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November 2014

November 2014 (5)

Saturday, 29 November 2014 00:00

Cotton Candy Morning

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To tell you why I am so attracted to a sky filled with interesting clouds would take longer here than we have time to spend; but suffice it to say that I am keenly aware of their presence, no matter whatever else may be on-going in the visual field. Sometimes they are there from the moment I arrive at a location; but often they form before my eyes as air currents of different temperatures and relative humidities collide, in this instance above Cataloochee Divide in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The mixing of those currents can produce skies filled with amazement, so that even as much as I wanted to show some of the early light on the far slopes and ridges, I knew that the story was about the clouds, and I placed my horizon accordingly. It was a wide-angle story in technical terms with a focal length of 31mm. At an aperture of f/22 and ISO 100 I could achieve a shutter speed of 0.4 seconds and create a medium exposure. This shutter speed was fast enough to stop the motion of the clouds so that they were sufficiently well-defined to suit my purposes. They seemed to form a reversed question mark that I found visually appealing.

Saturday, 22 November 2014 00:00

Swinging in the Breeze

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There's not much to be done on a windy day in one of the most beautiful fall foliage seasons you have seen in the Smokies ever except continue to be patient. I had been working to acquire it all morning while I was farther down on Thomas Divide, but when I got to the place called Swinging Bridge, the narrow, exposed portion of the ridge overlooking the beautiful Deep Creek watershed, and saw the clouds rushing up from the valley below toward the summit, broken occasionally and transmitting wonderful patches of late-morning light, I knew that I was about to meet a patience test for certain.  As I walked down the narrow path to the overlook, the wind almost blew my cap across the highway. I set up my camera and tripod and watched the trees below the overlook as they danced  and swayed. After half an hour there began to be brief lulls in the gusts. During that time I had been looking at possible compositions and had carefully framed an image to which I was attracted, paying attention in particular to the edges to make sure of what I was including and how it would appear when (if) the wind slowed. Finally, the lulls seemed spacious enough to consider releasing the shutter, and I began trying to combine a pause in the breeze with the presence of interesting light. My focal length was set at 51mm. An aperture of f/20 gave me depth-of-field, and at ISO 200 a shutter speed of 1/25 second was fast enough to appear to stop the motion coming at me, given the camera-to-subject distance.

Saturday, 15 November 2014 00:00

Mist Rising

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On the second morning after I visited Second Falls, I drove to Great Smoky Mountains National Park to see how the front had affected the high ridges of Thomas Divide. The wind was still gusting strongly as I wound up the east face of the ridge. Looking down into the valley of Beech Flats Prong and across into the lower slopes of Mt. Kephart I watched as the mists rose thickly from the bottomlands toward the high ridges along the crest of the Smokies. Occasionally the fog would thin enough for me to see clearly into the colored slopes opposite my position. It was like a game of hide and seek, waiting for clarity and stillness to occur simultaneously; part of the joy of being a nature photographer. I picked out an area where the counterposed ridges became lines intermingled with the colors of hardwoods and the shapes of dark firs; and then I waited for the mists to part in a way that added interest to the scene. A focal length of 232mm gave me the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/16 gave depth of field, and a shutter speed of 0.3 seconds at ISO 200 stopped the distant motion enough to create apparent sharpness. 

Friday, 07 November 2014 00:00

When the Elements Come Together

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Seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway, Second Falls of Big East Fork of Pigeon River is surrounded by the beauty of Pisgah National Forest every day. At certain times of the year, say autumn for instance, that beauty can take your breath away. Even so, not all fall foliage seasons are created equal; some are more breath-taking than others. This year the color around Second Falls caused a bit more sharp inhaling than usual. The maple in the foreground was a brighter shade of red than I've seen it in many years, and the surrounding foliage was likewise something not often seen so intensely in these mountains.  Interestingly, the morning this image was taken a cold front was on its way through, and by the time it cleared on the following day, the red maple and many of the other trees had been stripped bare. Nature is an amazing force. I was working in wind gusting to 10-15 mph, so patience was the order of the day. I wanted the maple to be a prominent shape/color element, but I also wanted enough magnification for the falls, which is probably 350 yards from my position, to appear large enough to be clearly seen in the image. Given the unusually low water level in the stream, this was somewhat of a challenge. The sky was a broken overcast and I debated including a small strip of it, but ultimately decided to go without. A focal length of 150mm gave me the angle of view I wanted so that I could fill the bottom of the frame with the maple and its neighboring oak - a red~yellow combination. An aperture of f/18 and a shutter speed of 0.4 seconds at ISO 100 gave me an overall slightly lighter-than-medium exposure.

Saturday, 01 November 2014 00:00

By Whatever Name Beautiful

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I have seen it referred to by various names: Sunburst Falls, apparently because Sunburst Community is not far down the road; and West Fork Falls, for the more obvious reason that it is on West Fork of the Pigeon River. As it plunges in its dramatic descent, it runs headlong into the western base of Cold Mountain of literary fame, is turned and scours the valley at Sunburst on its way to Bethel where it will join with its sibling, Big East Fork; and the Pigeon River, one of the oldest rivers on Earth will be formed. It seems to me that the name is pretty much immaterial and that the beauty of this wonderful piece of falling water stands regardless of what you call it. There are many ways to express this beauty, but when I came by in the first part of October and saw the already-fallen leaves spread across the great outcrop of metamorphosed granite, I knew that a wide-angle image was speaking to me. I set up my camera on the left side of the bridge on NC 215 that spans West Fork, so that I could open out to the right, picking up the leaf-strewn rock and allowing the stream to become a diagonal which exited the frame along the left-third line of the image. I went as wide as possible before beginning to introduce sky in the top of the frame. This allowed for a focal length of 27mm. An aperture of f/20 and a shutter speed of 2.5 seconds at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure.

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