More Fall

I came across this gem from last week’s trip to Brevard and had to share. This was shot from Cherry Cove Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. See the previous post for the story about how this stop turned out to be the three hour shooting extravaganza of the weekend. This is one of my favorites and I am dying for time to see how it looks when printed!

Looking Vs. Seeing

We had an interesting experience this past weekend that has gotten me to thinking. Usually when we head to a location I have a general idea of the places I am going to go, and I come up with some ideas of the types of things we are going to try to shoot based on what my notes or my research tell me about a place, with lots of flexibility built in for serendipity and opportunity. Certain locations lend themselves to specific subjects, such as colors reflected in pools of water along a river or stream, agricultural vistas, layers of mountain ridges, etc. There’s often a dilemma about sunrise or sunset, because often the good locations for sunrise and sunset are mutually exclusive of places that might have other characteristics, such as waterfalls and places with easy access to water, etc.

Such was the case this past weekend. Pounding Mill Overlook is unsurpassed for a sunrise location near Brevard, and Cowee Mountains Overlook is the absolute tops for sunset this time of the year. Pounding Mill is a 30-minute drive from Brevard, not bad, but it is also 30-minutes or more back down to the good spots for water. That section of the Parkway has a high potential for dramatic atmospherics under certain conditions. This past Saturday was a typically excellent Pounding Mill morning, with clouds and fog in the valley and a clear sky above, enough wind to move the clouds around the ridges, over some of the lower ones and just generally keeping things interesting. Sun comes up, shoot the contours and textures, wait to see what happens, clouds roll in and that’s it. Socked in. Now what? Stay and see what happens? Head down to the valley and see if the fog is thin enough to get some dreamy color but not so thick that you can’t see? Drive up and down the Parkway looking for that perfect scene? Tough choice.

I was with a group, which is not usually the case, but it was only four cars and individuals that I have come to know as flexible and easy going, instead of the manic-panic-gotta-drive-until-I-find-the-perfect-place-even-if-it-means-racing-around-like-a-maniac-until-dark-and-never-getting-any-pictures types. These are probably the same people who drive 10 minutes out of their way to avoid a 5 minute traffic jam (topic for another essay – people who are always in a hurry but never get anywhere and still are always late). Oops, digression! We decided that our best bet would be to head to either a lower elevation or a higher elevation, knowing that lower would maybe get us soft, diffused light but that higher would maybe get us dramatic clouds in the valleys. A just-right elevation would maybe get us the best of both, with clouds rolling in and out, creating a soft light then revealing a dramatic valley.

As happens way too often on the Parkway, we headed south and in the first mile passed a number of beautiful scenes that were nowhere close to an overlook and had no possible safe parking for a group of 4 cars. We passed from lovely views of the valley to shafts of sunlight blasting through the fog. We ended up stopping at Cherry Cove Overlook, which was socked in at the time, to discuss our options. While we were standing around talking about what to do next, the clouds rolled out to reveal a stunning view of the valley below. Once in a while the fog would be the perfect thickness for beams and sunbursts. A few minutes later the clouds rolled out again. Hmm, interesting. Finally someone (it might have been me) pulled out a camera, which of course caused the clouds to roll back in, creating a soft fog that muted the contrast and made for a dreamy fall scene. More cameras come out, one of our group spotted a chipmunk and started stalking it. I spotted a place where the sunbeams blasted through pinholes in the trees and created some amazing starbursts. A couple of us headed up a trail to see if we could find a better view and ended up with some nice isolation scenics. We ended up there for over three hours! All from a place we “just stopped” to regroup.

The lesson for me is one that I continue to learn and that bears repeating and reinforcement. The best way to see is with a camera in hand, contemplating a scene, the light, the conditions. While it’s possible to stumble across a scene while driving down the road, it’s a lot easier to see when you stop and take the time to look. Otherwise you’re just trophy-hunting. That works fine for a lot of people and I’ll admit to doing my share. But for me, the best way to approach a scene creatively is to stop, let it speak to you and listen to what it has to say. It doesn’t work for everyone, but for me landscape photography is about engaging with a scene, seeing what’s there and responding to it. I’m ultimately a lot happier working with what is in front of me that worrying about where else I might be and what else I might be missing. I’ve accepted the fact that I can’t be everywhere, I’m always missing something, that I don’t always make the best guess. I’m ok with that. And I think I am a lot better off for it. I certainly seem to come away from those days happier with me, and am in most cases happier with my results.

