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Goodbye Sweet & Sour Summer

This summer was filled with sweet and sour moments. I enjoyed the season, but the heat has stuck around long enough. I am looking forward to cooler temperatures and the chance to keep moving forward. 

I celebrated a year of living and working in Charleston in mid-May. Then, in-between working, I spent some time with my ailing grandfather who passed away at the beginning of June. It's been sobering and sad to realize I won't ever be able to photograph him again. He meant a lot to me and my family, and I am sure many people already knew this or at least saw some of the many pictures I posted of him. He was one of the first people to let me follow them around with a camera. I give him a huge chunk of credit for helping me realize how much I could learn about people and life by photographing quiet, real, and slow moments. My grandmother, Ruth, and he had been married for over 60 years, which included having six children, countless grandchildren and great-grandchildren and so many friends.

After saying goodbye to Pappy, I came back home to continue working. Historic and deadly flooding hit the state at the end of that same month. It resulted in a whirlwind of flood coverage at the newspaper. I still have boots covered in dried mud to prove it. There were countless people who shared their stories of loss and frustration with me and I am thankful that they trusted me enough to take their picture while they were dealing with it all. These people lost their homes, they lost their loved ones, they lost pretty much everything they had. 

The rest of the summer was much lighter. I moved into a new house that has an awesome covered porch. I've already had many beers and read many newspapers and books out there. I also turned 24. Time continues to march forward quickly. 

Here are some images from the past several months. Thanks for looking. 

Grandma prays at Pappy's hospital bed at Winchester Medical Center in Winchester, Virginia, on Wednesday, June 1, 2016. He passed away a couple days later. 

Pappy's funeral, Maysville Cemetery, Maysville, West Virginia, June 5 2016.

Grandma feeding my cousin's chickens in Scherr, W.Va., on Friday, July 29, 2016.

Kathy Bostic sits on a torn roof as she looks through a muddied plastic tote full of family photographs that she rescued from her home along Jordan Creek road in Elkview, West Virginia, Friday afternoon, June 24, 2016. "Everything else can be replaced, " Bostic said, "Lives can't and pictures can't."The totes were sitting in her house as heavy rainfall and flooding hit the Elkview area on Thursday, June 23. 

Kathy Bostic's family photos, muddied by flood waters, sit out to dry as she grabs things from her home along Jordan Creek road in Elkview, West Virginia, Friday afternoon, June 24, 2016. 

Left: A view of flood water that hadn't receded yet on Frame Road in Elkview, W.Va., June 24, 2015. Right: Flood mud marks how high water rose during the severe flood that hit the Clendenin area. The flooding killed at least 23 people across the state and left many without their homes, electricity or water.

Debris and mud are strewn around Clendenin, W.Va., on Saturday, June 25, 2015, after flood waters from the massive storm that hit the area on Thursday evening receded. The flooding killed at least 23 people across the state, said Tim Rock, a public information officer for the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Gail Zickefoose holds the door of a tractor trailer open to show how much mud was caked inside after the flood waters had receded in Clendenin ,W.Va., on Saturday, June 25, 2016. Zickefoose and others from Lipps Wreaker Service in Jane Lew, W.Va., came to remove the truck after it had to be abandoned by the driver near Exit 19 on I-79. 

A view of the flood water is seen from I-79 Northbound above Exit 19 (US 119 – Clendenin) in West Virginia on Friday, June 24, 2016. The flood water did not fully recede from the Clendenin area until late Friday.  

Volunteers Benjamin Shofstahl,12, Katie Shofstahl, 14, and Eliana Shofstahl, 16, wash flood mud off of dishes in Howard Creek for a family, who is working to salvage goods from their destroyed home, in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., on Friday morning, July 1, 2016. Their father, David Shofstahl, traveled with the children from Clifton Forge, Va., to help provide manual labor for any families in need during the post-flood clean up process. 

Kayla Parker, the new pastor, at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Charleston, W.Va., on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016.

Women socialize as they participate in a silent auction during Girls Night Out, the 19th annual YWCA fundraiser to support victims of domestic violence, at the West Virginia Culture Center in Charleston, W.Va., on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016. Attendees were asked to don their favorite shade of purple in honor this year's purple themed Girls Night Out, which was held from 6-10 p.m.

The Poca Dots warm up on the field before the game against the Nitro Wildcats at Poca High School in Poca, W.Va., on Friday, Aug. 26, 2016.  The Wildcats defeated the Dots, 9-6.

