Craggy Gardens Tree, Root, and Rock Compositions

From my Blue Ridge Parkway expedition this past October, this wonderful spot along the Craggy Pinnacle Trail offered many intriguing tree, root, and rock compositions. A quick point on inquiry, has anyone noticed WP adds about +5 red tint to color photos?

Craggy Pinnacle Trail Tree, Root, Rock Composition 1
Craggy Pinnacle Trail Tree, Root, Rock Composition 2
Craggy Pinnacle Trail Tree, Root, Rock Composition 2
Craggy Pinnacle Trail Tree, Root, Rock Composition 3
Craggy Pinnacle Trail Tree, Root, Rock Composition 3
Craggy Pinnacle Trail Tree, Root, Rock Composition 4
Craggy Pinnacle Trail Tree, Root, Rock Composition 4

For the best viewing experience, click on an image to see a high resolution version from my portfolio site.

Cheers,

C. S.

Cherokee Countryside

With the Thanksgiving Holiday, I hope to catch up on posts from my October trips to the North Carolina mountains.  I also look forward to catching up on posts from the bloggers I follow.  This post features several landscapes and vignettes from areas near the Oconaluftee River, just north of Cherokee.

Oconaluftee River Landscape 1
Oconaluftee River Landscape 1
Oconaluftee River Trout Fisherman 3
Oconaluftee River Trout Fisherman 3
Oconaluftee River Trout Fisherman 2
Oconaluftee River Trout Fisherman 2
Oconaluftee Elk Bull
Oconaluftee Elk Bull
Oconaluftee Elk Cow
Oconaluftee Elk Cow
Gourd Birdhouse Composition 1
Gourd Birdhouse Composition 1
Mingo Falls Composition 3
Mingo Falls Composition 3
Mingo Falls Composition 2
Mingo Falls Composition 2

I’m thankful for my followers and those who take time to visit my photo blog. And especially for this community of photo bloggers, I enjoy your work, insights and friendship.

Happy Thanksgiving!

C. S.

Monochrome Monday: Mingus Mill

Located near the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Cherokee, North Carolina, Mingus Mill is an operational grist mill built in 1886. It uses a water-powered turbine instead of a water wheel to power all of the milling machinery.

Mingus Mill Composition 1
Mingus Mill Composition 1
Mingus Mill Composition 3
Mingus Mill Composition 3
Mingus Mill Aqueduct 1
Mingus Mill Aqueduct 1

Thank you for stopping by. For the best viewing experience, click on an image to see a high resolution version.

Cheers,

C. S.

Monochrome Monday: Mingo Falls

At 120 ft (37 m), Mingo Falls is one of the tallest in the southern Appalachian Mountains.  As such, it was part of my October fall foliage expedition itinerary.  It located near the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the town of Cherokee.  It is part of the Qualla Boundary, a land trust of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. My Tamron 15mm – 30mm wide-angle view doesn’t accurately represent the height of this spectacular water fall.

Mingo Falls Composition 1
Mingo Falls Composition 1

A long wooden stairway makes the falls fairly assessable, and a wooden bridge near it’s base offers an excellent view.  Shooting long exposures (15 – 20 sec) with a tripod and neutral density filter, it was quite challenging to a get sharp exposure with other spectators bouncing along the bridge.  While this composition was captured from the bridge, I also got some good shots setting up down in the creek.  For the best viewing experience, click on the image to view a high-resolution version.  Stay safe!

Cheers,

C. S.

Craggy Pinnacle Trail, pt 1

The Great Craggy Mountains are a subrange of the Blue Ridge Mountains between Asheville and Mount Mitchell in North Carolina.  Craggy Gardens is an area of 16 km where the Blue Ridge Parkway follows the crest featuring a visitor center, picnic area, and several excellent hiking trails.  Craggy Gardens best known for its spectacular display of pink/purple blooms of the Catawba rhododendron creating a tunnel of foliage along much of it’s hiking trails. 

Craggy Pinnacle Trail Landscape 1
Craggy Pinnacle Trail Landscape 1

My afternoon hike along the Craggy Pinnacle Trail, in mid-October, featured equally impressive fall foliage color, gnarled mountain ash, rhododendron and beech, and small grassy rock balds.  The diverse opportunities for photo compositions were quite numerous. I crossed not one, but two separate wedding photo sessions.

Craggy Dome from Craggy Pinnacle
Craggy Dome from Craggy Pinnacle

This was one of my favorite locations during my two, Wednesday night through Saturday afternoon fall foliage expeditions into the Blue Ridge Mountains. I returned the following morning Craggy Knob, more on that in a future post.

Craggy Pinnacle Trail Vignette 1
Craggy Pinnacle Trail Catawba Rhododendron Vignette 1
Craggy Pinnacle Trail Vignette 2
Craggy Pinnacle Trail Vignette 2

This unique tree is a popular photo stop on the Craggy Pinnacle Trail.

Craggy Pinnacle Trail Vignette 3
Craggy Pinnacle Trail Vignette 3

The view below is from Craggy Pinnacle looking towards Craggy Knob and the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center. The small grey square near the center of the image, is the large trail shelter near the Craggy Knob grassy bald.

Craggy Pinnacle Landscape 1
Craggy Pinnacle Landscape 1

For the best viewing experience, click on a photo to view a high resolution version. Or, view more scenes in my Blue Ridge Parkway gallery. Stay safe!

