Coopers Rock State Forest

Wow hard to believe it is already Sunday again.  This past week has been a whirlwind of activity.  I am officially working from home but due to the new contract and training new staff, I have worked on average 12-13 hours a day.  Which I do not mind too much as I am working from home and I do not have to leave the office to go let the dog out and feed her and then head back.  I don’t have to deal with traffic on the roads, and I can get up dress casually (shorts and t-shirt) and get to work.  Which means that I am getting to sleep an extra hour in the morning.  LOL.  Well, enough about that let’s get on to today’s subject of Coopers Rock State Forest.

The first time I had heard about this State Forest was when I moved to Morgantown to attend WVU.  Since then I have visited the State Forest at least once a year, as my friends and I always try to have a picnic.  My favorite time of year to visit is the fall, as you probably already know by now Fall is one of my most favorite times of the year to take pictures.  The trees of the West Virginia mountains become the flowers of our views as the trees are displaying their vivid colors of oranges, yellows, and reds.

The original structures of the State Forest were built during the Great Depression, between 1936-1942 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  Most of the structures were built using wood from the American Chestnut trees which have nearly been wiped out due to a blight.  There are 11 structures in the State Forest that have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Coopers Rock State Forest consists of 12,713 acres which are bisected by I-68.  The forest serves mainly as a recreation and preservation area but is used for other uses such as forest research, timber management, and watershed and wildlife protection.

The park gets its name from the main over look which is a rock cliff that provides a panorama of the Cheat River Gorge.  There are other bands of rock cliffs that line the Gorge and provide numerous overlooks.  There is a maze of enormous boulders and cliffs and trails that fascinate hikers.

The State Features nearly 50 miles of trails, picnic pavilions, picnic area with picnic tables and charcoal grills, a play ground area, a 6-acre pond, and a camping area.  The campground is open from April 1 – October 31 and features 25 sites with electric hookup a shower house and Wi-Fi access for registered campsites.

From December 31 through March 31st the park is closed to vehicular traffic but is open to bike, snowshoeing, and foot traffic during this time frame.

 

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Sunsets

I am going to apologize up front this week’s blog is going to be a little short.  Life has really thrown a wrench into my path these last few weeks.  I work for a company as a contractor for the Government.  Which means we are on contracts for so many years and then we rebid.  Being part of an 8A Small Business this is typical life.  However, the contract I was on was lost due to a lower bid from another company.  We found out last week that most of our last days would be 7/20, with the exception to a few of us working until the 28th.  Tuesday the new company came in for training and for the transition of the contract.  I found out Wednesday I had a job with the new company.  I would finish out my time till the 28th on the current contract and then move over to the new company, however, this changed and I started with my new company on Friday.  Thursday & Friday they meet with more of my co-workers, and slowly some of my family are coming back into the ranks with me.  It has been a hard week saying good bye to people who you have worked closely with for 1-4 years.  People who you look forward to seeing every day and do things with outside of work.    I look forward to the new chapter in my life getting to know my new co-workers from SparkSoft Corporation and growing my knowledge base and skills.  Like my mom says God closes doors for a reason.  Now off from this bit a news and on to today’s blog.

My favorite thing about the day is the starting and ending.  I love the colors of a sunrise in the morning bringing a fresh new day into my life.  The only down side is I am either driving or sleeping when during the sunrise.  🙂  So the next best part of the day is the colors of the day ending.  Showing us that there is still something to look forward to no matter how bad the day has been.  It is kind of like the day is telling you, thank you for being with me and showing its gratitude through the multiple colors of the celebration of you completing another day.  So here are some photos I took during one such sunset.  I hope you enjoy them.

 

Cranberry Glades

Hope everyone had a great week life gets hectic and overwhelming sometimes,  and I have to say my favorite feature of WordPress is the ability to schedule my blog posts so I can work on them during the week, and that is only if I remember to work on it ahead of time.    🙂

Today’s topic is going to be on the Cranberry Glades in West Virginia.  I have been to this area several times in my life over the years.  Typically, during the fall, we take a family drive over the Scenic Highway that ends at the Cranberry Glades.  Walking into this area you are transported into a different scene that is not the typical landscape of West Virginia.

