February & March; The Month(s) in Pictures.

February & March; The Month(s) in Pictures.

Hey everyone. Long time no talk. Sorry I’ve been away for awhile. I’ve been meaning to start writing again. A lot has happened in the past couple months. At the beginning of February it was announced that our paper was declaring bankruptcy in order to be sold; and that wasn’t even the worst part. Our buyer was to be a company that was well known for having a penchant to slash newsroom staffs; often by dramatic numbers. None of us had much hope for keeping our jobs, the only upshot to the whole situation was that the process was to take relatively two months to complete; with the final auction being held sometime in later March. Meanwhile we still had a job to do.

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Henry Owens, 3, leans over a pew to retrieve a pretzel he dropped during an afternoon mass at Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral in Charleston, W.W., on Ash Wednesday, February 14th, 2018.
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George Washington’s Zakarie Bailey is dogsled by teammates Ben See, Nick Graham and Hunter Douglas in between matches during the Kanawha County High School Wrestling Tournament at George Washington High School in Charleston, W.Va., on Saturday morning, February 03, 2018.
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Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader embraces Andrea Harrison, a recovering addict during a panel discussion at the University of Charleston in Charleston , W.V., on Thursday, February 15, 2018 after a screening of Sheldon’s Oscar-nominated documentary “Heroin (e)” which focuses on three women dealing with the drug crisis in Huntington. Harrison who thanked the Huntington fire department for providing Naloxone.
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A man walks across Capitol St. on a rainy day in Charleston, W.W., on Wednesday, February 14th, 2018.
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Benjamin Gross, 2, of Beckley, checks out a model train set during the 13th Annual Train Show at the lodge in Coonskin Park in Charleston, W.V., on Friday, February 17, 2018. The show is put on annually by the Kanawha Valley Railroad Association, a non-profit group.
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Braxton County teachers and other staffers congregate in a parking lot before demonstrating at the intersection of 79 in Flatwoods, W.V., on Saturday, February 10, 2018.
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From right, Joyce Bumbus, C K Dolan and Chloe White protest before conducting a walk in outside of Kanawha City Elementary School in Charleston, W.Va., on Friday morning, February 02, 2018.
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Hundreds of teachers and staffers from schools throughout counties in Southern West Virginia are seen at the Capitol building in Charleston, W.Va., on Friday morning, February 02, 2018.

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Teachers and school personnel preoccupy themselves through many hours of Senate deliberations at the Capitol.

I spent the first half of the month mostly shooting high school basketball; the notable exceptions being groups of teachers were staging throughout the state along highways and busy street corners. I knew almost nothing about the various issues facing teachers in West Virginia; that wouldn’t last for long.

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Thousands braved cold temperatures and sustained rainfall to attend a Statewide Day of Action rally on the south steps of the Capitol building in Charleston, W.V., on Friday, February 17, 2018. The rally was done in support of education and public employees in their struggle for competitive pay and benefits.
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From left, Heather Myers, Sharon Cobaugh, Jennifer Kesecker and Ashley Bowman demonstrate in animal costumes at the West Virginia State Capitol on the second day of the teacher walkout in Charleston, W.V., on Friday, February 23, 2018. All four are teachers from Eagle School Intermediate in Berkley County.
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Ivan Weikle makes a face at his father while holding a sign in support of PEIA drawn by Lewisburg Elementary School art teacher Jody Wilber (in hat) along Route 219 in Lewisburg, W.V., on Monday, February 26, 2018 on the third day of the statewide walkout by school personnel.
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Colette Brown (back turned), 6, and Emily Knight, 6, draw with chalk on the sidewalk as their mothers who are also teachers from Nitro demonstrate (out of frame) outside of the capitol building on the fourth day of statewide walkouts in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, February 27, 2018.
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A protest sign is seen outside of the press gallery at the capitol building on the fourth day of statewide walkouts in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, February 27, 2018.
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Hundreds attend a candlelight rally in support of the ongoing statewide teachers walkout outside of the capitol building in Charleston, W.V., on Sunday, February 25, 2018.
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From left, Capital High School teacher Susie Garrison, George Washington High School student Amelia Engle and Nitro High School teacher Kizmet Chandler smile during a candlelight rally in support of the ongoing statewide teachers walkout outside of the capitol building in Charleston, W.V., on Sunday, February 25, 2018.

West Virginia has long suffered from a debilitating brain drain, as workers can often make substantially more money doing the very same job in a neighboring state than they can in West Virginia. Teachers are no exception. When it comes to teacher pay, West Virginia ranks 48th in the nation; second only to Mississippi and Oklahoma, where teachers are now staging their own statewide walkout. As one teacher from a group who came from the Eastern Panhandle told me, “I can drive 20 minutes North and make $20,000 dollars more per year than I do right now, or I can drive 40 minutes South and make $27,000 dollars more”. While it’s true that the average teacher’s salary is higher than the average income of most West Virginians, it’s often still not enough to raise their families and pay off student loan debt accumulated to get the necessary credentials to teach, forcing teachers to take a second job to make ends meet. So for many of the teachers that I talked to, the money was less an end in itself than a means to continue doing what they really wanted; to do their part for their communities in educating the next generation of West Virginians.

