Thursday, 29 March 2018 15:14

Seeking Its Own Level

As it slowly wears away the low ridge that defines this portion of the watershed of Middle Prong of Little River, Big Hollow Branch drops through a wonderfully verdant, 40' moss-covered plunge of small boulders, known as Walker Fields Cascade, before joining with the rushing waters of Middle Prong itself. This stretch of river valley, once owned and farmed by Black Bill Walker, became, in the early decades of the twentieth-century, the logging community of Tremont, owned by W.B. Townsend's Little River Lumber Company. Now, it is one of the most special places to be found in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

A focal length of 31mm, just within the limits of wide-angleland, gave me the angle-of-view I wanted - the entire span of the cascade from the perspective where I stood. An aperture of f/13 provided depth-of-field primarily because of the camera-to-subject distance, and a shutter speed of 1.0 second at ISO 200 gave me an overall medium exposure. I needed to adjust the aperture to wider and the ISO to greater sensitivity in order to achieve the shutter speed indicated. A longer time would have meant a milkier presentation of the water, but what I wanted was what I expressed here.

The watershed of Middle Prong of Little River tells so much of the geological story of these mountains; but it also tells much of the human story as well. Every time I am there, I hear its words. It is the sound of moonlight flowing over crystal.

Sunday, 25 March 2018 01:13

High Atmosphere

The Smokies High Country, along Thomas Divide especially, is, in a clearing winter storm, a showplace of atmosphere and light. As the clouds drop and the coves and hollows begin to fill with their vaporous passing, the light often breaks through to bathe the scene from above. What it feels so much like is being a kid in an ice cream store and faced with the impossible decision of where to look next, much less choose among focal lengths compositions.

Looking out from avove the Deep Creek drainage I chose, in this moment, a focal length of 450mm, at the high end of moderate telephoto, for the angle-of-view I wanted to isolate clouds and sections of bare ridges. An aperture of f/20 provided depth of field and a shutter speed of 1/25th second at ISO 100 gave definition to the moving mists and created an overall medium exposure.

From the places of high atmosphere, the world seems a swirl of shape and form in frozen motion.

Friday, 16 March 2018 10:51

Patience and Light

While the valleys below slowly start their turning toward new growth and verdancy, the high ridge of Thomas Divide, overlooking its watershed from Deep Creek to the Little Tennessee, must await patiently for its greening up to begin, just as Shot Beech Ridge must wait each day for the light to bathe its slopes, as its moss- and lichen-covered old oaks wait silently for the sun.

Standing on Swinging Bridge on a late-March morning, the bare-tree-covered mountains stretching away before me seemed like a welcoming blanket of shape and form enhanced by the dimensionality-producing sidelight of early day. A focal length of 52mm, quite normal, gave me the angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/20 provided depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 0.4 second, in the windless air, at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure.

It is on days and in times like these that the Great Spirit, by whatever name you wish to know it, to me reveals itself most clearly. Walk in Beauty.

Saturday, 10 March 2018 11:04

Nestled in the Light

John and Lurena (Luraney) Oliver arrived in Cades Cove sometime in 1818, having walked there from Carter County, Tennessee, a hundred miles away, one child in tow and another on the way. By the early 1820s they had built a cabin, in which they raised a family and lived in until their deaths, John's in 1864. The structure you see here was actually built as a honeymoon cabin for one of their children, their original dwelling being located a short distance away deeper in the woods. It was owned by the Oliver family until it became part of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1934. We know it as the John Oliver Cabin, in spite of the misnomer.

When the dawning sunlight of early April pours in through Crib Gap to the east, the tops of the forest above the blooming dogwoods at the base of Rich Mountain are bathed in the sidelit glow; and the old cabin beneath their crowns becomes a magical kingdom for Smokies pioneer history. From halfway across the field to the south, a focal length of 180mm, moderate telephoto, gave me the angle-of-view and magnification I wanted. An aperture of f/18 provided depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 0.5 second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure.

Being at the cove's entrance gate when the ranger opens it at sunrise is essential to being in place to do this sort of work at the Oliver cabin. It's well-worth the effort.

Saturday, 03 March 2018 11:28

Where the Waters Meet

Some of the most photogaphically accessible waters in the entire confines of Great Smoky Mountains National Park are to be found in Greenbrier, the beautiful cove drained by Middle Prong of Little Pigeon River and its numerous tributaries, including Porter's Creek. William Whaley and his brother, Middleton, came here from South Carolina around 1800, about the same time that Col. Return J. Meigs was conducting his survey to establish the boundary between the United States and the Tsalagi Nation, a line that crossed the crest of the Smokies at Mt. Collins less than fifteen miles away to the southwest. William established his home here, where Middle Prong and Porter's Creek merge their waters; the Whaleys became one of Sevier County's most prominent families; and Greenbrier came to preserve the natural beauty and rich history of this amazing land.

A focal length of 44mm, just plain "normal," gave me the angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/18 provided depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 0.8 second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure. I could have gained a bit faster shutter speed by opening up to say f/11, but I liked the visual flow of the water at the chosen aperture.

The confluence of these two streams is one of the most compelling water visuals in a flowing land that is filled with many of the same.

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