If You Don't Like the Weather...

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Talking About Spring
As the saying in the North Carolina Mountains goes, "If you don't like the weather, just wait five minutes."  Having spent quite a bit of time in the NC Mountains over the course of my life I can say that there is a good deal of truth to that statement.  Today's trip tested my understanding of the weather patterns though.

The day started like most others, I got up with Toni at around 4am so that I could get an early start for what was supposed to be a pretty good day in the mountains.  The weather was calling for some morning showers which would be replaced by partly cloudy skies for the majority of the day.  The clouds were showing to be low, but there was only 40-70% coverage so I was thinking that there would be a great deal of drama in the sky as the current front moved out.  The plan for the day was to start out at Hawksbill Mountain doing a little bit of hiking before getting some great grand landscape shots of the Linville Gorge.  If the sky held out after that, I was going to move over to Wiseman's View to get the other side of the gorge.  In the event that it was too cloudy, I was going to shoot some waterfalls and possibly try a new one in that section of the Parkway.

Pink Crown
The weather was staying pretty consistent from Friday night through to Saturday morning.  The chance of a good sunrise was slim to none, so I wasn't worried about getting into position for a sunrise first thing in the morning.  Actually, that was pretty nice since I am usually racing to get set up before first light.  I had a nice easy morning and a relaxing drive to the mountains. I ran into some light rain, but I was expecting that and was expecting those showers to move out of the area around 8am.

Springtime Duel
As I started the ascent up Hwy 183, I ran into a different problem.  It seemed that the clouds were lower than I expected and I was actually driving through them.  Visibility was not great, and the rain continued.  The closer I got to Hawksbill, the less I wanted to make the hike to the summit for what I was sure going to be a wall of clouds.  I pulled over at the Brown Mountain overlook and checked the weather.  The forecast still showed the bad weather moving out, but it was now looking like 9am.  I figured that I would just come back to Hawksbill when the weather started to improve.  In the meantime, I started looking for a plan B, since I wasn't ready to commit to hiking to waterfalls just yet.

I ended up near the road to Wiseman's View and passed by the quaint little cabin that I had photographed not too long ago.  It was looking really good today with everything in full bloom at this point.  The rain had stopped, and the low clouds were gone for the moment so i pulled over.  I grabbed my camera with a 24-70mm lens along with a Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer.  I started working the little cabin up close and from the road.  I was having better luck with compositions because the rocking chair was no longer in the front yard, and what had been bare bushes were now full of color and excitement.  It was a much easier time this go 'round for sure.  I even got in close and shot some of the blooms.  Why? You ask.....Because Spring, that's why!

In the Pink
My enjoyment ceased fairly quickly though as I started to feel the distinct splats of rain drops on my hat.  It was time to call it a day for this location.  I had gotten everything that I wanted to get so I didn't argue too much.  By this point, I was starting to tell myself that if I just wanted five minutes that the weather would change.  I could do that....I continued on my way looking for other subjects that would work out with the conditions.  I went ahead and hopped on the Parkway to see how things were looking up there.  I went South since I knew that just a few miles North the road was closed for repairs.

Dewy Slope
At some point traveling down the Parkway I came upon a ridge to the right of the road that had a handful of trees growing.  They each looked pretty interesting in the fog of the morning so I pulled off the road and grabbed the camera.  This time, I used the 70-200mm lens and went to work on compositions for the trees.  The fog makes it very easy to photograph trees since the background is usually obscured for the most part.  There was a fine mist in the air, but for the most part the rain was holding off....for about five minutes.  Yep, you guess it.  After I had been shooting for about five minutes the rain came back with a vengeance.  I was forced back to the cover of the hatch on my 4Runner.  I waited about 10 minutes to see if the weather would change, but apparently the weather never got the memo.  I went ahead and packed up my gear and hopped in the truck.

You guessed it, the minute I cranked the truck up and hit the wipers, that was it for the rain.  Oh well, I had a few images of the trees in the fog and that was enough.  I continued South looking for mile marker 322 where English Falls is supposed to live.  There is supposed to be a little parking area near that mile marker which I was looking for.  It would seem that the parking area isn't well marked or even really established because I drove right on past it, and saw the marker for 323.  Oh well, it was now raining again anyway.  I just kept on driving down the road.

Royal Veil
I continued past Crabtree Falls which I thought about shooting, but the hike would probably take longer than I wanted to invest in things since I was hoping for a break in the weather.  It was looking like great waterfall weather though.  I opted to continue on to Roaring Fork Falls which has a short and very easy hike to get to.  I could hustle on this one if the weather decided to get better.  It didn't take too long to get to the falls, and in that time, the rain would start, and stop almost as if to taunt me.  When I arrived at the parking area for the falls I was thrilled to be the only one there.  I grabbed my gear and went on the half mile hike to the falls.

Awash in Cotton
The entrance to the falls off of the trail was really obscured by the trees and I almost missed it.  Fortunately, I saw the caution sign at the stream and found my way through the low hanging tree to actually get to the waterfall.  I could hear the force of the water and was looking forward to seeing how Roaring Fork was looking with all of the rain that we have been having recently.  I had seen the water very swollen downstream on the way to the falls and had very high hopes for the main event.

I wasn't disappointed with the condition of the falls.  There was a lot of force here, and fortunately, I was still able to rock hop to get into my normal positions to photograph it.  The difference was, I had to be very careful about where I placed the camera.  The water was moving with such a force that in most sections there would be too much vibration for a sharp long exposure image.  I couldn't brace the tripod against anything since there was a large log which was wedged at my position and was visibly moving.  That movement would have translated through the tripod for sure.

Spiritual Glow
I will typically shoot this waterfall with my 24-70mm lens, but that is because it usually doesn't have the size to really show that well at the top.  This time, I was pretty sure that the water volume would support the wider angle, so I loaded up my 16-35mm lens with a Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer and hopped out to the artist's rock in the middle of the water.  I started to set up shots from here and found that the base of the waterfall was a great foreground with how the water was broadcasting from the final drop.  I did the typical horizontal and vertical layouts here before moving to isolations of the falls.

For the isolations, I swapped over to the 70-200mm lens to really pick things out.  I had a lot of fun with the isolations, but the water was flowing very quickly which removed a lot of the subtle details of the route.  I was able to pick out a few down at the base as well as one up at the top.

Speaking of the one at the top, if you look at the image above, you can see what I was starting to see happening.  Yep, the rains had stopped, and the clouds have moved on.  That warm glow at the top is the sun shining through the trees.  Looking up to confirm, I could tell that the clouds were now thinning and leaving the area.  This was the weather change that I had been looking for!!!  It took more than five minutes, but it was worth the wait.  I could now get back on the mountain and get those grand landscapes I was looking for.