Poca's Anthony Ford (66) and his teammates huddle together after warming up on the field before the start of the game against the Nitro Wildcats in Poca, W.Va., on Friday, Aug. 26, 2016.  The Wildcats defeated the Dots, 9-6.

Colors blur as a young girl's hair flies on the spinning Himalaya ride at the 92nd annual State Fair of West Virginia at State Fairgrounds in Fairlea, W.Va., on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016. The 10-day fair will continue through Sunday, August 21 with more free entertainment, livestock shows and carnival rides. 

Natalee Sibold, 5, brushes her cow, Macy, after giving it a bath during the 92nd annual State Fair of West Virginia at State Fairgrounds in Fairlea, W.Va., on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016. Sibold, who first started showing goats at one-and-half years old, will show Macy at the Hereford Cattle show on Saturday, August 20.

West Virginia Mountaineers fans enjoy the season opening game against the Mizzou Tigers at Milan Puskar Stadium  in Morgantown, W.Va., on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. The WVU Mountaineers beat the Missouri Tigers, 26-11. 

WVU running back Rushel Shell (7) makes a touchdown in  first quarter as Missouri defensive back Anthony Sherrils (22) hangs onto his legs during the season opening game at Milan Puskar Stadium  in Morgantown, W.Va., on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. The WVU Mountaineers beat the Missouri Tigers, 26-11. 

A West Virginia Mountaineers fan looks down at the field in the fourth quarter during the season opening game against the Mizzou Tigers at Milan Puskar Stadium  in Morgantown, W.Va., on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. The WVU Mountaineers beat the Missouri Tigers, 26-11.

The Marshall Thundering Herd rush the field before taking on the Louisville Cardinals at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington, W.Va., on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016. The Cardinals defeated the Thundering Herd, 59-28. 

One Year Anniversary at the CGM

People stand outside of the Barclays Center during the first practice day of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship in Brooklyn, NY, on Thursday March 17, 2016. West Virginia University lost to Stephen F. Austin, 70-56, the next day in a first round game on Friday, March 18, 2016. 

Today (May 19, 2016) marks my one year anniversary at the Charleston Gazette-Mail and just over a year as a resident of Charleston. What a year it has been. I cut out of my internship at the Flint Journal in Flint, Michigan, a couple months early to head to West Virginia for my first full-time staff job. 

Barely two months into my position with the Charleston Gazette management announced that our small, two-newspaper city would quickly be turning into a one newspaper city, as we merged together with the Charleston Daily Mail. I had to reapply for my position. I added a new line to my resume, revamped my cover letter and hoped that they liked the work I had been producing so far. Thankfully, I continued on with a newly structured visuals staff: a visuals editor, a multimedia producer, and four other staff photographers. Ever since then we have been chugging along covering stories in Charleston and around the state of West Virginia. By now, I have traveled through every county in the state and am working to get to know as many hills and hollers as I can. 

It’s been refreshing not having to worry about where I will be in a few months time, even if it used to give me the willies just thinking about being grounded in one place for a long time. It’s been great to dig my heels into a community and get to know people. It’s rare to walk into a bar, a restaurant or a shop in Charleston and not see a familiar face now. 

Over the past few months: 

I got to watch WVU choke during the first round of the March Madness tournament in Brooklyn, NYC. My heart broke when I realized I wouldn’t be able to photograph any more basketball until next season. I covered the state girls basketball tournament and a slew of daily assignments (as always). I took my first visit to Asheville, North Carolina (on a personal, need to get out of town trip). I drank a lot of tasty beer and then saw a show. On my way back I day-hiked a tiny section of the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee. At the beginning of April I traveled to Parris Island, the Eastern Marine Recruit Station in South Carolina, to cover an Educators Workshop and work on stories about Marine recruits.  I saw five asian elephants with Ringling Bros & Barnum and Bailey circus walk through the streets of Charleston for the last time as they performed several of their last shows before retirement. I covered the presidential race and primary election season in WV for the first time. First came Bernie Sanders during a rally in Huntington and again over a week later in McDowell County in the southern part of the state. Then I encountered Hillary Clinton at the University of Charleston during a panel discussion about the drug epidemic. That day also happened to be my two-year anniversary of graduating from college. Alas, I don’t have an photos of Trump in the flesh because I was assigned to take video during his rally. Most recently I’ve traveled to Shepherdstown, Lewisburg and Morgantown to work on a project called Tastiest Town WV to showcase the various food cultures around the state for the Life&Style section of the newspaper. 

