The exhibit features 40 favorite images from 2012. Displaying my work this
way has been a 1o year tradition, dating back to my digital beginnings
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In going through my Smoky Mountains images one last time I found a few stragglers I wanted to process. These ‘misfits’, that didn’t seem to go with my other posts conclude my series about the trip. The only thing missing from the 4 full days and 2 half days of dedicated shooting are some wildflower images. I plan to use them in an upcoming post that includes flowers from other recent trips as well. On our last full day and last loop around the Roaring Fork Motor Trail where the light was harsh we stopped at a little antique place when an old dodge in the yard caught our eye. We shopped for a bit, my friend bought a little something and we asked the owner’s permission to photograph the truck. Permission was granted as long as we stayed behind the fence which did not allow for many options. On our first day a pretty waterfall, enveloped in green peaked out from the side the road and we stopped to photograph it in the rain. Then, one clear afternoon we went on the Foothills Parkway to scout for a sunrise location and enjoyed the fresh, spring-green view. (At sunrise the next morning we learned that this vantage point is much better in the fall … btw.) I’ve also included my token, layered mountain shot which is something I had hoped for with a magnificent sky. (I’ll just have to go back for that one.) In this image you can see the damage the balsam woolly adelgid, an insect that infests and kills stands of Fraser fir has caused. This was quite prevalent in the high elevations around Clingman’s Dome. On our way home we spotted the old ‘Patchwork Shack’ and had to stop for our one, last, parting shot. Riding back to New Jersey I was a little sad to leave, thankful of the experience and being able to share it with a good friend. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park truly is ‘great’ and I do look forward to going back someday.
The cabins along the Roaring Fork Motor Trail posted last month were just the tip of the iceberg! Even though I did my research on the Smokies I was surprised at just how many log cabins and other structures there were. We made several stops along the Cades Cove Loop Road and went exploring for compositions. Near the ranger station on the North Carolina side there was a complete log farm, with a house, barn and other buildings where we explored in the morning light before other tourists ventured out. For variety I converted several of these images to monochrome while others seemed to work best in color. I enjoyed the opportunity to photograph these cabins that fit in so well with the environment. Here are some favorites:
There’s been several bear sightings this spring in places where they are not normally seen. Last week there were sightings close to home, in the neighboring townships of Medford and Atco, New Jersey. Reactions seem mixed and I am not sure if they are trying to find and relocate the bear(s) or not. In the Smoky’s we were able to watch and photograph bears on a handful of occasions. As we went around the loop we would scour the forest for them. I kept a long lens on my older 40D so I would be ready if we saw one. It was difficult since the majority of the sightings were at dusk when they were grazing on the young vegetation along the Cades Cove loop road. It was dark, in the woods and our ISO’s had to go way up in order to let in enough light to maintain the fastest shutter speeds possible, which were still not quite fast enough. One mid-day we came upon a group of people and a ranger looking up to a distant tree where a bear was eating some bugs. My friend and I decided to go up a little further and walk across an adjacent field to get our own view. The bear was some distance away and we fired off some shots when all of a sudden it stopped, looked directly at us and scrambled down the tree. It disappeared into the stream and bushes below … and we backed out! Another time I was shooting a bear from no more than 12 feet away while leaning on the hood of the car. The bear stopped eating, looked at me, sniffed the air, looked at me again … and I backed up! On the last morning we saw a mother and cub but it was very dark with a bad storm ready to let loose. There was a ranger there allowing people to get quite close. Doing my best in the low light, here are a few photos that at least prove we saw bears, along with a couple of other creatures we met in The Cove.
Much of our shooting while in the Smokies was centered around Cades Cove. I’m not sure how many times we went around the loop, and explored the side roads too. Once a thriving, mountain and farming community it was easy to imagine how it was. In addition to the cabins, other structures and bears the big scenes offered some interesting subjects. I liked including the leading lines of the roads and fences to bring the viewer into the photograph and finally to the distant mountains. The cloudy, overcast light evokes a quiet mood where contrast is not a problem. We witnessed one colorful sunset with a nice tree in the foreground. I worked the scene in Photoshop but because of the uneven cloud pattern I was not able to get an image I felt was well-balanced. Sometimes we have to know when to put an image ‘away’ and after several attempts I knew it was time. And since I don’t believe in showing images I am less than happy with, you will not see that image here!