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Governor Jim Justice stands up to leave a press conference at the capitol building on the fourth day of statewide walkouts in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, February 27, 2018.
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School personnel crowd outside of the capitol building on the fourth day of statewide walkouts while waiting for word of an agreement reached between union leaders and Gov. Justice in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, February 27, 2018
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The looks you give when you realize that your rank and file are not happy with you…at the capitol building on the fourth day of statewide walkouts in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, February 27, 2018.
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Jennyerin Steele Staats, a special education teacher from Jackson County holds her sign aloft outside of the capitol building after WVEA President Dale Lee outlined the terms for ending the walkout on the fourth day of statewide walkouts in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, February 27, 2018.
School personnel leave the Capitol grounds after WVEA President Dale Lee outlined the terms for ending the walkout at the capitol building on the fourth day of statewide walkouts in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, February 27, 2018.

Teachers and school personnel were also striking for a longer term solution to their insurance plans under the control of PEIA’s (Public Employee Insurance Agency) Finance Board. As reported by the Gazette-Mail’s statehouse reporter Phil Kabler a few weeks ago, “In December, the PEIA Finance Board approved changes in the 2018-19 plan that would have cut benefits and raised premiums by a total of $29 million — primarily through significant premium increases for family and for employee and spouse coverage for most insurees.” While the Governor froze premiums for the coming year, the measure was deemed inefficient as it offered only a temporary solution to the issues of funding that have plagued the agency for years. Because PEIA affected all other public employees who were not permitted to walkout, the striking teachers and school personnel insisted that they weren’t just striking for themselves but for all public employees in their efforts to stabilize the agency. As it stands, a special task force ordered by the Governor in the midst of the strike has been assembled to address the issues.

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Kristen Kief of Jefferson County wears bunny ears, an emblem of the ongoing teacher strike at the capitol in Charleston, W.V., on Monday, March 05, 2018; the eighth day of statewide school closures.
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Thousands of teachers and school personnel fill the capitol building in Charleston, W.V., on Monday, March 05, 2018; the eighth day of statewide school closures.
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Teachers line the capitol grounds after the capitol was declared at capacity and admittance was temporarily on hold in Charleston, W.V., on Monday, March 05, 2018; the eighth day of statewide school closures.
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From right, Wyoming County’s Mullens Elementary school teachers Kara Brown, Katherine Dudley and Nina Tunstalle, along with Lois Casto of Central Elementary school in St. Albans, react to news of a deal reached between the House and Senate for a 5% across the board increase for state workers at the capitol in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 06, 2018; the ninth day of statewide school closures.
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Teachers and school personnel watch a conference committee hearing in session at the capitol in Charleston, W.V., on Monday, March 05, 2018; the eighth day of statewide school closures. The hearing was called as a discussion to end the impasse between the House and Senate regarding pay increases for education personnel.

One of the things that admittedly took me by surprise was just how many of the people I spoke with were not merely supporters of the strike but actual teachers or other important school personnel; cooks, bus drivers, librarians, etc. I’ve been to a lot of rallies and protests, but I don’t think i’ve ever been to a demonstration that was almost exclusively made up of the very people the topic of protest was about; and in such huge numbers. On top of that, none of the people I spoke with hesitated when I asked for more than just heir name. In fact they were proud to mention their position, their school and their county; even continuing to do so after they had temporarily lost their legal protection when their Union leaders called the strike off. Hell, hundreds of them wore red shirts with the names of their respective counties like they were team jerseys.

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Senate President Mitch Carmichael is seen as the Senate approves a bill to increase state employee pay by 5% at the capitol in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 06, 2018; the ninth day of statewide school closures.
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State Senators acknowledge the cheers of teachers and school personnel after the passage of a bill to increase pay of state workers by 5% at the capitol in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 06, 2018; the ninth day of statewide school closures.
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Teachers and school personnel celebrate after the state Senate approved a bill to increase state workers pay across the board by 5% at the capitol in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 06, 2018; the ninth day of statewide school closures.
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State Senate Democrats leave the Senate after passage of a bill to increase state worker pay across the board by 5% at the Capitol in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 06, 2018; the ninth day of statewide school closures.
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Teachers and school personnel celebrate after the state Senate approved a bill to increase state workers pay across the board by 5% at the capitol in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 06, 2018; the ninth day of statewide school closures.
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Surrounded by Union leaders, Gov. Jim Justice signs a bill increasing state workers salaries by 5% across the board during a press conference at the Culture Center after the House and Senate passed the bill earlier in the day in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 06, 2018; ending the statewide teachers strike after 9 days of school closures.
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Gov. Jim Justice signs a bill increasing state workers salaries by 5% across the board during a press conference at the Culture Center after the House and Senate passed the bill earlier in the day in Charleston, W.V., on Tuesday, March 06, 2018; ending the statewide teachers strike after 9 days of school closures.

