Posted by: kerryl29 | September 4, 2019

The Story Behind the Image: Perseverance

The first time I visited Bear Rocks Preserve in the Dolly Sods Wilderness (Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia) it was blowing a gale.  I was on a brief (weekend) photo tour of the Canaan Valley area and on the first morning of the program we drove up to Dolly Sods in the pitch dark; the goal was to photograph sunrise.  To say that there were incumbent problems would be an understatement:  in addition to the pitch darkness, the unfamiliarity with the area and the howling wind (it was gusting above 40 MPH; the camera of one participant broke when his tripod toppled over), it appeared that there would be no sunrise at all, as fog swirled all around us.

With the aid of my trusty flashlight, I wandered off in the dark by myself, found a (relatively) sheltered spot and set up low to the ground, partly with the hope of avoiding the calamity that beset one of my colleagues.  Ultimately, enough of a crack appeared at the horizon, which produced a semblance of a sunrise and somehow I was able to produce an image that froze the dancing conifers you see in the frame below.

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

Success?  Meh.  Despite having turned into a popsicle (it was cold up there that morning, even without wind), when enough ambient light was available for me to look around, I could see that the location was loaded with potential.  I just needed better conditions.  Unfortunately, I was told that what we’d experienced that morning was pretty typical; Bear Rocks was frequently foggy and almost always windy at daybreak.

The conditions throughout that weekend were pretty bad, but the entire Canaan Valley area was plainly brimming with opportunities, so I made plans to come back the following year, for a week, on my own.  While there were many things I wanted to photograph, Bear Rocks at sunrise was atop the list.

When I returned the following autumn, the first time I made the long drive up to the preserve over the miserable forest service access road I was greeted with fog, drizzle and winds as bad as I had experienced the previous year; there was no sunrise visible from Dolly Sods at all.

The second attempt produced, shockingly, nearly windless conditions but plenty of fog.  It made for an interesting morning’s shoot, but the views from Bear Rocks were non-existent.  And upon returning to my vehicle when I was done I had a flat tire to deal with, which presented its own set of issues.

Despite the problems with the tire, I subsequently made one more trip up to Bear Rocks and was finally presented with windless conditions, and the only fog present was the ambiance inducing remnants in the valleys below the Bear Rocks overlook.  The morning was spent producing images epitomized by the one you see below.

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

The moral of the story?  Sometimes persistence pays off.


  1. And persistence DID pay off, great job!

    • Thanks very much!

  2. It’s great when you finally get the payoff. That valley looks amazing.

  3. Beautiful pictures!

  4. Gorgeous!

    • Thanks very much!

  5. Beautiful work👍👍

  6. Beautiful Sunrise with great details!

    • Thanks very much!

  7. Thanks great work

  8. Amazing pictures. I really appreciate it

  9. Made the trip yesterday for the first time. I’ve been wanting to do it for a while. The conditions were good. I will be back.

    • Good! When the conditions are right, Bear Rocks is phenomenal.

  10. […] couple of years ago I posted a Story Behind the Image entry entitled “Perseverance.”  Upon reflection, it really wasn’t the best illustration of the theme that I could […]

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