The Cranberry Glades are in Richwood WV, and is the largest area of bog s, or acidic wetlands, in West Virginia.  The park is located on 750 acres and offers a unique and exotic ecosystem.  The park was established by the US Forest Service in 1965, to protect and preserve over 60 unique plant species that call this area home.   The blogs are like that found in the “Muskegs” of the Arctic Tundra.  In 1974, the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area was designated as a National Natural Landmark. Over the years this site has been the subject of many scientific studies especially during the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950.  Such studies were performed by Maurice Brooks, Strausbaugh, Darlington, and Earl L Core.

These bogs are home to two carnivorous or insect-eating plants the purple pitcher plant, and the sundew plant.  The bog is also home to the Cranberry plant hence the name of the site.   Many of these unique plants are descended from seeds that took root in this area over 10,000 years ago. The glades are also now the southern-most point in North America where some of these life forms are found.

You do not want to step off the platform while viewing the area as most of the bog is underlain with peat that is up to 10 feet thick.   The wilderness is home to 5 different bogs.  The “Big Glade” at 59 Acres, the Flag Glade at 28 Acres, Long Glade at 20 acres, Round Glade at 8 acres, and Little Glade 1 Acre.  Currently, the Little Glade has since grown over and is no longer recognizable.  The glades are also the headwaters for the Cranberry River which is a popular trout stream.  Our typical excursion has only been to the “Big Glade”.

Cranberry Glades serves as a major tourist stop along the Highland Scenic Highway corridor.  Along with the ½ mile board walk, there is also a Cowpasture Trail that is 6.0 miles long for hiking that serves as the border between the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area and the much larger Cranberry Wilderness (50,000) acres.  Due to the ecologically-sensitive nature of the area and plant life, visitors are not permitted to leave the developed paths within the Glades.

Valley Falls State Park and Rock Lake

Today finds me a little later than usual for posting to my blog.  This has been a very long week even with the Holiday on Tuesday.  I hope everyone had a safe Fourth of July during all the celebrations.  This morning I got up a little earlier than usual and decided that I wanted to take a drive out to one of the state parks not too far from me.  So, I packed up my camera, and my tripod and headed out to Valley Falls State Park which is maybe a 30-minute drive for me.  I was concerned that from the rains that we received this week the water would be brown from all the flooding.  However, I took a chance and that was not the case.

The drive on WV-310 is a very scenic route, one of small towns and farms with some twists and turns here and there.  A good drive to have the windows down and the music playing as one looks over everything that went on the week before.  Once you turn off the road you are a single lane road that takes you through even more farms.  You may think you are lost when you come to the end of the road and it splits around a small lake.  Rock Lake is a community surrounding a manmade lake, a very serene area that one day I would love to live there.   This community was established in 1932 and currently has over 132 homes around the lake.

On my drive through I spotted some Water Lilies blooming in the lake and pulled over to get some shots of them.  If anyone was looking out their windows they probably were laughing.  As they watched me lay down on the ground that was wet and muddy to get a few pictures.  But as a photographer, you must be willing to do what you have to do to get the perfect shot.

Then I was one my way to Valley Falls which was maybe another 2 miles up the road.  Pulling into the main parking lot I was only greeted by one other vehicle parked there.  As I unpacked my camera, and tripod the only other person in the area was leaving.  I would have the whole area to myself which is what I was hoping for being it was early in the morning.  No one to mess up my photos by standing on the rocks to view them.  Okay so maybe this was also my introverted nature.  LOL.  I made my way down to the falls there are two viewing areas made from the very sandstone the falls are made of.  Of course, you need to watch out as there are no railings and some of the rocks are 10-15 feet above the river with other rocks below.  I wanted to try out some new shots with the camera since I had the tripod with me.  I tried setting the shutter speed to ½ second to help blur the water as it was spilling over.  However, due to all the sunlight it kind of blew out the white of the water and even in post editing, I was not able to completely correct it.  I should have stuck with my ¼ second, I normally use.  Oh, well lesson learned right.  😀

A little bit of background on the park.  Valley Falls was once the site of a lumber and grist mill community in the 1800’s.  It was a thriving community with its own Railroad Depot Station, grist mill, post office, sawmills, shops and even a ferry.   Between 1886 and 1888 the community was destroyed by a fire and a flood that swept through the community.  The town tried to repair the damages but never fully recovered from the damage.  In 1964, the state park system of West Virginia acquired the falls and surround landed and named the area Valley Falls State Park.  The park is 1,145 acres and is used for fishing, picnicking, kayaking, and has over 18 miles of hiking and mounting biking trails.

The falls are located on the Tygart Valley River with prevalent rock formations made from Connoquenessing Sandstone, which forms the cap of the falls as the river plunges over the rocks.  The rocks have also formed giant boulders as the river makes it way down the canyon floor for the next mile after the falls.