Another thing I loved was that despite the seriousness of the issues, there was no shortage of creative signs, costumes and lighthearted moments along the sidelines and halls of the Capitol. For me, those quiet moments that happen while everyone else’s attention is elsewhere can often say just as much if not even more than the loudest ones.

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I shot the strike for as many days and as much time as I could. Because of our paper’s connection to the AP my images started appearing all over the place; major newspapers, some networks and even an appearance on Late Night with Seth Myers, haha. It was a strange combination of emotions; feeling the most successful and fulfilled that I’d felt in years, all the while not knowing if I would have a job at the end of the month. The truth is I had convinced myself I was going to lose it, so I went about my work assuming it would be the last big assignment I’d be doing for the Gazette-Mail. Thankfully that didn’t turn out to be the case, but it motivated me at the time to get as much work as I could out there. I finished out the rest of the month shooting as best as I could for the assignments I had. Last Monday was the day we were supposed to find out if we were staying or leaving, with sealed letters placed on each of our desks to let us know if we’d get a rose or not. I had my editor open mine up, and thankfully most of us in the newsroom stayed on board. We did take some bad losses though, especially the loss of our executive editor Rob Byers, who’d dedicated himself  since joining the paper straight out of college to keeping it as successful and important as it has been for West Virginia. Things are still calming down here, but I’m happy to say that at least for now, I can look past the date of March 31 and start moving forward on some stories I want to do and really dive into this state now that Spring is upon us!

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a cheerleader is silhouetted by an American flag as the national anthem plays during the Mountain East Championship basketball games in Charleston, W.V., on Sunday, March 04, 2018.
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Wyoming East students watch a free throw during the WVSSAC Class AA North Marion-Wyoming East girls basketball state championship at the Civic Center in Charleston, W.V., on Saturday, March 10, 2018.
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Central’s Taylor Duplaga, left, and Riley Bennington embrace each other after Wheeling Central defeated St. Joseph with a final score of 67-62 during the WVSSAC Class A St. Joseph-Wheeling Central girls basketball state championship at the Civic Center in Charleston, W.V., on Saturday, March 10, 2018.
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Glenville’s Tayana Stewart and Abby Stoller lunge forward with Notre Dame’s Ciara Reed during the Mountain East Championship basketball game in Charleston, W.V., on Sunday, March 04, 2018.
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Glenville State College players celebrate after besting Notre Dame college during the Mountain East Championship basketball game in Charleston, W.V., on Sunday, March 04, 2018.
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Alex Cook tries regaining control of the basketball during the George Washington-Martinsburg Class AAA boys state title basketball game at the Civic Center in Charleston, W.V., on Saturday, March 17, 2018.

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Owner, barber and stylist Linda Javins cuts Zandrea Wiley’s hair inside Guy’s Cut-N-Shave along Midway Road in Yawkey, W.V., on Friday, March 23, 2018.
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Chef Noah Miller prepares main courses including the pan roasted halibut, seared sea scallops eggplant wrapped swordfish and beef fillet inside his kitchen at Noah’s Restaurant & Lounge in downtown Charleston, W.V., on March 20, 2018.
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Lunchgoers and wall art are reflected on the bar counter at Gonzoburger in Charleston, W.V., on Thursday, March 15, 2018.
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From left, Paul Howard, Mark Burdette, Greg McCoy and Steve Hendricks of Kanawha Valley Pipes and Drums play outside of Bluegrass Kitchen during the 7th Annual East End St. Patricks Day Pub Crawl in Charleston, W.V., on Saturday, March 17, 2018.
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Brenda young is seen with her home that has been heavily damaged by a mudslide along Cabin Creek road in Eskdale, W.V., on Friday, March 09, 2018.
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The aftermath of a house fire on Quarrier street is seen in Charleston, W.V., on Friday, March 09, 2018.
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Kanawha City Elementary school student Derrick Johnson, 5, and his brother David Johnson, 3 stand with others gathered on the steps of the Capitol building in Charleston, W.V., on Saturday, March 24, 2018 in solidarity with the March for Our Lives rally in Washington organized by survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. “After the Parkland shooting I was scared to death to send my son to school” Their mother Carrie Samuels (not pictured) said.
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State Senator Richard Ojeda, Joel Mckinney, his mother Linda Mckinney and his wife Melissa Clark speak with a reporter inside Five Loaves & Two Fishes Food Bank in Kimball, W.V., on Tuesday, March 27, 2018.
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From left, Gracie Pritt, Kennedy Anthony and Parker Pritt react to bubbles being blown by Caroline Barner and Erin Anthony during the Easter Carnival at the North Plaza of the Capitol Complex in Charleston, W.V., on Saturday, March 31, 2018.
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Layla Collins, 2, of Hurricane plays in a puddle during the Easter Carnival at the North Plaza of the Capitol Complex in Charleston, W.V., on Saturday, March 31, 2018.
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Samantha Stalnaker, 14, aims her marble during a match at the 2018 A. James Manchin Memorial Marble Tournament at the Culture Center in Charleston, W.V., on Saturday, March 31, 2018.