The photo is a shot of Looking Glass Rock and was taken pre-sunrise from Pounding Mill Overlook.

Fall Wears Me Out!

Just returned from an amazing weekend in the Brevard, NC area chasing more fall color. Wow! The problem is knowing when to stop. I have already accepted the fact that I can’t get everything, I’m always going to miss something and that it’s not the end of the world, but geez! Color, color everywhere and no possible way to get all of it, no way to stay focused on a theme or project or any kind of plan. Just shoot what you see and figure it out later! Not exactly, but this is “going with the flow” at it’s finest.

“Only” 452 images this weekend, as compared to last week’s 628, but it rained Friday. Really, really rained, to the point that I only shot a few photos in the Grove Arcade in Asheville where we stopped to visit our friends at WNC Magazine.

Off to Cherokee this coming weekend, here’s hoping for some more amazing color and great weather. Whew!

This image is actually my last one of the day today. Playing around with motion blur and decided to try zooming the lens while pointed way up at some really tall trees with great color and a Carolina Blue sky. The location is the woods near Slickrock Falls in Pisgah National Forest.

And This Is Why We Go

Kathy & I spent the weekend in the Mount Airy, NC area, celebrating our 28th anniversary with more of a photography-oriented weekend than most people might do, but we were treated to a spectacular show of color. We slept in this morning after a great meal and wine last night at Chateau Morrisette, and almost wrote today off when we awoke to a severe-clear blue sky day. We were of a mindset to check out some locations for a future trip and head home early, but kept coming across these scenes that were irresistible. The light was so beautiful this afternoon that we stayed on the Parkway until sunset, which we never do on a Sunday!

This photo was one of a number from this afternoon. This was taken from the Blue Ridge Parkway near MP 236 and overlooks a pastoral valley near Sparta, NC. The late afternoon sun was really bringing out the textures in the land and the colors in the trees.

I have over 600 new images from this weekend, and I will try to post more as I process them in the days to come. But we’re off to Brevard, NC this coming weekend to chase more color and hopefully visit some waterfalls.

A Taste of Fall!

Kathy & I spent the weekend in West Jefferson, NC shooting an assignment for WNC Magazine.  We took the long way home and spent some time at New River State Park, where I took a little time to try out some motion blur on a stand of trees that had a little color in them.  It’s a little early for fall color here, at least in all but the higher elevations.  We’re expecting things to peek in about 2 weeks. 

Making Progress

I’ve spent most of this weekend at the computer and am starting to make a dent. I added a bunch of images to my website, including a section called “Experiments” with a couple of new galleries. I got the idea of doing some “mini-projects” and did a couple of them on our NC Coast trip. These two galleries are images of sand patterns and wave motion blurs. I think they’ll make nice prints but need to figure out a way to present them. That’s another item on the to-do list!

The Hurrier I Go

The hurrier I go the behinder I get, my grandma used to say. Just this weekend I was able to start digging into the 1400+ images from our trip to the NC coast. I haven’t found any “portfolio” images yet but I feel they will appear as I go back and listen to some of them.

This image is one of a number of shots I took of this drift fence, what we used to call snow fences up north, along Highway 12 on Ocracoke Island. The late afternoon sun was casting some nice shadows and the sky was nice and blue with some nice wispy clouds.

Some may suggest that I need to take out the power lines in the upper left, and I suppose if I make this into a print I would do that. For now we’ll stick with reality.

Ocracoke Island!

We had been anxiously awaiting our return to Ocracoke Island, having only been there for part of a day back in 2005. Our memory of the place as being a photo-rich environment was quite accurate, as I filled a couple of 4 Gig cards during our stay. I had been hoping to get a different-than-the-picture-postcard shot of the Ocracoke Island Lighthouse, and I think I have it with this one. I shot this just after sunset from the 4th floor balcony of our motel, The Anchorage Inn.

A Little "Work"

We spent Sunday afternoon with our friends and innkeepers Andy & Karen Fisher touring the waters of the Pungo River and Pantego Creek aboard their boat, a 32 foot Nordic Tug. Andy sells real estate in the area, while Karen manages the inn. Andy happened to mention that he needed a water view photo of one of his listings, and I just happened to know a photographer. I’d say it was probably fair trade for a couple of hours on the boat!

Crab Pots

I don’t know a lot about crabbing, but I do know that crab pots make pretty interesting photo subjects. We happened upon a place that sells crab pots along the road near Engelhard, North Carolina. This place actually had a bunch of used ones, which seem to have a bit more character than the new ones

Photographs and stuff!