The past few months have been a whirlwind. My suitcase seemed to have always stay packed (whether it be from travel or neglecting to do laundry when I got back home).  

My camera and job with the newspaper has taken me all over the state of WV and beyond, this year. For that I am feeling extremely grateful. I’m excited to see where the next year takes me as I continue to explore more beautiful places and meet more lovely faces. 

The WVU Mountaineers quietly sit in the locker room after a hard loss in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, on Friday March 18, 2016. The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks, a 14-seed, rolled over the WVU Mountaineers, a three-seed, 70-56.

Wyoming East’s Gabby Lupardus (32) and Kara Sandy (3)  fall over Fairmont Senior’s Abigail Stoller (24) as they fight for possession of the ball during the WVSSAC Class AA finals match at the Charleston Civic Center  in Charleston, W.Va., on Saturday, March 12, 2016. The Warriors barreled past the Polar Bears to win the Class A State Championship title, 54-26. 

Athletes stretch and jog around the track to prepare for the Capital High School Invitational Relays as coaches and family members fill the stands at Laidley Field in Charleston, W.Va., on Thursday, March 24, 2016.

Sister Mary Pellicane, 94, stands outside of the West Virginia Institute of Spirituality in Charleston, W.Va., on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016. Pellicane, a Cenacle nun, represents Our Lady of the Cenacle and has been living in Charleston for over 37 years. 

James at Laurel Creek Falls along the Appalachian Trail in Hampton, TN, on Monday, March 7, 2016.

Chad Hill, Director of Operations at the Bombardier Aerospace facility in Bridgeport, W.Va., stands in a commercial aircraft that is going through a series of repairs on Tuesday, April 12, 2016. 

Bernie Sanders addresses the crowd during the "Future to Believe In" rally held by the Bernie Sanders campaign at Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington, W.Va., on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. Thousands of people filled the arena to listen to him speak about his policy views before the upcoming primary election on May 10. 

Bernie Sanders addresses the large crowd during the "Future to Believe In" rally held by the Bernie Sanders campaign at Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington, W.Va., on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. Over 6,000 people filled the arena to listen to him speak about his policy views before the upcoming primary election on May 10.

Bernie Sanders supporters of all ages listen to the democratic presidential candidate address the crowd during the "Future to Believe In" rally held by the Bernie Sanders campaign at Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington, W.Va., on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. Thousands of people filled the arena to listen to him speak about his policy views before the upcoming primary election on May 10. 

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, interacts with community members at a campaign event at Five Loaves & Two Fishes food pantry, in Kimball, West Virginia, on Thursday. Sanders became the first presidential candidate since John F. Kennedy to visit McDowell County. 

Jason Blankenship and his son, Wyatt, 6, listen to Sanders and others speak at the start of the McDowell County Community Discussion about rural poverty on Thursday. Blankenship spoke to Sanders about Wyatt’s autism, prompting a discussion about special-education resources in rural areas. 

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (center) addresses the crowd during a panel discussion about the opioid epidemic that state is fighting at the University of Charleston in Charleston, W.Va., on Tuesday, May 3, 2016. Chelsea Carter (sitting to the right of Clinton), a recovering drug addict, shared that she started using drugs at age 12 and began abusing Percocet (which contains oxycodone) and Lortab (which contains hydrocodone) at age 15. She switched to OxyContin (oxycodone) at 19, and began dating her drug dealer. 

A person walks into the presidential campaign headquarters for Donald J. Trump during a grand opening event for the campaign held at 818 Virginia Street E., between Capitol and Dickinson Streets in downtown Charleston, W.Va., on Tuesday, March 22, 2016. 

The sun sets on Parris Island, South Carolina, Tuesday, April 5, 2016. Parris Island has been used to train enlisted Marines since 1915. Female recruits from all over the United States and male recruits living east of the Mississippi River report to the island for their initial training. 

Upon arrival to Parris Island, all new recruits are greeted by a drill instructor and ordered to get off the bus to line up on the legendary yellow footprints. Every new recruit will hear these words as they stand on the famous yellow footprints: "You are now aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, and you have just taken the first step toward becoming a member of the world's finest fighting force, the United States Marine Corps." Thousands of Marines have stood on those very same footprints before beginning their journey through training. 

Justin Bockway, an 18-year-old Huntington High School graduate, is one of 211 West Virginia residents to join the marines since 2014. Bockway, who has a wife and young son, said having a family was the deciding factor in joining up. “He sees other married men or other people with families, and he knows that he wants his family to be protected so he also wants to protect everyone else’s family as well,” Bockway said, while speaking in third person. 