Cheers!

C. S.

Oh, here’s one of the wedding portrait sessions I came across:

Craggy Gardens Wedding Portraiture
Craggy Gardens Wedding Portraiture

Craggy Gardens Sunset

I felt this sunset from the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center deserved its own post. Setup on my tripod, over the course of 20 minutes, I shot 24, 3 stop bracketed sets, for a total of 72 images. Back during my film days, I obviously would have had to been a bit more judicious and disciplined in the number sets shot. Here I was afforded the benefit to pick the best image featuring the cloud and sun positions, and sun ray impacts streaming through the mountains into the valley.

Craggy Gardens Sunset 1
Craggy Gardens Sunset 1

Post processing includes some dehazing, a little HDR processing, and color correction. Much more to come in future posts of my wonderful visit to Craggy Gardens – so much to see! For the best viewing experience, click to see the high resolution version.

Everyone stay safe!

Cheers,

C. S.

Clingman’s Dome Astrophotography

As a young Boy Scout and backpacker, my friends and I proclaimed we would one day hike the Appalachian Trail (AT) from Georgia to Maine.  While that never happened, I knew back then Clingman’s Dome mountain was the highest point on the AT.  At 6,643 feet (2,025 m) Clingman’s Dome straddles the Tennessee, North Carolina boarder in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The location features an iconic 45-foot (14 m) spiral concrete observation tower offering a 360 degree view of the Smokies.

Clingman’s Dome Tower 1
Clingman’s Dome Tower 1

Clingman’s Dome was on my recent fall foliage expedition itinerary for both astrophotography and a sunset.  I first arrived on a Wednesday night around 9:00 PM ET.   Anticipating cold weather plus wind chill, I was prepared for the 25° F lower temperature.  From the parking lot, I slogged up the steep half mile paved trail to reach the observation tower.  Luckily, there was no one else at the tower.

Clingmans Dome Tower 3
Clingmans Dome Tower 3

I shot with my 15mm – 30mm Tamron ultra-wide lens and tripod at ISO 3200, f2.8, with exposures around 5 seconds.  Using a 20 second delay, I was able to use my Black Diamond head lamp to ‘light paint’ the tower during exposures. The Milky Way wasn’t quite as clear as I hoped, not sure if it was light pollution, regular pollution, weather related haze, or a combination of all.

Clingman’s Dome Tower 2
Clingman’s Dome Tower 2

Around 10:30 PM, moonrise began and I was able to capture a few shots before the moonlight washed out the night sky.

Clingmans Dome Tower Moonrise 1
Clingmans Dome Tower Moonrise 1

Thanks for stopping by today! For the best viewing experience, click on an image to view a high resolution version. Everyone please stay safe!

Cheers,

C. S.

Southern Blue Ridge Parkway – Fall Splendor

Last week I took several days off to explore the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina.  This first post features several locations on the southern section of the Blue Ridge Parkway between Cherokee and Asheville.  The highest section of the parkway, elevation averaged between 5,000 ft. (1,524 m) and 6,000 ft. (1,829 m).

Bunches Bald Overlook 1
Bunches Bald Overlook 1

For the most part, the fall foliage was at or just before it’s peek.  Though the weather was overcast, I was pleased with the results.  I had forgotten how hard it is to get a correct color balance with such diverse color.  The image above from Bunches Bald Overlook, was repeatedly tweaked over a day or two. I would walk away, come back, tweak some more.  Then, I realized I was wearing my yellow tinted computer glasses, and have to start over!  (o;

Yellow Face Overlook 1
Yellow Face Overlook 1

Post processing included some dehazing and a touch of HDR to recover some dynamic range.  The trick is to accurately represent the foliage color without oversaturating.

Cowee Mountain Overlook 1
Cowee Mountain Overlook 1

My favorite stop was Graveyard Fields, near Mt Pisgah, about 45 min southwest from Asheville.  Reportedly, the area suffered a major wind storm, toppling numerous trees, and was followed by years of logging.  The remaining tree stumps, covered with moss and lichen, resembled a vast graveyard.  Later a major forest fire destroyed the tombstone stumps and sterilized the soil, which severely stunted the forest’s ability to recover.   As a result, the flat valley area has a more open, bald like character.

Graveyard Fields 1
Graveyard Fields 1

Another popular feature of Graveyard Fields is the Yellowstone Prong (river) and its upper and lower falls.  The lower falls was one the most important spots on my photography itinerary.  It’s a short, but moderately steep descent through the rhododendron to the Yellowstone Prong, and then a long staircase further down to the falls. I brought my 120mm 1.8 neutral density filter and Tamron 15mm – 30mm lens.

Graveyard Fields Lower Falls 1
Graveyard Fields Lower Falls 1

Precariously, I hopped and leaped around the rocks trying several vantage points.  I’ve determined I’m about too old to take that kind a risk again.  If I do, I will definitely take more time to navigate the rocks.  My long exposures averaged around 15 sec, f7.1, at ISO 100.

Graveyard Fields Lower Falls 2
Graveyard Fields Lower Falls 2
Graveyard Fields Lower Falls 3
Graveyard Fields Lower Falls 3

I have much more to come from my expedition, including a series from the Great Smoky Mountain State Park, Cherokee and surround areas.  Thank you for taking time to visit my blog.  For the best viewing experience, click on an image to see a high-resolution version.  Be safe!

Cheers,

C. S.