Almost Heaven, In West Virginia

December 13, 2011  •  Leave a Comment

Appalachia SolitudeAppalachia SolitudeA lonely tree in the midst of very heavy fog at Dolly Sods in West Virginia. A recent visit to Dolly Sods in West Virginia was particularly incredible. Aside from its usual beauty, this particular day was amazingly foggy with fog so dense on top of the mountain that visibility was less than about ten feet through the windshield. Knowing I had to take advantage of this diffuse fog, I parked along the side of the road and walked out into the wet and soggy cranberry bogs to see what I could find. Within a short distance I found this tree — seemingly all alone, shrouded in heavy white fog. I made some gut-feeling adjustments to my camera settings and began shooting.

After taking a few shots I found myself standing inches deep in the wet bog simply staring at this tree. The silence around me was deafening. Nothing moved, nothing made sound. It was simply me and that tree. The fog was so thick and heavy that I could feel it on my arms as I tried to “hold” the fog in my hands — I could even feel it enter my lungs with each breath I took. An overwhelming sense of peace overtook me — one that I had never experienced before in my life. Dolly Sods is a magical wilderness on any given day, but on this particular day, I felt as if I was standing in “proverbial” heaven, walking in the clouds.

As for the photograph, not all of my gut-feeling settings were the best. And I found that shooting in such incredibly thick fog is more difficult than I thought it would be. In developing this photograph, I increased both the exposure and brightness to whiten the fog, bumped up the blacks to make the tree more visible, added some semi-heavy noise reduction, and lightened up the corners with light vignetting. What is left is an image that looks more like a charcoal drawing rather than an actual photograph.

I wasn’t particularly excited about all the adjustments I had to do to make this photograph “work” — at least “work” for my eyes, but in the end, it certainly conveys more appropriately what I saw in person — and even moreso — how I felt in the moment. It was simply magical.


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