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Steady rain and the return of leaves mark the beginning of Spring in downtown Charleston, W.V., on Friday, March 30, 2018.

2017: The year in pictures.

2017: The year in pictures.

If you just want to look at pictures, scroll down.

For me, I look back on three important things this year. Experiencing the landscape of the West, becoming an honorary West Virginian, and the further embracing  of my visual style. The first one happened rather unintentionally. While I had explored the surrounding region of the Black Hills and Badlands to a certain extent, my work hours prevented me from venturing too far out. Once I got over the initial shock of being laid off I began thinking of all the places I’d been meaning to go to. In those few months I made my way to Montana, Eastern Idaho, Western Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska and other closer but still important areas. I still struggle to describe the feelings invoked by the landscape there, everything from its vastness to how light seems to dance across it. I think about that land often and wish I could go back there even for a short time. It never felt like I was in just another part of the states, rather it truly felt like a world unto itself.

Eventually, after being unemployed for four months and living off of my severance,  unemployment insurance and tax returns, I moved back to DC and took back my old job at ProPhoto and applied for jobs while crashing at my best friend’s place. On a facebook job page, I saw an opening for a staff photography position at the Gazette-Mail in Charleston; West Virginia’s capital and largest city. With the exception of Harper’s Ferry and a night trip to Shepherdstown, I had never stepped foot in West Virginia. However, I have always been interested in places that hold ideas and assumptions in the American psyche; places that everyone seems to have an opinion about without ever really having been there. Since taking the job nearly six months ago, I have visited many areas of the state and gotten to know the people who call this place home. I can thankfully say that i’ve only come to enjoy this place more as time has gone on. Yes, West Virginia has plenty of problems and issues it has yet to overcome, but this place has plenty of good in it too, and a lot of people who care deeply for its future.

Lastly, and what has personally meant the most to me, has been the overwhelmingly positive response I have received from people here regarding my more artistic images; specifically my long exposures. Long exposures were the very thing that made me fall in love with photography in the first place; a creative method that could take a scene or moment in front of you and reveal so much more than our immediate senses could perceive. Admittedly, it had been a long time since I had regularly taken long exposures (one of my biggest regrets this year being that I didn’t take nearly as many long exposures in South Dakota as I should have). I decided to take it up again as a means of showing West Virginia from a different take, and the amount of enthusiasm with which my paper has embraced those kinds of images coupled with the responses I have received from others have motivated the hell out of me to shoot, shoot and shoot more. It’s been awhile since i’ve felt so compeltely energized, and I think great things are around the corner for 2018.

So here are, in no particular order, my favorite images from 2017.

