Tag Archives: Sunrise

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.

Posted in General Photography, National Parks, Photographic Technique Also tagged , |

Hilton Head Sunrise

Sunrise over the Atlantic – Click image to enlarge

I just got back from a family vacation in Hilton Head Island, SC.  We had a fantastic time, and no one wanted to go home when it was time to leave….that’s a good sign that everyone had a great time, and we’re already making plans to go back again!  Of course, I took all of my camera gear, but I didn’t spend as much time shooting as I usually do.  Photography wasn’t the priority on this trip, but I definitely did “some” shooting.  Our rental house was just a short walk from the beach so I got up early every morning to photograph the sunrise.  I was amazed at how many people were out on the beach walking and running at 5:50 AM!  When I thought about it, I wasn’t all that surprised since its cooler then and very quiet and peaceful.

Unfortunately Mother Nature didn’t completely cooperate with me for good sunrise photography….it rained on me twice and even though I stayed out there I didn’t get any breaks in the clouds, and two other days there were heavy clouds on the horizon again without any breaks in the clouds.  As all of us photographers know, if you aren’t “out there” you aren’t going to get the shot so I was persistent and kept going out every morning and I did get two nice mornings to shoot before the week was over.  The image above was taken the first morning we were on the island which also happened to coincide with low tide.  This situation provided a great opportunity to get some interesting reflections and I took advantage of it.  In this image I positioned the camera very low, just above the sand, and captured a reflection of the rising sun in a tide pool along with a nice foreground of many little reflections off the rippled wet sand.  I really like this shot!  For the image below, I set up the camera at the bottom of a sand dune so I could include the pattern of the vines growing in the sand and exaggerate the height of the dune, and position the fence and sky at the top of the frame.

Sunrise (and sunset) is a great time to shoot, but you have to work fast since the wonderful golden color from the low angle of the sun doesn’t last long.


Sunrise on Hilton Head Island – Click image to enlarge


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

Posted in Photographic Technique


Sunrise from Sanibel Island, Florida – Click image to enlarge


The yard was covered with about an inch of snow this morning, and we’ve had snow showers off and on throughout the day.  With winter showing no signs of releasing its grip on central Ohio, I thought I’d share a nice warm Florida sunrise with you that I captured last fall.

This sunrise was captured from Sanibel Island, Florida last October when my wife and I vacationed there.  Unfortunately, it was also the last day of our vacation, but it was a dramatic yet beautiful sunrise to end our trip on.  For this particular image, I waited until the sun rose high enough in the sky so that it was partially hidden by the clouds and for some seagulls to fly by in the right place in my field of view.  Out of about a dozen shots, this is the one I liked best.  The city skyline on the horizon is that of Fort Myers.  It’s amazing how much the look of the sky can change in just a matter of a few minutes.  The image below was taken 5 minutes earlier when the sun was hidden more by the heavy band of clouds and as you can see in the lower left corner of the image there is a rain shower in progress north of the immediate downtown area.


Sanibel Island Florida Sunrise with rain shower – Click image to enlarge

Today is March 1st so at least we are getting closer to spring and hopefully some nicer weather isn’t too far away.

To see more images from Sanibel Island, please visit my Sanibel-Captive gallery 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.



Posted in General Photography

Sanibel & Captiva Islands

Sanibel and Captiva are barrier islands that lie a few miles off the west coast of Fort Myers, Florida.  My wife Lisa and I recently vacationed there and had a wonderful time.  To the credit of the residents and friends of the island, they have protected the island from over-development and have kept it from becoming another high-rise, fast food tourist trap.  About 45% of Sanibel has been set aside for the preservation of natural habitats by organizations like the Nature Conservancy.  Over 5,000 acres on the bay side of the island is the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, named in honor of the Pulitzer prize-winning political cartoonist and wildlife system pioneer Jay Norwood Darling.  The rest of the island is privately owned but is subject to the laws of a strict Land Use Plan. With the Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve less than a 2 hour drive from Sanibel, this whole area of southwestern Florida is a wildlife photographer’s dream!  Add to this beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and shell covered beaches (the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva are considered among the best shelling areas in the world) you’re in a photographer’s wonderland.

