Earlier this month, I traveled with my friend Beamie Young to the Canaan Valley in West Virginia. We were participating in a photo workshop led by Nikhil Bahl, a professional photographer who lives in Gaithersburg.
Whenever Beamie and I travel somewhere together, we look at how long our GPS estimates it will take us to get there, and then we double the time. We prefer to travel back roads, and of course we brake often for barns, old trucks, and historic districts. This trip was no exception.
We traveled along old Rt. 50 through West Virginia, and we were lucky enough to find an old barn with painted “Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco” advertising on three sides. We also stopped at an antique shop, a classic diner, and a state park.
When we left Frederick, the leaves were just showing hints of color. We were sure it was too early to catch the fall color in the Canaan Valley, but the closer we got, the more color we saw, and when we arrived at last, we knew the peak was in full swing.
Nikhil took us to wonderful spots for shooting, starting within a few hours of checking into our rooms. We photographed cotton grass at a boggy area in Blackwater Falls State Park, and then positioned ourselves on the rocks overlooking the gorge at Pendleton Overlook, in order to catch the evening sunset.
The reason I love to go on photo trips with the professionals is that not only are they very helpful with instruction and great suggestions for differing lighting conditions, but they know where the “good stuff” is. Nikhil took us to Dolly Sods to watch the morning sunrise and to photograph the blazing red foliage of the blueberry bushes. We found a rocky stream with beautiful reflections in the flowing water, where he helped us use slow shutter speeds to smooth out the current until it looked like watercolored silk. One morning, in the rain, we photographed Blackwater Falls. And on the last day, the fog in the morning made for some spectacular sunrise shots.
I highly recommend going on a photo trip with a professional photographer like Nikhil. I have been on several in the past year, including Death Valley with Terry Abrams, a photographer from Michigan. Hanging out with like-minded photo friends who love keeping the strange schedule of going out before sunrise, eating breakfast at 11:00 a.m., editing photos in the afternoon, heading out for sunset, and eating dinner at 9 p.m., is nothing but fun for me. I learn something on each trip, and fall in love with some place new each time.
The Canaan Valley is less than four hours away (unless you travel like I do — and then it’s eight). I’m going back in the spring. Who’s up for the trip?