Tag Archives: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

October’s Hunter’s Moon

Hunter's Moon October 2013

Hunter’s Moon October 2013 – Click image to enlarge

 

 

Several photography friends and I went to Great Smoky Mountains National Park back in October to photograph fall color. Although we were there over the 3rd weekend of October which is typically when peak color occurs, the color this year was below average at best but we had a great time and did capture some great shots!

Our first evening in the park was spent atop Clingman’s Dome for a sunset, followed closely by moonrise of the full Hunter’s  Moon. In October, the full moon can be either the Hunter’s Moon or the Harvest Moon. The Harvest Moon is the full moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox, and in every 2 out of 3 years it occurs in September, but in some years it does occur in October. This year, the October full moon was the Hunter’s Moon. Sky conditions were partly cloudy for sunset, which helped give us some nice color as the sun sank below the horizon. Unfortunately the fog rolled in shortly after sunset and obscured the sky. We stayed for about 45 more minutes after sunset and decided that the sky wasn’t going to clear enough for us to see the moon so it was time to pack up. Five photographers have a lot of gear, and by the time we got everything loaded and drove as far as the other end of the parking lot, the wind changed direction, blew the fog away and suddenly there was the bright, full moon. Of course we stopped, got some of our gear out and started shooting. The sky didn’t stay clear very long because thin high clouds moved in before we fired our first shots. All was not lost as the wind created some very interesting patterns in the clouds lit by the bright full moon as you can see in my images. In the second image, you can see that the fog is just about to blow over us again.

 

Hunter's Moon with fog rolling in - Click image to enlarge

Hunter’s Moon with fog rolling in – Click image to enlarge

 

Please click here to see more of my images from Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If you have any questions about this website or my photography, I’d love to hear from you.  Please click here to email me.

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In Search of Fall Color 2013

Nice fall color with vibrant oranges and reds have been hard to find in central Ohio this fall. Even in typically great places for fall color like Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the color just wasn’t there!

Over the weekend of October 18-20, I traveled to Great Smoky Mountains National Park for fall color and was disappointed. In 2011 my wife and I were in the park this very same weekend and the color was fantastic, not so in 2013. After talking to several local photographers, they didn’t think the color would be good at all this year due to the wet summer and early fall and the number of leaves already on the ground. To be fair, there was some color just not the usual beautiful mix of yellows, oranges, and reds. I had an ambitious shooting schedule on this trip starting out on Friday afternoon at the Mingus Mill on the North Carolina side of the park, and a sunset atop Clingman’s Dome, followed by a full day in the Tremont area on Saturday shooting along the Middle Prong of the Little River and hiking to Spruce Flat Falls. I ended up at the Noah “Bud” Ogle homestead near the entrance to the Roaring Fork Motor trail on Sunday morning before heading back to Ohio.

Below is the Mingus Mill taken in late afternoon light. The Mingus Mill was originally built in the 1790’s by the Mingus Family who owned it until the 1930’s when the National Park Service acquired it.  The current mill, built in 1886 replaced the original mill and uses a water-powered turbine to power all the machinery in the mill instead of a traditional water wheel.

 

Mingus Mill in Autumn

Mingus Mill in Autumn – Click image to enlarge

Noah “Bud” Ogle was a Smoky Mountain farmer who first settled in what is now Gatlinburg with his wife Cindy in 1879.  Their cabin, pictured above was built in the 1880’s and consists of two cabins sharing a single chimney, known as a “saddlebag” style.  The Ogle cabin also has a very unique feature for the time…running water!  A wooden plume ran from a spring near the cabin up to the back porch.  Once there the water poured into a double sink made from a large log.

 

Noah Bud Ogle Homestead - Click image to enlarge

Noah Bud Ogle Homestead – Click image to enlarge

 

To see more of my photography of the Smoky Mountains, please visit my gallery here. If you have any questions about this website or my photography, I’d love to hear from you.  Please click here to email me.

