Wednesday, August 31, 2011

January 2004: New River Gorge, West Virginia

CSX westbound empty hopper train in the New River Gorge.
My first big trip with a digital SLR camera was a weekend in West Virginia's New River Gorge at the end of January 2004. Even though I had taken several train rides through the gorge as a child, I didn't "discover" its photographic potential until I started looking at Kevin Scanlon's photographs of the region. I was intrigued by the high-angle possibilities, a rarity in the dense forests of the eastern U.S., but at first I thought the trains appeared too small and too far away. Something about Kevin's work kept me coming back to those images, though, and eventually I realized that the trains were just the right size. These are photos about the land, and the railroad's relationship to it.

The New River Gorge can be a difficult place to photograph. In the short days of winter, the tracks only see sunlight for a few hours. It's 9:55 a.m. in the above view from Kaymoor, and shadows still cover part of the river and the entire southwestern wall. The two main tracks of CSX's New River Subdivision run on opposite banks of the river here, built to serve coal mines on both sides. (You can see the extant conveyor of the Nuttalburg tipple at far left.) Most vantages require a hike and only afford a view of one track. There's little advance warning on the trains, so usually I just pick a spot and wait. Sometimes everything runs on the track that I can't see, or nothing runs at all. But the river speaks to me, the hawks and buzzards keep me company, and sometimes it all comes together.

1 comment:

LouT1501 said...

Your patience and climbing ability paid off once again, Scott. Great image!