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Ruben Moya is shrouded behind plastic sheeting while making his way through construction inside the Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral, which is undergoing extensive renovations. Charleston, W.V., on November 02, 2017.
Snowy Day along Capitol Street. Charleston, W.V.
Snowy Day along Capitol Street. Charleston, W.V.
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Fairgoers are reflected in a puddle at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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From left, Ana Collins, Ania Jones, Asan Jones and Joshua Gray cool off at the Magic Island splash pad in Charleston,W.V., on Wednesday, June 28, 2017.
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Ballet dancers are seen in a long exposure during a performance of The Nutcracker at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences in Charleston on Wednesday, December 07, 2017. The production, with performances scheduled for December 08-09th, is put on by the Charleston Ballet Company with dancers from the Columbia Classical Ballet and the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra
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Mountaineer Challenge Academy students move past a mural drawn onto a canvas on the wall in the dining room area at the Governor’s Mansion in Charleston, W.Va., on Tuesday, December 05, 2017.
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A herd of bison roam through snowy fields inside the 777 Bison Ranch in Hermosa. The ranch prides itself on raising their bison completely grass-fed.
Passing storm over farmlands Southeast of Columbia Falls, MT.
Passing storm over farmlands Southeast of Columbia Falls, MT.
Pinnacle Buttes, Shoshone Wilderness. Wyoming.
Pinnacle Buttes, Shoshone Wilderness. Wyoming.
Grist Mill. Babcock State Park. West Virginia
Grist Mill. Babcock State Park. West Virginia
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Judy Blough of Montana gives a kiss to a stallion named Felix the cat at the 40th annual Black Hills Stock Show inside Rushmore Plaza Civic Center on Friday afternoon.
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The setting sun casts shadows of parents and students lining the fence during the Hurricane-Cabell Midland soccer game as part of the Class AAA Region 3, Section 1 soccer finals at Hurricane High School on Wednesday, October 18, 2017. Taken on assignment for the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
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Alan Withrow of Poca jumps to block Josh Hoffman during a half court game outside of the Nitro High School football stadium during the Wildcats game against the Poca Dots on August 25, 2017 in Nitro, W.V.
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Dancers are reflected in a mirror lining the wall inside the Charleston Ballet studio during a master class on modern ballet in Charleston, W.Va., on Thursday, June 22, 2017.
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Arika Jayne of Alderson gives some attention to a pig at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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Kylie Robinson, forefront, covers her ears as police cars wail their sirens during the third, “Operation Citation” at the Dunbar United Methodist Church in Dunbar, W.Va., on Tuesday, November 28, 2017. Created by the Charleston Police Department Traffic Division, ‚”Operation Citation” honored four Girl Scouts this evening.
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Hurricane players celebrate going into overtime during the George Washington Patriots-Hurricane Redskins football game at George Washington High School in Charleston on Friday, October 27, 2017.
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fall foliage dots the landscape as the girls cross country run is underway during the MSAC Championship at Cedar Lakes in Ripley, W.V., on October 11, 2017.
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West Chester University Goalkeeper Matt Palmer falls to his knees after University of Charleston Defender Armando Tikvic scores a goal to bring the score up to 2-0 during the UC-West Chester soccer game as part of the NCAA Division II tournament’s Round of 16 at Schoenbaum Field in Charleston, W.V., on November 16, 2017. UC would hold the score at 0-2 and advance to play Cal Poly Pomona in Kansas City.
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Charleston Catholic Forward Jordan Keener, right, celebrates with teammates Mills Mullen, center, and Elizabeth Rushworth after scoring a goal against Byrd High School as Eagles Defender Lura Simons collapses to the ground in agony after failing to block Keener’s kick during the Charleston Catholic-Robert C. Byrd soccer game as part of the State Soccer Championships at the YMCA Paul Cline Memorial Youth Sports Complex in Beckley, W.V., on November 04, 2017.
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Hudson Swafford hides his face after missing a putt on the 12th green at the Greenbrier Classic in White Sulphur Springs. W.V., on Saturday, July 08, 2017.
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From right, David Thompson, Scott Ratliff, Angel Staten, Greg Miranda, Mike Otter, Paul Nemeth and Tim Bolen of the IATSE Local 369 bring down a large American flag after President Trump’s political rally at the Big Sandy Superstore arena in Huntington, W.V., on Thursday, August 03, 2017.
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From left, James Davis of Huntington, Garry Pauley of Charleston and Donna Childers of Huntington wait for the start of Pres. Trump’s political rally inside the Big Sandy Superstore arena in Huntington, W.V., on Thursday, August 03, 2017.
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Violet Jones, 3, checks out the carved pumpkins at the Kenova Pumpkin House in Kenova, W.V., on Halloween night, October 31, 2017.
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Dusk over New River Gorge.
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Johnny “Tarzan” Copley of Salt Lake City base jumps while dressed as a unicorn during the 40th annual Bridge Day on the New River Gorge bridge in Fayetteville, W.V., on Saturday, October 21, 2017.
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Brigette Madden does a solo act during a rehearsal of “CLASSIC, COUNTRY AND ROCK ‘n ROLL.” by the Charleston Ballet at the Civic Center Little Theater in Charleston, W.Va., on Tuesday, October 17, 2017.
John Amos Power Plant from across the Kanawha River. Poca, WV
The John E. Amos coal-fired power plant operates Sunday night on the banks of the Kanawha River. The plant was upgraded to meet new environmental regulation standards by 2015. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President Donald Trump is attempting to roll back the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which seeks to reduce carbon emissions that contribute to climate change.
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Evening commute on I-64. Charleston, W.V.
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Crowds of people gaze and snap photos of totality during the great American eclipse in Greenville, SC., on Monday, August 21, 2017.
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Runners begin at the Capitol building for the Charleston Distance Run in Charleston, W.V., on Saturday, September 02, 2017.
at Dolly Sods on Sunday, September 24, 2017.
Dairy Queen. Buckhannon, W.V.
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Dunk a Wench. Maryland Renaissance Fair.
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Cunningham Memorial Park is alight in a sea of candles late Saturday night in St. Alban
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Lights from a house are illuminated in fog that blankets the road ahead under a starry sky somewhere around routes 39 or 28.
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Truck lights frame a house in this long exposure taken in the town of Daily along the Seneca Trail.

