Dolly Sods Sunrise

Bear Rocks Preserve in the Dolly Sods Wilderness, West Virginia

Fourth Time's a Charm

The Dolly Sods Wilderness is a highly unusual place in the Monongahela National Forest in eastern West Virginia. They say the wildlife and vegetation found here is more similar to Northern Canada than West Virginia. I’ll have to take their word for it as I’ve only ever been as far north as Toronto. 

The part of Dolly Sods pictured here is called Bear Rocks Preserve and it is covered in blueberry bushes, heath shrubs and spruce pines stunted from the constant winds. The leaves of the blueberry bushes turn red in early autumn and it is this color that drew me to the area. 

This was the fourth time I’ve tried to catch the fall color amongst the lichen covered rocks, but this is only the first time I succeeded. The first two attempts were made too late in the season and I discovered only short bushes totally striped of their leaves. The third attempt was when I discovered just what exactly had been stripping the bushes of their leaves the previous years: I arrived at the top of the mountain to raging winds and driving sleet. 10 minutes’ drive down the mountain, all was calm and sunny, but it was fierce winter at the top. 

This year, however, I timed my visit perfectly. 

The winds blow constantly in this location, so making this image was a bit tricky. I had to balance the need to have an aperture that would create the depth of field through the scene so everything would be in focus, but at a shutter speed that stood any chance of stopping the motion of the leaves and pines as they were blown about by the winds. I think I struck an acceptable compromise with this image. My choice of composition helped a bit as well, as many of the plants in the scene were sheltered from the worst of the wind by the boulders. The rest was a matter of timing with regards to when to trigger the camera’s shutter to try to make the most use of rare moments of relative calm. 

I’m publishing this post on the same day that I took this image, so what you see here is a quick edit of the scene. I may offer this image for sale after I’ve run my normal suite of

Stephen Girimont