I maneuvered back to a safe area to break the camera down.  As I was doing that, a hiker came down the path.  My timing was excellent because historically, if there is somebody else here, I will have to deal with them being in my shot just about every time.  I was glad that I was done here, and I was actually pretty happy with what I had gotten here as well.  On my hike back to the truck, I was hustling since I knew I could make it back in less than 10 minutes.  In that time, I passed another eight people that made me very happy that I had been there when I was.  Not to mention that the sun was too bright now for any good photography of the falls.

I didn't waste any time looking for altitude once I got in the truck.  I could see bits and pieces of the sky from down in the valley and was really happy with what I saw happening.  There were low gray clouds, high cumulus clouds, and lots of movement in the sky.  This was exactly what I was looking for!  I was excited right up until the five minute mark hit.  That corresponded with me arriving at the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Yep, here comes the clouds again.  In a period of about 30 minutes I had come full circle.  I was again driving in the rain along America's Favorite Drive.  Oh yeah, the fog was back too.  My hopes for a grand landscape were dashed yet again.

I figured that this was going to be the tempo of the day, and I might as well embrace it.  I decided to go to Crabtree Falls and shoot that one, although honestly, I wasn't all that excited about doing that waterfall.  There are only a few compositions that I like there, and I've shot it many times over.  The water flow doesn't make that big of a difference there either, except for my ability to get into position to get a foreground that includes the water flow.

When I got to the falls, I went to park and saw that the parking lot was about half full.  That was a very bad omen because this is one of those waterfalls where people can really get in the way quickly.  With my frustration over the weather still pretty active, I didn't want to add in that further frustration so I opted to continue going back up the Parkway.

I went ahead and dialed in the destination to English Falls just to see where the parking area was.  GPS took me right to it, or at least a little area off to the side of the Parkway.  I could see a trail leading from that parking area, but it didn't go anywhere.  It was drizzling and very foggy, but having seen pictures of this waterfall, I really wanted to try it in these conditions.  I pulled up Kevin Adam's description of the falls and the hike to it.  It sounded a little dicey, but I was willing to try it since I had never been here, and there were no others around.

I followed his description of the trail and found the access point which lead me down a really steep section that was rather slippery with the rains.  I continued to read and saw that there were cliffs and the need for ropes (which I had read were left there by other hikers).  Seeing how much difficulty I was having with the "easy" section of this hike, I decided that I had better wait until I knew more about the hike, or had somebody with me that was familiar with it.  The last thing I wanted to do was get lost in the woods, or slip and get hurt.  I was up there alone, and nobody knew where I was.  The only clue was my 4Runner sitting on the side of the road at MP 322.  Another time English Falls....another time.

The Water Calls
The hike back up the trail to the truck was not the easiest of things, but I made it with no problems.  The earth was very soft with the rains, and it just wasn't worth it to me to continue down to the bottom.  I got back up on the Parkway and did a little walking to see if there was anything that I could do with the foggy conditions.  There wasn't anything that jumped out at me, so I decided to go to Linville Falls and do a little shooting there with the increased water flow.

My goal was not to photograph the upper cascades or even the main drop because too much water, while impressive, looses that aesthetic quality that I love about waterfalls.  What I was wanting was a chance to photograph Dugger's Creek Falls under some different conditions.  When I arrived, the parking lot was about half full, and I could see a lot of families milling about at the visitor's center and on the bridge going to the upper falls.  There were nothing but empty spots on the side where Dugger's Falls was, and that was a good indication that I might get lucky and have it to myself.

Dugger's Creek
The hike out to Dugger's is a simple one that basically counts as a nature walk.  When I got to the bridge, I noticed two things.  First, I noticed that the water was flowing at a rate I have never witnessed before.  The dainty little waterfall was now a full on waterfall with the associated loud roar as it dropped.  Second, the trees were blocking much of the view of the waterfall from the bridge (which was getting more and more bouncy it seemed).  With this flow, I was actually really wanting to shoot from the bridge and get that perspective.  There was no way to do that with the trees the way they were.  I wonder if they ever come through and trim them back?

I hiked down to the base below the bridge and found that the water about knee level on me.  The only way I would be able to get into my normal position was to strip my feet and wade out there.  I didn't have anything to put on my feet to protect them, so I opted to skip it.  That was partly because I didn't see a real clear shot to the falls here either because of some of the vegetation.  Also, much of the character of the falls was lost because of the high flow.  Looking downstream, the water flow was showing some promise though.

I went quickly back out to the parking lot and followed the exit around the corner to where the creek runs under the road.  I know that you can access this section fairly easy from the road and I had forgotten to look as I came in to the parking area earlier.  Yeah, this would work out nicely.  I actually set things up on the top of the concrete culvert.  I used my 24-70mm lens with the Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer and started to pick out compositions.  As with the Roaring Fork Falls, I chose to make my foreground interest the final bit of drama as the water spilled over the rocks.  The patters of the water over the rocks was just glorious here, the best I had ever seen.  I shot a few different compositions here, including some isolations.  In the end, I thought that the overall mountain creek shots were the strongest.  I think that it works as both a landscape and a portrait shot, which is nice.

At this point, I figured that I might as well go and see what the upper cascades looked like since I was here.  Wait a minute, has it been five minutes already?  The sun was peeking out again.  It looked as though the sky was going to clear.  I knew it would be temporary, but I was excited.  Looking at the people coming into the parking area in droves, I decided that I would avoid the crowds and look for that grand landscape once again.

Flat Top Rock
I got back out to the Parkway and started to check out the fences in the area.  You know I love some fences!  None really looked ready to have their pictures taken so I continued on down the road.  I could see hints that the sky was looking good, but I was not finding anything I could put under it.  I knew I was getting to the end of the road...quite literally since all traffic was detoured just North of Beacon Heights.  As a last ditch effort, I pulled over into the Flat Top Rock parking area and found that there were only two other cars there.  I had done this hike once before and knew it was simple.  I grabbed my gear and started my way up the mountain.  I could see movement in the sky, and differences in the clouds.

My hopes were high for the first time.  When I got to the top. I could see definition in the clouds, but more were rolling in.  I started to look around to find something that I could put in the foreground.  There was less to work with up here than I recalled, but the last time I came it was in the early Spring and there were more bare trees around.  I finally settled on an area where I could see off in the distance for a good way.  There was a little bit of character to the clouds, but they were getting darker and denser by the moment.

