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.

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.

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.

Fall Japanese Maple Study, Part 2 – 6 pics

Part two of this series continues my visual study of this grand Garnet Japanese Maple specimen at Greensboro Arboritum.  The color variability in this cultivar (which stands for cultivated variety) is quite striking.  As shown in the composition below, I found sections of the tree where color varied widely in a small contained area.   This could happen even at a sub-branch level.

Garnet Japanese Maple Detail 4
Garnet Japanese Maple Detail 4

Conversely, other sections appear more uniform in display of color over a much larger area (see below).  As mentioned in my earlier post, the Garnet is of the Acer Palmatum form know as dissectum.  The beauty and drama in the dissectums comes from their deeply divided “toothed” leaf lobes and branching structures.

Garnet Japanese Maple Detail 6
Garnet Japanese Maple Detail 6

The interior view below features the beautiful branching structure of this stately old specimen.   As such, mature dissectums are also prized for their dramatic winter branching silhouette.  Back in the spring of 2016, I was inspired by a dissectum at the Biltmore Estate to research, write and post about the amazing branching structures found in nature – An Elegant, Intelligent Design.

Garnet Interior Detail Composition
Garnet Interior Detail Composition

As part of this study, I experimented with some extreme processing techniques and filtering to achieve an abstract feel.  The composition below was processed in Filter Forge 7.0.

Garnet Japanese Maple Detail 5 Abstract
Garnet Japanese Maple Detail 5 Abstract

Despite the dramatic color available in my compositions, I wanted to try to display the tree’s features using black and white tonality.  I experimented with several luminescence settings in the reds, yellows and greens.  A slight bump in red luminosity and a moderate bump in the greens seemed to promote a broader range to foliage tonality.  I found it particularly challenging to maintain the a range of tonality in the lighter tones.  I’m tempted to look at it again tomorrow.

Garnet Interior Black and White Composition
Garnet Interior Black and White Composition

The final image is another dramatic styling approach applied to a “busy” image.  This “styled” process includes some pen strokes along edges, which helps a little in defining the foliage.  But, its still quite busy!

Garnet Japanese Maple Detail 3 Abstract
Garnet Japanese Maple Detail 3 Abstract

I appreciate you taking time to visit my blog.  These compositions are best viewed by clicking on the image to see a high resolution version from my portfolio site.  Hope folks had a lovely Thanksgiving.

Cheers,

C.S.

 

Fall Japanese Maple Study, Part 1

Back in 2001, I built a Japanese water garden in my backyard.  During the planning phase, I quickly became a fan of Japan Maples, Acer palmatum.  This fall, I was determined to capture the spectacular colors on display at Arboretum Park in Greensboro, as well as my own backyard.  This first post features a gorgeous Garnet cultivar at the park.  I stalked this tree, which I estimate to be close to 100 years old, for several weeks; waiting for the leaves to reach their peak color.

Garnet Interior Composition
Garnet Interior Composition

The Garnet cultivar featured in this post is of the dissectum or “lace leaf” form, which are commonly featured as accent planting or specimen plantings.  Named after its gemstone like deep reddish orange spring color, the Garnet originated in a Dutch nursery and is known for its larger dissectum leaves.  Of course, its also well known for the breathtaking display of fall color.

Garnet Japanese Maple Detail 1
Garnet Japanese Maple Detail 1

Like us, Japanese maples are especially appreciated for their uniqueness.  Popular cultivars like the Garnet, have been carefully propagated through decades, and even centuries, of various grafting techniques.

Garnet Japanese Maple Detail 2
Garnet Japanese Maple Detail 2

Thanks for stopping by today!  I have more lovely Acer palmatum photos to share in upcoming posts.  For the best viewing experience, click on an image to see a high resolution version.

Cheers,

C. S.