February 2017

February 2017 (4)

Friday, 24 February 2017 19:29

Intimate Slices

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Even the winter, leafless environment of the Smokies High Country cannot deny the awesome beauty of a Luftee Overlook sunrise. During mid-February~early-March the sun comes over the mountain almost straight down the valley of Beech Flats Prong; and when there are atmospherics to accompany the light, magic is almost assured - unless, of course, there is complete overcast, but even then there is something beautiful. In a broken sky of moving clouds, the God-beams spread and move like horses on a carousel, or ballerinas on an endless stage. On Friday morning Bonnie and I were there, having seen a promising forecast the day before. At first we thought the overcast might be too dense, but we have learned patience from experience and so we waited. It was worth the wait. The heavens began to dance and our hearts soared. In this particular selection, a focal length of 180mm was the angle of view I wanted. Given the camera-to-subject distance, I knew that f/16 would provide depth-of-field, and with a shutter speed of 0.8 second (to slow the motion in the clouds) at ISO 100, I had an overall somewhat darker-than-medium exposure. The place where Thomas Divide breaks from the Smokies Crest is as awesome a location to create sunrise beauty as any I know. Next week I'll share another of the images created during our morning at Luftee.

Friday, 17 February 2017 08:20

In the Rush of Roaring Water

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It is said that Roaring Fork (of West Prong of Little Pigeon River) drops more precipitously than almost any other comparably-sized stream east of the Mississippi. Consider this: It drops a vertical distance of over 3000 feet in five miles and drops one mile in vertical distance from its headwaters to its mouth. Anytime after a rain on the north flanks of Mount LeConte and Brushy Mountain, if you are near its bed, you understand completely whence its name is derived. Alfred Reagan must have loved its sound; he built a home quite near and about half-way down, and constructed a tub mill that stands today with the help of the Historic Preservation Crew of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Along this run of the stream the moss-covered boulders of Roaring Fork are a visual delight in any season, but when the leaves of the poplars and birches have covered them in gold, they are especially attractive in the mid-afternoon with the sun's light pouring in. I got as close to the foreground boulder as the pool in front of it would allow and as low as I could so as not to cut off the view upstream. Then I pushed the left edge of  the boulder up against the edge of the frame to encourage the eye to remain in the S-curve of the flowing water. A focal length of 30mm gave me the angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/11 - considering my distance from the boulder - allowed sufficient depth-of-field; and also allowed for a shutter speed of 1.6 seconds at ISO 100 to give me an overall very slightly darker-than-medium exposure. A longer shutter speed would have created more blur in the water than I wanted. The greatest difficulty in being creative at Roaring Fork is the mass of folks who are always around. I'm glad they seem to love it like I do.

Saturday, 11 February 2017 21:32

The Magic of Time and Gravity

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Where the Little Pigeon River slips into the French Broad north of Sevierville, Tennessee, it hardly seems like a stream that has drained the entire north central portion of Great Smoky Mountains National Park from Cosby to Wears Valley and everything in between. Its three primary branches fan out south and east from Sevierville climbing back up into the Smokies high country and on to the great crest ridges from Inadu Knob to Mount Collins. Middle Prong heads up into the Greenbrier section above Pittman Center, and in the very heart of Greenbrier Cove it separates from its largest upstream offspring, Porter's Creek, where the two have joined in a rocky rush of flowing waters. This gathering place is always beauty beyond description, regardless of the season: a lithic water wonderland to be visited again and again. In winter, the bare trees growing among the still barer boulders, overflown with chilly waters, make it a compositional delight. I wanted to be very low to the moving water and to take in a large section of the confluence itself, with the winter forest on the opposite banks. A focal length of 22mm gave me the angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/22 provided depth-of-field, since I was hardly more than a foot from the foreground boulders; and a shutter speed of 1/4th second at ISO 100 gave me an overall very slightly darker-than-medium exposure. It may be a long way to New Orleans, but time and gravity will work their magic. 

Saturday, 04 February 2017 22:39

Somewhere in Time

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As North River Road snakes its way around the lower reaches of Round Mountain it collects the innumerable seeps and springs that will eventually gather into the North River, the principal sibling of the Tellico, a stream of such surpassing beauty that it is designated "wild and scenic." The rocks themselves are timeless, risen from the basement of the earth and covered with mosses that hold the moisture briefly before releasing it downward on its never-ending journey. Along the high ridges of the Unicoi Mountains, winter is hard and the thin waters are easily transformed to beads and cycles of icy drift and spray, a fairyland of texture and shape waiting for the temperatures to moderate in the coming of the spring. My old Kiron 90mm macro lens isolated an area about 20"x30", which was the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/16 provided depth-of-field and, with a shutter speed of 2.0 seconds at ISO 100, gave me an overall slightly darker-than-medium exposure.  Macro intimate landscapes are a wonderful ways of revaling slices of the tiny world around us.

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