As the lead photographer and videographer at GO Laurel Highlands, I have an amazing opportunity to document our region by traveling to many picturesque locations in our three counties: Fayette, Somerset, and Westmoreland. The year 2023 has been a whirlwind of Laurel Highlands adventures and these are my favorite 15 images, in no particular order, and some stories behind them. I won’t apologize for featuring too many fall photos. If you haven’t been to the Laurel Highlands in the fall, you’re missing out – it’s spectacular!
Laurel Mountain – Stahlstown, PA
This image was captured on my way home from a video shoot at Forbes Trail Brewing, a Laurel Highlands Pour Tour partner, with a DJI Mavic Air2s drone. I noticed the sky separating after hours of rain and had a sneaky suspicion the sun was going to make an appearance. I decided to take the drone up and when I panned to the backside of the mountain, I was greeted with a rainbow during sunset. I have never seen another image like this, so it was a nice surprise.
Ridge Runner Distillery – Chalkhill, PA
Speaking of Pour Tour… GO Laurel Highlands offers a Peak Partnership level of participation which includes a video or photoshoot. Ridge Runner Distillery became a Peak partner and determined they would like to focus on product photography. An electronic mantle that produces steam in their tasting room proved to be the perfect spot to highlight the bottles!
Ohiopyle High Bridge – Ohiopyle State Park, PA
This is one of my favorites because of the symmetry, and of course the range of vibrant fall colors. The drone image was legally obtained with a Letter of Authorization from the State Park Office and the FAA.
Linn Run State Park – Rector PA
I truly enjoy leisure hikes at Linn Run State Park. My hope is that I will someday own one of these cozy cottages. I can’t think of a better place in the Laurel Highlands to spend my weekends. The sound of the gentle stream is worth the drive.
Jones Mills Run Dam at Laurel Hill State Park – Somerset, PA
It never hurts to ask if someone wants to be in a photo. I was originally taking landscapes of the waterfall, but this opportunity presented itself in the most perfect way. When I told this couple that I work for GO Laurel Highlands, the woman responded, “I follow you guys on Instagram!” I’ve always found the best images are hardly ever planned.
Polymath Park – Acme, PA
The Blum house at Polymath Park, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s apprentice, Peter Berndston, features my favorite living room space in the Laurel Highlands. I’m not sure how the multicolored and pattern rich décor works so well together, (triangles, hexagons, squares, rectangles, and circle patterns) but it does.
El Diablo Brewing Co. & Wood Fired Pizza – Greensburg, PA
One of my favorite things on the menu at El Diablo is a weekly rotating Ramen Bowl. But I also cannot get enough of their Gochujang Cauliflower appetizer. The portion is enough for 4 people to share (depending on your appetite), but in full transparency, I typically order the cauliflower app just for myself. I devoured the Gochujang spareribs in this image.
Jacob’s Creek – Mt. Pleasant, PA
Did you know that Pennsylvania has more miles of trout streams than any other state but Alaska? The Laurel Highlands is a top-rated fishing destination for trout. My good friend Andy Davis is involved with fish stocking around Mt. Pleasant and Confluence. He’s also an amazing fisherman who offers guided fishing trips in the Laurel Highlands and Erie. The first day of trout fishing is always a good time, especially for Andy.
Nature Waterslides at Meadow Run – Ohiopyle State Park, PA
This is one of my favorite spots in the Laurel Highlands. Millions of visitors come to Ohiopyle State Park every year, but there are times when it’s just you and nature. It’s a blessing to have this park close to home. The sound of the roaring run after a storm and beautiful fall foliage is the best nature therapy.
Loyalhanna River Kayaking – Ohiopyle State Park, PA
Let’s stick with the Ohiopyle theme for a minute. I approached this kayaker and his friend at a parking lot in Ohiopyle and asked him if them if they were going down to the river. They said that they were, so I offered to trade a ride for some photos. They agreed, and I was able to get some fantastic images. I believe his name was Steve.
Summersounds Concert at St. Clair Park – Greensburg, PA
Nothing brings people together like music, and Greensburg Summersounds Concert Series has been doing it since the year 2000. The best part about the concerts is that they are free! This image was from the first concert of 2023 with a record attendance of over 7,000 people.
Hiking at Linn Run State Park – Rector, PA
Like I said before, Linn Run State Park is a great place to hike. The trails are easy, and the surroundings are gorgeous. Jess is a student at Saint Vincent College, where I teach video and photography, and I was able to meet her through David, a former co-worker. Jess and David were the perfect models to showcase hiking in the Laurel Highlands.
Vacation Ohiopyle, Creek Haven – Near Confluence and Ohiopyle
It’s not the biggest. It’s not the smallest. But it’s the perfect rental near Confluence and Ohiopyle. If I could live here, I would. It’s private. It’s surrounded by nature and it’s on a creek. Waking up to the gentle sound of water would be a dream come true. If you are interested in vacationing in the Laurel Highlands, I’d highly recommend this rental property.
Dog Sledding at Laurel Mountain State Park – Rector, PA
There’s a lot to unpack here. After a video shoot and before leaving Laurel Mountain State Park, I was greeted with the sounds of crying huskies from down the road (we all know that sound). I saw them rushing towards me and I panicked. Not in fright or fear, but because of how mad I’d be if I missed this photo. This was my first time ever seeing sled dogs in person. Abruptly turning on my camera, I almost didn’t document this moment. I only have about three good images of Carmen Rose and her sled dogs (who are all rescues). Somehow, by the powers that be, she found out who I was, and we were able to link up and create a video. I won’t spoil anything, but you can watch this video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQTHqoNZVyU
Ohiopyle Falls – Ohiopyle State Park, PA
This image made the list because it was years in the making. Drone pilots are not permitted to fly in any state parks except for designated areas in only a select few. By acquiring a letter of authorization from the State Park Office and the FAA, we were now able to fly in the eight Laurel Highlands State parks. Most of my drone images are panoramas like the one above. It’s hard to tell because it’s stitched of only five images but very close together.
If you’re interested in seeing more photos of the Laurel Highlands, please check out GO Laurel Highlands on social media. We post regularly about places to go, things to do, and the coolest places to see around the region.
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