Simplicity - West Virginia by sam taylor

Winter Field Trees - West Virginia

Good Friday Morning!

It has been a week - I’m burning the candle at both ends on several projects that are all coming due in the next month or so. That’s been tough on me - I get rejuvenated by being outside, by being in the woods. I need to smell the woods and feel the sun on my face, or I start to feel crazy.

Add in that it’s been a sort-of long winter. A lot of grey, full overcast, rainy days so far - and while that makes it easier to stay inside and grind on things, it also starts to wear me down.

That’s why moments like the image above are so important. It’s so simple, blue skies, snow-covered clean fields, and the wind in my face - it’s enough to get through.

With a little luck, I’ll get a quick recharge over the weekend, get some mud on the boots, and keep pushing. Simple.

Have a great weekend.

Simplicity - West Virginia

Trans. Former. - West Virginia by sam taylor

Trans. Former.  - West Virginia

Good Friday Morning!

It’s a weird time to be working in and around West Virginia. Transformation is everywhere, some good, some not. There is a lot of money out there looking at how to best use, reuse, or reclaim abandoned mines and “brownfield” industrial sites, whether through the ARC Power Grants, or the “Abandoned Mine Land Fund”. A cottage industry in trying to make the best of a terrible environmental legacy.

Right on the heels of that, I’m hearing about the legislature working to reduce the coal severance tax in West Virginia. The reason we have a severance tax is to try and put some funds into the common good from the extraction of these resources. In classic thought, that severance tax should be set high enough to account for any “bads” that come from the extraction as well - that it should help to cover environmental repair, long term health coverage for people impacted by the industry, and put funds into investments for the future after the industry is gone. Funny to look around and see all the bads, few investments, and now we are cutting severance. Maybe we should think about setting it up like Alaska - those folks get $2,000 a year from the state out of their severance revenues. At least then some of those funds would end up back in our local economy.

One way or the other, these industries have, are, and will transform this place, for better and worse, and what we should be thinking about is what that transformation looks like in the long term, not the short term.

Today’s image from a former mine site, stuck in a long term state of almost transition. The seasons coming and going over these briery fields, waiting for the next thing.

Trans. Former. - West Virginia

p.s. Never let it be said that y’all don’t surprise me sometimes. Last weeks photo (Beautiful, In Its Way) went viral in a way that I never would have guessed. Sometimes, I get a solid reminder that other folks are reading and watching - thank you for that.

Beautiful, In Its Way - West Virginia by sam taylor

Beautiful, In Its Way - West Virginia

Good Friday Morning!

In the 5 years (whoa!) since I started this little operation, I’ve been able to watch some trends and tropes emerge in the work and storytelling I do, and I wanted to talk a little about that today.

Since I started this project, social media has really become the way “this type of work” gets exposed and known - we’ve come a long way from where I started to today’s “doing it for the ‘gram”.

Thinking a bit more locally, I was talking with Carmen the other day, and I made the statement that everything I see about photography in West Virginia seems to sort into two buckets:

  1. Highly saturated, full color images of pristine wilderness in West Virginia.

  2. Gritty black and whites of “working class” people and neighborhoods, or of industry (and industrial decline).

I’ve probably spent some time in these spaces as well, although I don’t do a lot of “people” shooting. Sometimes the subject matter motivates those choices for me - I always find textures and patterns more interesting in black and white - and man-made things tend to have textures and patterns. I’ve also worked to capture the “best thing” and present it as I “saw” it - which in West Virginia leads to a lot of greens and blues and colors.

All of that said, both of those approaches have started to leave me feeling flat. We see the two ends of the spectrum, but the much more common middle gets left out. The beauty that might exist in places that most folks don’t take photos of, or the damage in pristine places. The beauty in empty or beat down. The grit that often lives “just out of frame” in the postcard.

I hope folks come with me on this ride - but I felt I needed to challenge myself this year, and so far it’s energized me more than I’ve felt in my work in a long time.

Hope y’all have a good weekend.

Beautiful, In Its Way - West Virginia

Winter Time Reflections (Blackwater River) - West Virginia by sam taylor

Winter Time Reflections (Blackwater River) - West Virginia

Good Friday Morning!

So I’ll give you wonderful folks a bit of a break from my work, and from the hard winter images that have been dominating my feed lately. It’s funny, I can scroll through my catalog of images, and I can see the progression of the seasons as I do - whites and greys give way to greens, which give way to golds, which give back to whites and greys as the seasons come and go.