 

The Month in Photos: September.

The Month in Photos: September.

This month was one of those that’s at times representative of what it means to be a staff photographer. One week you’re shooting assignments like marathons and high intensity sports while the next is dominated by court appearances, press conferences (and a golf game). Nonetheless, September was a really good month. Iv’e started pitching and pursuing my own stories for the first time, and have gotten back into shooting long exposures at night; something I used to do a lot and very much have missed. All this combined has had me feeling very good about where I am and what i’m doing. I’m also writing other blog posts that I’ll be putting out soon, including a second part to my post about advice to photographers starting out.

I’ve got a couple trips planned to various parts of the state as Fall sets in and the leaves change.

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Outtakes from the month of September

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The Month in Photos: August.

The Month in Photos: August.

So since it’s now September, I thought I’d make a little post about the month of August, which was a fantastic month for images. Easily the best so far since I started in late June. Shooting nearly every day again after not doing so for almost 5 months has me feeling sharper visually, and with fall right around the corner, a time in which West Virginia explodes in color, the photos will hopefully continue to keep coming.

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Alan Withrow of Poca jumps to block Josh Hoffman during a half court game outside of the Nitro High School football stadium during the Wildcats game against the Poca Dots on August 25, 2017 in Nitro, W.V.
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Landon Coleman, 11, playfully runs a relay around stacked arrows before target practice as part of the Centershot program at St. Peters church in St. Albans, W.V., on Wednesday, August 30, 2017.
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A group of students walk down a long hallway during open house at Herbert Hoover High’s new portable complex in Elkview, W.V., on Friday, August 11, 2017.
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Lightning strikes over a rest stop along Route 240 in Virginia last night.
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Belinda Harnass, Housing Authority director for Mingo County, looks into a room at the Sycamore Inn in Williamson, W.V., on Wednesday, August 09, 2017. The County is moving to turn the Inn into a center for continued sobriety of recovering addicts, to the ire of the local city government.
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Authorities remove cats from a residence in Kanwaha City on Tuesday, August 29, 2017. An estimated 80 + cats were removed from the house.
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Many friends, family and members of the Brother’s Keepers Motorcycle Club, of which Denise Fernatt was a member, gathered for a candlelight vigil in her honor at Hughes Creek Community Church of God in Cedar Grove, W.V., on Friday, August 11, 2017.

Of course, we all know that the Great American eclipse stole the show this month, and for perfectly good reason; It was nothing short of breathtakingly ethereal. I drove down to South Carolina for it, where my good friend Josh Morgan is currently working as a staffer for the Greenville Tribune. It was great catching up with him and our friend Angus Mordant, who does work as a stringer for the NY Daily News. We spent the weekend together and shot the totality, Josh from the top of the highest building in the city and Angus & I down in Falls Park where hundreds had gathered to watch. As totality neared the area began to turn a golden hue as though it were late afternoon, and the crowd cheered with every noticeable shade the area became darker. As soon as totality hit however, late afternoon almost instantly turned to dusk. People shouted and applauded witnessing this unbelievable spectacle; a black orb vivid in a cobalt blue sky where the sun had been a moment ago. Looking through my camera, the corona of the sun was clear as a beautiful and delicate light that seemed to dance around the moon, rolling outward like a shining wave. Knowing time was very short I quickly snapped a few close images before shooting what I could of the surrounding landscape and the people lining the bridge directly above us. I was glad to be able to have some kind of foreground in the image, as it was 2:39 in the afternoon and the sun lie almost straight up above us.

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Crowds of people gaze and snap photos of totality during the great American eclipse in Greenville, SC., on Monday, August 21, 2017.
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Falls Park goes dark during totality of the great American eclipse in Greenville, SC., on Monday, August 21, 2017.
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The great American eclipse is seen in totality in Greenville, SC., on Monday, August 21, 2017.

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Nathan Kagolanu and Fiorella Tello wait for totality of the great American eclipse in Greenville, SC., on Monday, August 21, 2017.

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Shawn Anthony, 6, of Charlotte looks through his solar glasses during the great American eclipse in Greenville, SC., on Monday, August 21, 2017.

This month started out continuing ride alongs with EMS supervisors in the city as they went from scene to scene, with breaks in between at the firehouses on either side of the city. While the focus of the written story was on new mindfulness classes offered to fire & ems personnel, I had the opportunity to speak with them more directly about the effects that the opioid epidemic is having on their resources. I learned that one of the largest issues that they are facing is the avalanche of calls received that turn out to be false alarms, one common scenario being calls from bystanders calling about someone lying on the ground who they believe might be overdosing, only for personnel to show up and discover it’s just a person taking a nap on the grass. While personnel are grateful that bystanders do call in when they think their might be a problem, they are frustrated that most of the time, bystanders themselves will do nothing to see if the person is in fact just someone napping on the grass, instead their first and only step being to call 911. Another issue is that because the epidemic is so pervasive, crimes that in the past may not have been necessarily drug related, from domestic abuse to car accidents and robberies, are now often a factor. It seems, there are few crimes committed now in which drugs are not involved.

