cades cove

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

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.

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 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.

Aphids

While tooling around Cades Cove, we came across some coneflowers.  We were attempting some macro shots of those when we noticed some aphids crawling all over the underside of the flowers and stalks.  

They were quite a challenge to photograph as they were in a dimly lit area, moving...and I had no flash.

I cranked my ISO up to 1000 and shot at a large aperture of F/4 to get a shutter speed that might not cause any blur.  I managed to get a shutter speed of 1/250th.  That might seem fairly quick, but with these guys moving and the wind blowing it was very difficult to find them still.

I ended up with a few shots of them I liked, so I thought I'd share one with you.  This was taken with my Tamron 90mm Macro Lens and Sony A7R DSLR.

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.

 

Don't overlook the details

During my Smokies Workshop a few weeks ago, while we were waiting on sunrise, or driving around looking for wildlife, I noticed several things that would make fantastic macro images.

I wanted to share a few of the images with you and remind you not to miss the forest for the trees, as they say.  Even though I was there to shoot grand landscape style images, I was on the lookout for these little details.  

When I saw that the morning dew had covered everything in sight, then I had to get the macro lens out and take a stab at a few shots.

First it was an attempt at spiderwebs.

This was shot at a very shallow depth of field for a few reasons.  First, I wanted to blur the background to a nice blurred non-distracting background.  Second, I wanted to get those cool out of focus dew drops on the other things in the background.  Lastly, I only wanted to isolate a few of the dew drops to be tack sharp.

This was shot using my Canon 5D Mk II and Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di 1:1 Macro Lens.  I stopped the lens down to F/4 to get that nice, shallow depth of field.  I shot this in Aperture Priority, so with an ISO of 100, the shutter speed was 1/160th.

Next was the dew covered dandelions.

I did something with this pic that I very seldom do...I cropped it.  I have a good reason, though.  The composition I wanted was so close that it was inside the minimum focusing distance of my lens and I didn't have my extension tubes.  So, I shot the image getting as close as I could and still focus, then cropped to get this composition.

This was shot with the same combo, the Canon 5D MkII and Tamron SP 90mm F/2,8 Di 1:1 Macro Lens.  I increased the F-Stop a bit on this one.  I set it to F/11.  Typically that is an aperture setting that would allow everything to be in focus, however depth of field is directly effected by how close we are to our subject, so even at F/11 I knew the DOF would still be very shallow.  I also shot this in Aperture Priority Mode on my Canon.  I bumped the ISO to 400 to give me a reasonable shutter speed, which was 1/160th.

Next time you are out shooting - whatever it is - don't forget to look all around you.  There may be shots everywhere!