It has been a long winter - not super snowy, not super cold - but I promise, I’d take the snow and cold over the relentless rain that we’ve had in the last month or two. The upside for me, such as it is, is that I can really dive in to my work this time of year - the fact that it’s dark, cold, and wet makes it a lot easier to stay at the desk, stay at the computer, stay at the house, and get some things done than it will be in even a few short months - cause I know round about the first of April that I will have a hard time staying focused on my work. :)

I am excited - I’m working on a new photographic project that has driven most of my recent shooting - and I look forward to sharing some of those images with you over the next few weeks.

Hope folks have a great weekend,

Winter Time Reflections (Blackwater River) - West Virginia

Run. Off. (Hills Creek, Winter 2018) - West Virginia by sam taylor

Run. Off. (Hills Creek, Winter 2018) - West Virginia

Good Friday Afternoon!

Today’s post will be the last (for now) looking at some of my personal research. See my last two posts (Strong Under Currents and We Stand Together, Rooted To This Place) for more background. In summary, rural places, and Appalachia and West Virginia in particular have issues with losing “their best and brightest” to other places. Conversely, Appalachia and West Virginia also have some of the “stickiest” people, in that they want to live here and fight to stay. We’ve talked a bit about the broader trends and about some of the things we think are working for us here, so what is my research focused on, within that space?

What is it that finally “runs people off”. If they want to be here, have roots here, what is the “final straw” that pushes people out. I have three different concepts that I’m working on, but all of them aren’t looking at recruitment - but retention. What things have an impact on pushing people away from here, that finally make staying impossible.

From a rigorous “research” perspective, this is tougher than it sounds to quantify. Some people will tell you that it’s work, or “things have just gotten bad around here”, but being able to put numbers to that is tricky. My first topic is focused on the impact of drugs and crime, and whether higher overdose death rates and higher crime rates cause people to leave. My next topic is still in a bit of development, but looks at environmental impacts, and whether those impacts can be drawn out as a reason for people to leave. My final paper is looking at industry make up - and whether a certain type of industry either attracts or “un-attracts” folks to a place.

In theory, I’ll be working on these for the next ~year or so. Not an easy lift. But I think it may make sense to y’all why I care about these. If we can say something about “disincentives” to stay - it may be that directly addressing an issue, or simply “not doing something” negative may be what it takes to keep a certain set of people here, hopefully an easier thing to propose in a state with limited economic resources.

The working title of my research is “Running People Off” - today’s image is meant to be a bit of a play on words on that. Looking at Hills Creek - a type of “runoff” that I’m much more enthusiastic about. :)

Run. Off. (Hills Creek, Winter 2018) - West Virginia

We Stand Together, Rooted To This Place - West Virginia by sam taylor

We Stand Together, Rooted To This Place - West Virginia

Good Friday Morning!

Today’s note follows on to last week’s note (Strong Under Currents).  I noted last week that West Virginia has a talent retention problem, and I spoke a bit about what the broader national trends in that are – migration from rural to urban, the people that are mobile are younger and better educated, generally. 

Today I want to expand a bit on the things that are working in our favor – but may not solve the problem.

A notable thing that I’ve found in my research is evidence that folks from Appalachia in general, and West Virginia in particular are “sticky”.  What does that mean?  It means that people move less than you might expect, and move back when economic winds change.  People hang on here longer than “the data” would suggest, and many come back later in life.  Why?  Some of these things are measureable – cost of living is lower, for example.  Others are harder to quantify – maybe folks want to live closer to family and social support networks.  Maybe their overall “quality of life” is higher, in terms of not dealing with traffic or long commutes, or being able to have their preferred recreational opportunities (tough to hunt, fish, or hike in DC).  Sometimes, this “stickiness” isn’t a good thing – maybe property values in your town are so depressed, or the market so poor, that you can’t sell your house, even if you do want to move.  I’ve also seen evidence for this – that some of our retention is because we have high rates of property transfer from generation to generation.  If you own a house that has been in your family for generations, don’t owe a mortgage on it, and can’t sell it, your personal economics may not see a lot of upside in moving for a job, just to have to pay rent.

