Posted by: kerryl29 | December 18, 2011

The Mountain State, Part III

(In case you missed them, Part I and Part II of this series can be accessed via the corresponding links.)

I decided to spend the morning of Friday, October 7, nosing around the Baell Trail area of the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge.  This nook is highly reminiscent of many of the ecosystems I find myself photographing in the upper Midwest.  But weather conditions had meant heavy valley fog for the previous two mornings and I was anticipating more of the same.  As I have mentioned before, fog is a positive boon for landscape photography and in a place filled with clutter like CVNWR, it can be transforming.  Scenes one would walk past without a second glance become remarkably compelling.

As the morning wore on, the fog began to burn off and I was treated to a comparatively rare opportunity to photograph “god beams” as the sunlight filtered through the remaining mist and trees.  The sublime scene was a marvel, coupled with the near-silence–broken only by the occasional bird’s call–and my images surely don’t do it justice.  It was worth experiencing regardless.

Baell Trail black & white, Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, West Virginia

Later in the day, I joined up with Jim Moore‘s weekend workshop.  I don’t attend workshops very often–I’ve only been a part of three of them in all my years photographing–but Jim knows the West Virginia Highlands as well as or better than anyone and I knew it would be worth my time.

The afternoon and early evening was spent back at Blackwater Falls State Park, which included return visits to Blackwater Falls itself as well as Elakala Falls.  Elakala Falls has multiple tiers.  (The first tier is displayed in my Elakala shot as part of the first post in this series.)  I’ve been photographing waterfalls and cascades for ages and it’s always interesting to me how different levels of water flow optimize different cataracts.  For instance, the first tier of Elakala looks best, in my opinion, when it’s roaring, as it was early in my full week in West Virginia.  But the second tier, I feel, does better with a lesser flow.  So, while I photographed that second tier early in the week, I was pleased to return to the site and have another go at it when the water level was somewhat lower, following several days lacking precipitation.  I wedged my way down to the water’s edge and noticed the swirls.  After some experimentation, I concluded that a 10-second exposure was optimum.

Elakala Falls Tier 2, Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia

A return to Bear Rocks was on the agenda for the following morning (Saturday, October 8).  My participation in the workshop paid off big time; after my flat tire experience at Dolly Sods on Thursday,  I was only too happy to let someone else drive me up there!  It was a very early morning again, but it was well worth it.  It was still pitch dark when we arrived, but the stars were visible–for the first time in my three visits during the week there would be a sunrise at Bear Rocks!  Additionally, the winds were very light; my estimate was 5 MPH.  And once civil twilight set in, I could see that the valley fog that had been in abundance all week would be present again.  Up at Bear Rocks, all of the mist was below us.  I could see that this had the potential to be a very special sunrise.  The only thing missing would be broken clouds that would light up as sunrise approached.  The sky above was clear, but the rest of the conditions were essentially ideal.

Bear Rocks Dawn, Bear Rocks Preserve, Dolly Sods Wilderness, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia

As civil twilight advanced to dawn and then to sunrise itself, the conditions changed but excellent image-making opportunities remained.

Pre-Sunrise, Bear Rocks Preserve, Dolly Sods Wilderness, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia

I found myself moving back and forth between my wide angle/normal zoom (24-70 mm) and telephoto lenses (80-400 mm).  Seemingly whenever I thought I was done with one lens or the other, I spotted something compelling that I knew required the lens I didn’t have mounted on the camera at the time to capture.

Misty Dawn, Bear Rocks Preserve, Dolly Sods Wilderness, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia

Excellent shooting conditions lasted much longer than I had originally anticipated, which provided the opportunity to capture many frames before the light was lost.

Sunrise, Bear Rocks Preserve, Dolly Sods Wilderness, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia

Even long after sunrise, overlook opportunities abounded.

Light and Fog, Bear Rocks Preserve, Dolly Sods Wilderness, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia

The late afternoon and early evening was spent back in Canaan Valley, as was the following morning (Sunday, October 9), which was to be the end of my time in the area.  I’d admired a farmstead near the CVNWR Freeland tract for a long time, but had never experienced truly outstanding conditions in which to photograph it.  That finally changed on Sunday morning.  After a decidedly ho hum sunrise in the valley–for the first time all week there was no valley fog–I noticed a few low, pink clouds in the western sky.  Never fail to look over your shoulder; that’s an old landscape photography maxim.  I raced to a position where I could shoot the farm and incorporate the clouds.  An added bonus was the string of cows making its way toward pasture in the early morning.

Freeland Farm Dawn, Tucker County, West Virginia

As I prepared for the 500-odd mile drive back to the Midwest, I stopped in western Maryland at a bucolic highway overlook.  It was mid-morning, but the light was still good enough for a parting image or two.

Countryside, Garrett County, Maryland

I hope you enjoyed the fruits of my October trip to the Mountain State of West Virginia.