The week Lisa and I vacationed on the island just happened to coincide with a week of special events held annually at the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge called “Ding Darling Days.”  One of the special days closed the refuge to all vehicular traffic so you could walk or bike all the trails without any cars around.  We took advantage of this opportunity and rode the 8-mile round-trip Wildlife Trail through the refuge.  We saw numerous birds including the Roseate Spoonbill, Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, White Ibis, and a Reddish Egret.  We were amazed at how close we could get to the birds without them flying off.  The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron below was feeding along the edge of the water and we had just watched it eat a small tree crab.  I was about 10 feet from it when I got this shot.  Serious wildlife and bird photography usually requires a long telephoto lens in the range of 400mm – 800mm to properly fill the frame with often small and distant subjects.  These lenses are very expensive so I was very happy that some of the birds let me get close since I was using a moderate telephoto Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom lens!


Yellow-crowned Night Heron – Click image to enlarge

In addition to all the wildlife, the sunrises and sunsets are spectacular on Sanibel and Captiva.  From where we were staying on the island, the sun rose directly behind the city of Fort Myers so all the buildings were silhouetted on the horizon and along with some nice clouds to reflect the beautiful light of the rising sun, the sunrises were wonderful.  The image below was taken the morning of our last day on the island, and was the best sunrise of the week.


Sanibel sunrise – Click image to enlarge

One final thought if you plan to visit the island….it’s a wonderful place to relax, enjoy the beach, bike, sightsee, and eat great food especially in mid-October after all the summer tourists have gone.  However, there is a very tiny biting insect called a “no-see-um” that you need to know about.  They are worst at dawn and dusk and their bites cause itchy red bumps that last for days.  Lisa and I have been home almost a week and the itching has finally stopped and the bumps are starting to go away.  We had some good insect spray which helped a little but wasn’t greatly effective.  We found out too late from some local islanders that a coating of Avon Skin Soft applied to all exposed body parts will keep them from biting.  Be sure to get some Benadryl spray or hydrocortisone cream, either will relieve the itching!

To see more of my photography of Sanibel and Captiva Islands as well as Everglades 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.

Posted in General Photography, Weekly Column Also tagged , |

The Outer Banks of North Carolina and The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Atlantic sunrise, Fishing at dawn - Click image to enlarge

The Outer Banks of North Carolina will supply any photographer with a wonderfully diverse array of subjects to photograph.  Sand, sea, sky, wildlife, and some of the oldest and tallest lighthouses on the Atlantic coast are there for you to create memorable landscape and nature images.  My wife and I made our first visit in late October 2009, which turned out to be the perfect time to be there.  The summer tourist season was over, the temperatures were cooler, and we had our pick of places to stay.  We arrived with no reservations, turned south at Nags Head and drove down the coast until we spotted a nice house on the beach to rent in the town of Avon on Hatteras Island.  We had a fun and relaxing vacation and the photography was fantastic.  My favorite subjects were the lighthouses, sunrises and sunsets, and beach and seascapes.  Given its more than two century history, of particular interest was the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

There has been a light at Cape Hatteras since 1803 when the first tower was completed.  It was an eight-sided sandstone tower and was perched on a 20 foot sand hill.  Eighteen open-flame lamps created the light for the tower, and no matter how well the keeper tended the lamps, the light given off was not strong enough to reach across Diamond Shoals, dangerous ridges of underwater sand that could destroy a ship.

In 1854 the first tower was heightened to 150 feet and a first-order Fresnel lens was installed.  The tower was also painted white for the first seventy feet to stand out against green foliage in the background when viewed from the sea, and red for the rest of its height to contrast with a blue sky.   It served well until after the Civil War when it was discovered that the aging sandstone tower had cracks and was worn from wind erosion.

In March 1867, Congress appropriated $75,000 for a new lighthouse, the very best that could be built.  Work began in November of 1868 with the best materials available.  One and a quarter million dark-red bricks came from kilns along the James River, the dressed granite blocks for the quoins came from Vermont, and an enduring iron spiral staircase was cast by Bartlett and Robbins of Baltimore.