Taken as a whole, my theory is that we should focus on retention of people that are here, versus recruitment of people from outside.  My logic here is that we have a great deal of talent that we lose, and we are working against headwinds the whole time there – meanwhile, we know that a great many people will stay here “longer than it makes sense”.  For those people, what is the “last straw” that finally convinces them to move?  In many cases, once they move, they don’t come back until retirement age – when they are outside the most productive part of the workforce. 

This is the focus of my research – what are the things that are pushing people out?

I’ll dial into those ideas next time. 

We Stand Together, Rooted To This Place - West Virginia

Strong Under Currents - West Virginia by sam taylor

strong under currents - west virginia

Good Friday Morning!

Today’s note is a bit of a departure - I’m going to talk a little bit about the research I’m working on, and what I think it means. By the time I’m done, I suspect folks will see how it might tie into my artistic work as well.

West Virginia has a talent retention problem - in our day-to-day lives, folks that grew up here or have lived here for a long time seem to know this even if they haven’t thought about it. We talk about needing jobs for our youth, there are “struggle to stay” series on the web (if you haven’t read those from WV Public Broadcasting, you should), we see the news about the state losing population.

From a researchers/scientists perspective, this is all part of a bigger set of trends in the US - trends of which I’m not sure regular folks are aware.

Across the country, migration is down - at its lowest levels in decades, and is becoming more resistant to the old drivers of jobs and income - in short, people aren’t moving, and the old things that would cause them to move aren’t working the way they used to.

The exceptions inside those trends? Young people and college educated people are the most mobile for work - and nationwide, the trend is for folks to move from rural places to urban places.

These represent strong under currents if you are trying to think about how to grow or help the folks in West Virginia. People don’t move generally, and the people that do move are 1. The people you want to keep, and 2. Moving to places that we generally don’t have in West Virginia. If you are a college grad, or someone with specialized skills, there are so many cities within 200 miles of here, it’s just that none of them are within the state. Baltimore, DC, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Charlotte, Lexington, Cincinnatti, are all larger than the largest cities in WV and within 200 miles - and while bigger isn’t necessarily better, it does mean that there are going to be more opportunities, closer together, and still within a weekend drive “back home” in one of those towns.

So what to do? Well, I’ll try to get into some of my thinking there in upcoming posts.

Hope y’all have a great weekend,

Strong Under Currents - West Virginia

15,330 (A new personal best) - California by sam taylor

15330 (A new personal best) - West Virginia

Good Friday Morning!

Today's note and image are a bit of reflection and thought - you see, my birthday is coming up, marking a new personal high score of 15,330 days on this lovely little planet.

Once upon a time, a little more than 10 years ago, I was lost.  I had been around the world, I had seen so many things, I generally liked my job, and I felt...  totally disconnected from the world, from my happiness, from my family, from my friends.  I was going through the motions, beating in time until "something else happened".  It felt like the stories I'd read - you start to work, you work that job for 30 years, you retire, you die.  I didn't feel like I was contributing.... anything.  That I had no direction.

One day, I had a work project take me to Sacramento, California, and on a whim I called a friend that lived out there and asked if I could make a trip up and visit, and maybe go see the redwoods.  She and her boyfriend rolled out the red carpet for me, they opened their home, lent me some camping gear, and then she served as my tour guide for 3 days while we drove across the Trinity Alps, out to the Lost Coast, and eventually up to Redwoods National Park.  Somewhere in there, I realized that even though I was massively under prepared for this trip (borrowed sleeping bag, borrowed tent, borrowed coat, borrowed hat), I was having the best time I could remember.  I was the happiest I could remember being since I was a carefree teen in the woods down on the Gauley River.  We camped on the beach - a very cold night, for the California coast, and I drank a beer and watched the sun set into the Pacific.  I woke in the middle of the night and found myself surrounded by running elk.

And then I saw the redwoods.

As I was driving back to the airport to catch my flight home, I resolved that I wasn't going to let my life just stream past me anymore.  I was going to do things I loved.  I was going to do work that I thought mattered, I was going to do SOMETHING. 

I can still point to those days, to that trip, as when my life changed.  (how often do you get to do that?)

And everything I've done since then has been aimed at those goals. I've learned to do a great many things since then.  I've taken on more than I could chew (or so it felt).  I've jumped into the deep end - several times now.

And for the most part, I've never been happier.

