THOMAS — Over the next eight weeks, the Cortland Foundation will unveil the winners of the 2020 Photography Competition through the photographers’ own words. This first segment will highlight photographers from Davis, Buckhannon and Tornado. As with so many things this year, COVID-19 upended the traditional in-person unveiling, but the extraordinary photographs deserve to be seen and enjoyed by everyone. Whether you’ve always wanted to take better photographs or have graduated to the professional ranks, the insights of these winners offer something for everyone.
What began as a hobby taking pictures with his smartphone six years ago, Dylan Jones of Davis now uses a DSLR Sony a7R3 mirrorless body and a range of Sony lenses to capture his images.
“My favorite subject to photograph are the landscapes, flora and fauna of West Virginia,” explains Jones, “specifically within the bounds of the spectacular Monongahela National Forest. The portion of the Central Appalachians located within West Virginia’s borders contain some of the most biodiverse and ecologically essential landscapes on the continent, not to mention some of the most aesthetically pleasing and viscerally appealing places to the human eye. From our tea-colored mountain rivers and dark red spruce forests of the Allegheny Front to the clear waters of the Potomac limestone cliffs of the Smoke Hole Canyon, there’s never a dull moment when you’re behind the lens in the Mon.”
To be able to venture into these still-wild places and photograph them throughout each of our unique seasons is a gift I vow to never take for granted. Doing it as part of my job and publishing these photos to help promote conservation and preservation in the Mountain State is an honor and a privilege.
Jones’ winning entry, “The Tree,” shows a magnificent yellow birch surrounded by a thriving stand of red spruce along Forest Road 75 in the Dolly Sods Scenic Area of the Monongahela National Forest. The shot’s rare upward angle helps distort the gnarled trunk and root structure, creating an organic, creature-like interpretation of the roots. The textures of the recently fallen leaves and moss on the roots help create a unique mood.
“Words of wisdom for photography enthusiasts –shoot early, shoot often,” remarks Jones. “Shoot the same scene or subject until you’re blue in the face, or your friends are begging you to move on down the trail. The more shots you take, the more likely you are to find a good one. Photography is a game of light, so change one setting at a time and see how that affects the results.”
A serious photographer for the past eight years, Kevin King of Tornado is a three-time winner of Cortland’s photography contest. Using a Nikon DSLR and assorted lenses, waterfalls are a favorite subject.
“I’ve enjoyed wading into streams and creeks since I was a child,” explains King. “I also enjoy wandering in the woods in search of waterfalls, so photography allows me to enjoy both past times. Waterfalls can change from day to day and from season to season, so any given waterfall offers an abundance of opportunities”.
According to King, his winning entry, “Moonset,” was planned out months in advance. “I knew that on this date, the full moon would be positioned for a suitable composition from the Pendleton Point overlook at Blackwater Falls State Park. Fortunately, when the time came, the skies were clear, and the fall colors were nice, so all I had to do was take the picture.”
Photography develops into a passion for many of the winning entrants. They seem to live and breathe composition and lighting. King tells the story of staying at the Blackwater Falls State Park lodge for a photography excursion. “I went down to the lobby to get a cup of coffee early my last morning and decided to step outside for some fresh air. At the beginning of twilight, I noticed the high clouds in a very intricate pattern. I knew there was a high probability of an epic sunrise, so I ran back to the room, grabbed my gear, and drove as quickly as I could over to the Pendleton overlook. I could get some excellent images of one of the most epic sunrises that I have seen. When I had finished and was getting ready to drive back to the lodge, I realized that I was still in my pajamas! Fortunately, I had no witnesses as I was the only one there that early in the morning.”
“I have been a casual photographer for 40 years and a serious photographer for ten,” explains Alan Tucker of Buckhannon. Tucker had two entries selected this year using a Canon 5D Mark IV and a Canon 16-35mm or 24-205mm L lens.
“I love grand landscapes, and I enjoy looking for and capturing the beauty of God’s creations,” states Tucker. “West Virginia is blessed with majestic vistas of sweeping mountains and broad valleys that have a unique beauty in every season. I love searching out those grand landscape shots that best define our beautiful state.”
Unique grand landscape photography requires four things, according to Tucker. “First, you must understand the concept of composition. Knowing the rules of the composition should be second nature to you. Second, grand landscapes usually require a wide-angle lens. Third, it is all about light. Great composition with poor light is not worth shooting. Finally, take great landscapes, take fewer pictures by studying the scene, and look for that unique composition with the right light. Find something compelling that others may not have seen and capture that unique stunning photo. Oh…and patience. You might not get the shot you want, but you know at another time or season, there might be a unique shot waiting for you.”
To underscore the need for patience, Tucker tells the story of traveling several hours, year after year, to capture a stunning maple tree only to be thwarted by fading fall colors, dull light, or winds that had already robbed the tree of its leaves. “One year, everything was perfect — color, lighting, no wind,” explains Tucker. “I knew the shots I wanted, so with trusty tripod and camera in hand, I finally captured the photo I had wanted for so many years.”
While COVID may have changed the way Cortland presents their 2020 photography winners, the prints continue to be spectacular. As with previous years, both large and small scale prints from 2019 are available for purchase. The prints previewed in this article will be available for purchase in the fall of 2021. Please visit the Cortland Acres website at www. https://www.cortlandacres.org/2019-prints-for-sale or contact Dan Bucher at 304-463-4181 for more information.
The Foundations’ mission is “To secure the resources necessary to enhance the health and well-being of the Cortland community.” A 501(c)3 organization, The Foundation is dedicated to helping Cortland Acres continue to provide and expand quality care and services to the local and surrounding communities. Cortland Acres is a nonprofit corporation offering state-of-the-art nursing care, skilled rehabilitation, and retirement living on a spacious 35-acre campus in scenic Tucker County, West Virginia. For more information, call 304-463-4181 or visit www.cortlandacres.org.