At this point, I figured "why not?" and put the Rokinon 14mm lens on the camera and positioned myself in a way that captured the rocky surface of the bald that I was on as well as the mountains off to the distance.  It was not the image that I was hoping for, but it did have a lot of depth, and some visual trickery thanks to even lighting that made it look like the rocks at my feet just trailed off to the distant mountains without actually going through a valley at the base of Flat Top Rock.  The clouds were ominous to say the least, and there was a strip of bright light at the horizon which helped to bring the attention to the distant mountains.  It was a slightly different image from me, but one that I think has enough merit to be included here.

I kept the Rokinon attached and went back to the trail where there were some really cool trees.  The wide angle of the lens made for a perfectly cool composition, but the sky in the background was just too featureless and white to really work for what I was wanting.  It is a great concept and it works well with the wide angle.  I'll be back to try that shot again some time.  As I continued to look around, I realized that it was starting to rain once again.  It was getting harder and heavier too.  I took that as my cure to get back to the truck.  I loaded everything back up in the bag and started the return journey.

By the time I got to the truck, it was starting to pour.  I tossed everything in the back and hopped in the driver's seat.  I got back on the Parkway going North just to see if the road was still closed.  Yep, fenced off and everything.  There was a detour that took me to Hwy 221, which was going to take me to Blowing Rock.  I noticed as I made the turn that there was a lot of debris which had been brought into the roadway by the flood waters recently.  The rain was really picking up now and the clouds were back hanging over the road like a fog.  Visibility was poor, but good enough to see that Hwy 221 was closed not far from where I entered it.  So let me get this straight...the detour was closed?  Yep, that was the size of it.  The rain was getting harder and harder.  It was after noon, so I took that as my cue to head home.  I was needing gas anyway.  My day was done.

As I got to the base of the mountain the rain stopped and the sky cleared.  The clouds looked awesome, but they were still low.  I've fallen for that trick already, and I was about at Bingo Fuel.  I wasn't able to get back into the picture game with the gas that I had available.  I was tired, wet, and completely unsure if anything that I had shot was going to turn out.  I had thrown in the lens cloth.

But wait...there's more!

Chevy Sedan
There I was driving down the road listening to something on the radio completely disengaged from photography and I happened to look over one of the side roads visible from US 421 on the edge of Yadkin County.  I saw the distinct round rear end of a '40's era car.  It was parked at the edge of a parking lot.  OK, this was interesting.  I made the next exit and picked up the side road at the next intersection and went to looking for it.  I found it in a very large commercial area with a big parking lot.  It was placed for sale at the road.  I started to look around.  There was a Toyota for sale to its left that I had no interest in, there were buildings behind it, and RV's and dump trucks in front of the buildings.  The sky however was awesome!  The patina on the car was nice, but I'm not a big fan of white cars for this kind of photography.  The patina on the back was pretty nice though, and the car had character.  It was worth giving it a shot to see what I could do with it.  I parked the truck and hopped out.

Holy crap!  It was hot here!  After being used to the mountains all day, I wasn't expecting the sun to be so hot, but it was.  Oh well, I was here and needed to get to work.  I pulled out the camera and opted for the 24-70mm lens which is a great automotive lens for the flexibility that it offered.  I also knew I was going to need to get tighter than 50mm to omit the clutter in the background of the car.  I wanted enough angle of view to capture the sky and clouds though.  With the white car, I needed the blue sky to tone it down, and the white clouds would make for excellent complimenting elements.  To make sure that I had good contrast in the sky, I fitted my Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer to the lens as well.

Four Star Chevy
There wasn't much that I could do isolations on with this car.  The white paint really hampers my creativity for these kind of shots.  I did find a few nice lines on the front of the car that I could work with.  My only isolation that I felt like keeping was this abstract one with the hood emblem.  By going off to the side, I was able get this angle up high which made the chrome grill a complementing element to the emblem which was much higher than the grill.  More importantly though, my shadow was not in the picture at this angle.  I liked how the patina framed the image to the left along with the rust on the bumper to the lower corner which helped make the grill stand out.  It was an odd image and I wasn't quite sure how I would like it, but the more I look, the more I really like what I shot here.

Time Passes
Since I was starting to have a lot of fun with this car, I opted to go a little crazy with it.  I had been thinking 50mm or tighter to avoid the clutter around the car, but I also realized that by going wider, I could minimize the size of the background to where it was no longer intruding on the car.  I swapped out to my 16-35mm lens and shed the polarizer.  One thing I have learned with wide angle lenses, they don't like polarizers when shooting a blue sky.  The sky polarizes differently depending on the angle you are shooting, and with a 90+ degree angle of coverage, you will get some strange effects in the sky if you aren't careful.

I found a few compositions that I thought worked, and one that I really liked in a portrait orientation.  The clouds had all but left the scene and the sky was rather boring above the car.  I looked up to see if more clouds were on the way.  I could see movement indicating that there would be a few more coming overhead shortly, and they were moving at a visible pace.  Hmmmm, that could be a nice addition to the image.  Moving clouds over this car with a dynamic perspective.  I needed to do a long exposure on this one.

I grabbed the Lee Filter Holder and my Singh-Ray Mor Slo 10-Stop ND Filter and mounted it to the end of my 16-35mm lens.  This reduced the light a full 10 stops, and by stopping the lens down to f/22, I was able to get an exposure of 20 seconds.  It wasn't much, but it was going to have to do.  Short of adding my other circular ND filter which would then force me to go to a tighter focal length due to vignetting, I had no other choice.  I waited for the clouds to come over and shot a series of four long exposure images.  This is the one where the clouds were precisely in the position that I was wanting.  The LCD showed that I was in pretty good shape with movement, but just to be sure, I pulled the filter off and set the exposure to compensate and fired off a normal shot that froze the clouds.  That way, if the long exposure didn't work, I would have one to fall back on since I really liked the composition.

On a Break
After that series, I was feeling pretty good, and had been looking around.  There was an old '40's Ford pickup parked against the building that I was finding pretty interesting.  With the wide angle lens still attached, I decided to go and have some fun with this old truck.  My goal was to get in front of it (hence having the wide angle lens) and shooting it with the clouds to the rear.  As I approached it though, I found that the scene that was unfolding was kind of interesting with the truck parked next to a bush with the water stains on the pavement  pointing towards that bush.  The truck was also pointing it would seem.  I set the camera up at the back corner of the truck and found that the side of the building with all of the doors really looked odd, and I was having to include the roof and sky above.  This was just too complicated, so I moved in a little and tightened up the shot.  I purposely cut off the back of the truck and made the wheel and fender the dominant foreground.  Using the truck in the fashion really provided a nice balance of elements in the scene and kept it simple.