Happy birthday to me, and here's hoping that I get to keep setting high scores, and living the best life I can find for myself.  Since I wasted a lot of time, I've got to work even harder to get caught back up. :)

Hope y'all have a great weekend.

15,330 (A new personal best) - California

Cold Clear Mountain Water - West Virginia by sam taylor

cold clear mountain water - west virginia

Good Friday Morning!

In the sciences, we often are trying to make intelligent decisions for the betterment of the world based on “what we know at the time” - which is often incomplete, at best. I love working in the sciences, and virtually everyone I’ve ever met who works in these areas has the best of intentions in the work they do. In short, they all are working for “the betterment of mankind” in their minds, and put in the effort that a calling such as that requires.

The catch to this is that it’s often hard to tell where the ripples of your work may lead.

I wonder if Alexander Fleming had any ideas about antibiotic resistance when he invented penicillin, or was only thinking about lives saved (estimated at 200 million lives saved).

Paul Muller invented something in 1939 that won him the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1948, and is estimated to have saved even more lives - 500 million.

That invention was DDT, and was banned worldwide in 2004.

I read this week where a representative for a natural gas company was quoted as saying “we don’t wake up in the morning thinking about what stream we’re going to pollute”. I believe him, generally, but at the same time that’s the intersection of science and business - so while it might not be that malicious, I do wonder if he stays awake at night wondering what the long term outcomes of his work might be.

I don’t know exactly where my work is going, or who it might influence, but to assume it will only do what you intend it to do is naive at best. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop, but at least I am thinking about it.

Hope y’all have a great weekend. As I worried might be the case, I was a bit too busy to put a note together for you wonderful folks on Tuesday. Today’s image from a lovely wintery walk along Chestnut Ridge in West Virginia.

Cold Clear Mountain Water - West Virginia

Lovely Dark and Deep - West Virginia by sam taylor

Lovely Dark and Deep - West Virginia

Good Friday Morning!

I’ve done this type of work long enough to understand that the photos I like may not be the photos “the public” likes.

In general, the public likes familiar things - a place they’ve visited, a sunset over a pretty field, puppies. ; - )

While I sometimes like those things too, those things don’t motivate me as an artist - even if those may be the more “commercial” images. From the very beginning, I’ve had a hard time shooting things because “I know they’ll sell” - which is why it was 5 years between what I would consider “post card” shots of Blackwater Falls (see Tuesday’s post below).

A long running (and more personally satisfying) project of mine is trying to capture what the woods “look like” in West Virginia. I’ve taken more images than I can count of light through the forest, trying to capture that dappled sun and green glowing look of our woods. I’ve taken more images than I can count of fall foliage and stands of evergreens and sun through the leafless winter forest.

I’ve never taken one that I would say “yup, that’s it”.

But sometimes I come close.

Today’s image of a snow coated stand of evergreens, and as soon as I saw this, it reminded me of winters past, of watching weather roll in, of thinking to myself “I should get home before it gets dark”.

If art is supposed to make you feel something, today’s image made me feel something.

And to me, that is why I do this.

Hope folks have a wonderful weekend,

Lovely Dark and Deep - West Virgini

Blackwater Falls (Winter 2019) - West Virginia by sam taylor

Blackwater Falls (Winter 2019) - West Virginia

Good Tuesday Morning!

Well, I finally broke down and did this one. I’ve hiked the main falls many times over the last several years, but I’ve not photographed it since spring of 2014 - almost 5 years ago. While conditions are always part of photography, I found it interesting that there was snow on the ground the last time I captured it as well. That said, it made for a nice “A/B” Comparison of how my technique and style have changed over that time, and I have to say, I’m happier with this version than that one. At least now, if someone asks if I have a photo of Blackwater Falls, I can say “yes”. Haha.

In terms of today’s message, I would say that it speaks to the old adage “if you aren’t growing, you’re dying”. In the rush, in the moment, it’s easy to think “I haven’t changed, the world has changed”, but honestly, if that’s true, it means you probably aren’t living your best life. Life is change - both in yourself and in the world around us. Literally, the only constant is change (though it is nice to be able to visit people and places where that change may be very slow). For me, that growth and progression are a lot of what drives me in my pursuits - the thought that I can be better tomorrow than I was today, or at least strive for it.

Hope folks have a productive week.

Blackwater Falls (Winter 2019) - West Virginia

Twice As Far As Expected (Upper jonathan run Falls) - Pennsylvania by sam taylor

Good Friday Morning!