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Noah “Bud” Ogle Cabin

Noah "Bud" Ogle Cabin - Click image to enlarge

Noah “Bud” Ogle Cabin – Click image to enlarge

 

Noah “Bud” Ogle was a Smoky Mountain farmer who first settled in what is now Gatlinburg with his wife Cindy in 1879.  Their cabin, pictured above was built in the 1880’s and is a great place to visit to get a glimpse of what pioneer life was like in the Appalachian Mountains.  The cabin consists of two cabins sharing a single chimney, known as a “saddlebag” style.  The Ogle cabin also has a very unique feature for the time…running water.  A wooden plume ran from a spring near the cabin up to the back porch.  Once there the water poured into a double sink made from a large log.  In 1977 the Ogle homestead was added to the National Register of Historic Places and is currently maintained by the National Park Service as part of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The Ogle farm is the first stop on the Roaring Fork Motor Trail.  There is also a very nice self-guiding nature trail, the Ogle Nature Trail that begins just off the back porch.  The trail winds its way through a forest of large hemlock and yellow-poplar to the banks of LeConte Creek.  Here you’ll find the remnants of the Ogle Tub Mill and sluice way seen below.

 

The Ogle Tub Mill - Click image to enlarge

The Ogle Tub Mill – Click image to enlarge

To see more of my photography from Great Smoky Mountains National Park, please visit my gallery here.

If you have any questions about this website or my photography, I’d love to hear from you.  Please click here to email me.

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Back to the Smoky Mountains Again!

I recently made another trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park for 2 ½ days of photography.  I had an ambitious schedule planned, with the first afternoon at the Mountain Farm Museum and Mingus Mill, then a sunset at the Morton Overlook later that evening.  The next day started with a sunrise from the Foothills Parkway West followed by Cades Cove, a hike to Abrams Falls, then photographing along the Middle Prong of the Little River in the Tremont area.  My last morning in the park was to be spent in the Roaring Fork area.

The historic Mingus Mill was originally built in the 1790’s by the Mingus Family who owned it until the 1930’s when the National Park Service acquired it.  The current mill, built in 1886 by Sion Early replaced the original mill and uses a water-powered turbine to power all the machinery in the mill instead of a traditional water wheel. Today you can buy cornmeal and other mill-related items in the mill house.  This view shows the water swiftly flowing through the millrace to the mill.  I used a polarizing filter to adjust the amount of reflection with a 4 second shutter speed to clearly show the motion of the fast moving water.

 

Fast moving water flows through the millrace to the mill - Click image to enlarge

Mingus Mill – Click image to enlarge

 

It was about a 20 mile drive across the Newfound Road to the Morton Overlook from the Mingus Mill.  The clouds were pretty heavy so I was keeping my fingers crossed when I arrived at the overlook that I would get some timely breaks in the clouds at sunset.   I chose the Morton Overlook for my sunset location because in late July the sun sets directly in the “V” of the receding ridgelines. As the time for sunset approached, the clouds were very heavy just above the horizon so I knew that once the sun reached those clouds it would be the last I’d see of the sun.  Although I’m pleased with the image below, it’s not quite the shot I hoped to get.  Little did I know that the cause of those heavy clouds on the horizon was a thunderstorm hidden from my view by the mountains.  I ran into it while driving the dark, narrow and twisty Little River Road to my hotel in Townsend, Tennessee….it was a very long, slow drive to Townsend!

 

Smoky Mountain Sunset from the Morton Overlook – Click image to enlarge

The next morning I woke to rain, but got dressed and headed out anyway. If you aren’t out there, you won’t get the shot so off I went! When I arrived at the 2nd overlook on the Foothills Parkway West, fog filled the entire valley between my vantage point and the mountains.  Only the tops of the trees were visible above the fog, with an orange glow in the sky from the rising sun.  Just minutes after this shot was taken, the fog shifted and I couldn’t see anything, including the sunrise!

