West Virginia Photo Trip Part 2: Canaan Valley State Park
I will be posting one to two images a day for the next week or so from my recent outing in the West Virginia Mountains. Today I would like to share two images i made on the second morning of the trip in Canaan Valley State Park. Late summer in the mountains is a great time to capture fog and morning mist. The warm days are often followed by cool nights.Add in a little humidity or rain and you get ground fog. Canaan Valley is a great spot to shoot any time of the year, but I especially like to be in the area in late summer when the landscape is in transition from summer greens to autumn hues. The fog is almost guaranteed on just about any day from late August through September.
Canaan Valley State Park is situated in Canaan Valley, the highest mountain valley east of the Mississippi River. Canaan Valley is bordered on the west by Canaan Mountain and on the east by Cabin Mountain which both rise about 1,000 feet from the floor of the valley. The area is very wet and receives a tremendous amount of precipitation each year. The Blackwater River’s headwaters originate in the valley and finally spill out into Blackwater Canyon at Blackwater Falls State Park. In addition to the many scenic possibilities, Canaan also boasts some really great wildlife. From Black Bear and deer to many avian species in the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
O.K., so back to the feature images. I spent a long night shooting star trails at Bear Rocks on the Dolly Sods Plateau on Friday night. After I had my fill of nighttime photography, I retired to the back of my jeep for a rather uncomfortable nights sleep. At O’Dark-Thirty my alarm awoke me from my unpleasant slumber only to find completely clear skies. As you know, clear skies are not the best conditions for creating dramatic nature images. So after about 20 minutes of pondering the possibilities, I decided to hit the dirt road and travel over and down to Canaan in hopes of some fog in the area. I was not disappointed!
For this first image, I was wondering around this field looking for interesting plants and spider webs to shoot when I noticed the fog beginning to glow behind me. i quickly turned my camera and began looking for the best composition. I didn’t have long to work as the sun was not going to be in position for very log. I settled with a wide angle composition and placed the sun burst of center and in the upper two thirds of the frame. The use of a Singh Ray Color Combo really pumped up the warm tones in the image. In order to balance the exposure I shot 2 images. The first was exposed for the dark meadow and the second was set for the bright sky. Using Photomatix, I combined the image and worked them up in Tone Mapping. After getting the shot out of Photomatix, I moved it over to Adobe Lightroom V2 for its final touches. I find it absolutely necessary to work on the images in either Photshop or Lightroom after tone mapping to put the finishing touches like tonal and contrast adjustments, hue and saturation and color balance.
In this shot i used my 80-200mm at around 135mm to stack up the picture elements and compress them. The long telephoto allowed me to only include what picture elements i thought was important to the composition. The morning fog is essential in this image as it acts to separate the layers of field, forest and mountains which of course makes for a much more three dimensional look. Without the fog the image would not have been as strong and many of the middle elements such as the two trees on the lower left and the forest in the middle of the image would have blended into each other. I did use a Singh Ray warm polarizer to warm up the image and darken the sky a bit. I also used a three stop nd grad (hard) to darken the sky. I metered off of the fog and increased the exposure by +.7ev to lighten it up a bit.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for more images and stories from the West Virginia Highlands.