Smoky Mountains

Roaring Fork

The Roaring Fork Motor Trail in Great Smoky Mountain National Park is one of my favorite destinations in the park.  I love photographing water, so that automatically gives it an advantage.  The mossy greens on the rocks in the springtime are absolutely fabulous, too.  I also love that the water, in most places, isn't more than knee deep, so it's easy to get in the water and create more pleasing compositions than from the stream side.

The weather was bright overcast on the day I visited Roaring Fork.  That allowed me to shoot in that area for several hours...and I did indeed.  It's such a great area of the park, especially if you enjoy the water, and it isn't anywhere near as crowded as some of the other areas.

I used a 24mm lens here with a circular polarizer.  I never shoot water without a good polarizer.  It makes a huge difference in your images.  In this scene, it doesn't only kill a lot of the reflections off of the rocks and water, it also helps to make the greens a little more saturated.

Equipment list: Nikon D850, Tamron SP 24-70 F/2.8 Di VC USD, Sirui Circular Polarizer, Sirui Tripod and K-40 Ballhead

EXIF Info: Aperture-priority, 4 sec, f/16, ISO 64, Compensation: +1/3, 24mm

Spruce Flat Falls

Here's an image of Spruce Flat Falls located in the Tremont area of GSMNP.  This is a really nice waterfall with the upper section being about 30 feet tall.  It is about a mile hike to get to, however.  The trail for this fall begins at the Tremont Institute.  

I took this image using my Tamron 15-30mm lens and just got as close to the water as I could.  You can't shoot these waterfall scenes without a circular polarizer.  I used a special filter mounting system designed for the Tamron 15-30 by Vu Filters.  It allows me to have a polarizer on that lens.  I can also add additional filters if needed, like a neutral density or graduated filter.

Sony A7R II, Metabones Adapter, Tamron 15-30, VU Filters Polarizer, Sirui W-2204 Tripod and K-20 Ballhead.

Aperture Priority, F/16, ISO 100, 2 seconds, 16mm

 

Smoky Mountain Black Bears

One of the most popular areas in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Cades Cove.  In the spring the black bears are easily found there.  One afternoon while in Cades Cove we ran across this mother and cub.  They were in the wooded area for a long time then came out into this field and eventually worked their way over to more woods on the other side of the field.  They were very fun to watch and photograph from a safe distance. They seemed to like performing for all the photographers that were watching. 

You can see here they have just came into the field.  The bear cub could care less about anything except eating and playing.  In fact, when they were crossing the field the cub got a little behind mom, then quickly ran to catch up doing a double front flip to stop.  

This image was made using my Sony a6300, LA-EA3 Lens Adapter and Tmaron 150-600mm Lens.  Everything was resting atop my Sirui tripod and PH-20 Gimbal Head, which made it very easy to follow these guys with my camera and long lens. 

Aperture Priority, F/6.3, ISO 6400, 1/1250th second, 280mm

Smoky Mountain Sun Rays

While in the Smoky Mountains for our workshop we decided to go up to Clingman's Dome for sunset.  The idea was that the full moon was rising 15 minutes before sunset, so we were going to photograph both the moon rising and quickly adjust for sunset.  The weather had a different idea.  We stuck with our plans, though and waited it out at Clingman's Dome.  It's a good thing we did, too.  About thirty minutes before time for sunset, there was a small break in some clouds near the horizon that allowed these amazing sun rays to display.  They lasted for about 15 minutes or so.  There was no real sunset, but seeing these rays light up the mountain tops was a pretty decent trade off.

I shot this with my Sony A7RII, LA-EA3 Lens Adapter and Tamron 70-200mm Lens all resting on my Sirui W-2204 Tripod and G-20 Ballhead.  The 70-200 is my favorite lens for Clingman's Dome.  I use it to compress the scene and get that nice layering effect in the mountains.  

No real trick to processing this image, but I will tell you using the Dehaze slider in Lightroom CC helps enhance the rays a bit.

Aperture Priority, 1/60th second, F/11, ISO 100, Exposure Compensation -2

 

Tremont

The Tremont area of The Great Smoky Mountains is one of my favorite areas to visit.  I love shooting the water and rivers of the smokies and Tremont is a fantastic place to do just that.  The river snakes along side the road offering many opportunities for lovely cascades and mini waterfalls. 

We visited this area just after a rain, which is a fantastic time to do this type of photography.  Notice how the rocks are wet from the rain.  Everything being wet offers much more contrast than under normal, dry conditions.  Be sure to pack in your circular polarizer though.  Wet also means reflective, so you'll need that polarizer to cut through the reflection and glare.

I like to get down very low on a scene like this, which means putting my camera and myself in some unusual positions.  This is where a few things come in very handy.  First, my Sirui tripod...I can always get it in the spot I want no matter where that spot is.  Secondly, the tilt screen on my camera...sometimes because my camera is in a position that doesn't allow me to look through the viewfinder, the tilt screen comes in super handy.

Image made with Sony A7R II, LA-EA3 Lens Adapter, Tamron 24-70mm Lens, Marumi Circular Polarizer, Sirui W-2004 Tripod and Sirui G-20 Ballhead.

 

 

More Falls in The Fall

Here's another shot from last week in The Great Smoky Mountains.  The color was really nice while I was there.  These kinds of photo opportunities were plentiful along Little River Road and in the Tremont Area.

