TN

American Eagle Foundation

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you probably saw where I mentioned during a recent trip to the smokies some friends and I made a trip over to The American Eagle Foundation.  I have visited several bird rehab facilities and exhibits, but The American Eagle Foundation had the most number of birds of any I have been to.  They are doing pretty incredible things there with both rehab and education.

On our tour, they had several birds outside.  As photographers we got excited for this, because a large portion of the time these tours and/or shows are held indoors in some pretty crummy light.  Seeing that a lot of the birds were outside got us excited.  

They probably had 20 or so different birds outside, but let's face it, this is The American Eagle Foundation....we're really here for the eagles.  They probably had 4 or 5 eagles on display of varying ages.  This is Lincoln.  He is a fully mature eagle and an amazing looking bird.  Not only did we spend some time photographing him, but later we got to see him fly within a foot of us and even took our picture with him.

The folks associated with AEF were fantastic!  I'll definitely be going back anytime I head to the smokies.

Equipment list: Nikon D850 and Tamron 100-400 F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD

EXIF Info: Aperture-priority, 1/1,600 sec, f/8, ISO 400, 400mm

Bear Cub In The Grass

No trip to The Great Smoky Mountains is complete without at least one loop around Cades Cove.  Cades Cove can get pretty crowded, and quickly.  The earlier you can get there the better off you are.  The reason it gets so crowded is it is a very popular spot for viewing wildlife.  In the Spring and Summer it is especially popular for viewing black bears.

The Cades Cove Loop Road has a gate at the entrance that does not get opened until sunrise.  The strategy of getting there early means you want to get there 30-45 minutes before sunrise to get your spot in line.  During this time of waiting on the gate to open you get to see a lot of "interesting" characters.  At least the people watching passes the time.  

On one of our visits to Cades Cove we had the pleasure of seeing several bears.  I believe we counted about 15 in one day.  That's probably no record, but that's 15 more black bears than I would've seen at home, for sure.  So, I'm glad we went.  We saw what looked to be a lot of moms with cubs.  These bears looked a little worse for the wear.  I'm no bear expert, but I'm assuming that being in the den without food and feeding young ones was the cause of this.  The big bears that we saw alone, which I assume to have been males, looked much better than the moms with cubs.

We saw several cubs on our visit.  Most of them not much taller than the grass they were feeding in.  This made getting clear shots of them pretty tough unless they stood up.  After a lot of waiting for a clear shot I decided to try and get a shot of one of the little guys "peeking" through the grass.  After a lot of waiting, and several attempts, I was able to get a shot I was happy with.

You can see what I mean when I say they weren't much taller than the grass.  It was very difficult to get good clear shots of them, so I waited...and waited...and waited until I could clearly see both eyes through the grass.

Equipment list: Nikon D500, Tamron SP 150-600 F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2, Sirui Tripod and K-40 Ballhead

EXIF Info: Aperture-priority, 1/800 sec, f/6.3, ISO 3200, Compensation: +1/3, 400mm

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

Important, Overlooked Items For Waterfall Photography

Yesterday, I headed to Southern Tennessee to do some waterfall photography.  The places I went I had visited several times in the past, but these are also places that could never get old.

When I left the house it was steadily sprinkling rain and had been for several hours.  Perfect weather!  When I got out to start photographing, of course the rain got heavier.  However, I was prepared.

Aside from all of the critically important things, like a solid tripod and circular polarizing filter, there are several things that often get overlooked that can make you leave happier.  First, a lens cloth.  I took several yesterday, and needed them all.  Even if it isn't raining steadily, a lens cloth can be used to wipe water spots off the front of your filter.  I tend to create wide angle compositions and put my lens really close to a cascade.  I place this cascade in the foreground to anchor the image.  Even it is isn't raining, splash from the cascade finds it's way onto the front of my filter.  The lens cloth saves the day!  There isn't much worse than getting home and finding blobs all over your image.  Another important item is a shower cap.  Although keeping my hair looking stellar is of utmost importance, I am using the shower cap to keep my camera and lens dry.  It is cheap, and works remarkably well.  I have a weather sealed camera body and lens, but I still throw the shower cap on as added protection.  It's not a bad idea to have one even if it isn't raining, too.  It can keep those splashes off of the camera.  A good item to keep in the camera bag is a terry cloth.  Typically if I am putting my camera in the bag and it is even a little wet, I will wrap it in the terry cloth and let the cloth absorb any moisture.  I never "wipe" the camera.  This could force moisture into tiny cracks and crevasses.  The best method is the dab the areas, or just wrap it up and let the cloth do the work.  Silica Gel is another item I keep in the camera bag.  You know those little packets you get in packages that come with the "do not eat" warning.  Those are designed to absorb moisture.  They can be purchased cheap online, or you can just save them from any packages you receive.  I typically keep a few pouches in my camera bag at all times, but I especially make sure I have them in there if I am going to be shooting near water.  A few last things to consider are bath towels and a change of clothes.  These items can save you from a long, soaked, cold ride home.  