  1. All these photos are amazing. Great job! BRAVO!!!

    • Thanks very much!

  2. u are somewhere near heaven aren’t you??? 😉 awesome pictures =)

    • If I correctly recall the first line of John Denver’s “Country Roads”:

      Almost heaven, West Virginia…

  3. Wow!

  4. absolutely stunning!

    • Thank you very much!

  5. Nice Job Kerry!! JWM does know the area well. As close as I am to Canaan, I do not get there enough. There is nothing quite like Appalachia.

    • Thanks Tom. Hey, Canaan Valley is a hop, skip and a jump for you. Perfect for a long weekend, for instance.

  6. Really beautiful work!!! 🙂

    • Thanks, Tim.

  7. These images are wonderful Kerry. You know I’m going to pick the B&W shot as my favorite. Sublime is an understatement. I love that second shot too, the swirls are perfect and the color is so rich. Thank you for taking us along on your journey.


    • I had a feeling the b/w might be your top choice, John.

      Thanks for the kind words.

  8. Beyond incredible, Kerry…amazing!

    • Thanks, Scott. Much appreciated.

  9. Your photos are amazing. Especially rich color variation of those fall photos is fantastic.

    My eye was struck by the third photo from the top. I was thinking that I have seen it. No, it has a heavy similarity with the third photo from the top too in my post presenting our Koli – National park.

    Have a wonderful day!

    • Thank you. I took a look at the image you referenced; I can definitely see the similarities.

  10. Just phenomenal! “Pre-Sunrise, Bear Rocks Preserve” is a marvel of color & composition and “Baell Trail, B&W” is ethereally sensitive. You have an excellent eye for framing an image. Your talent and skill open up my beautiful home state to new eyes. Please keep coming back and capturing our world!

    • Thanks, Kathy. I really appreciate the kind words. I haven’t formalized plans for photo trips in 2012, but you never know…I might make it back to WV next year.

  11. btw, we have an old joke here that West Virginia’s original settlers intended to go all the way to the West Coast. Virginia went pretty smoothly, but when they reached what would become WV, it was up one mountain and down, & then another & another. About midway through, they stopped on one mountaintop, looked out and saw the view you’ve captured and said, “Well…let’s just cut down some trees & build a cabin. It just goes on forever like this!” 🙂 “West Virginia…America’s first quitters” 😉

  12. What a wonderful display of awe-inspiring images! The colors are just stunning!

    • Thanks very much! I really appreciate your comments.

  13. Kerry, you continue to astound with these photographs! I like the term “God beams” – always trying to capture these in my own work. But the abstract layered shots are truly amazing-what a gift you have!

    • Thanks, Lynn. That means a great deal to me.

  14. Really like the piccie of the light through the trees..

    • Thanks; I’m quite pleased with that image myself.

  15. Wow amazing photography and a great writing too 🙂

    • Thanks, Jake!

  16. Really enjoy what you do with this blog. It’s like an adventure.

    • Thanks, glad to hear that you’re finding it worthwhile.

  17. wow…. These landscaping shots are amazing..
    You share my passion for photography, its an amazing hobby, I wish I had this kinda nature to shoot! Your pictures are very creative, beautiful colorings, and I love the waterfall pic, its gorgeous…

    A follow and a like from me!
    Mia from Denmark.

    • Thanks, Mia!

  18. Your first picture reminded me of this poem by Emily Dickinson (even though your photograph is from fall rather than winter):

    There’s a certain slant of light,
    On winter afternoons,
    That oppresses, like the weight
    Of cathedral tunes.

    Heavenly hurt it gives us;
    We can find no scar,
    But internal difference
    Where the meanings are.

    None may teach it anything,
    ‘Tis the seal, despair,-
    An imperial affliction
    Sent us of the air.

    When it comes, the landscape listens,
    Shadows hold their breath;
    When it goes, ‘t is like the distance
    On the look of death.

    • High praise indeed. Thanks, Steve.

  19. I’ve read through all three parts now and I’m glad that you and the weather ended up getting along nicely. You got some fantastic shots!

    • I almost always end up complaining about the weather when I’m on a photography trip. 🙂 The real key is being able to pivot and take what the conditions give you. That’s not always as easy I try to make it sound, but I do my best.

      Thanks for the comment.

  20. Mountains are so beautiful in your photographs, I love mountains. Once again fascinated me. Thank you Kerry, with my love, nia

    • Thank you, Nia. That’s very kind of you.

  21. I certainly enjoyed this series, god to hear the weather went in your favor! The mountain shots are down right dreamy with that low cloud cover. The circular swirls from Elakala really takes the cake!

    • Thanks, Wayne!

  22. Kerry… now we are talking. This is were I was. I love your take, the mist, the layers of color…really exceptional!!!!

    • Thanks, Mike. I finally chased down your WV entry on your blog. Lots of familiar locations and very nicely rendered by you.

