Photographing the Laurel Highlands 

Why, When, Where, How 

Let’s start with the “Why”. That’s easy. The Laurel Highlands of Western Pennsylvania offer some of the best photography opportunities in the eastern United States. Winter snow sports, spring wildflowers, summer water sports, fall foliage, and countless fall festivals of every type are only the beginning, and Hidden Valley is the ideal base for your adventures. The “When” “Where”, and “How” require a little more detail.  

Winter snow sports at Hidden Valley, Seven Springs, and Laurel Mountain provide chances for action shots in a beautiful setting. A moderate telephoto lens is helpful for close-in pictures without the risk of getting run over. Backlit snow spray from a skier’s turn makes a dramatic photograph. A low angle of view emphasizes the drama. Remember that your camera’s meter is designed for average scenes. Snow is not an average scene. Your meter will make snow grey. To keep the snow white, meter directly on the subject, avoiding a large area of snow, or adjust exposure compensation to plus 1.5 to 2 stops. Manual mode with spot metering works best. You could also meter on your own hand. More places for winter pictures: Laurel Ridge State Park, Kooser State Park, Laurel Mountain, the Fire and Ice Festival in Somerset, Ligonier (especially the diamond at Christmas)… and don’t forget night pictures. 

Spring begins with the Maple Festival in March. You could combine some photography with maple syrup and pancakes in Meyersdale, Salisbury, or several other venues. What could be better? As the days get warmer and leaves start to emerge, myriad shades of green cover the landscape. Wildflowers begin to bloom in May and there are spots where white trilliums cover the forest floor along the ICV trail. A favorite wildflower spot can also be found near the Cucumber Falls area of Ohiopyle, where a variety of flowers thrive. Laurel Hill State Park is often productive. A bog on Laurel Summit has several insectivorous plants, including pitcher plant, which can be surprisingly colorful. A tripod and a macro lens are helpful for all wildflower shots. With a tripod, small lens apertures and slow shutter speeds can be used, enhancing depth of field. A less expensive alternative for close-up pictures is an extension ring for your lens. This enables closer focusing. 

Summer is the time for action shots: Cucumber Rapids along the Youghiogheny River near Ohiopyle is a fine place for photos of faces filled with emotion from terror to glee, often in the same raft. A fast shutter speed, at least 1/500th, is a requirement. Another option is Idlewild Park, near Ligonier, PA, full of people having fun on a summer day. There are more tranquil summer scenes all over the Laurel Highlands: the Laurel Highlands Hiking trail, The Great Allegheny Passage bike trail, the covered bridges, numerous picturesque farms, lakes and fishing streams, and scenic mountain vistas. The Flight 93 National Memorial is a chance to pay tribute to those courageous people who selflessly sacrificed their lives to save countless others.  

Late summer and fall are festival times. There is not a weekend without at least one festival. Here are a few examples: July - Somerfest in Somerset, and the Rib and Wing Festival at Seven Springs. August - the Laurel Hill Bluegrass Festival and the Somerset County Fair. September - the Farmer’s and Threshermen’s Jubilee, and Mountain Craft Days at the Somerset Historical Center. October - the Springs Festival, Autumnfest at 

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