It’s all about the journey.

Especially when you live in West Virginia.

That life lesson has become a guiding principle for gifted photographer Nicole Views, who uses her art to share the Mountain State with others.

Sure, mountains and waterfalls are plentiful. This kind of spectacular scenery is uplifting on its own, and makes great photos.

Those kinds of nature shots inspired her early on, and that hasn’t changed.

But traveling the state and looking at it in a different way has resulted in more than stunning photos.

It has also been illuminating for Views who had always planned to leave home after finishing school.

Greener pastures beckoned.

At least until she did some soul searching, and found the path to her calling.

“One day it hit me, I had never even really traveled around the state that had molded me into who I am.”

Originally armed with only a camera phone, she and a friend hit the road on a life-changing adventure.

Today she not only has real equipment, but also a great appreciation of her native state.

It’s downright personal, but also meant to be shared.

“The deeper I go, the more I fall in love with this place. I take photos for the people who aren’t able to access these places. For the people who aren’t aware of all the hidden beauty. For the people who hold memories of these special places.”

Even a simple road trip can be inspiring and special in ways she couldn’t have predicted.

“I actually ended up in Glen Jean while I was on the way to Thurmond. I had seen photos of the abandoned school and always had an interest in it, but didn’t quite know where it was located.

But we noticed the school sitting off to the right once you topped the hill.”

Inside there was lots of fresh graffiti on the walls, and an old piano lay in ruins.

The light was perfect to capture a special mood, and that’s part of what her photos show others.

It was a mixture of history, memories and even frustration.

“All of the pieces were just laying in front of me…It looked like people were coming there just to party of tear up the place.”

But that didn’t stop something special from shining through, and that’s the most touching part of really getting to know West Virginia.

Her favorite shot that day was from a fading classroom where a message had been painted on the chalkboard.

It was straight out of the Pink Floyd song “Another Brick in the Wall,” and read: We don’t need no education.

“There had to be happy times in that classroom. It’s funny how when things start to fall apart or rot the different kind of beauty that can be brought out

“You really can’t help imagining these places before they became abandoned. The life that lived, breathed, worked and survived there.

It used to be a booming coal town. And while it’s not anymore, you can hear those walls, roads and sidewalks talking.

Boy, do they have a story to tell.”

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