Prevailing Winds (Lake Buffalo) - West Virginia by sam taylor

Prevailing Winds (Lake Buffalo) - West Virginia

I had a pretty remarkable conversation with a feller over the weekend. He is a blacksmith - no joke - making iron fixtures and talking about how he had sold work to all 50 states. I was watching him fire his work, and noted he was using coal to fire his work, and asked him where he was buying it from these days.

He said, “Well, that’s actually getting to be a tough part of the job these days, its getting hard to find! The last while, I’ve had folks say I could come take it out of their coal cribs, because they are changing how they heat their house. It’s all for the best though, I’ve been thinking about changing to using wood - carbon neutral.”

I don’t know that I can come up with a more apt story for how the winds of change are blowing around this state.

It’s tough to know how to see it all - sometimes, taking a longer view is helpful (and calming), although that’s not always possible - tough to think about next year, when you need money today - but if you can take that time, sometimes the perspective goes a long way.

How’s that tie to this photo? Taking a long view helped me pull the chop out of the water, making things just a little clearer - but the prevailing winds keep blowing.

Prevailing Winds - West Virginia

The Golden Road - West Virginia by sam taylor

The Golden Road - West Virginia

Sometimes you have days that are literally like the ones you dream about. The “perfect” days.

This was one of those, at least for us.

We day dream about getting out in the old Jeep, or the old Ford, putting the windows down, and riding. No traffic. No other people. Just perfect weather, a warm breeze, and nature putting on a show just for us.

I could try to make a bigger message out of this post, but I’ll keep it simple today - recognize the gifts given to you when you get them.

I’m getting old enough to know that there aren’t nearly enough of these days to miss them. There aren’t nearly enough chances to go out with the people you love and enjoy the company and be in the world, and be in the moment.

Love y’all and have a great weekend.

Going Back - West Virginia by sam taylor

Going Back - West Virginia

I’ve written at length about the persistence of memory and experience in these mountains, and that applies to me too. On a fateful weekend a few years ago, we had come out to this neighborhood and had an incredible weekend - and then had a terrible tragedy as soon as we returned to the “Real World”.

We hadn’t returned to this little piece of ground since - 3 years now.

My daughter has moved back up to West Virginia over the summer, and this will be her first fall in the mountains in nearly 10 years. So, we decided, maybe it’s time to return. It’s undeniably beautiful, why not give it another shot.

It was a beautiful day, bluebird skies and white puffy clouds, and of all the places we drove to this day, the leaves were the best here.

It’s tough to go back. To go back to places where you may have failed. To go back to places where you got bad news. To go back to a place where you have bad memories.

But I’m glad we went back.

Hope Y’all Have A Great Week.

Glade Run Reflections - West Virginia by sam taylor

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I’m used to being out “till dark”. That’s when the best light is, it’s when the conditions are the best, and - honestly - we tend to push hard enough that we don’t always make it back in the daylight. We carry headlamps - and spare headlamps - in all of our bags.

So, after getting lost and having a wonderful hike in the golden hour, we are almost back to the truck - and I can see the light in low corner of the sky. I have to go get it!

My kid is tired, she’s ready to go home. It’s getting dark. And I’m turning to go out a little more.

I send them to the truck with the keys - snacks and water will help with the grumpiness.

So, I’m on the trail solo.

Boy, that’s a big pile of bear poop. Better start singing!

This time, it’s to the tune of Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” (a story in itself).

And then, popping out at the waters edge. This.

Told you, the best light is at sunset.

Hope folks have a great weekend!

Lost In The Woods - West Virginia by sam taylor

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“Y’all go ahead, I’ll catch up.”

I knew I was slowing the crew down, so I sent them on. I was enjoy the low light through the woods, casting beams and shadows on the ground, and enjoying what was in those spotlights.

I wandered ahead and hit an intersection - I’m pretty sure they went on the Sand Run trail, so away I go.

