There aren’t a ton of places with views around Charleston so when my Capital-based couples want to see the mountains and don’t want to drive super far, we shoot at the New River Gorge. There are a few New River Gorge areas I shoot at regularly — Endless Wall, where we shot this engagement session — is one of my favorites because there are several places where overlooks are close together and it’s easy to shoot across the void at the couple on the other side.
Shooting in West Virginia is kind of a different ballgame than shooting in Virginia, though. In West Virginia, the mountains are much closer together and the light is harsher for a longer amount of time. When shooting sunset sessions in the mountains, my favorite light is actually the 20-30 minutes AFTER the sun has dipped below the ridge line - a time commonly known as blue hour. For sunrise couples or engagement sessions I try to shoot as much as possible just before the sun comes up.
Because the mountains are so close together, there’s only about five minutes of light when the sun is low enough to be soft and yet still give off those beautiful sun flares. You’ll see that in this session, I actually only got one frame across the gorge with the light streaking through and then ran around to where Skyler and Scott were standing so I could get about five more off with the light pooling through them before it left entirely.
Even for my West Virginia couples, though, if pictures of rolling mountains are important to you I suggest traveling a little farther out. Shenandoah National Park is lovely and one of the closer places that will give you those sorts of shots, but there are also lots of beautiful hiking locations with views near Roanoke and of course the West Virginia counties Tucker and Pendleton are home to Seneca Rocks, Canaan Valley and Dolly Sods - my three favorite places in the state.