At the summit of the 198 foot tall tower, a twenty-four panel, first-order Fresnel lens sparkled when it was first lit in December 1870.  And in 1873 the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse received its black and white spirals that helped it become world-renowned.

The iconic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse - Click image to enlarge

Hatteras Island is a barrier island migrating southwestwardly, and the coastline has changed gradually due to erosion, driven by rising sea levels and prevailing water and wind currents.  In 1870 when the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was completed, the tower was about 1600 feet from high tide.  Over the years the beach eroded and by the 1920’s the ocean had advanced to within 300 feet of the tower.  In 1987 the National Park Service asked the National Academy of Sciences to study and provide definitive, achievable advice on how to save the lighthouse.  The goal was to provide a long-term solution of 100 years or more and preserve the natural processes of barrier island migration.  “Move the Lighthouse,” stated the Academy’s report.

The keepers quarters and other buildings were moved first and on June 17, 1999 the Lighthouse began its 2,900 foot move to its new home.  On September 14, 1999 the last brick of the Lighthouse’s new foundation was laid, and on Saturday November 13, 1999 the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse flashed its brilliant beams of light once again.  Of the more than one thousand lighthouses built by the U.S. Lighthouse Service, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the most recognized in America.  Today it has earned the esteemed rank of National Historic Landmark, a fitting tribute it retains after relocation.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, view from the beach - Click image to enlarge


The Outer Banks is a 150-mile long string of narrow barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina that covers most of the coastline, beginning at the southeastern corner of Virginia Beach, and south to the Cape Lookout Lighthouse on the east coast of the United States.  The major islands are Bodie (pronounced “body”), Roanoke, Hatteras, Ocracoke, and Portsmouth.  The Outer Banks is not anchored to offshore coral reefs like some other barrier islands and as a result significant beach erosion can occur during major storms.  In fact, the Outer Banks is the most hurricane-prone area north of Florida.  The treacherous seas off the Outer Banks and the large number of shipwrecks that have occurred there have given these seas the nickname “Graveyard of the Atlantic.”

The Outer Banks is also a major tourist destination and is known for its temperate climate and wide expanse of open beachfront. The Wright brothers’ first flight in a powered, heavier-than-air vehicle took place on the Outer Banks on December 17, 1903, at Kill Devil Hills near the seafront town of Kitty Hawk. The Wright Brothers National Monument commemorates the historic flights.

The English Roanoke Colony—where the first person of English descent, Virginia Dare, was born on American soil—vanished from Roanoke Island in 1587. The Lost Colony, written and performed to commemorate the original colonists, is the longest running outdoor drama in the United States and its theater acts as a cultural focal point for much of the Outer Banks.

If your time in the Outer Banks is short, must see locations are the Currituck and Cape Hatteras Lighthouses, the Wright Brothers Memorial at Kitty Hawk, Ocracoke Island (including the Ocracoke Island Lighthouse), and the Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve.

To see more images of the Outer Banks, please visit my Outer Banks gallery here.  If you have any questions about my photography or my website, please send me an email.

Posted in National Parks, Weekly Column Also tagged , , , , |

The Marblehead Lighthouse

Sunrise at the Marblehead Lighthouse - Click image to enlarge

Recently while going through some old photographs, I found an envelope full of photos I had taken of the kids at the Marblehead Lighthouse.  Given their ages at the time, I guessed that the photos were taken in 1992, so it had been 18 years since I last visited the lighthouse.  I thought it was definitely time for another visit, this time without the kids!  After some research I decided that the best time to photograph the lighthouse would be at sunrise, and on the late July day I planned to be there the moon would also be in a position in the sky so that it could be included in my images. In order to get there before sunrise I had to leave home at 3 AM, ugh! I remember looking at the clock in the car at 3:30 AM and thinking “This is crazy, you haven’t been to the lighthouse in almost 20 years, hopefully you can find it in the dark!”  Fortunately I kept going and as you can see in the image above it was worth the effort. When I arrived, it was very quiet and peaceful around the lighthouse and a another early riser was just starting to paddle his kayak out to watch the sunrise. I was blessed with a beautiful sunrise, with clouds to reflect the warm red, orange, and yellow colors of sunrise which enhanced the charm and character of the Marblehead Lighthouse.