It’s becoming ever more challenging to find a hike we haven’t done within an hour of Morgantown, but that’s exactly what today’s story is about. I make the joke that the only thing wrong with Ohiopyle State Park, in Pennsylvania, is that it isn’t in West Virginia. Joking aside, it is a lovely gem of a park, and within an hour of Morgantown - featuring whitewater rafting, biking, rock climbing, and hiking.

Somehow, even with visiting Ohiopyle several times, I had never made the trip to the Jonathan Run falls - surprising since the trail description says it is a 1.7mi one way hike. Excited for a moderate hike to waterfall, we set sail with a bit of water and a couple protein bars on an unseasonably nice winter day. Reaching the end of the Jonathan Run Trail, we realized we were in for more of an adventure than we expected - the trail was closed, due to flooding last season washing out the bridges. Regrouping, and realizing that it was after boating season, we headed for the Bruner Run take out parking lot, with a plan to walk the Allegheny Passage Trail back to the bottom of Jonathan Run.

Setting sail, it seemed that this would be a longer hike than we initially planned - but weather and daylight seemed to be on our side, and full of confidence, we were sure we had 3mph pace in us on the flat Allegheny Passage Trail. It was a lovely day, even with the leaves off, and we enjoyed a nice day with the trail mostly to ourselves. Reaching the bottom of Jonathan Run, we started up the bottom of the trail, below where the bridges had washed out. We found the lower Jonathan Run Falls, and had a rare moment for us - we bailed. The descent to the creek was extremely steep, and rains the night before had made the leaves and mud on the bank extremely slippery. We started down - realized that a slip was likely and high consequence and turned back. Feeling a bit defeated, we headed on up and heard the upper falls before we saw them Dropping down to the falls, the view made up for getting shut down on the lower, and we enjoyed a break and some water and did a bit of shooting. Another ephemeral falls on Fechter Run was running, but was very cluttered and woody (also probably from the floods).

Then we turned back, and realized that we had underpacked for the length of hike we were doing. Finally returning to the jeep, my GPS said 7.5mi total - a far cry from the food, water, and shoes that we had prepared for a 3.4mi roundtrip hike.

But its a price we were willing to pay for a new adventure within an hour of home.

Hope folks have a great weekend, and find some adventure of their own!

Last Used in 1868 - West Virginia by sam taylor

Last Used in 1868 - West Virginia

Good Tuesday Afternoon, and happy 2019 to everyone!

It was a fantastic break out here, I was able to totally disconnect from my phone, email, social media for a couple weeks and enjoy the downtime. That said, 2019 isn’t going to be great for downtime, and I’m not sure what that might mean for this little operation in the coming year.

I/we have a LOT on the table this year:

I am in the “defend the dissertation” part of a PhD program - the hard lift over the finish line - in economics, with a focus on West Virginia. I hope to be done (or near done) by the end of this Spring semester.

I’m getting married this coming summer, and have a wedding to plan and prepare (with some help).

My daughter starts high school this coming fall.

I started a new job in November 2018, and it has brought a lot of new responsibilities.

All of those are good things - but they also are stiff competition for the 24 hours I have in each day, and while I have petitioned to lengthen the day to 27 hours several times, that movement just hasn’t taken off :). That means that something probably will get less attention - and realistically, it’s going to be the time I put into this work. I still enjoy the work and conversing with you lovely folks - and I want that to stay true, so I will write when I have time and feel inspired, versus feeling like I “have to” - hope that y’all understand.

It also means that you are getting a preview of what a great deal of my thoughts (and thus, my topics) will be in the coming year. Family, kids, marriage, and the future of West Virginia. Hope that’s ok.

Hope you have a great rest of your week.

Today’s image is a detail of the Henry Clay Iron Furnace at Coopers Rock State Forest. The historian tells me that it was built in the 1830s, and was last used in 1868. Built by hand, it’s sat, unmaintained, for 150 years - almost as long as West Virginia has been a state. I loved the detail in the handcut stones on the corner, and the texture they show from all of that time.

Last Used in 1868 - West Virginia

2018 Top 9 by sam taylor

2018top9

Good Friday Morning!

Today’s post will likely represent our closing number for 2018 (although I reserve the right to sit down with y’all if the urge strikes). It’s been an impactful year in many ways, but it has led to feeling a bit “stretched in too many directions”. That said, it has been incredible to have another year of talking with everyone and trying to share my vision and feeling about this place with folks.

