Milky Way over Clingmans Dome

Last week during a trip to the smokies with a few friends, we had the opportunity to photograph the milky way.  The weather was clear, there was very little moon, and it didn't even rise until after the milky way was to set anyway.  The weather was cooperating, so we just needed a place to shoot it.

After consulting my PhotoPills app and considering a few other places, we decided to try our luck at Clingmans Dome.  There isn't much as far as interesting foreground elements go in the parking lot there, so we decided to make the walk up to the observation tower and use that as a foreground element.  That walk, by the way, is not very fat friendly.  It is only about a half mile, but has an elevation gain of 331 feet.  That probably doesn't sound too bad reading it, but after a 1/4 of the way your thighs will let you know how bad it actually is.  We also did this at 3:00 AM.

We shot a few images at the base of the observation tower then one of my friends and I decided to walk up to the top of the tower to get above the trees and see how the compositions would look.  I'm sure glad we did.  Although the images from the base of the tower were great, what you could see from the top was incredible!  

You could not fit the milky way into the frame, even at 15mm, so this is a 6 shot panoramic image.  This was taken just minutes before the galactic center was to disappear behind the horizon. This was the first image I processed from my trip once I returned home.  I knew it looked pretty good on the camera's LCD, but I was just hoping it lined up and stitched together OK.  Lightroom Classic had no issues stitching the images.  I made sure to overlap each image by about 25% or so.  I'm pretty happy with the way this one turned out.

Equipment list: Nikon D850, Tamron SP 15-30 F/2.8 Di VC USD, Sirui Tripod and K-40 Ballhead

EXIF Info: Manual exposure, 30 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1600, 17mm

 

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