Photo of Pocahontas County selected for state stamp
Roger Spencer, of Middlebourne, likes to take a trip around the state every year shooting scenic photographs. Last summer, the United States Postal Service approached Spencer about using one of his shots for the new West Virginia state stamp.
Spencer said photography is more of a hobby for him — he has “a real job” at a chemical plant in Tyler County, but he said he's been taking pictures for about 30 years now. Some of his work has even been published in Wonderful West Virginia magazine. Spencer said he's never had any formal photography training. He read some photography books and taught himself.
The awe-inspiring photo the USPS selected was taken at sunrise on the Highland Scenic Highway in October 2008.
“I was staying at the Marlinton Motor Inn down in Edray,” Spencer said. “I had scouted out this location before on the Scenic Highway. When I'm doing a sunrise, I'll scout out the area the evening before with a compass so I know where the sun will be coming up. I'll mark the spot — put a stick along the road or put a mark on the guardrail or something. Then the next morning, before daylight, I know where to set up. I got up early that next morning, set my camera up in the dark and just sat there and waited for daylight.”
Spencer said he'll sit in the dark waiting for daylight to come, and when it does, everything starts to happen fast — he said that early morning light doesn't last very long.
According to a press release from beyondtheperf.com, “with this stamp, the U.S. Postal Service celebrates 150 years of West Virginia statehood. Admitted to the Union on June 20, 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, West Virginia is one of only two new states created during the war and the only one created by separation from a Confederate state. Located entirely within the Appalachian Highlands, West Virginia is now known as the Mountain State. Its official motto reflects the realities of topography as well as its individualistic spirit: montani semper liberi “mountaineers are always free.”
Spencer said he doesn't know how the postal service came across the image, but he thinks they may have seen his work on his website, rogerspencer.com.
He said he's glad the postal service didn't go with a well-known area or monument.
“This sort of looks like it could've been taken anywhere,” Spencer said. “I commend them for doing that. It would have been tempting to pick Black Water Falls or Seneca Rocks or something — a better known landmark.”
Spencer said he was humbled by the fact that his work will be immortalized by the postal service.
“It's really an honor for me,” admitted Spencer. “I'm a native West Virginian. I love this state and the people. I appreciate very much getting to do this. Nationally, there are a lot of negative stereotypes about West Virginia and anything I can do like this to help put the state in a more positive light is a great opportunity.”