Art and Science: LDG’s Maria af Rolén Uses Passion for Photography for Geology Book


Not everyone can say that their career and their passion are one and the same, much less that a marriage of the two is captured in a way that will be accessible to others for decades to come. However, Larson Design Group (LDG)’s Maria af Rolén knows what such a remarkable accomplishment feels like. 

“There are 300 million-year-old remains of ferns, tree-like plants and seeds that have been beautifully preserved in rock,” said af Rolén, a Geologist in LDG’s Morgantown, WV office. “Getting to photograph them for this project was an incredible experience.” 

That project was the book “Roadside Geology of West Virginia,” an installment in a series of books that detail the rock formations and fossils that are exposed when road cuts are made into mountains and hills. Photography is a major part of af Rolén’s life, having first become interested in it by taking underwater photos of shipwrecks and marine life while scuba diving with her father. In her native Sweden, she majored in photography in high school before graduating from the Stockholm School of Photography, the leading institution of its kind in the country.  

Af Rolén continued to pursue her passion for photography, even while earning a bachelor’s degree in Geology from West Virginia University. She captured hundreds of fossils, rock outcrops and other landscapes across the state of West Virginia for the book, which was published in October 2018 and is authored by two WVU professors 

The road cuts the book focuses on often provide the best exposures in a state such as West Virginia, where most rock is otherwise covered by vegetation,” af Rolén said. When that vegetation is removed, it reveals “spectacular” fossils from plants and animals in the rock – most notably, those of marine animals that inhabited an inland sea that once covered the region. 

“Roadside Geology of West Virginia” is available from Amazon. 

Founded in 1986, Larson Design Group is an award-winning national architecture, engineering and consulting firm with 11 offices in four states and a vision to elevate client relationships, enrich the careers and lives of its employee-owners, and enhance the communities in which it operates. For more information, visit