Saturday, June 14, 2014

Almost Heaven - Blackwater Falls, West Virginia

There's an interesting misperception about scenic photography that someone these great shot opportunities somehow mysteriously happen and occasionally it's true that you'll wind up in the right place at the right time with the right camera and lens combination at your disposal.  Most of the time, though, the better places require planning, a healthy dose of logistics and being there when the light is right (and sometimes that light may only exist for a matter of seconds).
Blackwater Falls, Fujifilm X-E2, 18-55mm, circular polarizer

One of those places where some grueling logistics pays off is Blackwater Falls located in the West Virginia state park of the same name which is about a four hour drive from Washington, D.C.
If you arrive right at sunrise you will walk down a total of 214 steps (mercifully they are in manageable segments) to a boardwalk with an upper and lower viewpoint.  You may have a half hour or so to work with unless you luck out with an overcast day but even with limited time you are not likely to have an unproductive day.
Navigating those steps can work up an appetite.  A "bonus" to photographing here is that there is a nice state park lodge with a restaurant that features a good reasonably-priced breakfast buffet.
The best times to shoot here are in the spring and fall.  You might not think of West Virginia as a fall color hotspot but it rivals northern Wisconsin and Michigan as well as New England.  Canaan Valley State Park is a stone's throw from Blackwater Falls with great fall color potential -- and another nice lodge with a breakfast buffet!
There aren't a lot of nature photography opportunities closer to Washington, D.C. but Great Falls of the Potomac National Park near McLean, Virginia is a worthwhile stop at sunrise and sunset.  Come at any other time of the day and be prepared for harsh light (unless the skies are overcast) and large crowds.  Some of my best shots here come well after sunset.
Great Falls of the Potomac, Fujifilm X-E2, 18-55mm

Although this can be shot wide a telephoto lens will allow more experimentation and cropping.  The Great Falls Tavern is a good place for dinner after sunset. 

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