Here is one of the images I made yesterday at Short Springs Natural Area in Tullahoma, TN.  This is such a great area to visit if you are nearby and love photographing water.  

Aperture-priority, 6 sec, f/16, ISO 100

This image was made using my Canon 5D IV, Tamron 24-70 G2 Lens, Sirui Circular Polarizer and Sirui W-2204 Tripod.

Water...Of Course!

With all the storm damage in Cades Cove, especially to the trees along Sparks Lane, I was searching out other interesting compositions along Sparks.  

Initially, we had gone down the road a bit and photographed directly down the road in the fog, which was a great scene, but I was still looking for something else.  Then I turned around.  The water from the creek was flowing across the road at a pretty good rate.  Then the sun was trying to break through the fog a bit, too.  I knew I wanted to use the water as a strong point in my composition, so I got down at a low angle and included as much of it as I could.  I adjusted my circular polarizer to knock off the glare from the water, then I set my aperture to F/16 so I could get a long shutter speed to blur the water.  The sun lighting up the right side of the frame a bit was just a bonus.

Aperture-priority, 1.3 sec, f/16, ISO 100, 24 mm

Everything came together for this scene....the fog, the water, the light.  It was a great morning.

Image created with my Canon 5D Mk IV and Tamron 24-70mm Lens.  All supported by my Sirui W-2204 Tripod and K-20x Ballhead.

Smoky Mountains

Last week we held our Smoky Mountains Photography Workshop.  David and I arrived on Wednesday to get a little early shooting in.  We had plans to go to Roaring Fork on Thursday morning...promptly after a sop at The Log Cabin Pancake House, of course.  When we got to Roaring Fork, we realized we were in trouble.  I was getting out of the car every few hundred feet to move limbs and branches.  One time we came across a tree that was big enough we both had to get out and move it.  Then we started seeing the trees bend in half, it seemed.  The winds were howling.  We finally came to a tree blocking the road that was too big to move, so we had to turn around and go out the wrong way.  Once we got out, we notified the park service and by the time we had gotten to the Sugarlands Visitor Center, almost everything within the park was closed due to downed trees.  Our workshop started on Friday morning.  Everything was still closed in the park until late Friday afternoon, and then the only thing opened was Cades Cove and a small portion of the road to Tremont.  We photographed at Tremont Friday evening, then spent the next day and a half in the cove.  Our group was super, though!  They all had a wonderful time, despite our limitations and, from what I've seen, they all got some amazing images!

The landscape of Cades Cove did change a bit.  There were several downed trees and limbs.  The iconic image of Sparks Lane will never be the same.  One of the trees had some massive branches that came down and virtually looks like it's half of what it used to be.

I guess because of having to deal with all of those issues (either that or as my late birthday present), mother nature rewarded us Sunday Morning with a morning full of beautiful foggy scenes.  The fog seemed to last forever and we were able to capture several different subjects in it.  One of my favorite scenes from the fog was this fence line, that I'm certain I've never noticed before.  We were parked along Sparks Lane looking for different shots, since "the shot" was not very appealing anymore, and we found this fence line off the road...and it just looked great in the fog.

Aperture-priority, 0.5 sec, f/16, ISO 100, 31mm

When I composed this scene, I knew I wanted to have a solid anchor for the foreground.  I also knew I wanted to use a fence post for that.  I picked out a nice one, placed it in the scene where I wanted and let the fence line and fog do the rest.

