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October 2013: Watercolor Potomac

From the Photographer...

Kent Mason

The Potomac River is best known for flowing through Washington, D.C., and into the Chesapeake Bay. Its origin occurs a couple hundred of miles west of Washington, D.C., high in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia. In fall, the ridges and valleys are clothed in the seasonal colors of the Central Appalachian’s temperate deciduous forests, among the world's most biologically diverse. These mountains, once as grand as the Rockies, have been worn down by their rivers over millions of years. Not only rich in plant and animal life, these forests are critical to the health of the river itself and the well-being of the more than six million people that live in its watershed. To conserve these forests, the Nature Conservancy in West Virginia has protected about 13,000 acres in the headwaters of the South Branch.

The Potomac River's headwaters begin at over 4800 feet along the east side of the Eastern U.S. Continental divide in the Allegheny Mountains. The Potomac's South Branch flows from the area around Spruce Knob, the highest point West Virginia. After cascading down the mountainsides, the Potomac meanders through valleys on its way to the Chesapeake Bay. This image was taken in the first major valley just below the Eastern Continental divide. Here the river has widened and flows smoothly through the valley floor in most places.

Late one fall afternoon I was searching for River reflections and came upon this scene of the mountain reflected in the relatively smooth flow of the South Branch of the Potomac. The rock outcropping, the bright yellow colors of the oaks on the mountainside, the green foliage on the foothill, and the blue sky reflected perfectly in the clear waters of the Potomac. The lighter rocks of the shoreline and the Sycamore saplings just beyond create a frame for the reflection. The wonderful texture of the rocks and trees of the mountain are created by the water ripples and the riverbed rocks are seen in the blue sky portion of the reflection. I refer to scenes like this as "art in nature.” They’re a wonderful gift of our natural world. This is a film image taken with the Pentax LX camera and a 70 to 200 mm f4 lens on a gitzo tripod. Image settings were not recorded.

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. See more of Kent’s images at:

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