Not having a polarizer attached wasn't a problem either since the truck had no glass, and there wasn't too much glare on the paint either.  That mint green was a very cool shade and worked nicely with the color tones that were present.  I was looking forward to seeing how it would look against the blue sky above.  I moved to the front of the truck and tried to find the right angle.  No matter when I put the camera, I wasn't able to get a suitable perspective on the front of the truck.  Everything looked like I was trying to do a fisheye shot of the front of this curvy truck, and that was just too much.  I abandoned my attempts at getting the front of the truck.  Had it been moved back even five feet things would have been different though.  It was OK, I was really feeling good about the Chevy I had just shot, and it was actually getting late in the day.  I was already looking at getting home a little after 5 at this point, which is a full 12 hours after I had left.

It had been a really fully day, and one where I had seen monsoon rains, fog, clouds, sun, and clear blue skies.  The patterns developed with the routine of a Magic 8 Ball.  I still wasn't sure about what I had captured.  I was hoping that they turned out well, but I was really worried about it.  I hadn't gotten what I went out to get, but found so many things that I wasn't really considering photographing.  It was a day of go where the wind blew and shoot what presented itself.

Chevy Sedan in B&W
When I finally got around to starting to process the images it was after 7pm.  I had already decided that I was going to be happy with six images out of the day's pictures. I believe I had shot a total of 136 frames during the day, and that would be about five percent.  I moved through and tossed out more than half of the images in the first pass.  I finally whittled them down to about 25 images that I would start to process and work with.  I tossed out another nine of those images because there were elements that I didn't like in them.  The remaining 16 were pretty good, but one of them deserved another run through the processing engine.  That simple Chevy under the clouds was screaming for a monochrome conversion which I did.  I loved how it turned out, and with a few tonal tweaks, I felt became its very own image.  Both the color and the black and white stood on their own and I really liked how they both turned out.  This has now become image number 17 for the day.

I can't express how happy I am that I have so many keepers from the day.  I spent the entire time thinking that I was shooting junk except for just a few images that I was kind of excited about.  It was a real surprise to get home to find that so many of them came out so well.  The bad ones weren't even really that bad.  Slight composition shifts make the world of difference though, and there were a bunch where the shifts I made didn't work as well as I had hoped.

At midnight, I found myself writing here and falling asleep at the keyboard.  It was time to call it a night.  I always try to get the blog entry done on the day that I shoot the pictures, but it wasn't happening.  I mean seriously, who wants to read an entry that looks like this.

  • So, with the clouds coming back, I startendnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn tso s set he camera upa     apllllffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff
So, here we are on the following morning and I realize that I still had about two hours of writing to complete the entry.  There was no way I would have been able to pull that off.  So, thank you for your patience, and I hope that you enjoy reading about my day trying to stay ahead of the weather and failing miserably.  But at least I managed to take what I had available and make the best out of it.

A Morning at Doughton Park

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Doughton Dawn
It would seem that the Blue Ridge Parkway is the destination of choice these days.  I guess that is true, at least for the past month or so.  I decided to head back up to the mountains today and hit Doughton Park which was one of my goals last week.  I was looking forward to testing out a new lens that I had recently purchased, and the weather was looking decent for the mountains.  The forecast showed between 40-75% cloud cover, and quite a bit cooler than the 90 degrees that it was going to be at home.  I was excited about the opportunity to capture more clouds over the rolling hills, and felt that situation would be the perfect chance to try out the new Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 which give a good bit better field of view than the 16-35mm f/2.8L II lens that I have been using for wide angle work.

Looking at the forecasted sunrise, the potential was pretty good up around Sparta, so I decided to head off to Doughton to take advantage of the colors.  As a side benefit, I could make it to the park in an hour and a half which was nice considering that sunrise was about 6:15.  I was needing to be in place roughly thirty minutes before that time in order to get the color that I was wanting.  I left the house at 3:45, and woke up somewhere around Traphill and realized that I was on schedule for making sunrise.

Gold on the Horizon
Once I got on the Parkway, I started to look at the sky.  I was a little surprised to see no clouds at all in the sky.  When I got to the Air Bellows Overlook, I peeked around the mountain where the sun would be coming up to see if there was anything there I could make use of.  There were no clouds at all, and the city lights were just too bright to be of any use.  I just decided to continue on to Doughton where I knew that there were many things that I could use in compositions that were not quite as dependent on clouds.  When I got the park, I could see that the sky was completely empty, but I went ahead and grabbed the camera and started over on the side with the most visual interest available.

I got to the top of the meadow as the sky was starting to get the first signs of light and the sliver of a moon was dropping towards the horizon.  I figured that I would check out my favorite tree for some composition choices, but found that I didn't really like anything that I was seeing there.  I started to mill about looking for more composition possibilities around the top of the meadow.  I found a nice bald spot which was positioned in such a way that it complimented the tree line which framed one of the distant mountains.  I went ahead and got things set up.

I was really trying to avoid using my 24-70mm lens, but this was a scene that really needed it to keep the scaling right.  I went ahead and built the camera with that lens and added the Lee Filter Holder with a 3-Stop Singh-Ray ND Grad filter.  I composed the first shot and set the exposure at 30 seconds because it was still rather dark.  With that long exposure, the sky showed up as this brilliant color which was just barely visible in the dark sky.  The camera doesn't necessarily lie, but it will sure show you things that your own eyes can't see.  An interesting side note, my first composition was shot right at 50mm which is the reason that I don't like using this lens currently  It seems that I gravitate to that normal focal length, which I really don't want to do any more.  The more creative pictures are done outside of the normal range of vision.

Off Sides
I continued to work the scene as the sun came up.  The problem was, as the light got brighter, the color faded and I could tell that the sunrise was going to be rather bland.  It seems that I just can't win for losing when it comes to sunrises these days.  This was the closest to a nice one that I have seen, but it wasn't anything like what I was hoping for.  However, I started to look around to see what my other options were.  I still had the lone tree at the top of the hill which I wanted to shoot.  From where I was standing, it was rather boring sitting there against the medium blue sky.  However, I could see a minimalist composition developing.  The colors were not what I wanted, but I could see it as an overexposed monochrome image.  I put the filter away, and swapped over to my 70-200mm lens.