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EMS Supervisor Mace and Paramedics tend to a woman believed to be overdosing on methamphetamine on a street in Charleston, WV on August 2, 2017. Paramedics have been flooded with calls related to overdoses, stretching their already limited resources.

 

Paramedic personnel at work in Charleston on July 26, 2017.
Paramedic personnel at work in Charleston on July 26, 2017.
Captain Mark Strickland drives on patrol in Charleston on July 26, 2017.

This month was also the first time that I photographed one of Pres. Trump’s rallies. I think anyone that knows me already is well aware of my feelings regarding him, so i’ll move past this one.

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Wayne County residents Elaina Farr, Sydnie Benson and Emily Robinson hold up a Donald Trump campaign flag as Carla Russell watches outside the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington on Thursday afternoon. Trump, the nation’s 45th president, was scheduled to make a campaign-style appearance in Huntington on Thursday evening.
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From left, Betsy Forester, Sally Roberts Wilson and Charlene Vaughan protests outside of the Big Sandy Superstore arena before Pres. Trump’s rally in Huntington, W.V., on Thursday, August 03, 2017.
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From left, James Davis of Huntington, Garry Pauley of Charleston and Donna Childers of Huntington wait for the start of Pres. Trump’s political rally inside the Big Sandy Superstore arena in Huntington, W.V., on Thursday, August 03, 2017.
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President Trump holds up a sign handed to him by a supporter during a political rally inside the Big Sandy Superstore arena in Huntington, W.V., on Thursday, August 03, 2017.
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A protester is forcibly removed during Pres. Trump’s political rally inside the Big Sandy Superstore arena in Huntington, W.V., on Thursday, August 03, 2017.
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From right, David Thompson, Scott Ratliff, Angel Staten, Greg Miranda, Mike Otter, Paul Nemeth and Tim Bolen of the IATSE Local 369 bring down a large American flag after President Trump’s political rally at the Big Sandy Superstore arena in Huntington, W.V., on Thursday, August 03, 2017.

This month was very varied in subject matter. While July saw mostly tennis and golf, this month had me shooting a little bit of everything. I particularly loved going to spend a day at the state fair, despite having a pretty bad cold at the time. I’d never photographed a state fair before, and I love the visuals they bring about in my head-The stock shows, the carnival rides that turn into a sea of blinking vivid lights in motion at dusk, the cheap food and of course, waves of people from every corner of the state.

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Fairgoers are reflected in a puddle at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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Maci Bostic, 5, and Aubree Blake, ride teacups at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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Alex Hobbs, 7, of Monroe County sits on a motorcycle ride at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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A bingo booth is seen at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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Abigail Okes of Okes Family Farms in Raleigh County shaves Jack, a Yorkshire pig before the showmanship show in the morning at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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Edith Wade of Blue Rock Swine gives a wash to a Chester White pig before tomorrow’s show at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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At the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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Isabell Vaughan, 11, shares a quiet moment with ruby red, a heifer calf at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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Rylan Vaughan, 11, walks ruby red the heifer calf after a wash at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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Arika Jayne of Alderson gives some attention to a pig at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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Children run inside an obstacle course at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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Kaysee Amick helps her nephew Brenten Ritchea, 4, win a shooting game at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
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Karl Riffe and his son Garrett, 12, enjoy a ride at the State Fair of West Virginia in Lewisburg, W.V., on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.

This month also saw the beginning of football and soccer! Two sports iv’e come to very much enjoy shooting, not only for the action on the field but even mores for all that happens off it!

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Winfield’s Sydney Cavender and Peyton Frohnapfel collide with Midland’s Maddie Meehling and Rayen Ciccollen during the Winfield lady Generals match against Cabell Midland at Winfield high school on Tuesday, August 22, 2017.
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Fans Katie Burns, Lexi Crompton and Maddie Dawson wave the Hurricane flag during the Hurricane Redskins-Winfield Generals football game at Hurricane High School on Friday, August 25, 2017.
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Trevon Scruggs, 10, runs through for a touchdown as Noah Petty and Brycen Orcutt try to block him as they play a makeshift game on a grassy field before the South Charleston Black Eagles -George Washington Patriots football game at South Charleston High School on Thursday, August 24, 2017.
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Jr. ROTC cadet Hydiah White dances to music played over the loudspeakers as Dillon Tucker laughs before the South Charleston Black Eagles -George Washington Patriots football game at South Charleston High School on Thursday, August 24, 2017.
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The South Charleston Black Eagles make their entrance before their football game against the George Washington Patriots at South Charleston High School on Thursday, August 24, 2017.

