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November 2011: Fall Morning at Bear Rocks Preserve, West Virginia

From the Photographer...

Kent Mason

To get an image that depicts Bear Rocks Preserve in all its glory, I make dozens of trips to this location each year waiting for all the right conditions to come together.

I took this image in mid-October when the blueberry leaves turn a bright red at their peak. The sun is just rising to the East, creating a play of soft light across the rocky ridge, the red blueberry leaves and the clouds.

This image is a view north along the Eastern Continental Divide in a high elevation area of the Allegheny Mountains in West Virginia. The location is The Nature Conservancy’s Bear Rocks Preserve, the favorite photo location of mine. The rim of the "Allegheny Front," as it is called, contains sandstone cliffs and giant rock outcroppings with a 2,000 to 3,000-foot drop below and a breathtaking thirty-mile view to the East.

The Bear Rocks Preserve is a 500-acre site that has undergone extensive red spruce restoration and erosion control by the Conservancy. It is adjacent to Dolly Sods Wilderness, one of the largest wildernesses east of the Mississippi River. This wilderness was made possible after the Conservancy bought the mineral rights to the land in the mid-1960. Since then, the Conservancy has played a key role in buying adjoining private lands as they came available and then selling them to the U.S. Forest Service to expand the Monongahela National Forest.

The cool and moist climate of Bear Rocks nurtures heath barrens, cotton grass and peat bogs, tundra-like areas, as well as red spruce forests, which is more typical of Canada or Alaska.

An unusually windless morning allowed a slow shutter speed so that a sharp image was possible. A split neutral density filter lowered the contrast between the sky and mountains so that view is similar to what our eyes see. 

Kent Mason, a retiree, decided to give five years of professional photographic services to The Nature Conservancy in West Virginia after he found out his favorite photo location, Bear Rocks, was a Nature Conservancy preserve. His father was on the national board of the Conservancy for over ten years and served as the volunteer treasurer to the national office when The Nature Conservancy was in the very early stages of development. See more of Kent’s images at:

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