Boy, this is gorgeous. Giant fern glens, and still, the low pretty light in the woods. I wander over into the woods, off the trail, an feel like I could spend the whole evening here.

But no, I know my crew is out in front of me, and I should keep moving.

Back on the trail, and weird, I don’t hear them, I don’t see their tracks - and then waaaay off in the distance “MARCO”…

That’s a good, bad sign. Carmen plays Marco Polo with me in the woods when we get separated - and it doesn’t sound like she’s on the trail I’m on. I give a loud “POOOOLOOOOO” in response, and start reversing down the trail. I went the wrong way. Or the right way. Boy it’s pretty out here.

MARRRCOOO

POOOOOLOOOOO

Hustling along, downhill, and there she is. In the sunbeams. On the other trail.

So, I guess I was lost. I’m not sure that I was wrong.

Hope y’all have a great week,

Lost In The Woods - West Virginia

If Only It Were Endless - West Virginia by sam taylor

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Good Friday Afternoon!

So the summer has ended. Sometime early Monday morning, she boarded her ship for the southern hemisphere, not to return for 6 months. I’m never happy to see her go. I’m never happy to see days like the one pictured - outside, working, sweating, smiling - come to an end.

People ask “what would you do with $100 million dollars”. I’d keep enough to chase summer for the rest of my life, and give the rest of it away. Because just like Endless Wall, it’s just long. Not actually endless.

And for me, long isn’t long enough.

Love y’all, and hope you have a great first weekend of Fall.

If Only It Were Endless - West Virginia

It's A Hard Living, But It's Home - West Virginia by sam taylor

It's A Hard Living, But It's Home - West Virginia

Good Tuesday Morning!

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what it would take to voluntarily leave this place. What more would have to happen here, or somewhere else, that I walked away from West Virginia - a place that I left once, and then worked for years to return to.

I’m starting to think that it won’t be a change in this place, but a lack of change. It often feels like we have forgotten all of our history, all the hard-luck stories, and just live a “Groundhog Day” repeat of the same news over and over.

I’ve been doing research on water pollution in this state, and it’s crazy to think that we had two massive, national news-scale water pollution incidents in this state in a a decade, and yet folks look at environmental regulation as a burden.

We fought no-joke wars - shooting, bombing, people killed wars in this state for the right of labor, of people, to get a fair shake and work with dignity, and then folks want to see labor as the enemy.

We talk about our state being the worst for folks getting an education - literally the worst, 50th of 50 states - and then belittle and pay starvation wages for teachers - expecting masters educated professionals to work for $15.50/hour.

I think if there is no change in those things, that will be the thing that does it. That said, I do feel a little like this tree. Where I live is beautiful. Where I live is hard.

And I don’t know if I will make it if you move me from this place.

Hope y’all have a great week,

It's A Hard Living, But It's Home - West Virginia

Once Upon A Time In The Mountains - West Virginia by sam taylor

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Good Friday Morning!

Sometimes the captions write themselves. I was trying to come up with a title for this one, and Carmen says “it looks like a storybook”. The best part of that? This photo is from our wedding, from the spot where I married her. From the most storybook day - I only took about 3 photos this day. This was one of them.

And she’s right - at least to me, it looks and feels like a storybook.

Short and sweet today. Hope folks have a great weekend,

Once Upon A Time In The Mountains - West Virginia

Elakala Falls (Old Friends Collection) - West Virginia by sam taylor

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Good Tuesday Morning!

As you may have noticed, I’ve been struggling to get these posts written up - but I have been out shooting, and we are busy getting pieces ready for “art show season”, starting off with Morgantown Arts Walk on September 27. It’s been a great start to the fall - but time has been tight, and I’ve been working hard at being outside, instead of writing for y’all. I’ll see if I can make more time for this part of the operation.

Elakala Falls is another one of those “old friends” - a place where I started honing and learning the craft of waterfall photography. While I have tons of photos of this waterfall - I take a photo most everytime I get near it - I don’t usually share them. You see - this little waterfall has become a celebrity, one of the places that comes up when you google West Virginia, and I don’t often feel like repeating a shot that folks have seen 100 times before.