 

Sunrise from the Foothills Parkway West - Click image to enlarge

Sunrise from the Foothills Parkway West – Click image to enlarge

After shooting in Cades Cove and hiking to Abrams Falls, I was hot and tired from my hike and decided it was past time to get away from all the people in Cades Cove. I thought seriously about going back to my hotel and relaxing, but decided to keep shooting for a few more hours and end my day in the Tremont area, which is a beautiful and much quieter area of the park.  I was really looking forward to the peace and quiet this part of the park offered!  As luck would have it, as I turned into the Tremont area it started raining again. Undeterred, I drove several miles until the paved road turned into a gravel road.  Having photographed in this area before, I knew that all along the gravel portion of the road there were great scenes of the Middle Prong of the Little River.  After getting my rain gear on, I started walking along the river and just a short distance from the car I came upon this scene.  The light was fantastic, the kind every landscape photographer dreams about (and knows won’t last long)…the rain, fog and mist combined to give this image a wonderful ethereal quality.  I could have easily gone back to the hotel and relaxed instead of staying out to shoot in the rain, I’m really glad I didn’t!

 

Middle Prong of the Little River - Click image to enlarge

Middle Prong of the Little River – Click image to enlarge

To see more of my photography from Great Smoky Mountains National Park, please visit my gallery here.

If you have any questions about this website or my photography, I’d love to hear from you.  Please click here to email me.

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Clingmans Dome Sunset

Clingmans Dome Sunset, Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Click image to enlarge

 

At an elevation of 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi River.  Mt. Mitchell (6,684 feet) and Mt. Craig (6,647 feet), both located in North Carolina are higher.  As you can imagine, sunsets from this location can be spectacular depending on the weather conditions and on this early October evening I was treated to a beautiful sunset.  I had experienced one previous sunset on Clingmans Dome and this time I was hoping for some clouds since my previous sunset was cloudless.  On this day, there were nice clouds in the sky about an hour before sunset but unfortunately they had mostly dissipated by the time sunset arrived and only a thick layer of clouds on the horizon was left with just a few breaks for the sun to shine through.  Clingmans Dome is one of the most popular places in the park for photographers at sunset and for this sunset there must have been at least 50-75 photographers lining the sidewalk at the west end of the parking lot.  One photographer was cooking dinner for he and his wife as they waited for sunset…I tried to place an order since the food smelled so good, and that lead to some fun conversation.  Temperatures at the dome drop quickly so be sure to dress in layers and have a jacket, gloves and a hat handy.  The image above was taken just after the sun sank into the thicker layer of clouds.  The oranges, reds, and yellows in the sky made for a beautiful sight above the vanishing ridgelines of the Smoky Mountains.

More information about Clingmans Dome and Great Smoky Mountains National Park can be found on the National Park Service’s website here.

If you have any questions about my website or my photography I’d love to hear from you, please click here to email me.

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Spruce Flat Falls

Spruce Flat Falls is a beautiful waterfall tucked away in the quiet Tremont area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Although it’s certainly not an unknown waterfall, Spruce Flat Falls is not one of the most popular waterfalls in the park.  Getting to the falls requires about a 2 mile hike that is moderately strenuous at the beginning since the trail is uphill for the first ¼ mile.  Then the trail is fairly level for the rest of the way going slightly downhill as you get close to the falls.  My first hike to the falls was in late July 2011 on a day with high humidity and temperatures in the mid-90’s…the pool at the base of the falls felt really refreshing that day!

 

A side view – Click image to enlarge

 

As you can see from my images, autumn is a beautiful time to visit Spruce Flat Falls, and in my opinion it’s the best time to photograph them.  Many different compositions are possible, so be sure to move around to find the best ones.  The image above is a side view, and below is a low angle shot a little downstream.  Don’t forget a close up shot isolating just part of the falls.  For some of the best compositions you may have to stand in the water so use caution if you get in the water!

 

Downstream from the falls – Click image to enlarge

 

About 100 yards west of the “Townsend Y” you’ll see a sign for the Smoky Mountain Institute.  Turn left at the sign and after 2 miles, you’ll come to a left turn that will take you to the Institute.  It’s well marked so you can’t miss it.  Go to the visitor’s center and get a map to guide you to Spruce Flat Falls.

You can see more of my photography of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in my Great Smoky Mountains National Park gallery here.

If you have any questions about this website or my photography, I’d love to hear from you.  Please click here to email me.