I got a little bit closer to the tree and framed up a shot.  Since I was looking for a minimalist composition, I didn't try to fill the frame completely.  In fact, I shot it horizontal to give a good bit of negative space on the sides.  I also was envisioning a heavy vignette on the sides to really add a bit of drama to the image.  The image flashed on the LCD and looked really bad as a color image, but the histogram showed me that I had a good exposure for the conversion that I had planned.

Pastel Dancer
As I was turning my attention the mountains in the distance, I took my attention away from the tree for about 20 minutes or so.  I shot a handful of compositions of the rolling hills in the morning haze, but there was nothing that really stood out to me.  So, after I had moved all around looking for that one composition that organized the mountains, I turned back around.  The tree that I had shot against a featureless sky now had some nice puffy clouds above it.  They were even picking up some of the color of the rising sun.

I moved back into position for that and trained my long lens back in the direction of the tree.  This time, I was wanting to get the sky in the composition as well.  The exposure latitude was not very wide since everything was evenly lit from the sun coming up over my right shoulder.  I was having no problem getting great exposures of this scene which left me plenty of time to play with compositions.

Pastel Smudge
As I worked on different compositions, the clouds moved away from the tree, and the sun was getting brighter and brighter as it climbed over the horizon.  There was still plenty of time to work different compositions though.  I was starting to have fun with this tree.  I was only wishing that there were more clouds in the sky.  At least this portion of the day was showing a little less than 20% coverage, so I wasn't overly worried, but I was hoping that the clouds would start to roll in so I could get to work on some grand landscapes.

Morning Hues
Risking blowing other opportunities, I decided to abandon the tree and start to look for other compositions as the sun was coming up.  Again, I turned around and looked towards the West.  This is always a fun view as the sun gets a little bit of altitude.  The clouds were faint on the other side, but you could see a bit of alpenglow developing in the sky.  It was enough to justify setting up to capture it.  I kept the long lens on and didn't need any filters for this at all.  Everything was so evenly lit thanks to the clouds obscuring the sun now.  I could tell that the sun wasn't going to illuminate the rocks like it has done in the past though.  I've shot better images here, but this one had a nice serene feel to it with the muted colors in the sky matched with the low fog in the valleys.

Lofty Clouds
With the passage of time, the sky and the clouds changed.  I still wasn't getting the warm light on the rock outcropping, but I was getting a bank of clouds moving over the distant landscape.  These were the same clouds that had been over the tree.  Hey, when you don't have many clouds to work with, you keep working the same clouds over and over.  They were still picking up the warm colors of the low sun, now to my rear.  The alpenglow was fading which left some nice soft and warm tones in the sky.  The warmth of the sky balanced nicely with the cool Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.

The sun was still climbing and I was quickly loosing the warm tones of morning.  I went ahead and started walking the trail back to the parking lot to see if there was something else I could shoot.  There was a really nice fallen tree about mid way back that I've shot a time or two before and thought that I might be able to get something there this morning.  When I arrived, I had decent light on the tree, but nothing of any interest in the sky above it.  There were some interesting textures though, and that was what I started to work with.

Knotted Bark
I decided to straight for the abstract shot and found an interesting section to work with.  The lighting was good and I could pick out lots of interesting textures with it as well.  Since there wasn't much in the way of color here, I made the decision to shoot this one as a monochrome image from the beginning.  I wasn't sure how it would turn out, but I only felt like a single exposure was all that was needed here.  I moved on to other sections and tried similar shots with an abstract feel.  None of the other ones turned out though.  It was all pretty much a time killer as I was waiting to see if the clouds started rolling in like I was expecting according to the forecast.

Spring Cradle
I was running out of abstracts to shoot on the fallen tree, so I started to look in the meadow for bits of the tree that had broken off over the years that it has been here.  I found several with some interesting shapes that I shot.  I was able to keep the long lens attached and pick these broken bits of branch out with relative ease.  The lighting was perfect on the wood, and the grass was a rich green that really told the story of the season.

I don't know why this old tree is so fascinating to me.  It has been here since my first visit to Doughton in either 2005 or 2006.  Of course over the years, it has gotten smaller as decay has caused it to break apart.  It is right alongside the trail, and I would almost bet that the trail had to be cut around the tree.  Regardless of the current size of the tree, it is still a very interesting sight to see.  I've shot it in several different ways, but I've never shot it into the sun before.  Well, that was about to change.

Fallen Drama
What I was seeing was looking rather interesting.  There was a cloud bank that was moving its way across the sky and was currently blocking the sun.  While this killed the nice warm light that I had, it also provided a chance to shoot this old tree with a direction that suited the orientation of the wood.  I quickly swapped out to my 16-35mm lens and added the Lee Filter Holder along with two different 3-Stop Singh-Ray ND Grads.  The six total stops of light control that I achieved allowed me to control the exposure in the sky and still get plenty of detail in the tree.  The thick clouds did their part in keeping the primary highlight at bay, and for that I was very thankful.

Hollow Morning
I made my way around the tree picking out compositions quickly as I wasn't sure how long the clouds would last.  The wide angle lens allowed me to get a number of dramatic compositions.  I would have loved to have used my new Rokinon lens, but there is no attachment for filters thanks to the built-in lens hood.  Also, that lens is fully manual and I didn't want to try and learn that lens in a time crunch situation.  I did stay at 16mm for the majority of these shots which proved to me that I was going to have fun with the 14mm when I did get a chance to use it.

Three Fingers Up
As the clouds finally broke away, I had to abandon shooting in the direction of the sun.  I moved to a side position that took advantage of the same clouds as they moved off to the South.  Looking at the exposure, I going to still have an issue with the sky being overexposed.  I could continue to use the ND Grads, or I could play around with HDR images.  I opted for the latter and stripped the filters from the front of the lens and set things up for a four shot (1-stop interval) series to capture all of the tonal range of the scene.  It just took a few seconds to capture the series, and I could tell that I had all of the data that I needed to merge an HDR file.

At this point, I went ahead and pulled out the Rokinon and started to experiment with it.  Now, for those who aren't familiar with this lens, it is a fully manual lens where you have to manually set the aperture on the lens itself.  The focus is also manual which I am more than used to.  I wasn't sure how this would work with my live preview so I turned that on and found that I was still able to get a histogram.  I set the exposure, and focus and released the shutter.  

Completely overexposed.