That said, every so often, it’s nice to visit, to really set up and make an image, and visit an old friend.

Elakala Falls - West Virginia

Water Is Life - West Virginia (Old Friends Collection) by sam taylor

Water Is Life - West Virginia

Good Friday Morning!

It’s starting to be “Art Show Season”, a busy time of year for us. It means I’m looking through the images of the last year or two, and trying to decide what to print, what to make larges pieces from, and where the heck are they all going. It also means that I get to see my work, and how it has progressed over the years - and I also get to revisit “old friends” - images that were formative in my work.

I think I’m going to do a little set of those “old friends” over the next few weeks as I see them, give them a chance to shine once more.

Today’s image is literally the first image I promoted as a “professional photographer”. I hadn’t shown anywhere. I wasn’t juried, trained, sold, or commissioned yet. But I had taken a collection of photos that I thought were pretty good, and this was one that I was extra happy with.

When I took this image, the Shay Run drainage wasn’t famous. I’d only seen a few photos of these falls, and even direction for how to get there were spotty. How the internet has changed all that. But I still remember the magic and wonder at seeing this particular fall for the first time - how it made me feel like there are truly unbelievable places in this state, places so lush, so transcendent, that I couldn’t believe I was standing there.

This image was early enough - it was taken on my now long-gone point and shoot, using manual settings and my backpack as a tripod.

Hope folks enjoy it, and glad to share it with folks again.

Water Is Life - West Virginia

Night Rider - West Virginia by sam taylor

Night Rider - West Virginia

Good Friday Morning!

Sorry for the radio silence this week, this one wasn’t intentional - and sets the tone for todays note as well. The reason I didn’t talk with y’all sooner was that I was locked out of my website - due to a new phone. In the world today, we have to have security on things, and so many of those things run through our phone - so here we are.

How does that relate to the note? I’m getting tired of our things “running us” vs us running things. I’m tired of if my phone is messed up, that can have a negative impact on my day, and i’ll spend time and mental energy trying to figure out why it makes the wrong noise, or isn’t tracking my bike ride correctly. If the cable tv or internet is down, we’re confused about what to do with that time. That’s backwards as all get out - and I’m as guilty as anyone. I’ve never made a memory on my phone. I’ve never looked back fondly on a good binge watching session.

Today’s image wasn’t made by a particularly good comment on a meme somewhere. We were there. We were doing it. Charles has a bike with lights on it - and he was riding in the dark. A little bit risky, maybe, but wow did it look cool - and boy, did we have fun hanging out and watching the stars wheel by. The experience was authentic, and didn’t need “two-factor authentication” to make it happen.

Hope folks have an authentic - present - weekend.

Who Is Your Decorator? (Holly River Falls) - West Virginia by sam taylor

Who Is Your Decorator? (Holly River Falls) - West Virginia

Good Friday Afternoon!

Some of the upside of all the travel I’ve had (and been able) to do is realizing that some places seem to have it “figured out” when you go to their parks. Holly River may be one of those - I had never camped at Holly River, it was a little too close to home to get excited about camping it when I was a kid - but Carmen and I made a trip of a few weeks back, and had a blast!

It also meant that I was able to get into some back-corners that I had never seen in a park that I have visited many, many times.

While these falls probably don’t count as a “back corner”, they are an example - this was the first time I had laid eyes on these falls. We had been there and not had enough time, or it was winter and the water was too cold, or too high. This day was perfect - we were hot enough to be excited about being in the water, and wow - when we got to the amphitheater that holds this beauty, it was easy to see what makes this one special.

I love these places - where the moss is growing on the rocks, and the rhodo crowns the rim of the bowl. And even though this is a “front country” spot in one of the more popular parks in the state, we didn’t see a single person on our hike. Not bad.

Hope folks have a great weekend and bit of adventure - school starts for us next week!

