West Virginia Winter Wonderland

Winter wonderland in West Virginia, well not this winter for me. I have been visiting and photographing this area of the Allegheny Mountains in eastern West Virginia for over ten years in every season. Winter being a favorite time for me. The conditions are more challenging than the other three seasons, and with most photographers hibernating,  it gives me a chance to create images that are unique to this region. The snow and ice in the mountains are good each year, but some years are of course better than others. More importantly is your timing.Get there early in the season, late November to mid December on the heels of a snow storm is usually best. Make you need to go right after a snow storm while the white stuff is still clinging to the tree’s. Early in the season also allows for photography of flowing water over the many falls in the region. Wait a little later and you’ll have blocks of ice. This of course offers other countless photo ops of ice.

This past winter, with the birth of our newest addition Paisley in late November, I was pretty much out of the field for the first two months except for a ten day trip to northern Arizona.  Balancing family life and the rigors of being a full time pro is never an easy task. This winter, I opted to spend more time at home, and less in the field. When I did finally have a chance last week to make a trip into the mountains, I found some of the worst conditions I have encountered in all the years I have been traveling to this region in the winter.  A wicked wind storm conspired against me to knock all of the snow off the trees, below average freezing cold temps turned most all of the waterfalls into shapeless blocks of ice covered in snow and finally high pressure and deep overcast prevailed limiting the amount of sweet light to shoot. This is nothing new to me and any other nature photographer. Most of the time the weather and conditions never line up for the right light. This is the norm, and massive amounts of time in the field must be invested to ever come away with a great image.

Below are several of my favorite images from the mountains of West Virginia in the winter. Most were photographed in Blackwater Falls State Park, a favorite and accessible location.

Blackwater Falls

This is an image of Blackwater Falls, the namesake of the park, captured late in the afternoon from the platform at the rim of the canyon. The fresh snow from the night before provided the perfect texture for the trees. The late afternoon light painted the spruce trees in the foreground while the background fell in shade. In early December, the falls were still flowing nicely. Without the falling water the image would not been nearly as dramatic.

Winter Woods

While snowshoeing during a winter storm, I was mesmerized at how much wet snow was coating the trees. After the snow had ended, the woods were transformed into a winter wonderland. I spent about an hour at the end of the day under overcast skies shooting many telephoto compositions of the woods on the edge of an open meadow.

Elakala Falls

A favorite waterfall in any season, Elakala Falls undergoes a special special transformation in the winter. Situated in a deep side canyon, it receives very little to almost no direst light in winter causing it to freeze over very fast. I got to the falls after the first big snowstorm the area received providing powder fresh snow and flowing water. I climbed up the steep banks that border the falls using the ice icicles to create a near/far composition with deep space.

Morning Light at Blackwater Falls

A night of heavy snow transformed the mountains overnight. As dawn approached, the skies began to clear with a few clouds hanging over Blackwater Falls. I walked down the icy boardwalk towards the lower platform getting eye level with the falls. Using my telephoto lens, I isolated the top of the falls and snowy woods behind. The pink glow of sunrise light on the low clouds bounced some incredible glow light down into the woods adding the perfect touch to an already perfect situation.

I hope you enjoyed these images from the winter mountains of West Virginia. Below are a few featured workshop we are offering this spring.

Best of light,


Charleston South Carolina Spring Workshop – March 25-28, 2011 (1 space open)

Smoky Mountains Spring Workshop – April 17-21, 2011 (1 Space Open)

Rickets Glen Waterfalls One Day Workshop – May 15, 2011 (4 spots open)

West Virginia Waterfalls Weekend Workshop – May 21-22, 2011 (5 spots available)