I checked the exposure once again and saw that it looked right on the live preview.  I went to the viewfinder and found that it was showing massively overexposed.  I dialed in a shutter speed that gave me a proper exposure based on the meter and fired it again.  This one turned out to be exposed  properly.  I can only deduce that I will only be able to use live preview for focusing, and will have to set the exposure through the viewfinder.  Not a terrible trade off for a lens that cost around $250.  The few test images that I shot turned out to not be all that great and ultimately got trashed.  However, I knew that the lens worked at this point, and I knew how I needed to operate it.

Spring Gate
I decided to pack everything up and head back down to the truck.  However, when I got there and saw that the sky was bare in all directions I wasn't worried about getting on the road just yet because nothing was going to look good enough to justify stopping anyway.  Instead, I opted to go for a walk down the mile long driveway to the Parkway.  I knew that there were several places along the driveway that make for interesting pictures.  One such scene was a gated fence under a blooming tree.  The hints of Spring colors on the branches gave just the right amount of visual interest to the scene and that prompted me to stop and pull the camera out.

I loaded up the 70-200mm lens with a Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer and went to work making a composition.  One of the harder aspects here was the fact that the wind was really picking up.  At least it was a gusty wind and not really a constant one.  This allowed me the opportunity to wait the wind out and hopefully get the leaves still.  I worked this area for about 30 minutes and even shot a panorama while I was here.

Doughton Park
There is just something special about this park.  Every time I come here I always find all sorts of things to photograph, even if the conditions are less than ideal.  Of course, I think that the main reason that this park is special is because Toni and I went on a date here years ago and we kissed in the clouds while eating lunch.  I just can't come to this park and not think about that day.  It will always hold a special place in my mind and heart for that reason.

Carolina Blue
One of the things that I usually hold hard and fast to is not shooting grand landscapes with a featureless sky.  There is just something about a plain blue sky.  They are pretty to look at, but rarely make for interesting photographs.  I had been shooting a good many plain skies already this morning, so why not continue.  When I got to the main entrance to the park, I found one of my favorite scenes ready to be photographed.  The sky was relatively featureless though, but the trees looked good, and the interesting rocks outcroppings that shielded the trees were looking good.  I figured I would give it a try.

Since the exposure looked pretty straightforward, I didn't expect to need any filters.  The rocks look really good with an extreme wide angle, so I figured that I might as well try the Rokinon one more time.  I went ahead and put it on and got into position really close to the rocks.  I was about 10 feet from the edge of it before I started to compose the image.  I was surprised at how well the 14mm focal length captured this scene.  I didn't note too much distortion either which was a nice feature of this prime lens.  The sky was boring, but the sun was hitting the leaves and making them glow which kind of gave the sky enough visual interest to get by.  I set my focus and dialed in the aperture I wanted for the depth of field.  Switching back over to the the viewfinder, I set the exposure and waited for the wind to die down.  When it did, I fired off the shot.  Nailed it!  the exposure was right, and the trees appeared to be tack sharp.  I went ahead and did a few other compositions as well, but in the end it was this first shot that paid off.

I will say this about the Rokinon lens.  After having been spoiled by nothing but Canon "L" glass for years, I was a little skeptical about this Korean lens.  It has received nothing but great reviews for both build quality and sharpness.  The only fault that has been noted with this lens is the consistency across the individual lenses.  For $250, it was worth the gamble on getting a good example.  Considering that the Canon 14mm lens goes for over $2,000, and isn't as sharp as the Rokinon was something that I wanted to check out on my own.  After processing the handful of Rokinon images, I can say that I think that my example is a good one.  The sharpness is there in all areas of the image.  It is on par with the "L" glass, and might be just a bit sharper than the wider end of the 16-35mm lens.  Distortion is much better controlled as well.  It is a little more fussy to deal with being a completely manual lens, but I really can't gripe about that since I didn't come close to missing $1500 worth of aperture control.  I can definitely recommend this lens for the landscape photographer.

Fast Lady
I made the mile walk back to the truck since the sun was getting just too high up in the sky to make for any interesting landscapes.  I set out for a brief jaunt on the Parkway to see if I could find any clouds.  There were officially no clouds to be had at this point in the day.  I diverted off of the Parkway and found myself around the area of Raccoon Hollar and Phillips Gap.  I found a couple of interesting things, but the lighting was far from good and I had to pass them by.  I was figuring that the day was done and I started to head home by way of Wilkesboro.

As I was listening to the tunes in the truck, I happened to see an old '56 Caddi sitting in front of an empty building.  It had a good bit of rust on it, and looked very interesting.  The backdrop wasn't my favorite, but it didn't require any sky to be in the picture so I figured I might be able to work with it. I got turned around and pulled into the parking lot.  As I was getting the camera out I quickly realized that it was hot....I mean oven hot compared to the nice temperatures I had been dealing with.

I checked out the car and decided that I would pull out my 24-70mm lens since that is my favorite for automotive photography.  I can distort the car just enough with this lens, and I can also shoot intimate captures with it as well.  I got down to business picking out compositions.  I shot at multiple heights as well as getting lots of different angles.  I wish I could say that the lighting was good, but it was actually pretty bad.  I used my Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer to remove as much glare as I could and get the best contrast on the black car.

Sail Light
I'm not a huge fan of shooting back cars as they are usually a little boring.  I much prefer the light blues of the era and have lots of fun playing with the rust.  This car wasn't too bad though.  Most of the chrome was still in place and sine it was a Cadillac there was a lot of flare to work with.  Tail lights are some of my favorite things to shoot, as are headlights.  This particular car had no headlights, but the tail lights were in place and really looked cool.  I had a lot of fun pulling details out for intimate portraits with this car.

Place Holder
I guess you could say that the emblems were here as well.  I can't say they were complete though.  As you can see, the crest for the brand was missing, but you can't miss the framework for it.  The nice gold color of the trim actually goes really well with the black paint, and the splash of rust helps to make this image pop.  Over the years I have really turned into a patina nut.  I love the textures of the rust, and when you add the shiny bits on top of it, you are hard pressed to make a bad image.  In this situation, the harsh lighting actually worked out and gave me some very interesting shadows, and added another layer of interest to the patina.

Cosmic Corrosion
Speaking of patina and chrome, I found some very interesting features on the rear quarter panels of the car.  I'm not sure the purpose other than to add a bit of bling, but there were some cool chrome disks inserted into the lower quarter panels.  On the passenger side, there were two large areas of rust right above the disks.  Oh yeah...I can do something with that for sure.  There is so much visual interest here, and unless you are familiar with this car, I doubt you will know what you are looking at.  I love the abstract qualities that come with rust photography.  As long as it isn't on my own vehicles, I will always love the looks of rust.  The textures and the colors are nothing short of amazing to me.