Who Is Your Decorator? (Holly River Falls) - West Virginia

Summer Reflections on Beaver Creek - West Virginia by sam taylor

Summer Reflections on Beaver Creek - West Virginia

Good Wednesday Morning!

I know it seems like the schedule has been a little lumpy - because it has. This end of summer has been more hectic than most, what with daughter starting a new school, trying to sort out paperwork from the wedding, trying to organize family and social stuff for the end of the year, and the start of a new semester for me as well. I’ll also admit that I’m pushing hard on my dissertation research - trying to get it on the ropes and ready for a big push when the snow starts flying (but hopefully that’s a long way off).

In the meantime, we have been picking off fun and adventures where we can - I’ve been really, really into cycling this summer, and somehow we keep finding new things to see in old places, places we’ve been to a hundred times.

Is today rambling? Maybe a little - but I wanted to let y’all know that I promise we are going hard out here, and finding the time to talk with all y’all has been challenging.

So, good morning!

Sometimes the image you want isn’t the most convenient. I was wading the creek barefoot - and my feet aren’t that tough - to get here. But I could see the reflections setting up from the bank, and knew this was “the right spot”.

How is your summer shaping up?

Talk to y’all on Friday.

Stop and Lets Visit A While - West Virginia by sam taylor

Stop and Lets Visit A While - West Virginia

Good Friday Afternoon,

It’s been yet another rancorous week in our little country, another week where the divides between rural and urban, coasts and interior, and racial issues have come up for the… too many to count time.

I’m not sure what to make of all of it - I’m not sure that I recall any time in my lifetime where folks can’t seem to find any common ground on any of the issues that face us. Have the divides between rural and urban become that large? Are middle class and poor people in the city that different from those in the country? I call out the rural/urban because, when you look at the data, that’s really where the splits are - and I have said, having lived in both, that blue-collar folks in the city have much more in common with blue-collar folks in the country than they do with other urbanites.

I’m lucky - I have friends that are definitely on the other side of the political aisle that I can talk with, respectfully, and can often find common ground on. The most ardent gun owners don’t want to see mass shootings. The most fervent miners and drillers don’t want to see pipeline explosions or water pollution. But somehow, those conversations aren’t making their way up to the talking heads, to the pundits, to the bloggers, or to the politicians.

Maybe if we were doing the old fashioned way, stopping by, sitting on the swing, and having a talk with each other, we’d find more empathy and more places to work together than screaming at each other on the internet.

Stop, and lets visit a while.

Hope folks have a great weekend.

Maybe, If I Climb High Enough, I Will Find Myself - West Virginia by sam taylor

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Good Friday Morning!

And just like that, it’s August. It has been one heck of a summer, without a lot of time for introspection. Running around like that, it can be easy to lose your way - you lose track of what you are working toward, what makes you happy, what you want for your life, consumed in trying to just “make this thing go” - whatever the “thing” that day is.

I’m working toward helping my daughter be a empathetic, confident young woman, who believes in her ability to learn and do anything she wants. I’m working toward being present in my own life, making conscious decisions on spending time with people I love, and engaged in things I enjoy and care about. I’m working toward being a good husband, who spends time and is engaged in my marriage.

These things are easy to say, hard to do, and easy to lose track of - like walking around in dense woods and trying to trace the shortest path somewhere.

What does all this have to do with today’s photo? Well, metaphorically, “getting up so you can see the lay of the land” is something we all need to do - and that’s what these towers were all about. Practically, this was exactly what I’m talking about - taking time with my wife and a great friend, and going out in the dark and having a great experience. Time spent with people I love, engaged in things I enjoy and care about.

And maybe, if I keep working, if I climb high enough, I can find myself.

It's Not Perfect, But It's Close - West Virginia by sam taylor

It's Not Perfect, But It's Close - West Virginia

Good Tuesday Morning -

It’s starting again, earlier and earlier - and no, I’m not talking about Halloween decorations or people talking about fall. I’m talking about the folks running for election in 2020, already starting to carve out what they think they can take credit for.

