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February 2014

February 2014 (4)

Saturday, 22 February 2014 18:47

The Long and Winding Road

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The recent cold weather in the Smokies produced some of the most beautiful hoarfrost I have seen in several years. A mere dozen days ago the view into the Oconaluftee River watershed, which begins where the long spur ridge of Thomas Divide ties into the Crest of the Smokies Ridge between Indian and Newfound Gaps at Lufty Gap and descends through the high valley of Beech Flats Prong, revealed a winter wonderland. What was also highlighted was the outline of the old Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) roadbed which once led travelers to Newfound Gap from North Carolina before the modern route of US 441 wrapped around into the southern flank of Thomas Divide, as can be seen to the left of the top of the tall evergreen in the center of the image. I was really attracted to the frost-covered stems of the grasses growing along the edge of the Newfound Gap overlook, and so I decided to incorporate them as a foreground. There was little interest in the sky other than the clouds rolling in over Thomas Ridge as the big storm approached, and so I eliminated most of the area above the ridgeline. The opening in the grasses along the left third line allowed my eye to reach into the midground ridge and follow it out into the shaded part of the valley so that a portion of the ridge could take it the rest of the way through the scene. A focal length of 27mm gave me the angle of view I wanted, a much wider angle than you might have guessed. An aperture of f/20 at 1/10 second at ISO 100 gave me an overall slightly lighter-than-medium exposure.  

 

 

Saturday, 15 February 2014 21:14

Before the Storm

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On the day before the "big storm" this past week a lesser event brought a light snow and a beautiful hoarfrost to the higher elevations of the Smokies. The day started with Newfound Gap Road being closed; but by mid-morning crews had opened the highway and we were able to cross the mountains. By the next morning there would be a foot of new snow and the road would be closed once again. The brief window was a wonderful opportunity not to be missed. Even the blue sky was fleeting, for it was overcast when we arrived and overcast when we left. On both sides of the gap - Tennessee and North Carolina - the scenery was spectacular. In this view looking into the upper valley of Walker Camp Prong (Tennessee) I wanted to use the ridge on the left (Southeastern slope of Mount Mingus) as a line to lead the eye into the valley and be reinforced by ridges on the right (Mount Kephart and Anakeesta Ridge). The frost-covered tree on the right served to anchor that portion of the image. Then I waited for the sweeping light to reach the trees at my feet. I wanted to include the clouds rising over the far ridges and enough of the blue sky to add the color it contributed. It became, technically, a wide-angle landscape with a focal length of 31mm. An aperture of f/20 gave me depth-of-field, while a shutter speed of 1/10 second at ISO 100 gave me an overall exposure of something lighter than medium. 

 

Saturday, 08 February 2014 22:07

A Frozen Wrinkle in TIme

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Yesterday I had an opportunity to play in the Smokies for the first time in several weeks. The heavy snows of a week-and-a-half ago have, for the most part, melted away; but the daily temperatures have been low enough that in the shaded areas on the northern slopes of the higher elevations the ice has remained in place fairly thickly. There is a small, nameless stream that flows into Upper Walker Camp Prong near the base of Anakeesta Ridge. Originating in a boulder field created by a wedge failure slide, it drops over a small ledge exposing the roots of an ancient maple tree growing at its edge. The roots help hold some of the smaller boulders in place; and the roots and rocks become excellent collectors of frozen flow. It was a matter of isolating slices of the larger scene to create the intimacy of an icy moment. There were quite a few ways to express it, but a thorough exploration was cut short by the return of the icy rain that had threatened most of the day. It was great fun while it lasted. A focal length of 75mm gave me the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/18 allowed depth of field, and a shutter speed of 0.8 seconds at ISO 100 gave me an overall exposure of somewhat lighter than medium.

 

Sunday, 02 February 2014 07:28

Streaming Emeralds

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Flowing from Middle Emerald Pool in Zion National Park, a small stream tumbles over Navajo Sandstone on its way to the North Fork of the Virgin River running the base of Zion Canyon below. In the glory of a Zion autumn the diminuitive bigtooth maples (Acer grandidentatum) and Gamble oaks (Quercus gambelii) line the streambed below the falls in a blaze of color. The Emerald Pools Trail slips behind the falls revealing a view across the narrow slice of Behunin Canyon framed by the lip of the falls. A focal length of 75mm gave me the angle of view I wanted.The distance from my camera to the rock above me and the water itself was such that I could use an aperture of f/8 for sufficient depth of field. This allowed for a shutter speed of 1/13th second, fast enough slow the motion of the water from a blur; and an ISO of 100 combined to give me an overall medium exposure.

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