Luxury Sled

I was dripping sweat at this point, although it might have been the fact that I was trying to outrun myself.  Every time I shot a picture that involved chrome, I had to run away from the image so that my reflection didn't show in the car. The camera was small enough that it didn't have a problem disappearing in the reflections.  Me however....I had to to do shuttle runs with ever press of the shutter.  I'm sure that folks passing by on the highway were wondering what this crazy dude was doing next to this car.  Funny as it looked, it did work and only a few images was I visible in.

I kept trying to figure out how to get the Cadillac emblem in a shot that made sense.  It finally hit me, and I was happy that it didn't involve a straight on shot.  I happened to notice that if you viewed it from the middle of the bumper, you could see the reflection in the bullet on the driver's side.  I got the camera low and close.  I positioned it so that I could see the reflection in the bullet which was used as the visual frame on the right side.  The chrome surround provided the rest of the framework.  I had my Caddi emblem as well as a token bit of rust and patina.  The grill was also well lit and exposed nicely.

When I started to constantly drip sweat it was time to pack it up and get back in the air conditioning.  I had shot about 165 frames since sunrise this morning.  I had gone through two batteries.  I was tired, and needed to get home to see what I had.  To be honest, I wasn't all that optimistic about what I had captured throughout the day.  I was expecting about a half dozen good images, but doubted that there would be any more than that.  When it was all said and done, I was absolutely floored that there were 23 images I deemed keepers out of the bunch.  It was a fun day in the mountains, and despite the less than ideal sky, I was really happy with what I had come home with.

Back to the Blue Ridge Parkway

Saturday, May 5, 2018

It has actually been about three weeks since my last successful trip with a camera.  I've gone out twice over that time but have been completely disappointed with the weather conditions and didn't come back with any new images.  After more days than I can count of sun recently, I was very happy to see that there was clouds in the forecast.  There was even the chance for a thunderstorm around mid day which was exciting to think about.  The cloud cover was forecasted to be 95-100% throughout the day, and a relatively low ceiling.  Based on that forecast I wasn't expecting a good sunrise, but the sunrise forecaster was showing a decent chance for some color over the mountains.

At first, it looked like Sparta was going to get the color, so my early plan was to go to Doughton Park which I hadn't done in a good many months now.  When I woke up at 3:30am the first thing I did (after cussing the alarm clock) was to look at the weather and the sunrise forecast.  The weather was holding, and the sunrise was looking better, but had moved South a fair amount.  I figured that my best chance for some morning color was going to be closer to Boone, so I decided to head out that way and potentially go to Price Lake, or Grandview Overlook.

Blue Ridge Posts
I made good time to the Blue Ridge Parkway as this is a pretty much straightforward route down US 421.  I was still seeing stars in the sky when I arrived and that caused me to doubt the potential of a good sunrise.  I was here, might as well find a place to set up.  With the sky not looking all that great, I opted not to bother with Price Lake.  I stopped at Grandview and really wasn't all that impressed with what I saw.  I decided to try another spot that has worked for me a time or two in the past which is just North of Raven Rock.  There is a nice little fence set up on a ridge that offers a view of the mountains in the distance.  I pulled off the road and got the camera out.

My plan for the day was to only shoot with either the 16-35mm or the 70-200mm to force myself to stay away from the "normal" range of the 24-70mm.  For the sunrise shot I was planning, the wide angle lens was the one that I thought would work the best.  I added the Lee Filter Holder in preparation for the ND Grads that I was expecting to use.  I went ahead and set up my first shot and waited for the sky.

At least there were clouds rolling in, but they were looking like they were going to block the horizon and keep the sun from splashing the color around.  I still waited.  I did my normal test shots, and the opening image here is one of those which was shot with a Singh-Ray 2-Stop soft edge ND grad.  It was 15 seconds worth of exposure which allowed it to capture the sliver of color at the horizon.  I was hoping for so much more, but this was as good as it got.  I actually waited here until about 5 minutes before sunrise when I decided that this was just not going to work.  I was going to find something else to shoot while the sun was coming up.

Welcoming Reach
I could see that there was a little bit of interest developing across the road so I decided to try and pick out a composition.  I have shot that side of the road before and knew that I was going to need my long lens since there was a fence that prevented access.  Oh wait, there was a section of the fence that was missing from my previous experience.  I looked around for indications that I wasn't supposed to enter.  Finding none, I went right on in, and started to walk to the distant tree line.  I found a couple of really interesting trees and started to work out compositions on them.  I moved around a lot, but kept my wide angle lens on.  This allowed me to get up close and personal with the trees which was a lot of fun.

An Invitation
As I was working in the direction of the sunrise, I did my normal thing and turned around behind me.  The color that I was missing to the East had shown up to the West as the sun was over the horizon, and above the clouds to the East.  I gathered up my kit and went to the other side of the tree.  I started to set up different compositions.  I was still using the same ND grad that I had for the original composition.  It allowed me the ability to control the sky and expose the ground correctly without putting it in the shadows.  I was then able to tweak the exposure in Lightroom later on.

What had started out as a rather lackluster morning was getting a bit more exciting with every click of the shutter.  I still wasn't confident that I was getting good images, but the histogram was showing that I was capturing all of the available information in the scene.  I've come to rely on this much more than looking at the LCD.  Since I shoot with no saturation or contrast added in, the image that I was seeing in the LCD was very flat and lifeless.  Having a good histogram usually meant that I could pull the detail out that I had seen at the time, and that was what I was hoping for.

Cautious Anticipation
One of the things that this field wasn't lacking was cow manure.  The other thing was a stony base.  I took advantage of the latter with several compositions for foreground interest.  This one here seemed to work well with the Blue Ridge Parkway in the distance.  Of course, it was the sky that drew me to the image in the first place.  I loved the soft pastels in the sky, but I was needing a little more help with the exposure.  I swapped in a 3-Stop soft edge filter to give a little more of a boost to the foreground which was in the shadows from the ridge.  The exposure looked good according to the histogram so I clicked and moved on.

After I was done here, it was time to move on down the road as the sky was getting awash with clouds.  I decided that my track would continue South towards Price Lake.  As I was getting close to it I saw one of my favorite trees in a field and decided that I wanted to see if I could do anything with it.  It looked gorgeous with the yellow wildflowers growing all around it.  The sky, on the other hand, was just not very interesting.  I was going to have to wait to see if the sky changed any for me.