Where I’m standing, I don’t know that anyone at the national or state level has much to crow about. Folks are going to try and tell you that WV has improved so much in the last few years - but only when you compare it against all-time historic lows. Folks are going to try and tell you that they are bringing in businesses and improving infrastructure, but the roads in my area are hammered, there aren’t sufficient resources to respond to the floods and other natural disasters, and all of the improvements are in temporary industries (pipelines and such) that will lead to permanent extraction, but only provide work for a short time.

The real point is that no one, absolutely no one, from outside of this state has done anything for anyone inside this state in a very long time (FDR?), and very few people inside this state have done anything for anyone inside this state (other than themselves) in about the same period.

If change is going to come to this place, it’s going to have to be from the inside out - not the other way around. We don’t want handouts. We don’t want gun regulations. We don’t want urban crowds and wall-to-wall connectivity. But, a fair shake, and industries that have a skin in whether people make it here or not would be a nice start.

If we could ever figure this stuff out, the rest of the problems would sort themselves out - because otherwise, this is a pretty incredible place to live.

Hope ya’ll have a good week.

Change Is Slow (Until it Isn't) - West Virginia by sam taylor

Change Is Slow (Until it Isn't) - West Virginia

Good Friday Morning!

The forests or WV feel “eternal” - unchanging. That you could leave a place, come back in 10 years, and see nothing different, other than taller trees. Sometimes the culture feels that way too - one of the things I love about this place.

The thing is - change seems slow here, until it isn’t.

While we were out on our break, I saw news about flooding in Morgantown and talked first-hand with folks about flooding in the Thomas/Davis region, where the Blackwater hit it’s highest level since the mid-1990s - and the second round of heavy flooding in 2 years.

I’ve been noticing these things all around the state. Things seem to be getting wetter and storms rougher. I’d never heard of “training” thunderstorms until maybe 10 years ago, now it’s a phrase I hear all the time. I was reading the FEMA findings from the 2016 floods, and one of their conclusion was “the 2016 flood was not a rare, 1 in 1,000 year event”, but are in some cases more like every 20 years - a scary thing to think about.

On a more widespread scale, I can see some of these changes in the woods. It’s rare to find an elm or an ash tree in the woods these days - taken out by parasites and pests that like the warmer, wetter weather. I worry that I may live to see the end of the hemlocks too. Everything I read says that climate change will change the makeup of our forests, a change that may be slow, but also will be of huge impact to this place.

What’s my end message?

I don’t know. These problems seem so intractable, so big, that it feels like the only thing to do is what folks here have been good at for ~2 centuries: adapt. Learn what grows and what doesn’t. Learn how to take advantage of the warmer and the wetter.

But that doesn’t mean something won’t be lost. My grandmother told me about what a loss it was when the chestnut tree died off. It’s scary to think that might have been minor, compared to what we are seeing.

Talk to y’all on Tuesday.

Hello, Friend - West Virginia by sam taylor

Hello Friend - West Virginia

Good Tuesday Morning!

It was incredible to spend a whole week out in the mountains. Up every morning, knowing exactly what I needed to do that day, and then going to bed tired and satisfied.

We finally had one day to just cut loose and go do what we wanted, and we took bikes up the absolutely beautiful Tri-Rivers Rail Trail from Holcomb to Woodbine, WV. This has always been a piece of ground that had a lot of mystery and interest to me - you see, when I was a kid, this was the railroad track, and there were no roads or houses on that side of the river, which meant there wasn’t a good way to get there without “getting in trouble”. It was super exciting to be on a piece of “new ground” 15 minutes from where I grew up.

As we approached the Woodbine end, it felt like a time warp - ~6 miles to the mouth of Cranberry - another spot that was always hard to get to by any of the ways that were in my reach as a teenager.

Getting there, the Turkish Cap Lillies were in full bloom, and the butterflies were flitting about. These two in particular kept circling around each other, and then landing on flowers right next to each other.