A favorite Ansel Adams quote of mine is “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.”, and while I can sometimes debate “significant”, I am satisfied with the images selected and represented here, as I feel like they represent the essentials of what I am trying to do with this work:

Present truthful images that represent my experiences in this wonderful, frustrating, and endlessly interesting place. Every one of these images is “as it was”, and I’m proud of that.

Look forward to talking with y’all in 2019, and hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season filled with joy, wonder, and love.

With gratitude,

Sam

Field Frost - West Virginia by sam taylor

Field Frost - West Virginia

Good Tuesday Morning, everyone.

I have to give credit to my friends for keeping my brain working and my ideas polished up. I had a conversation the other night about “does the world feel smaller” these days. To my friends, the answer seemed to be “no” - the world seems larger and more complicated than ever, and the chances to see it - to truly see it all - are getting further and further away.

To me, it seems the opposite. The world feels terribly small to me, that the ability to get away - to not be found, the ability to go and have an experience that is unique in a place, the ability to have a part of the world all to yourself, and to learn and experience it in a way that no one else can, is vanishing, and vanishing faster and faster every year, like a puddle drying up.

I feel like I see it everywhere - folks have written articles about how we all take the same travel photographs, folks talk about Green Bank like it’s a magical Shangri-La of a place, since it doesn’t have cell service or wireless internet (although it’s not clear how much longer that will be true).

Sometimes I can still find the feeling - this morning was one of them. Hiking through the fields with a heavy frost on, remembering the smell and feeling of many, many mornings like this on the farm - headed out to the woods, or to school, or to do work, but the feeling that I “knew” this place, and that there was a world full of these places.

So, readers - I would be curious - does the world feel larger, or smaller to you these days, and why?

Field Frost - West Virginia

Light Snow on Sugar Creek Mountain - West Virginia by sam taylor

Light Snow on Sugar Creek Mountain - West Virginia

Good Friday Morning!

Boy, am I ready for the end-of-year. I’m tired and stretched enough that I don’t know if I’m looking forward to any of the holiday stuff, or just simply being able to be “off” for a few days. 2018 was a big year of transition around these parts, and 2019 is looking like it is going to be more (maybe a lot more) of the same.

It was maybe one of our “worst” years ever, in terms of getting out to the woods and wilds, as so many things competed for the time. Many of them were good. Some of them were essential. But it still leaves me with a little bit of a sense of regret that I didn’t “do everything” the way I wanted to this year. All of that said, I do think we “did the best we could”.

This is an example of “the best we could”. We got brave, and after a nice Sunday lunch with my folks, Carmen and I decided we’d try to get into the mountains - never a guarantee this time of year - and find a little bit of green to break up the grey of the season. We had a lovely couple hour hike - not as much, or as adventurous as we normally like - but we were glad to squeeze it in, a welcome bit of nature therapy in what has been a pretty crazy fall.

Hope folks have a great weekend.

Light Snow on Sugar Creek Mountain - West Virginia

Frost on the Hood - West Virginia by sam taylor

Frost on the Hood - West Virginia

Good Morning!

We’ve talked about it before, but it’s a topic that doesn’t get old to me - the promise of the day.

I was talking with a friend over the weekend about how time seems to speed up the older you get. His take on it was that it’s because we lose the novelty of the world as we get older. Our brains get used to whats around us, and fills in the spaces. Most of the time we run in routines, same trip to work, same place for lunch, same things when we get home.

If he’s right, the way that we get the most out of our time - and feel like we get the most out of our time - is by doing things that break up those routines, or seeking out new experiences. This is counter to a lot of folks - they want to get to comfortable, as fast as possible.

I have to say, after a few days to think on it, I think he’s right. Trying new things, learning new things, seeing new things, all of those are what fill-out a life - and maybe help to make it feel like it isn’t just rushing past us. I’m not sure, but that feels like a “New Years Resolution” in the making, if ever I heard one.

Today’s image from a super cold, super early morning, where we made a memory before breakfast, and then had a full day to boot. (oh yeah, the title - you can actually see frost on the lens hood in this image. It was COLD :) )

Frost on the Hood - West Virginia

Shared Interests - West Virginia by sam taylor

Shared Interests - West Virginia

Good Friday Morning!