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Middle Prong of the Little River

Cascade and rocks along the river – Click image to enlarge

On the Little River Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park going towards Cades Cove about 100 yards west of the intersection of the road from Townsend, TN., (known as the Townsend “Y”), take a left turn at the sign pointing to the Smoky Mountain Institute and you’ll enter the Tremont section of the park.  Many people visiting the park miss this area completely since they are on their way to Cades Cove, one of the Park’s most popular spots.  I think the Tremont area is one of the most beautiful areas of the park, and definitely should not be missed.  If you want to escape the crowds in Cades Cove and other popular areas and treat yourself to a little solitude and great photography, this is the place!

 

Boulders in the river – Click image to enlarge

On your left will be the Middle Prong of the Little River, and you’ll immediately see many opportunities for great photography.  Stay on this road and after about 2 miles the road turn to gravel.  This is where the best photography begins.  Take your time once you reach the gravel road because there are many “photo ops” along the river.  The best light is during the morning or evening “magic hours” or on an overcast, foggy, misty kind of day.  Make sure you have a polarizing filter with you, it will be needed to control reflections and saturate colors in the foliage.  The gravel road ends after 3 miles with a beautiful elevated view of the Middle Prong that you see below.  This image was taken in October 2011.

 

Fall along the Middle Prong of the Little River – Click image to enlarge

You can see more images of the Middle Prong of the Little River in my Great Smoky Mountains Gallery here.  If you have any questions about this website or my photography, please click here to email me.

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Moody Mountains

 

"Moody" Smoky Mountains - Click image to enlarge

Early morning fog, mist and low clouds combine to give the Smoky Mountains a very moody and mysterious look.  This view is from Sparks Lane in Cades Cove.  Even with the clouds and fog obscuring the sun, the sky was still fairly bright compared to the foreground meadow so if I exposed for the sky, the foreground would be too dark.  To properly expose the entire scene correctly “in the camera,” I used a 2-stop soft split graduated neutral density filter.  Positioning the dark half of the filter over the sky allowed me to maintain the moody look of the mountains and properly expose the foreground meadow.

When you enter Cades Cove, you’ll be on an 11 mile one way loop, and Sparks Lane is the first of two roads that cut directly across the loop.  The other road is Hyatt Lane.  Cades Cove was once known as “Kate’s Cove,” named after a Cherokee Indian chief’s wife.  The Cherokee Indians lived in the area because of its abundant wildlife and good hunting.  Later, frontiersmen of European descent coming mainly from Virginia, North Carolina, and upper east Tennessee made their home in the cove.  They cleared the fertile valley and built farms to sustain themselves and lived in the cove for many generations before it became part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Cades Cove has been preserved by the National Park Service to look much the way it did in the 1800’s, and has many original pioneer homesteads, barns, pastures and farmland.

You can see more of my Great Smoky Mountains National Park images in my gallery here. If you have any questions about this website or my photography, please click here to email me.

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Photo’s On Display

I’m very excited to announce that starting today, March 9, 2012  five of my print’s featuring imagery from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hocking Hills State Park, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina are on display at Starbucks located at 1315 W. Lane Ave in Upper Arlington, OH.  They’ll be on display through Saturday March 31, 2012 so please stop by to see them.  After the 31st, my prints will be on display there every other month on an ongoing basis.  For the rest of 2012 that will be in May, July, September, and November.  The prints currently on display are shown below.  To see a larger image, click on the thumbnail.

The Cable MillThe Devils BathtubSmoky Mountains SunsetMiddle Prong of the Little RiverCape Hatteras Lighthouse

 

