Hiking Seneca Rocks, West Virginia

Since dogs are allowed on most trails in West Virginia, Sue and I packed extra water for Miles and Opal, grabbed our binoculars and camera gear and headed for Seneca Rocks. A sign warned us to stay on the path, noting that 15 people have died from steep falls. Thankfully, we weren't actually rock climbing, just hiking.

Had we chosen to believe the forecast on the radio, we might not have even left, with reports calling for rain. Yet in checking the weather radar on the phone, it clearly showed that most precipitation had already passed. With visible patches of blue sky and a bit of sunshine to light the way, we set out on the 3 mile round trip hike.   

The forest floor is a treasure trove of photographic potential with a wide variety of moss, plant life, and lichen covered rock. 

I usually find a wide angle lens to be suitable for these details. The key is to get very close and fill the frame with your subject.  Of course wooded areas can be heavily shadowed so a high ISO is often necessary for a proper exposure. I try to be around f8 for suitable depth of field, and no slower than 1/125 on the shutter. This keeps everything nice and sharp.

The first 1.5 miles is all uphill, steadily ascending 1000 feet to the overlook. Humidity was high so we stopped often for water breaks. Hikers passed with a polite "howdy" reminding us that we were south of the Mason-Dixon Line. 

Once at the top, we were joined by a few other hikers enjoying the view. Rather than eliminating them from the frame, I kept them in for added visual interest. 

Considering the time of day (around noon), the light was not ideal for a scenic vista. If I properly exposed the sky, the landscape would be in shadow. Reversing it would render the sky as white and overexposed. I've come to learn that much of photography is merely creative problem solving. My camera (Canon 6D) has a built in HDR mode. I don't use it often, but this was essentially the exact scenario it was designed for. We lingered here for a while, breathing in the cooler mountain air. 


It's always easier going down, and we casually worked our way back to the start. I noticed a few other details along the way, like these spectacular colors of moss on the dark bark of a tree. The dogs sat dutifully while I made these photographs.

Once at the bottom, we looked up in disbelief at what we had just climbed. From the valley floor I shot this image to document the ascent. Miles and Opal didn't seem phased though, and were more interested in playing along the nearby stream.


On the drive back to our cabin, that rain storm finally arrived and I made a shot with my iPhone from the moving car.

TravelogueChris Corradino