In my previous post, I spoke about the strikingly beautiful landscape at Grayson Highlands. Ironically, part of the character comes from dead or dying frazer firs & hemlocks, which have been decimated by the Asian wooly aphid. Variants of this pest have taken a similar toll throughout Southern Appalachia. Fortunately, most trees were able to produce extensive seedlings before dying. Scientists are not sure how the next generation will fare; research continues. The Tombstone in the Bald image seems to capture the plight of these trees, as well as their ironic contribution to visual landscape.
In the Fraser Fir Composition image, the sun bleached, weathered old wood of a dead fraser makes for a strong visual against the dark, dense foliage of the living firs. I tried a new filter in Exposure 7 which emulates Agfa APX 100 black & white negative film. With some minor adjustments to the filter settings, I get a pleasing boost in contrast, broad tonal range and subtle grain structure. Nice! This filter may replace my go-to Kodak Panatomic-X filter mentioned in previous posts.
Another attraction you’ll find among the balds is herd of wild ponies, they help maintain the open grass areas. Occasionally, you may find cattle also grazing among the balds. Signs in the Grayson Highlands State Park request you not pet or feed the ponies. However, it’s hard to resist as they seem quite comfortable around both humans and Boy Scouts. Wild Ponies at Massey Gap was taken towards the end of our last backpacking trip in an around the Grayson Highlands State Park.
The last image, Lichen Armour, features a young tree coated with a heavy layer of lichen. Since high school biology, I’ve also been quite fascinated by lichen, which is actually a composite organism formed by a framework of fungus fibers containing algae and/or cyanobacteria all living together in a symbiotic relationship. Pretty cool, eh?
My Scouts love to backpack in and around Grayson Highlands State Park, VA. The location is part of the Mount Rogers National Recreational Area and the Jefferson National Forest. Each time we backpack, I always bring my camera. On the trail, I’m always at the back of line taking pictures, or running ahead to catch our Scout Troop navigating the beautiful terrain.
Scientists tell us this area was considered an alpine forest during the last ice age. As the ice retreated, the alpine forest retreated to higher ground. A mix of evergreen firs, spruce and hemlocks mixed with Chestnut, Locust trees and mountain brush once covered the area. As a result of the great loss of the American Chestnut in the early 1900s, loggers came into the area to retrieve the dead trees for it valuable lumber. The impact of this event along with the well-drained rocky soil, weather, spruce-fir & hemlock loss to pests, acid rain, and wild ponies all contribute to this unique biome. The terrain is absolutely stunning, especially in the fall, offering a tremendous opportunity for beautiful natural photography.
The first photo, Hemlock & Birch Tree Composition, was taken just after sunrise in the early Fall. It features a dead hemlock on the left with a live birch in front, on the right. Only the green, and a slight amount of yellow, were left to highlight the lichen and add visual interest. As usual, I processed the image with a Panatomic-X filter in Exposure 7 to add old school grain, contrast and character.
One of our most popular backpacking trail routes is along the Appalachian Trail (AT), briefly cutting through the top of the park before looping northward out of the park along the western edge of Wilburn Ridge. The next image, Ghost on the RIdgeline, was taken along the AT on the western approach to Wilburn Ridge. It represents one of my favorite shots from Grayson Highlands. This dead, lichen covered hemlock appears as a ghost haunting the ridgeline along the dense, dark brush lining the rocky trail. The smaller image in this post appears a little darker than the normal preview on my portfolio site. Click on the image name to see a larger view from my site.
On a visit last September, I took Locust Tree Composition inside the park looking back at the western side of Wilburn Ridge. At some level, this image reminds me of a stain-glass window. Locust trees are to be respected, especially when you’re trying to tie your camping hammock between two of them after sunset!
I plan to have more images from Grayson Highlands next week. I hope you enjoy.