Fun times in the Virginias

Falling Spring Falls was one of my first stops when I reached the border of Virginia and West Virginia.

Trip ends with photos of Waterfalls, sunsets and old buildings

The last two months were filled with travel, including six back-to-back Bassmaster tournaments. I finally had a little break between events in late May, after finishing up an event in Richmond, Virginia.

So I headed right to the Appalachian Mountains to bang around a bit in Western Virginia and West Virginia. Man, was it ever fun!

I logged a lot of miles, but ended up with a number of beautiful new prints and lots of great memories.

First stop: Blue Ridge Parkway Sunset

As soon as I wrapped up the Richmond tournament, I turned my truck toward the Blue Ridge Parkway, determined to capture the first sunset in a long time.

I ended up at Ravens Roost Overlook, which was perfect! A fir tree is positioned among the boulders of the overlook, providing the perfect foreground element. Mountain ridges and the valley below make up the background, and the setting sun and wonderful clouds completed a dramatic print.

The evening ended with me grilling right there at the overlook. It was amazing!

I then headed west over the mountains, intent on being in West Virginia by morning. 

Bouncing across the West Virginia border

I spent the night in Covington, Va., just miles from West Virginia. When I woke up, I starting looking for a target and came across a mention of Falling Spring Falls just minutes north of town.

I grabbed a breakfast biscuit and some more coffee, and headed out.

Falling Spring Falls is located U.S. Highway 220, a winding, scenic drive up the mountain. While I usually like to get to the bottom of a waterfall, that wasn't possible here: It is on private property and there were signs everywhere making it clear hikers were not welcome.

However, the best view really was from the observation platform on the shoulder of the road. This vantage point reveals the full scope of the waterfall, which is surrounded by lush forest.

It didn't hurt my feelings not to be scrabbling down steep embankments, and the resulting print (seen at the top of this post) was everything for which I could have hoped.

West Virginia gold: Waterfalls, Old buildings and Barns

I was soon driving into West Virginia, and began easing along back roads just to see what I found. This is a favored tactic of mine: I truly believe it's the best way to get the feel of a new area.

My only other visit to the state was back a few years, when my wife, parents and I spent a week at Holly River State Park in Central West Virginia. It was an amazing area, with waterfalls all over the place.

So finding cascades in the southeast corner of the state was definitely on my agenda.

And I found a couple — one the amazing Sandstone Falls in the nation's newest national park. My first view of this huge waterfall was from high above on the drive through New River Gorge National Park, and I couldn't wait to get to the trail and pick my way into position.

Thirty minutes later I was standing before one of the most powerful waterfalls I've had the privilege to find. It's not the height of the waterfall that was so impressive; in fact, it's not very high. However, the waterfall is part of New River, and it stretches pretty much the width of the waterway.

All I could think of in comparison was a mini Niagra Falls.

The problem was capturing the essence of the waterfall. I worked on a panoramic, capturing a number of individual frames with the intention of stitching them together to show the majority of Sandstone Falls. That turned out to be a failure, so I have to return and work that angle harder.

What I ended up with, however was a print that shows the scale of the waterfall, with about two-thirds of the cascade included in the frame.

I also made time to revisit Babcock State Park to photograph the wonderful Glade Creek Grist Mill and the beautiful waterfall just downstream.

The old grist mill is indicative of the hundreds of mills that once dotted the West Virginia mountains, providing foodstuff before industrial production took over.

I began by shooting at the bottom of the waterfall, and while that angle was nice it just seemed lacking. So I drove around the mill and found a vantage point above the waterfall that was perfect.

Using a longer focal length allowed me to compress the waterfall, the mill and the surrounding trees to create a gorgeous print.

I plan to go back there in October when I return to West Virginia in hopes of seeing autumn colors surrounding the mill.

My travels through the countryside also yielded this wonderful photo of an old stone cabin tucked along a creek. It reminds me of something from a Lord of the Rings movie set.

And then there was this cool old general store in little Edray, W.V. Barlow & Moore looked like it should be on the set of a Clint Eastwood Western. I mean, look at that thing!

Could it be any cooler?

Edray is home to a ton of old barns, too. In fact, right around the corner from the old Barlow & Moore general store was a barn dating back to 1945 that is a landmark of the county.

The N.W. Shaw barn is amazing, painted the iconic red and featuring a United States flag and a sign emblazoned with the name of the farm's founder. A wooden fence and pond complete the scene.

The N.W. Shaw barn is an iconic landmark of West Virginia's Pocahontas County

I pulled off the side of the road and was walking to shoot the barn when an elderly gentleman working in his yard across the street stuck up a conversation about the barn, telling me his father built it after moving his family to the little village.

Soon it was revealed that this man, N.W. Shaw Jr., had worked the farm for decades before selling it to his nephew, who restored the barn to its original glory.

It was so cool to learn the barn and the farm remained in the same family for more than 75 years.

Back to Virginia

The final day before I had to be in Alabama for another Bassmaster tournament was spent back in Virginia.

My first stop was at Mabry Mill, which is located on the Blue Ridge Parkway just outside of Dan, Va. 

Mabry Mill is a wonderful stop along Virginia's Blue Ridge Parkway.

Mabry Mill was built in about 1910, and supplied flour and other foodstuffs to the local community. It fell into disrepair after the owner's death, but was restored by the National Park Service in 1945 and has has been a popular attraction since then.

I loved all the foliage and the pond, and stood near the Parkway to frame up this beautiful print.

Final Stop: Falls of Dismal

My final stop in the Virginias was at a wonderful little waterfall along Dismal Creek.

Falls of Dismal isn't the tallest, but it's got so much character.

It was such a great way to end my time in the Virginias. I headed on to Alabama knowing I had some wonderful new prints!

I still have some files to work on, but I've already added some great new prints to my gallery!