New recruits sit quietly as they wait for further instructions in the intake process during receiving week, the first of the 13-week training regimen they will face, at Parris Island in South Carolina, on Wednesday, April 6, 2016.

Male marine recruits use pugil sticks, a padded pole used to simulate rifle combat, as they participate in the Crucible, a 54-hour exercise that tests the physical, mental and moral capabilities of the recruits at Parris Island in South Carolina, Thursday afternoon, April 7, 2016. The event includes food and sleep deprivation and over 45 miles of marching. Upon completing this challenge, the recruits are handed their Eagle, Globe and Anchors, symbolizing the completion of becoming a U.S. Marine.

Marines march along the parade deck during the graduation ceremony at Parris Island in South Carolina on Friday morning, April 8, 2016. 

A new marine is embraced by loved ones after the graduation ceremony at Parris Island in South Carolina, Friday morning, April 8, 2016. With the exception of five Fridays, there is a graduation scheduled for new Marines every week throughout the calendar year. 

Elephant handler Alex Petrov uses a firehose to bathe Asia, a 48-year-old asian elephant, as they prepare for the second Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey show of the day at the Charleston Civic Center in Charleston, W.Va., on Thursday, April 21, 2016. After the bath the five elephants were dried off and their handlers secured their headdresses before being escorted into the Civic Center. 

A doe and her goat kid, named Sweet Caroline, stand on the hillside at Winters Hilltop Farm in Kenna, W.Va., on Friday, April 1, 2016. Sweet Caroline was born in mid-march and the only baby of three to survive. 

9 Months In the Mountain State

I've been in the Mountain State for over nine months now. It's the longest I have lived and worked in one place in a very long time. Here are some photos from the past few months, November 2015 - February 2016 to be exact. 

Ivan and Violetta Petrosyan embrace at their home in South Charleston, on Wednesday, February 3, 2016. The Armenian couple fled from their home in Baku, the capitol of a Soviet Union republic Azerbaijan, to Russia in January 1989 to escape ethnic violence. In 2006, after 17 years in Russia, the couple flew to the United States to visit their daughter Olga and never used their return ticket. They were successfully granted asylum in 2009 and recently became U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony at the federal court house on January 7, 2016. 

A light misty rain made for a foggy afternoon in the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, a part of the Monongahela National Forest in the Allegheny Mountains of eastern West Virginia, Sunday, November 30, 2015. 

“I was walking on the trail and I thought, ‘God, what in the world is a 70-year-old man [doing] walking around feeling pretty good, and there’s a 22-year-old dead that’s got a kid?’” Bob Rader said, at his home in Oak Hill, West Virginia, on Saturday, January 30, 2016. “That’s the hard part right there, the hardest part of all of this. That someone had to die for me to live. That’s the toughest part of it.” Rader went through heart transplant surgery after becoming a match with Karll Williams, 22, who was shot to death on the front porch of his home in Dayton in January 2014. After two years the homicide case is still open and unsolved, but Rader is in good shape and his body as yet to reject the heart.  

Medical personnel, family and coaching staff surround Buffalo football player Zach Boyer (65) after he suffered an injury on the field with less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter at the Class A playoff game on Bison Field in Buffalo, Friday evening, November 13, 2015. The game was paused for over twenty minutes as two Putnam County Ambulances were dispatched to the field and Boyer was taken to a nearby hospital.

White cotton grass grows along the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area, a swampy lowland bog that spans 750 acres in the Monongahela National Forest near Hillsboro, West Virginia, Tuesday, November 4, 2015. 

A tow truck crew works with the Charleston Police and Fire Department to pull a black pick-up truck out of the Elk River, near Charleston Area Medical Center’s Women and Children’s Hospital, Friday morning, November 20, 2015. The truck driven by a middle-aged man plunged into the Elk River shortly after 10 a.m. Friday. He was rushed to the hospital after being pulled from the car by a few divers, but died later that evening. 

Tayan Cooper, 10, who will be playing Ralphie Parker, is dressed in a pink bunny suit backstage during dress rehearsal for the Charleston Light Opera Guild's A Christmas Story production being held at the Norman L. Fagan Theater inside the West Virginia Culture Center in Charleston, December 15, 2015. 

