Ancient Oak and Autumn Sunrise
West Virginia

Ancient Oak and Autumn Sunrise

20×24 prints are $1,500
30×40 prints are $3,000

In the autumn of 1991, I spent over a month photographing in West Virginia. Ruth and I traveled up and down, back and forth across the state—logging thousands of miles. Studying detailed maps and the rugged terrian, I tried to make intelligent decisions as to where to go and how best to place myself in a position for worthwhile photographs.

All the planning and preparation are only preliminaries, however. No one can predict exactly what the light will be doing any given moment, or how and when everything will come together to make an inspiring photograph. You place yourself in the best position you can and then hope and pray you will see what comes your way and be able to adequately respond to the situation.

On this morning, the rising sun was beginning to burn through a light fog layer—which gives perhaps my favorite lighting effects. There is an enveloping warm glow that seems to fill the air and gives life to everything. This is the light I long for—and when it comes, it usually lasts but a few minutes and then is gone until another day. 

When I saw this light beginning, I knew that I needed to act fast. Looking at the topographical map, I could see that to the west was a small valley which was oriented east-west which would probably receive the angled rays of the morning sun.

Ruth drove over a few rises and bends and when we came around a corner this magnificent tree presented itself to us. The glowing light enveloped the ancient oak with bronze leaves and the lavender mountainside provided a perfect backdrop to the whole scene. I was truly stunned!

Leaping out of the car, I set up the camera while Ruth dusted off a film holder. I was so thrilled and filled with enthusiasm that I had to talk out loud to myself, lest I make a mistake in the whole process. I took the spotmeter readings, placed the values and calculated the exposure, stopped the lens down, closed the shutter, cocked and fired the shutter a few times to insure that it worked properly, placed a film holder in the camera, pulled the darkslide, waited a few seconds for any vibration to die down, exposed the film, and carefully reinserted the slide into the holder.

The experience left me quite literally speechless for the next hour or so, as we continued on our journey. The tree was not the only thing glowing in that morning light! I felt illuminated myself, with an inner joy and peace which deeply touched and inspired me and gave me a sense of profound fulfillment.

Format: Large (horizontal)
Location: West Virginia
Reference key: aoas