Well that’s it for now. Iv’e got a number of other written blog posts on the way, so they’ll be coming out soon! Thanks for stopping by.

-Craig H

 

From the Desk: West Virginia

From the Desk: West Virginia

I’m afraid that iv’e been away from the desk for far too long! For those of you who don’t already know, I moved to West Virginia exactly one month ago to take a staff position at the Charleston Gazette-Mail, the state’s largest newspaper. Since then I have largely set up my new apartment (I now own a washer and dryer, guess that means i’m an adult now?) and have gotten to know the city and the surrounding area.

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Ruth Andrien, a former dancer with Paul Taylor Dance Company, instructs Sheena Madden Jackson during a master class at the Charleston Ballet studio in Charleston, W.Va., on Thursday, June 22, 2017.
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Jesus Flores of Selma, CA jumps in the air as he is announced the winner against a grimacing Patrick Cody of Spokane, WA at the 2017 USA Boxing Junior Olympic Championships at the Charleston Civic Center in Charleston. W.V., on Saturday, July 01, 2017.
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When you’re trying to shoot assignments in classrooms…

So for any of you who might be wondering, why West Virginia? There are a couple of reasons. I wanted wherever I was going to go to be a place where I could share impactful stories. To be sure, this is something that can be done anywhere, as there are always stories to be told no matter where you are.

However, West Virginia in particular is ground zero for some of the larger issues facing the country today; from the decline of once dominant industries that millions depended upon for their livelihoods to the effects of the opioid epidemic on addicts, their families and the communities that they live in. Those are issues that I want to cover. However, I also don’t have any desire to engage in making work that does nothing but reinforce simplistic (and to many of those who live here, blatantly offensive) stereotypes of the region. Iv’e only been here for a month, and I already know that there are so many good people here who love their state and are doing everything they can to make it better. Those are the people whose stories in particular that I want to tell.

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Andrea Morrison touches a memorial plaque embedded in the stones of a bridge built to commemorate those whose lives were lost in the flooding last year in White Sulphur Springs. People were allowed to cross after the bridge was commemorated on the anniversary of the flood on Friday, June 23, 2017. Morrison said that her son’s best friend was among those who died.
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West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice speaks about the budget bill passed by lawmakers last week in the Capitol reception room in Charleston, WV on June 21, 2017.
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Vietnam veteran Ernest Willie speaks of his experience with Veterans Affairs at the new Vet Center in Charleston. W.V., on Thursday, July 06, 2017.
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Hannah Gates examines her costume before a rehearsal of King Lear at Concord University in Athens, W.V., on Tuesday, July 11, 2017.

I also like moving to places that have a certain mythos about them. Places that hold a certain image, no matter how true or false, in the American psyche. It’s one of the reasons that I moved to the Black Hills region of South Dakota, an area often associated with “The West” and all of the concepts that come with it. Like the West, Appalachia is more than just the name of a region based on the series of mountain ranges that form it.

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Raiders Outside Linebacker and former WVU star Bruce Irvin is swamped by camp attendees during the third annual Bruce Irvin Football Clinic on the turf field at Little Creek Park in South Charleston, W.V., on Saturday, June 24, 2017. The clinic was hosted by local sports organization CJKB Infinity Sports.
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Alexxis Tunstalle is held under a sprinkler by her cousin Ana Collins at the Magic Island splash pad in Charleston,W.V., on Wednesday, June 28, 2017.
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Najee Edwards, 12, eats his California roll during a workshop on sushi making inside the Kanawha County Public Library Central Library in Charleston. W.V., on Thursday, July 06, 2017. The workshop was taught by Megumi Homma.
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Hudson Swafford hides his face after missing a putt on the 12th green at the Greenbrier Classic in White Sulphur Springs. W.V., on Saturday, July 08, 2017.

Appalachia conjures up images and ideas of a culture, of a certain kind of lifestyle. To cite an example: Don’t act like you haven’t drunkenly belted out the chorus lines to John Denver’s “Take me Home, Country Roads” at least once at some bar or late in the night at your friend’s kegger. I want to experience for myself these kinds of places and see just how much of those ideas and assumptions are made up or hold water.

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Dancers are reflected in a mirror lining the wall inside the Charleston Ballet studio during a master class on modern ballet in Charleston, W.Va., on Thursday, June 22, 2017.
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A PGA Tour worker takes note of the outside weather advisory at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs. W.V., on Tuesday, July 04, 2017.

That’s about what I have for now. I’m going to make a point of writing more frequently on this blog now that I am shooting full time again. I want to write not only about the experiences I am having now but also what experiences i have had and the lessons learned from them that someone else looking to become a photojournalist themself might find useful. I also want to start sharing more of my travel guides again, as I have a lot to say about the places that iv’e been, including a comprehensive guide to Washington, D.C.

Talk again soon!