The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is loaded with historic structures; mills, barns, schoolrooms, churches and many cabins. It was both interesting and a fun exercise to stop at each site and create some compositions. Even though the light was not always ideal, I tried to make the best of things, worked the scenes and came away with some images I’m happy with. At Mingus Mill the long water trough created a nice leading line. The smoke coming out of the pipe added an accent to the mill whose water wheel was concealed inside. The cantilever barn and old wagon made a fun subject and it was a good time to bracket in order to capture both the shadows and highlights. We stopped at another mill that was as quaint as could be and so was the miller who would frame himself in the window from time to time. Back on the Roaring Fork Motor Trail the Little Tub Mill was bathed in green from the moss growing everywhere and the light filtering through the young green leaves. I’ve always loved anything old fashioned and walking into these sites and structures was like walking into the past.
I had heard that temperatures can be extreme when comparing the lowlands of the Smokies to the top of Clingman’s Dome and on our second full day we experienced just that. Deciding to be there for sunrise meant we had to leave early the next morning since it’s over an hour away from where we were staying. The weather forecast for the morning was clear … cold but clear. I think wake-up time was around 4:30. This would be where we’d get our layered distant mountain shots at an elevation of 6,643 ft. After several miles on Newfound Gap Road we noticed a few flakes and rounding a corner in the semi-dark we could see that there was a frosty coating on the peaks. We made a right onto Clingman’s Dome Road and enjoyed the spring surprise when the jeep went out of control. We swerved one way, then the other (and back again) before we were thrown into some spruce trees on the side of the road, barely missing a cement culvert to our left. We were tilted to the side and the front end was covered with branches. My friend, behind the wheel and quite frightened yelled, ‘what are we going to do!?!’ Quick thinking as I am, I reached for my phone and called 411 … I know, it’s 911! Reception was good on top of the mountain and I was connected with the police who said they would alert the park rangers. Just then two park road crew guys stopped and said they’d get us out of there. They braced the car because of the tilt and had my friend put it in 4-wheel drive and back up. We felt like the luckiest people alive to learn the only damage was some cracks in the bumper cover. We waited on the side of the road until the salt truck came through and then followed them down and they closed the road. We jokingly apologized to some other photographers, taking full blame for closing Clingman’s Dome Road that Monday. Sadly, we never did get back up to the Dome but now that gives me a good reason to go back!
(Scroll down to the previous 2 posts to see how different the scenery looked the day before!)
My favorite waterfall shots from a recent trip to Smoky Mountain National Park are those shot along Roaring Fork Motor Trail on that first, misty/drizzly day described in the previous post. The greens were astonishing and the moss on the rocks seemed neon and surreal. It was easy to get the silky water effect with the soft and diminished light. Apertures of f/14-f/22 and a 100 ISO paired with shutter speeds slow enough to achieve the correct exposure and result I wanted.
Being prepared for the weather meant everything to the success of the day. Here’s what you need to photograph in the rain:
1. A good rugged raincoat. My knee length raincoat kept me dry and comfortable. I always take it with me on trips and often use it when it’s not raining because it’s roomy enough to wear layers under-neath while acting as a wind-breaker. Hoods and ball-caps get in the way so wear a waterproof hat with a brim that doesn’t bump the camera when looking thru the viewfinder. 2. There are several products out there to keep your camera dry, including raincoats for your camera. I think the clear plastic (disposable or reusable) Rainsleeves by OpTech work great. They fit over your camera and lens and allow for tripod use. It does take some patience to work the controls thru the plastic but it’s doable. There’s a cord to tighten the sleeve around the lens and an opening to secure around the viewfinder. 3. Have an extra, soft towel handy to dry off your camera if it gets wet and an extra lens cloth for water spots. I’ve had my camera in the rain on several occasions and it’s weathered well. Try to keep you lens pointed down as much as possible and check it from time to time to make sure there are no water spots that will show up on your images.
Now, I don’t recommend an outdoor session if it’s pouring rain but photographing in a light rain can be fun if you have the right attitude. Spring is a perfect time for a shoot in the rain … try it!
On the first morning of a recent trip to the Tennessee side of Smoky Mountain National Park, my friend and I were greeted with a fine, misty rain. Equipped with rain sleeves to keep our cameras dry, we worked the cabin scenes along the Roaring Fork Motor Trail, capturing the soft light and ultra-saturated greens. At each site there was a plaque telling of those who had lived here, deep in the Smoky Mountains. I could almost hear the banjos and fiddles playing while imagining how it was, not so long ago. The cabins were open and offered a nice respite from the rain so I went in and photographed from the inside too. And, since the weather kept other tourists from venturing out, we enjoyed the quiet mood of the day.