ISO 100, 15mm, F/16 @ 2 seconds

When I came upon a scene like this I tried to take the same approach to most of them.  I was using my new Tamron 15-30mm Ultra Wide angle lens.  I knew I needed to find a foreground anchor, so I usually looked for an interesting flow of water or a rock.  A foreground anchor really helps add depth to your images.  If I chose a rock, sometimes it had a nice set of fallen leaves on it, sometimes I put some leaves on it. Once I had the foreground anchored, then I made sure my composition lead you through the image to the brilliant display of fall colors in the background.   

This image was made with my Sony A7R II, Metabones Lens Adapter and Tamron 15-30 F/2.8 Ultra Wide Angle Lens.  I can;t photograph water without a circular polarizer, so I had one of those, too.  All of my gear was resting atop my Sirui W-2204 Waterproof Tripod.

Smoky Mountain Cascade

Here is one of many images I shot along the Tremont area of The Great Smoky Mountains last week.  The color was good, the shooting was good and most of all it was a relaxing trip that relieved a lot of stress from the weeks before.

I know what you are asking me right now..."Did that leaf happen to fall perfectly on that rock in the foreground?".  Nope, I put it there.  I think it helped anchor the foreground and give you the feeling of Autumn much more than the plain rock without it.  Not only did I put it there, I probably even splashed water on it to give it more contrast.  Call me a cheater... ;)

ISO 100, 19mm, F/16 @ 2 seconds

I made this image with my Sony A7R II, Metaobnes Lens Adapter and Tamron 15-30mm Lens.  I also had my gigantic Fotodiox circular polarizer rig and my Sirui W-2204 Tripod.  

One of the things i really like about the Sirui W-2204 being waterproof is before Whenever I spent the day photographing water, I'd have to come home, extend my tripod and let it dry out in the garage...well those days are over with this thing.  Since no water ever gets in the leg sections that is no longer necessary.

 

Smokies Water

I love shooting these river and stream shots in the Smokies!  The trouble I usually have at these scenes is I always want to get the wide angle view of these locations, but then I always see a little isolated cascade that I think looks good.  

When I'm using my wide angle lens, I have to switch lenses if I want to isolate any of the small cascades...and usually the lens I need is back at the car.  This year, however, I was armed with the Tamron 16-300 Lens.  It served me very well at these scenes.  I could take one lens and get the wide angle view as well as isolating a cascade in the stream.

ISO 100, 22mm, F/16 @ 2.5 seconds

The above shot was at 22mm.  I wanted to include all of the water as well as the greenery in the background.  Then I found one of those cascades I wanted to isolate.

ISO 100, 130mm, F/16 @ 1.3 seconds

This shot was made at 130mm.  While that isn't all of the 300mm lens, it was enough that would have required me to change lenses had I been using my wide angle lens.  No trip back to the car equals happy photographer.

These images were made with the Sony A77ii and Tamron 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II PZD Macro Lens.  I also used a Hoya Circular polarizer to kill glare and reflections.  All of this was mounted a top my Vanguard Abeo PLus 323 CT Tripod.

Pink Lady Slippers

No, those aren't what I wear with my housecoat before bed.

They are wildflowers.  And dang fine ones, too!  Oh, and hard to find, too.  That was until we found this spot during our workshop in the Smokies.

We were walking down this trail where my teaching partner, David Akoubian, had remembered seeing some of these Pink Lady Slippers years ago.  Well, we ended up finding a small group and spent some time photographing them.  As we walked further down the trail we found an elderly couple taking a rest on a log and they told us that just down this other trial there were "bunches of them".  

We walked down the other trail to the point where we thought the guy was just nuts, then we started to see small groups of them, then more of them, then large groups of them.  It was us that was nuts it turns out!

The first image on the left was taken on the day we initially found the flowers.  The lighting was not good and we were trying to use everything we had as a diffuser and background.  I had to push the processing on that one a bit to get an image I liked.  

The image on the right was taken a few days later.  The light was great on this day!  We had rain that morning and it was still very overcast when we arrived.  So the light was better and we got the bonus raindrops, too.

Settings for the left image: ISO 1600, 90mm, F/16 @ 1/10th second

Settings for the right image: ISO 800, 90mm, F/4.0 @ 1/125th second

Both images were taken with my Sony A7R, Metabones Adapter and Tamron 90mm Macro Lens.  This setup was of course on a tripod...my Vanguard Abeo Plus 323CT.

Smoky Mountain Dew

So, it's been a LONG time since you've heard from me.  I've had quite a few things keeping me from posting lately, but mostly the lack of a computer.  I ordered a new computer, then when it arrived it had a few issues, so I had to send it back for a replacement...which took about 2 weeks.  So, now I'm back in action with a brand new computer!

A week or so ago I met up with some long time friends for a quick run up to The Smoky Mountains for a half day photo fix.  These trips are always a ton of fun and always produce good photos from everyone involved.

We spent the hours before, during and after sunrise at Cades Cove.  We were treated to a pair of whitetails and a family of bears within our first 15 minutes once we got in the cove.  It was a very cool morning.  I'm saving bear photos for later...today I wanted to share with you a dew covered spiderweb.  In Cades Cove during the late summer, these things can be found literally everywhere.  So, you get to spend time picking the one with the best pattern, the best backgrounds, the best dew...you get the idea.

On this morning I found one with a very nice pattern, nice dew, I found a undistracting background and this one even had prisoners.  Bonus!

This image was taken with my Sony A7R and Tamron 90mm Macro Lens.  You can't take these macro shots at this time of day without a tripod, and I used my new Abeo Plus 323CT for this shot.  I shot this in Aperture Priority at F/8 to blur the background into soft, creamy nothingness.  Also, I had my ISO boosted a bit to 400, which resulted in a shutter speed of 1/50th.  I pushed and pulled a few sliders in Lightroom and this is what came out.