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.
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!
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!
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!
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