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Smoky Mountain Sunset

Summer Smoky Mountain Sunset - Click image to enlarge

I had never visited Great Smoky Mountains National Park so I was excited about photographing there over a long weekend in late July 2011.  This trip was actually a “scouting mission” before a vacation my wife and I planned to take there in the fall.  Visit my gallery here to see images from both trips.  After a lot of research, I put together a shooting plan that I thought would allow me to make the best use of the time I had available.  One image at the top of my list was a “classic” Smoky Mountain sunset with the sun setting behind the receding ridgelines of the Smoky Mountains.  The Morton Overlook along the Newfound Rd. was reportedly one of the best places in the park to photograph this scene in late July if you wanted to include the sun in the composition.  Since I had never been to the park I arrived in the late afternoon so I would have enough time to get familiar with the area while it was still daylight, find the Morton Overlook and get set up well ahead of sunset.  As I approached the overlook I was totally shocked to see orange barrels, yellow caution tape and a large sign saying the overlook was closed due to construction – “this wasn’t part of my plan, how could this be” I thought!  The overlook was deserted and it looked like it was definitely safe enough for me to take a few shots so I drove a few hundred yards back down the road to a pull-off I had passed, parked and walked to the overlook with my gear.  I set up my tripod and camera and waited for the magic of sunset to begin.  I had been there maybe 20 minutes when some construction workers showed up and a PARK RANGER!  “They see thousands of photographers around the park and I obviously wasn’t up to anything sinister so surely they won’t make me leave” I thought.  Wrong!  I was told very firmly (but politely) that I would have to leave immediately.  They looked at me like “The big sign said CLOSED – UNDER CONSTUCTION, what didn’t you understand?!”  I pleaded my case that this was my first visit to the park, I just got here all the way from Ohio to get a sunset shot from this spot so couldn’t I stay long enough to get a few shots?  “No way, drive up the road to the next pull-off, you can take some nice pictures from there” the ranger said.  By now, it was getting close to sunset so I had to move fast.  I drove past the Morton Overlook, waived to my new “friends” and a few minutes later I found the pull-off the ranger talked about.  My heart sank when I saw that the only view of the western horizon was between two trees and to make matters worse a thick band of clouds on the horizon would completely obscure the setting sun in a few minutes.  Needless-to-say I set up my gear quickly and started shooting.  As you can see in the “Summer Smoky Mountain Sunset” image I managed to catch the setting sun just before it disappeared behind the thick clouds on the horizon.  It’s not quite the shot I had visualized getting at the Morton Overlook, but I was very pleased with the way it turned out!  What an exciting start to my trip I thought.  Luck (a lot of it in this case), patience, and perseverance all combined to help me get this shot!

For this particular image, the camera was tripod mounted, as it is for most of my work and I used my Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L lens.  Although I would have preferred to use a wide angle lens to capture a wide vista of the sun setting behind the mountains, I had to shoot between 2 trees so I decided to use a telephoto lens, and compose a portrait oriented shot tight enough to eliminate the tree on the right side of the scene.  Even though the sun was setting and partially obscured by the clouds, the sky was still much brighter than the trees and bushes directly in front of me so I knew my exposure would be a little tricky.  If I set my exposure by metering the sky, the foreground trees and bushes would have been silhouetted.  This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I wanted to bring out some detail in the foreground.  I kept the aperture the same, spot metered the sky to the right of the sun (the brightest part of the scene without the sun in the viewfinder), and then spot metered the foreground (the darkest part of the scene) to determine the number of “stops” of exposure difference.  I found that the dynamic range of the scene was about 2 stops greater than I could capture in a single exposure and still hold some detail in the foreground.  Shooting in manual mode, I set a shutter speed of 1/10 second, an aperture of f/11, ISO 100, a focal length of 100mm and I used a Lee 2-stop soft split graduated neutral density filter.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with split graduated neutral density filters, they are made of rectangular/square glass or resin and are dark on the top and clear on the bottom with a smooth transition area in the middle of the filter.  The filters come in various densities, 1, 2, and 3 stops are typical.  There are also “hard” edge filters which have a very sharp or hard transition area from dark to light in the middle.  Using the 2-stop filter reduced the brightness of the sky and kept it from being over exposed so I could bring out a little detail in the foreground bushes.  I could have gotten similar results using HDR techniques taking multiple images and combining them in post processing, or used software to simulate the filters’ effect, but I decided to use the soft split graduated neutral density filter to get the image I wanted with a single exposure.  One of the great advantages of shooting with digital cameras is that there are often multiple ways to solve the problems we photographers face to capture images the way we visualize them.  By the way, I know the process I used sounds pretty complex and time consuming, but with a little practice it can be done quickly and it’s definitely a lot faster compared to the amount of time it would take you to get the same results on the computer.

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