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Sunday, 09 June 2013 00:03

Once Upon a Cowee Afternoon

In my mind it is quite possibly the most quintesential overlook along the entire Blue Ridge Parkway in terms of expressing "These are the Blue Ridge Mountains." It is one of the most incredible wide mountain vista scenes anywhere; and when the weather is cooperative, Cowee Mountains Overlook is simply amazing. It is a place for every image from late-afternoon, layered ridges to atmospheric displays to sunsets filled with fireworks, and more. It lends itself to wide-angle landscapes as readily as it does to long telephoto graphics; and it begs to be expressed as intimate landscape and panorama. So many beautiful places all rolled into one, and at 6000' in elevation it's one of the last places reached by the greening foliage. Since I was in the neighborhood last night, I decided to drop by and check out the view; and as is regularly the case, I was not disappointed. A thunderstorm building to the east was drawing moisture-laden streams of clouds from the valley below, and the light in the last hour before sunset was magical on the new spring green. In this image I decided to frame a line of late-light-lit foliage in the bottom of the scene and have it connect with the mid-ground ridge topped with dark fir trees running diagonally into the middle distance to join with the lines of the lower ridges leading into the valley; but two thirds of the frame was all about the interest in the sky with the wispy clouds streaming overhead and the band of heavy, darker cumulus far in the distance. I would have framed wider than I did, but elements on either side just off the overlook constrained me to a 24mm focal length. At f/22 I had sufficient depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 1.3 seconds at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure. Oh yes, my 5-stop graduated neutral density filter came in handy as well.   

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  • Comment Link Don McGowan Sunday, 09 June 2013 13:52 posted by Don McGowan

    Thanks Everyone for joining this conversation. I have to agree with Drew: the foreground light adds a great deal to the image. And I believe it is so because of the element of contrast it brings out. Had I exposed this scene with the foreground light without using the 5-stop grad, the sky's highlights would have been blown completely out. The grad allowed me to compress the dynamic range to hold that detail. Yes I could have accomplished this in post-processing, but I can do it just as well here and be done with it. I appreciate Horace' kind comment, but it made me reflect of part of the reason I created this blog in the first place. I believe each of us has the same creative spark, and I believe that if the craft of photography can be distilled to its essence and shared and received and applied, then we all can bring our highest creativity to the table/game every time we pick up our cameras; and we all can express our deepest vision every time we photograph. I truly believe that. Michele experience with storms is much unlike mine, but the truth that when the weather is changing is the best time to go outside remains true regardless of where you are. Whenever Fred Applegate is speechless, we all better look out; something amazing will happen. "Ah shucks" might be an appropriate response to Jessyca, but I hope that she'll just take that wide-angle lens and go play. Thanks all, have a great week!

  • Comment Link Horace Hamilton Sunday, 09 June 2013 12:45 posted by Horace Hamilton

    Nice creative approach to Cowee...definitely not the typical image of this incredibly expansive vista. The southernmost stretch of the BRP is amazing for its array of beautiful views of folded mountains, nestled clouds and dramatic sunrises and sets. Your composition is yet another example of your creativity in recording these beautiful scenes.

  • Comment Link Drew Campbell Sunday, 09 June 2013 09:22 posted by Drew Campbell

    Love it! I think the light in the foreground really makes a big difference in this image. That 5 stop neutral density filter must have helped bring that about. I love this overlook too and go to it often. I don't usually shoot a vertical image here but I think if will try to see this type of composition more often now!

  • Comment Link Jessyca Stansbury- McCargo Sunday, 09 June 2013 08:32 posted by Jessyca Stansbury- McCargo

    What can I say? This is absolutely beautiful. This composition is best I've seen yet of the Blue Ridge mountains. This scene will keep me (wide angle) inspired all week. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Comment Link Michelle Jensen Sunday, 09 June 2013 08:03 posted by Michelle Jensen

    Good morning, Don. This beautiful photo gives a different perspective to the weather predictions of "storms developing along the East Coast."

  • Comment Link Fred Applegate Sunday, 09 June 2013 07:58 posted by Fred Applegate

    Speechless in Alabama......

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