We talk about a lot of topics here - travel, politics, gear. Today’s note inspired by a conversation that Carmen and I were having this week about “what makes relationships work” - or not work - depending on the moment.

What makes a relationship work… Well, this is the kind of thing that will get as many answers as there are people answering it, but I’ll go for a few that I think have some universal truth.

A big one for us is mutual respect, and acting in a way that is deserving of respect. You can’t belittle or degrade your partner, and then bow up when they don’t seem to respect or value what you have to say. If neither of you are going to respect each other, then why be in the relationship in the first place?

A second big one is open and clear communication. A lot of times, folks get into this mode of not talking to each other - your partner should “just know” what’s wrong, or under your skin. I personally prefer almost blunt conversation, versus hinting around. You want me home at a certain time, say so. Unhappy that I ate the last yogurt? Say so. I’m being a bit simplistic here, but actually saying what you mean, and (in corollary to mutual respect) mean what you say. Save the passive-aggressive, baiting-for-a-fight-stuff for someone else. Or the comments section on the internet.

Last but not least, having some shared interests is HUGE for us - and I mean deeper than just the kids and family. Is there something that you can do as a couple and enjoy each other’s company? Do you love movies? Read similar books? I always find couples that lead totally separate lives very sad, only intersecting around the kids school projects or over the dinner table. That all said, shared interests won’t make it if the things above aren’t there too. I’ve known a lot of “adventure couples” that ultimately didn’t make it, because while they might both love climbing, they were hateful or dismissive of each other otherwise.

Why this topic today? Because this shot is the product of the “good” parts of this. I told Carmen I had the idea for this shot a few weeks in advance, and it meant getting up at 5am on a 20F morning, hiking in the dark, and hanging out in the cold with only a thermos of coffee between us - and somehow, we managed to remain sweet on each other, not hogging the coffee, and not getting grumpy in the early cold - and it meant a lot to me that she would want to come for this, getting up out of bed for a cold sunrise, when she could have stayed in bed, or snuggled up on the couch. From a recent early morning over Cheat Canyon.

Shared Interests - West Virginia

You Can Only See So Far - West Virginia by sam taylor

You Can Only See So Far - West Virginia

‘Tis the season for retrospection and introspection.

This always seems to be the season where I look back on the year, and try to figure out where I’m going in the next year.

When I was younger - in my 20s, say - I would have “5 year plans”, and it felt good to be thinking about where I wanted to be going. The catch? Literally none, not one, of those 5-year plans worked out the way I thought they would. My job, having kids, getting married, getting divorced, moving away, moving back. None of it happened according to plan.

For a long time, this was terribly stressful to me - I wasn’t measuring up, I wasn’t sure I was going where I wanted to go. As I got older, I started to change the question - was I living the life I wanted to live? Am I prioritizing the way I want to?

So, today, I think about the future. I have dreams. But I’ve changed how I think about achieving them. Am I making the right moves? Not “Am I on schedule”.

Because at the end, you can only see so far.

Today’s image from a farm, long abandoned, on a road, long passed by, standing in a fog bank.

You Can Only See So Far - West Virginia

One Glorious Day - West Virginia by sam taylor

One Glorious Day - West Virginia

Good Friday Morning!

We’re nearing the end of the fall-glory part of our year. It’s already snowed here in Morgantown, and the ramp-up to the holidays is in full swing.

Today’s image from one of those ephemerally short “perfect” fall days - the kind that you better be off your couch and searching for, or they will pass you by - gone until the next year.

We had started the weekend working our way south, and already the leaves were gone in the overlooks and high places, but we know this place - and we know that in the sheltered valleys and warmer places, the color might still be with us. As we made our way down along this creek, we realized that we had made a good call - and gotten lucky at the same time.

It was beautiful. Dreamlike. The yellow leaves were falling and blowing like snow, or flower petals, on a warm breeze above the rushing water. Every time the wind would pick up, they would fall and swirl, and the “smell of fall” was strong in the air. Carmen and I stood there, talking about our year and how it was perfect to be in the moment, in that place, just soaking it it - knowing there was literally nowhere in this world that could be better than what we were seeing and experiencing in that moment. That we had this one, glorious day - perfect - to last us until next year.

Hope folks are enjoying the holiday weekend (and don’t forget to support the locals tomorrow on Small Business Saturday!).

One Glorious Day - West Virginia