Glad to get back to the woods.

Hello, Friend - West Virginia

Watching the Future Stretch Out In Front Of Us - West Virginia by sam taylor

Watching the Future Stretch Out In Front of Us - West Virginia

Hi Everyone -

So, we haven’t been on here in about a week, but I promise it’s for a good reason. The lady featured in so many of my images and stories - my travel partner, best friend, second brain - Carmen, and I were married on 7/13!

Today’s post will be all about that - I promise, we’ll get back to talking about the state and the places - but today, I want to try and thank a few folks. We worked hard to source things locally to support the wedding and the reception. A short list of folks we want to thank/folks who helped make it all possible - in alphabetical order -

Jodi Hollingshead (As You Are Boudoir Photography) for going “embedded” with us over the weekend, and capturing photos all along the way.

CB’s Hole in the Wall - These folks catered our reception, including delivery to our party tent. The food was delicious, and right on time. I know it was a lot of work for those folks (40 pizzas!).

New Hope Community Center - The folks at the New Hope Community Center helped us with so many things, going above and beyond with our rental of the space.

Rosewood Florist - Flowers, just the way we wanted them. And a cool “clothespin factory” t-shirt!

I have other folks to thank too - to close out for today, my friends Sam Beto, Richard Walton, and Brandon and Lacey Sheets, who fed hungry people “in the field” for our ceremony, and also made breakfast for the hearty folks who camped the reception. Waking up on a cool summer morning to the smell of bacon and hashbrowns is pretty fantastic.

To everyone who came out, thank you thank you thank you. We had a blast, and we know how hard and far folks came to be part of it with us. We had folks travel in from Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, and North Carolina, and it means so much to us.

Finally - today’s photo - we had our wedding ceremony as a very small ceremony in this place. Carmen and I have spent our time in the woods and wilds, and we wanted a place that celebrated that.

Excited to be here, watching the future stretch out in front of us. Love y’all, and we’ll get back to “normal” on Tuesday.

I Miss The Life I Once Had - West Virginia by sam taylor

I Miss The Life I Once Had - West Virginia

When I was a teenager, I was ready to get moving. To make some money, to go to college, to get out of the country, to see the city, to be on the move.

I had worked the field, I had weeded and harvested the garden, I had mended the fences, re-roofed the barns and sheds, split the wood. I learned which parts of the field to work at which times of day, cause it stayed in the shade, or had the breeze.

I would work for all the neighboring farms, doing labor and putting that money away for college and a car.

That work was hard, cutting the hay on the steep parts of the field with a scythe, and then raking it down where the rake and baler could get to it. That work was hard, dragging and cutting downed trees from in the woods, making firewood out of it, and walking it up to the truck to haul to the house. That work was hard, running the brushcutter (an old Stihl - I can still recognize the smell of two-stroke gas) to pull out the stands of multi-flora rose and blackberries from the fields, and finding yellow jackets nests, and trying to get the thing over my head so I could run away.

Then, at the end of the day, I’d grab a bar of soap and go to the river, getting a cool down and a bath at the same time.

I ran away from all of that, just about as fast as I could. It’s been ~20 years since I harvested a garden. I can’t remember the last time I ran over a yellow jacket nest.

And I miss all of it.

I miss the clarity of purpose. I miss the feeling of doing hard work, getting a reward, and knowing the job is done, even if for a little while. I made it - my work is in my mind now. I get paid to think, to know stuff - which after talking to my Dad, who had worked hard labor in the mines and the mills, had come home with hurt shoulders and torn muscles - was the goal all along.

But I hate the feeling of grinding, with no end in sight. No matter what I write, no matter what contribution I make to “the discourse”, it will never have that feeling of accomplishment that I got from standing by the truck, drinking a quart of water, and looking back over that field.

Its a strange dream, but I dream of being able to return to the farm, to take the rust off the scythe, to get the vegetables from my garden, to mend the fence, to split the wood.

I Miss The Life I Once Had - West Virginia