull his favorite Radio Flyer wagon through the trees adjacent to Great Neck Park so he could collect kindling. After donning work gloves, hat, and scarf, he worked diligently gathering an assortment of large sticks and fallen branches. He made several trips back and forth to the SUV with that wagon, resulting in enough fresh wood for several nights around the fireplace roasting marshmallows and singing carols.

I am so grateful for that old fireplace and my son’s early introduction to the timeless tradition of building and gathering around a fire. Our new home has a fireplace, but it’s gas-powered with artificial logs. These days, just one dial turn to the left creates the glowing ambiance and warmth of a living room fire. The convenience is great, but it’s just not the same.

AT House

Photo courtesy of City of Virginia Beach

Recently I learned about the Adam Thoroughgood House’s annual Yule Log Lighting and I knew immediately it would be the perfect new tradition for our family. It takes place Sunday, Dec. 15, from 3 to 5 p.m. The lighting procession will begin at 4:15 p.m. and the Yule Log will be brought forth amidst toasts and merry wishes.

Prior to the lighting ceremony, visitors will have a chance to participate in Border Morris dancing with the Drunken Weasels. Refreshments will be provided by the Friends of the Historic Houses, and visitors will have the opportunity to learn the interesting history of the “marsh mallow” while roasting the modern confection over a fire. Tours of the Adam Thoroughgood House will be offered between 3 and 4:15 p.m.


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What would Thoreau say? If he were in Virginia Beach, he’d say ‘Live the Life’ of course!

Thursday, November 21st, 2013 by Sherry Friel

Kids & dogs at ParkOne of the things I enjoy most about breaking routine is the myriad ways it inspires me to awaken to new, healthier thought patterns and ideas. Sometimes a routine buster is just a matter of taking a different path on my usual neighborhood walk, and other times, it’s heeding the call of a walk through the woods with friends.

Sunday was one of those days. With blue skies rich with vibrant possibility, my usual routine of grocery shopping, laundry and dinner planning made absolutely no sense. Thank goodness I ended up hiking the trails of First Landing State Park with friends Beth and Jon, their daughters Sarah and Sophia, my son Nathaniel, and our dogs, Apollo and Romeo. My morning started with a simple request from Beth via email. She wrote, “I want to go to the woods and I want to take our cameras.” So that is exactly what we did.


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