I love the billboards on either end of the valley. Regardless of the direction one is traveling on Highway 29, the signs are there to greet one and all: Welcome to this World Famous Wine Growing Region — Napa Valley. The sign goes on to quote our famous writer Robert Louis Stevenson, “And the wine is bottled poetry.” What more could one ask for in an inducement to get out of the car and have a photo taken in front of the sign? It’s like catnip to tourists with cameras.

Luckily, there is a sort of parking lot in front of each sign but I would guess each sign has been the cause of more than one fender bender.

A photo in front of the Welcome sign is better than a T-shirt that proclaims, “Been there, done that, and have this lousy T-shirt to prove it – Napa Valley.” Maybe that’s why I’ve never seen that shirt. The signs have been there for years and are a kitschy part of the friendly landscape, but are there alternatives for that memorable photo?

As I have seen the photographers and the subjects in front of the sign I am reminded of the tourists with cameras at the Eiffel Tower. If the photo includes the entire tower, the smiling subject will be the size of an ant in the photo. If the photographer gets a close-up of the subject, only a rivet of the tower will show.

Our welcome sign metaphor is not far off. The photographers who try to capture the sign and the surrounding vineyard will have a subject who looks like someone who has shrunk from too much wine. Conversely, get too close and the photo will show someone with purple teeth but no sign. So I have some different ideas regardless of the personal peril that may be involved.

Where else could we take the perfect wine country photo?

How about photos in front of the Model Bakery or Steves Hardware? The two places may not be tourist attractions but they are both a big part of the things we love here.

How about in the middle of the road in the “tree tunnel” in front of Beringer on Highway 29? It would be right out of a movie set. A more truthful photo might be in front of a construction crew on Highway 29.

How about in front of any old truck — that is one built before 1980? The old trucks, running or not, are a part of the landscape.

How about a photo standing in a dry creek bed or in front of a nearly dry vineyard reservoir? That photo would capture the current climate.

Porta-potties are the mascot for wine country. A photo of a visitor smiling in front of those bright green symbols of the region will be sure to make the scrapbook.

A photo on the tracks used by the Wine Train could be interesting. Just don’t let the train get too close. Never mind on that idea.

There is always the photo op in front of the Castle or any number of exceptional wineries with architectural interest.

Standing between the rows of grapes holding a glass of wine while wearing a cool hat and boots may be the definitive photo of Wine Country. We all have that photo in case Wine Spectator ever calls. Even then, I am not sure the spirit here can be captured in front of any one landmark. There are just too many elements that have to be included. An entire album may be required. We all know that the best photos are the ones with friends and loved ones. Maybe those shots in front of the Welcome sign aren’t so bad after all.

Rich Moran wanders around wine country looking for interesting people taking pictures of each other.

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