While walking through the park you can not only see the falls but the ruminates of the sawmill and gristmill that once proudly stood in the area and helped support a thriving community.  The railroad still runs through the area today although it is no longer a stop for passengers and is mainly used for hauling coal and lumber from other communities in the state.

Feel free to view the Facebook Album found here: Valley Falls State Park July 2017

Independence Day and Fireworks

It is so hard to believe we find ourselves in the month of July.  However, sad it is to see that summer is rushing right past us, it is also an exciting time.  In two days, it will be one of my favorite Holidays.  The Fourth of July is right up there with Christmas for me.  I love to see all the decorations, and the Firework displays have always fascinated me.  I can remember going to my Aunts and sitting along the pool watching my Dad and Uncles set off the fireworks.   Then once I moved to Morgantown I started watching the show the city set off.

Fireworks have long been part of our world culture for over 2,000 years, and have been part of festivals and celebrations ever since they were discovered.  When fireworks were first created in China the people of that time believed that fireworks could expel evil spirits and bring happiness and luck.  I know they have the happiness part right because I could not be any happier than I am watching the colors burst in the sky.  When the America’s settlers came to North America, they brought with them their love and enthusiasm for fireworks way before America celebrated Independence Day.   In 1777, was the very first celebration of Independence Day, this was six years before Americans knew if the new nation would survive the ongoing war.  Fireworks works were part of all the festivities that year and have been ever since.  When most Americans think of fireworks they associate it to the Fourth of July celebrations.  However, this is not the only time of year they are used in America.  We typically will see them at festivals, celebrations at the State and Town levels, Sporting Events, and New Years.

I can remember when I started taking Photographs of Fireworks.  My friend Rose asked if I wanted to join her and her son to watch them in Morgantown.  Her favorite spot was the parking garage in downtown.  I wasn’t too sure about this but it ended up being a great location for watching and photography.  At that time, I did not have a tripod so the edges of the parking garage made a great stable area for me to put my camera on.  I started several days before researching on the internet what settings I should use for my camera.  My old Point and Shoot camera had a Fireworks setting but my DSLR did not.  This was the first time I attempted to go manual on my camera from the settings to the focusing of the camera.  One thing I learned is the autofocus on as the camera will just keep searching for objects when it is dark and not allowing you to take any shots until it finds something to focus on.  It is best to focus it in before the show and just leave it.  During the show, I try not to zoom in on the fireworks, if you do you need to make sure you refocus the lens.  Play around with your F stops and find the best one for your camera.  Typically, it should be between and f/8.0 – f/16.0.  Another setting you will want to set is your ISO setting.  With having an older camera my photos do not turn out well if the ISO is above 1,000, I set mine from Auto to 100 which is the lowest setting my camera has, make sure you are using RAW format for your images.   You have more ability to remove defects such as noise in Post editing due to the image capturing more information than a JPEG.  The next area you will need to adjust is your shutter speed.  Your shutter speed will affect the type of firework images you take, the less time the shutter is open will shorten the length of the firework trails, and longer the shutter is open will extend them, however, this also tends to lighten up the surrounding area as the camera is receiving more light to the sensor.  I tend to play around with the shutter speed during the show, using the 1 second and 3-second speeds the camera has built in, however, your best option is the bulb setting which allows you to hold do the button and then release it when you want to.  This brings us to our next suggestion, get a shutter remote, this way when you push the button you are not touching the camera which helps with better shots and you can enjoy the show instead of constantly paying attention to the camera.  Although I would suggest from time to time to look through the viewfinder or look at the images as they pop up on the camera to make sure everything is okay.  There is nothing worse getting home only to realize that something happened to the focus and everything is blurry.  To help even more with stability bring a tripod with you unless you have a flat area for your camera to rest that is the perfect angle your photos are going to come out blurry.  The tripod and shutter remote should help you achieve the best shots you can capture.  On a side note it is also suggested that when using a tripod, you should turn off your cameras stabilization.  Once the show is over try to remember or write down your settings, when you only take firework photos a couple times a year it is easy to forget them and you do not want to waste your time trying to figure them out during the show.  Another good suggestion is to get to your location when there is still some daylight.  If you know the general area the fireworks will be let off this helps you frame in your scene.

I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe Fourth of July.   I am always interested in suggestions when taking photos so if you have any additional suggestions on taking Firework Photography please feel free to leave me a note.