Roadside Wildflowers
Fortunately, looking South the sky had a fair amount of interest in it.  There were also some wildflowers growing alongside the fence which was just perfect for my needs.  I went ahead and grabbed my 16-35mm lens along with a Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer to add a bit of pop to the sky.  I started walking the fence line until I found a composition that I thought would work out.  The trick is always to find a section of the fence that has a little bit of visual interest to it.  This section here had a nice diagonal element as the slats had fallen.  There was also a section leaning up on the post and the next section of slats were broken.  In short, there was a lot of visual interest here, and it was close to the tree for a balancing element.

Springtime Mood
The sky to my rear was looking rather interesting now, so I swapped to the other side of the tree, and found a good position on the hill.  The sun was ahead and to my right, so I had to use my hat to block the front element from the sun to keep the glare from reducing the contrast of the image.  The wide angle lens was working out very well for these pictures, and it allowed me to capture much of the sky above along with the interesting cloud formations.  The issue with the tree that I had stopped to photograph was that it was so far off in the distance that I was going to be forced to use my telezoom lens which would reduce the included sky to just what was at the horizon...which was very BLAH!

Time to Mend
I wasn't worried at all about the one tree though.  Not only had I shot it many times now, I was having fun with this section of fence with the wildflowers.  The wide angle lens was really making the images dynamic which was why I was forcing myself to shoot with that lens today.  I found another section of the fence that was in need of repair (hey, a perfect fence is boring).  As an added benefit, the clouds were absolutely awesome above this particular section.  There was also a nice bunch of yellow flowers to play with as well.

Pondering Spring
As I was finishing up with the fence and wildflowers, I crossed the road again and started to look for compositions on a blooming tree by the famous red barn.  I tried some from the road and some in close.  I did switch over to my 70-200mm with no filters attached.  No matter what I tried, I couldn't seem to get the elements that I was wanting.  It wasn't until I got in close and started to do some isolations that I started to see promise to this tree.  The composition that I settled on was one where the trunk just made a guest appearance at the bottom as it hooked around to a curved section of blooms.  It was almost like a question mark in the frame.  That was the one that made sense to me and captured the elements that I was hoping for.

From here, I took the long lens over and started to work on the lone tree under some clouds that were starting to get a little definition to them.  There were also a few other trees that I wanted to photograph as well in the same field.  The problem was, the definition in the sky was just too subtle to really make an interesting picture.  The trees looked great as did the wildflowers, but the image was really let down with the lackluster sky.  I opted not to include any of those images in this final cut.

Skeletal Trilogy
I eventually gave up on getting the trees as the clouds were getting worse, not better.  I continued on to Price Lake and found nothing of interest there so I turned around.  I passed by all of the typical overlooks and saw nothing at all of any interest thanks to the bland sky above.  I was actually starting to think that the day was pretty much over at this point.  My Norther journey continued though until I got to the Mt Jefferson Overlook.  There was a fence and a gate that I love working with and I figured that I would give it a try even though the sky wasn't really looking all that great.

I worked my way up and down the Parkway at this section looking for compositions that worked with the sky.  I tried the gate, I tried another gate across the street, and I tried the three dead trees in the field.  Nothing was really working out for me as the sky was just lacking definition.  As I was getting ready to call it quits, I noticed there was a section of clouds moving overhead that were about to be in position above the three dead trees.  I've photographed these guys enough to know that my favorite composition is a panorama.  I went ahead and switched out my wide angle lens for my 70-200mm and got the tripod set up and leveled.  I did a sweep of the intended composition and decided to add a 2-Stop hard edge ND grad on the end of the lens.

The image only took six frames to get enough information for the composition that I had in mind.  I only did one take of this because the clouds were changing quickly at this point and I wanted to get some of the gate a little further up the road.  I went back to the wide angle lens and left the filters off for the remainder of this section.

Clamshell Clouds
When shooting landscapes, I am always looking for interesting patterns in the clouds.  With this one, I found a radiating quality reminiscent of a clamshell.  I got into position so that I could capture that right above the red gate that I was looking to photograph.  It wasn't perfect, but the sky was finally starting to work with me.  I started to move around and look for other compositions that would take advantage of the clouds as they were moving around in the sky.

Blue Ridge Barrier
I kept having to remind myself to rack the lens out since I am so accustomed to shooting far to close to 50mm.  I enjoyed getting in close and going for the 16mm focal length to really get a different perspective from what I normally get.  The tradeoff is that the distant mountains are much smaller in comparison, but I figured that this was a fair tradeoff for the amount of sky that was included.  I really had a lot of fun with this lens today.  It has been much too long since I've been able to do grand landscapes.

Holding the Line
As the sky went bland again, I headed North, planning on getting to Doughton Park.  As I was driving I happened to see an nice view over my right shoulder around mile marker 266.  I thought about it for about a mile and decided that I would turn around and see what had caught my eye.  When I got back to the location, I could see a simple barbed wire fence with a nice long view of the mountains in the distance. The clouds were also looking pretty good here as well.  It was worth stopping to see what I could come up with.

I went ahead and got the camera ready with the 16-35mm lens.  I skipped any filters since it was so cloudy and there was a bit of a breeze.  I was figuring that I needed as much light through the lens as possible so I could freeze the grass blowing in the wind.  It honestly took me a while to settle on a scene that I really liked.  Everything seemed to just plain and boring which wasn't really capturing what I was seeing.  

Ethereal Infinity
The section that I settled on was over in the corner which I had not seen originally.  This had an opened section with a nice post and a diagonal kicker to help give it visual weight.  This was the section that I spent the most time on.  It didn't necessarily capture the distant mountains like I was wanting to, but I think that this really highlighted the awesome sky much better.  It was a more dramatic image focusing on the fence rather than the mountains in the distance.

The clouds were constantly changing, but one thing was clear, they were getting heavier.  I could see that the altitude was dropping and that meant that rain was probably on the way soon.  It was getting a little late in the day as well, so I opted to pack it up and and head home.  Well, with a stop along the way.

I had been contacted by Hampton House Gallery last week about two of my images.  They had a commercial client that was interested in two of my coastal images.  I had prepared the images for the gallery and had to go by and pick up the payment on the way home.  That might have been the highlight of the day since this is my first brokered sale to a commercial client through a gallery.  I'm not going to lie, it was a pretty great experience!

All in all, the day went well.  It was a long day, but I'm used to those when I am shooting in the mountains.  I know it is going to be a lot of driving and a lot of time away from home.  It makes it feel much more worth it when I can come back with 13 new images to add to my collection though.  Now the hard part...where to put them in the gallery, and which ones need to go in?