A Visit to America’s Newest National Park

by | Jul 14, 2023 | Impressive Places, Pic of the Month, Updates & Opportunities | 8 comments

The New River Gorge National Park & Preserve is America’s newest National Park. And it’s in West Virginia! With free admission, how could I not be excited about this?!

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed exploring the the New River Gorge when I’ve had the chance. Because I live north of the Park, my “chance” is usually when I’m driving to/from destinations south of West Virginia. The main drag along Rt. 19 crosses right over the iconic New River Gorge Bridge, and close to where Rt. 19 meets I77, there’s a famous overlook called Grandview I’ve wanted to stop at for a long time.

Well, this spring was my first chance to to stop there!


Our decision to stop was fairly last minute. Stopping would mean getting to our final destination pretty late. And that’s what makes shooting golden hour and sunset so difficult! But we were in the area at just the perfect time of day, and after weighing the pros and cons, we decided we would try to stop for golden hour.

And we almost missed it! When we pulled in, the parking lot was in shade. Thankfully, the trail to the overlook was short and easy. We we arrived, the golden light was still kissing the top of the ridges. The view was breathtaking!

I knew I didn’t have much time to shoot before the light was gone. Looking for a foreground element, the first thing that caught my eye was a rhododendron bush in full bloom.

230509_James Staddon_ Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 19 mm, 1-5 sec at f - 16, ISO 50

Including the rhododendron blooms only allowed me to capture in the frame half of the river that was visible from the overlook. Both halves of the river could be included in a single shot, but only barely! The bend was quite wide, and was shooting as wide as I could (16mm on a full frame sensor) in order to get both halves of the river in the same frame without going panoramic.

230509_James Staddon_ Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 16 mm, 0.5 sec at f - 16, ISO 50

But the composition that I liked best from this overlook, for this particular time of day, was shooting toward the sunset. The framing, and sense of depth, is just so wonderful!

230509_James Staddon_ Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 17 mm, 1-5 sec at f - 16, ISO 50

Repositioning only slightly, I decided to include more of the tree and a different angle on the rocks to introduce a pattern of implied leading lines. The rocks, the tree, the clouds, and even the river all seem to now point over to where the sun is setting, the brightest part of the scene!

230509_James Staddon_ Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 16 mm, 1-10 sec at f - 16, ISO 50-2

Floating Over the Gorge
Grandview Overlook, New River Gorge National Park & Preserve, West Virginia
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Of course, I couldn’t leave without trying to include a human element in a photo or two. The location was just so incredible, and I just love how this long exposure turned the trees around the rhododendron into a sea of green, setting off the purple blooms.

230509_James Staddon_ Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 16 mm, 1-5 sec at f - 16, ISO 50-4

Ah. Breathtaking! I am so thankful for opportunities like this. Incredible location, amazing lighting, elements for composition. The perfect recipe for calendar photos!

And speaking of calendar photos, as I begin preparation for the 2024 Lenspiration calendars . . . I’m curious: what is your favorite hymn? As you know, hymns are the theme of each year’s calendar. What hymns should I include in the calendar?! Is there a particular verse of a hymn that you like?

I’d love to hear from my readership. Let me know in the comments below!

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  1. Allison

    I love the hymn “The Church’s One Foundation.” I also love “It’s Just Like His Great Love,” “O to be Like Thee,” and “Hallelujah, What a Savior,” just to name a few! 🙂

    • James Staddon

      Thank you, Allison! What great songs. I’ll have to check my database to see which of those I’ve used, but I’m sure some of them will be new!

  2. Ted Griffith

    Hi James. My favorite hymn is “Amazing Grace”. I think it presents the Gospel better than just about any other song. My second favorite hymn is “In the Garden”. This probably is not surprising since the focus of my photo art is floral. The refrain of the hymn is so wonderful –

    “And He wlks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own, and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”

    • James Staddon

      Thank you so much, Ted! It’s been a long time since I’ve used either of those songs in a calendar, I think. Will try to include one if not both!

  3. Samuel West

    The view at New River Gorge is awesome!
    It would be really hard to narrow down one favorite hymn. I really like both In Christ Alone and Be Thou My Vision. I particularly love the third verse of In Christ Alone. However, I would have to say Be Thou My Vision is my most favorite hymn. I love all the lines of the song and has been a great encouragement to me in my walk with Christ.

  4. Blessings Captured

    That is a really neat place!
    One song I like is “My Hope is in the Lord”. I think the last verse is my favorite. “His grace has planned it all, ‘Tis mine but to believe And recognize His work of love and Christ receive.”

  5. James Staddon

    That’s a great song! Thank you for mentioning it. I don’t think I’ve ever used it in a calendar before too.


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