The Marblehead Lighthouse is the oldest, continuously operational lighthouse on the Great Lakes. Found on the northernmost tip of the Marblehead Peninsula in Ohio, this popular lighthouse’s history began in 1819 when the fifteenth U.S. Congress decided that the area was too dangerous to be navigated without some sort of beacon.  Funding was allocated for the construction of a light tower at the entrance to Sandusky Bay at Bay Point, Ohio.  Construction began in the late summer of 1821 and was completed 11 weeks later in November. Called the “Sandusky Bay Light” until 1870, the tower’s illustrious history boasts the first female lighthouse keeper in the United States (1832, Rachel Wolcott, wife of the first light keeper Benajah Wolcott), a rare three and one-half order Fresnel lens and a functional iron staircase dating to the early 1900’s. A masonry finish covers the original limestone exterior of the lighthouse. Inside you’ll find a brick stack constructed in the late 1800’s to raise the tower’s height by fifteen feet. The view from the top showcases several Lake Erie islands and a view of the Cleveland shoreline on clear days. The keeper’s house was built in 1880 and is now a museum staffed by historical society volunteers. A total of fifteen keepers have tended the light. The United States Coast guard is now responsible for the maintenance of the beacon.

You can see more of my Marblehead Lighthouse images in my gallery here. If you have any questions about this image or my photography, please click here to email me.

To find out more about the Marblehead Lighthouse, visit the Marblehead Lighthouse Historical Society or the Marblehead Lighthouse page at LighthouseFriends.com.

Posted in Ohio State Park, Weekly Column Also tagged , , , , |

Opportunity – You Gotta Get “Out There” to Take Advantage of It!

Beaming Sunrise - Click image to enlarge

Capturing a great image is a combination of skill, planning, patience, perseverance and of course a little bit (and sometimes a lot) of luck.  Most of all however, you have to be “out there” in the field or you’ll have absolutely no chance to capture any image at all.  With these thoughts in mind, I want to talk about the story behind my “Beaming Sunrise” image in this post that I took in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

It was Friday October 21, 2011, the last day of our vacation in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Mother Nature had not been kind when it came to good conditions for photographing a sunrise.  Every morning thus far had been much too cloudy for any chance at a good sunrise shot.  Unfortunately, this morning didn’t look any better but I decided to go out again anyway.  During a visit in July 2011 I scouted several overlooks on the Foothills Parkway West that were good sunrise locations, and they were only about a 20 minute drive from our cabin in Townsend, TN.  My wife is not a morning person, but since sunrise was at almost 8 AM this time of year thanks to daylight saving time, she decided it wasn’t too early for her.  We got to the Foothills Parkway West overlook about 7:15 AM, and it was still very cloudy so we didn’t expect to see much of a sunrise.  As we looked out over the fog filled valleys between us and the mountains, it was very quiet and peaceful.  I crossed my fingers and hoped that something interesting would happen.  I checked my watch, 7:50 AM, the sun should rise any moment now I thought.  Just as I looked up from my watch two brilliant red-orange beams of sunlight shot out from behind the mountains like search lights.  It was an amazing sight that lasted for no more than two minutes and was gone, and we didn’t see the sun again until mid-afternoon.  Although we couldn’t see it from the overlook, there was a break in the clouds just below the horizon that made this incredible sunrise possible.  This particular image is the very first shot I took.  Had we not gotten up and gone out even though conditions looked bad, we would have missed the “opportunity” to see and photograph something special like this.  You just never know what may happen so you have to get up and get out there.  I think my wife will get up and go out with me for another sunrise….if it isn’t too early.

To see more of my images from Great Smoky Mountains National Park, please click here.  If you have any questions, please click here to email me.

Posted in National Parks, Weekly Column Also tagged , , , , |