Left: Gwen Ashman, 10, walks down the runway in a homemade Dasini water bottle dress during the Recycling Coalition of WV, Inc.’s, 13th annual Re-Fashion Show at the Charleston Town Center mall in downtown Charleston, Saturday afternoon, November 21, 2015. Right: Katie Castellucci, 17, waits by the side of the stage during the Recycling Coalition of WV, Inc.’s, 13th annual Re-Fashion Show at the Charleston Town Center mall in downtown Charleston, Saturday afternoon, November 21, 2015. The dress made from recycled West Virginia Living magazines was created by Alexa Gerrard, who was in the audience during the show. Gerrard said it took about a month and a ton of hot glue and tape to put the dress together. 

Hershel "Woody" Williams, a retired US Marine and the last surviving member of the Medal of Honor recipients for heroic acts during the battle of Iwo Jima, suggests a motto of "Peace We Seek, Peace We Keep" for the T-ESB naval ship named after him. A room full of family, friends, politicians and military personal gathered together for the unveiling ceremony of the USNS Hershel Woody Williams (T-ESB 4) ship at the Capitol Complex Culture Center in Charleston, West Virginia, Thursday afternoon, January 14, 2016. (For the American Legion)

Patience Meadows, 6, (center left) holds Kaylee Prichard's  hand (center right) as they walk off stage with Pate Mannon and Theo Thompson (back right) during the fashion show at the 12th Annual Wedding Expo held at the Charleston Civic Center in downtown Charleston, Sunday afternoon, January 3, 2015. The clothing modeled on stage during the show came from local stores, including The Boutique by B Belle Events, Jos. A. Bank and Jean Ann's Bridal. 

A dog named Buster, who is available for adoption through the Kanawha-Charleston Humane Society, leads Lexi Hall through Court Street alongside other adoptable dogs and volunteers during the annual Charleston Christmas Parade in downtown Charleston, Saturday morning, December 5, 2015. 

Retired Lt. Col. Rick Hunter (left) pins his wife Paige Hunter (right) as she is promoted to Brigadier General, the first woman to earn the title in the state's history, during a ceremony held in her honor at the 130th Airlift Wing in McLaughlin Air National Guard Base in Charleston. W.Va., on Saturday, February 6, 2016. Remarks about Brigadier General Hunter's accomplishments were given by Major General James A. Hoyer, Becky Neal, Executive Aid to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and U.S Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito before she was pinned and presented with a special general officer flag. After completion of the Academy of Military Science, Hunter was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant of the West Virginia Air National Guard in 1983. Through the years, she has moved up in rank through several positions and has served in Desert Shield and Desert Storm. 

Pro-Life rally attendees, including Nellie Gillispie (right to left), Pat Grass and Leigh Bellomy, participate in a silent prayer walk after the Pro-Life rally ended at the West Virginia State Capitol in Charleston, W.Va., on Tuesday, Feb.16, 2016. Patty Cooper of Parkersburg, a longtime anti-abortion activist, silently lead a big group of attendees through the Capitol to bring awareness to their beliefs. Anti-abortion groups, such as West Virginians for Life, are working with legislators to pass SB 10/HB 4004, otherwise known as the Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act, which would ban a common procedure used for second-trimester abortions.

A roar of cheers erupt from the crowd as Keisha Bankson places a crown on Elijah Slash's head during the "Night to Shine" prom held in the gymnasium at Teays Valley Christian School in Scott Depot, W.Va., on Friday, Feb.12, 2016. For the first time, The Church @ The Depot partnered with the Tim Tebow Foundation to host a “Night to Shine” Prom for anyone ages 16 and older with developmental or physical impairments. The nation-wide event took place simultaneously at churches, including the Depot, across the country on Friday, February 12, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

Jim Ratliff, one of 10 new computer coders at BitSource, a start-up company in Pikeville, Kentucky, worked for 14 years in the coal mines of eastern Kentucky. “A lot of people look at us coal miners as uneducated,” said Ratliff, a 38-year-old with a thin goatee and thick arms. “It’s backbreaking work, but there’s engineers and very sophisticated equipment. You work hard and efficiently and that translates right into coding.” (For Bloomberg)

Ray Hartzell (center), Owner of G and R Contracting, helps Robert Daniel Barbour (right) into the truck before loading the electric wheelchair into the back at the intersection of Capitol and Quarrier Streets in Charleston, on Friday, January 22, 2016. During the heart of the snow storm, Hartzell and Tucker Clay (not pictured) saw Barbour struggling to get around with his electric wheelchair and decided to give him a ride to his final destination on the west side of town.