Winter Lights

Landscapes from Floyd County, Southwest Virginia by Fred First
My hope was to get to the back of the valley (the “Nameless Creek Gorge” I call it) before the sun disappeared behind the steep west ridge. I didn’t make it in time.

By the time I reached my destination at 3:00, the lighting along the creek was already flat shadow. But walking back home–sad to have waited too long to get the shot I had in mind–I turned around and saw this dazzling last light behind me, a single shaft reaching the valley floor just seconds before the sun dropped away from our holler for another day.

This is another example of light looking for a subject to draw the eye. For me, the sparkle of the pines and the way the light of the snow draws the eye into the mysterious darkness is enough. The image embodies the feel of the moment, and such pictures are more for the photographer than for his audience.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Lovely shot, Fred. By some some strange trick of perspective, it really seems to come to life when viewed from a distance of a few feet. Glad I left it up on the monitor, otherwise I’d never have realised!