Image made with my Canon 5D Mk IV and Tamron 24-70mm Lens.  I stabilized my gear with a Sirui W-2204 Tripod and Sirui K-20X Ballhead.

Machine Falls

This past weekend I got the chance to meet up with a friend that was traveling from New York to Texas and show him a few waterfalls in Tennessee.

This turned out to be a much better trip than I had ever anticipated.  We've had so little rain here in the last several months I didn't really expect there to be much water anywhere.  The water level at our first waterfall, Rutledge Falls,  was OK.  It was definitely low, but it was still good.  Then we moved onto to one of my favorite falls, especially near my home, Machine Falls.  Machine Falls still had a pretty good amount of water, which made for great shooting.

I've been to and photographed Machine Falls more times than I can count.  It's always a bit of a challenge to come up with something different while I am there.  

Aperture Priority, F/16, ISO 100, 6 seconds

I tried a composition I have tried in the past, only this time I was able to do it with a very wide angle lens in the Tamron 15-30.  I basically climbed right up next to this lower fall and shoved the lens right in it's face.  Then I used a circular polarizer by Vu Filters to cut all the glare off the rocks and water.

Canon 5D III, Tamron 15-30, Vu Filters, Sirui W-2204 tripod and K-20 Ballhead

 

Smoky Mountain Spring Workshop

I am getting super excited about our workshop coming up in The Great Smoky Mountains this spring.  I'm looking forward to shooting the full rivers and streams, as well as the landscapes or Cades Cove and Clingman's Dome.

I'm hoping the group can capture some images like this at Sparks Lane in Cades Cove.

ISO 100, 53mm, F/16 @ 1/4 second

Hover over the image to see camera settings used.  Click image to view it larger.

We've recently had a cancellation, so if you would be interested in joining us check out the info at this link: http://www.natureinfocusworkshops.com/photo-workshops/2016-spring-in-the-great-smoky-mountains-photo-workshop

This image was made with my Sony A7R, LA-EA3 Adapter and Tamron 24-70mm Lens.

Bald River Falls

On the detour trip home from the Smoky Mountains, we got to swing by a little known place in Tennessee called Tellico Plains.  Although there are several places along the river in Tellico Plains to shoot and get great images, the main attraction is Bald River Falls.

Bald River Falls is a 90 foot waterfall.  It is easily viewed from a bridge that goes along Tellico River Road.  Some consider these falls to be the most impressive and scenic in all of East Tennessee.  I can certainly tell you it's worth the visit.  This was my third of fourth trip there but the first time during fall colors.  The colors did not disappoint! 

ISO 50, 30mm, F/22 @ 1 second

I made this image with my Sony A7R II, LA-EA3 Lens Adapter and Tamron 24-70mm F/2.8 Lens.  I also had my Marumi Ciruclar Polarizer on the front of my lens.  All mounted to my Sirui W-2204 Tripod, of course.

Tellico River

On my way back home from the Great Smoky Mountains the other day I took a detour to a little place in Tennessee called Tellico Plains.

Tellico Plains has a lot to offer in the fall.  The color here was better than any color I came across in the Smokies, there is a river with a ton of water shots to be had  here, a very nice waterfall, not near the crowds of people and it's near the Cherohala Skyway.

I went for a few things, to photograph the water and escape the madhouse that was the Smokies in the Fall.  I accomplished both with ease.

This shot was taken from the first bridge I crossed as I traveled along River Road.  I normally like to get right down at water level when I photograph these rivers but, in this case, I wanted to capture the vast amount of color that was surrounding the river.  That was much better done from the bridge itself.  Getting down on the river I would have had to shoot upwards to include more color and that would have included a lot more of the nasty, no-nothing sky.

However, the no-nothing sky was what made the day!  It was very overcast and even started raining a few times while I was there shooting.  The overcast skies made the colors pop.  The little bit of rain also helped with that, too.  Make sure you have your polarizer, though, to kill reflections from everything being wet.

ISO 100, 30mm, F/16 @ 1/3 second

I shot this image with my Sony A7R II, LA-EA3 Adapter and Tamron 24-70mm Lens.  I also used my Marumi Circular Polarizer to enhance contrast and eliminate reflections.  Of course I had my new favorite tripod, the Sirui W-2204.