  23. Excellent set of images Kerry, especially love the sun beams in the first shot of the trees, and the Light and Fog shot, dreamy. I’m struggling to get my head round the idea that there is a place called Dolly Sods Wilderness though! Love your blog, introducing me to lots of places that are new to me, thanks.

    • Thanks, Malcolm! Re Dolly Sods…yes, it’s an interesting name, isn’t it? The Wikipedia entry on Dolly Sods is a pretty good one–I recommend it to you, if you’re interested in learning more about the locale–and it describes the origin of the name:

      The name derives from an 18th century German homesteading family — the Dahles — and a local term for an open mountaintop meadow — a “sods.”

  24. sheer eye candy – thank you for sharing your story in images and words.
    and thank you also for visiting my blog – much appreciated 🙂

    • Thank you very much for the kind words.

  25. My humble season greeting with blessing,
    Giving me so many “Likes” from a photographer like you makes me
    extraordinarily happy…

    • Thanks very much; that’s extremely gracious of you to say.

  26. oh my! I am speechless (which is unusual!). The beauty of your shots is just astounding. I fell in love with God Beams, then the waterfall “swirls”…..and then I kept thinking: they can’t get better than this. But they did……the misty morning sunrise, etc. Oh dear, I could go on….but then you’d run out of comment space. Thank you for coming to my blog so that I got a chance to come HERE. I’ll be forever grateful…….

    • Thanks very much, Judy. I’m grateful for your extremely gracious words.

  27. I just finished admiring all 3 sets of your pictures in the Canaan Valley region of WV….excellent work!!! I love the area, but must admit a little bias.
    The red barn you captured was on the Reed farm. My father was born not very far from that barn. I don’t get back to photograph it near as much as I would like. If the link above is still intact, you can view the barn from a different perspective. Am looking forward to seeing more of your work.

    Richard Reed

    • Thanks, Richard. I took a look at your link–a very different perspective indeed. If I’m not mistaken, that’s Cabin Mountain in the background. If so, you were probably shooting more or less due north…maybe north by northeast. My shot is from below, alongside Freeland Road; I was shooting basically southeast.

      Thanks for dropping by!

  28. Hi again, Kerry, I’d like to pay special compliments on your Baell Trail B&W. It takes a special eye to be able to pick this particular beauty out of the entire palette that must have surrounded it. I probably would have increased the contrast a tad, but your treatment is very effective and quite unforgettable. Well done! And thanks for your comments on my recent frost detail photos, too.

    • Thanks very much for commenting. I ramped up the Baell Trail image contrast pretty far as it is. Any further and the highlights, beyond those of the specular variety, would have been blown.

      Yeah, the shot was a bit “hidden,” as is often the case with comparatively intimate landscapes.

      Thanks again for stopping by.

  29. Gorgeous pictures!

  30. Incredible B&W: Baell Trail black & white, Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, West Virginia!!

    • Thank you very much; I appreciate it.

  31. Kerry….great images overall…..especially the 3rd installment. Hard to believe I was actually shooting the same subject with you after reviewing your images! Enjoyed the time and your help along the way. Let me know if you plan to get back in the area in the future and I’d be glad to join you. Best, Ward

    • Hey, Ward, great to hear from you! Thanks very much for the kind words. I certainly will let you know if I’m back in your general neck of the woods.

  32. Brilliant shots as usual 😉 Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks very much.

  33. What an excellent collection from a pristine landscape. I absolutely love the tones captured in the Bear Rocks images. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks, Brandon.

  34. Wonderful job! I love this state, and you did a fantastic job showing the other 49(states) why.

  35. Wow! These images are ALL fantastic… I especially love the 2nd!

    • Thanks, Rebecca.

  36. Hi Kerry, these are some incredible shots. I was the big guy that ran into you on the road to Cabin Mtn. We talked a little bit and you gave me some advice for the next morning that I did not make in time. Now looking at your shots from up there at Dolly Sods I realize that I slept away some great shots. I wish I would have realized who you were that day and I would have introduced myself.

    • Hi Terry. I remember talking with you–late Saturday afternoon, I believe. I was with my buddy Ward at the time…and I think you may have briefly talked with Ward again the following (i.e. Sunday) morning.

      In any event, you’ve seen what you can obtain from Bear Rocks (and Dolly Sods more broadly); be sure to head back up there; if the wind isn’t blowing a gale, it never disappoints.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  37. […] Most Popular – A group of entries, actually; the three installments of my The Mountain State series:  The Mountain State Part I, The Mountain State Part II and The Mountain State Part III. […]

  38. Reblogged this on Jana Wilkins Post.

  39. this is absolutely phenomenal! Thank you so much. I’m planning my trip!!!

    • Thanks, and you’re very welcome. Have a great time!

  40. […] days, spawned only three direct posts (The Mountain State, Part I; The Mountain State, Part II and The Mountain State, Part III).  If you take a look at these entries, you’ll see that there was never an attempt made to […]

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