What do I do when Toni goes to work, and Sierra is at a friend's house for the evening? I go Trekking, of course! I went out more out of convenience than for weather conditions for once. Its rare that I get the opportunity to go out for a late afternoon/evening Trek so I had to jump on this one. The question was....where to go? Looking at the weather, it was pretty much the same across NC, partly cloudy skies with a chance of a thunderstorm toward the evening. Looking at the hourly forecasts for the mountains I saw a slight chance of getting the right mix of clouds to do another waterfall or two. If that didn't pan out, I was thinking I had enough cloud cover to do some grand landscapes instead. In order to keep both of those options open until the last minute, I opted to head out to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and aim toward the section near the Pisgah National Forest.
I left in the early afternoon which would put me on the Parkway with plenty of time to decide whether I would be shooting waterfalls or landscapes. As I drove down the highway I was watching the sky. The clouds seemed to all be behind me, with very little up ahead. Oh well, I still had some distance to cover, hopefully the clouds would meet me up there. As I made my way through Wilkesboro the clouds were starting to build up a little bit and I started to get excited. The clouds were not all that puffy, just large. I was starting to think that I would get my waterfall shoot in after all. I made the final decision to turn South from US 421 which had several waterfalls to choose from. The grand landscapes weren't all that great in this section, but I would have some to play with if the clouds changed up.
By the time I got to the Linn Cove Viaduct, I was doubting that the clouds would let me work with waterfalls, and strangely enough, even though the clouds looked great in the sky, the overall lighting quality was not all that great. I couldn't quite put my hand on it, but things that should look good right now, weren't. As I drove across the Viaduct, I saw a section of the mountains with another bridge span that I wanted to photograph. I wasn't able to get out on the Viaduct, but I knew that there was a trail that snaked along underneath of it that I had been on before. I decided to give that trail a quick hike to see what vantage points it offered.
|A Tangled Web|
|Keeping a Tight Grip|
After I spent some time in the shadows of the Linn Cove Viaduct trail, I decided it was time to move on down the road and see if I could get something more along the lines of what I was after when I came out to the Parkway earlier. When I got back to the truck, I noticed that the clouds were still clearing up and the sky was getting bluer and bluer. I was no longer holding out any hope for waterfalls. I decided to carry on in that direction anyway in order to try and work some areas that I haven't spent much time in before. As I drove, I realized why I hadn't worked that area much over the years...
I was quickly realizing that there were no good vantage points to see the distant mountains in this section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The drive was pretty, and I was enjoying the fresh air, but I wanted to see some wide open vistas with what was left of the clouds above it. Apparently that was too tall of an order because I saw nothing like that at all. I did decide to pull into the Lost Cove Cliffs overlook because I could see a good ways in the distance. I was a little disappointed in what I saw there. There was not much of an overlook at all, but there were a couple of elements that I did find interesting. First, there was a field of Golden Rods which caught my eye, and a single tree off to the side that was equally as interesting. I almost passed it up, but I could hear Toni telling me to get out and give it a try.
|Shimmer of Gold|
|Field of Gold|
When I had exhausted my compositions in the field, I went back to work with the tree that was standing on the side of the field all alone. One thing that Toni has taught me in photography is that trees make some excellent subjects no matter if they are alive, dead, full of leaves, or completely bare. When I see an interesting tree, I always stop and give it a second or third look to see if I can do it justice with the camera.
While setting up the shot, I realized another problem with this angle....my clouds were almost all gone from this part of the sky. I wasn't going to be able to shoot the composition I was aiming for, but instead decided to get in a little closer to put the spotlight on the trunk and use the leaves to fill the upper portion of the frame with color that would balance to the ground. You can still see bits of that brilliant blue in the sky above, but the vast majority of the visual weight in this image belongs to the tree and that was exactly what I was hoping for. After being at this sight for about 30 minutes, it was time to move on and try to find something different.
The sky still had a good deal of interest in it, but the quality of light was hit and miss depending on what direction I was wanting to shoot from. As I drove, nothing really jumped out at me, and I made the decision that when I was wanting to do grand landscapes it was probably best to avoid this section. It is rich with other things, but grand views are really lacking.
It was starting to get a little late and I figured that I had better start looking for a sunset location, or something that would benefit from a low sun to the West. I abandoned my Southerly direction and turned around to head back where I came from. I didn't really have a destination in mind, but had thought about working Price Lake a little bit with my 10-Stop ND Filter. As it turned out, I didn't pass anything at all of interest before I got to Price Lake. Well, I guess I'll just go ahead and get out and see what I can see.
I did a quick hike around the lake because I knew of an old stump that was sticking out of the water. I found it, but the lighting was all wrong with it. the stump was in the deep shadows, and there wasn't much behind it that was interesting. I gave up on that pretty quick knowing that the light was fading fast. I found a bench next to a pretty cool tree that I spent a little time photographing, but never found a composition that I liked. I was keeping an eye on the sky, and found that the clouds were moving back in, and even better, it appeared as though they were getting bathed in a nice golden light from the setting sun. I sped up my retreat from the trail and worked my way back to the actual lake.
When I got to the parking area and boat launch, I could see that the clouds over the lake were starting to light up very nicely, and the far coastline was also getting a nice share of the warm light. I wasn't sure where I could set up to photograph this the best, but I decided to get down to the water level and search out something that I could use as a foreground interest. Oddly enough, I had parked next to a staircase, and I was looking for a way down so I took it. Once at the water level, I found a large rock with some grasses growing beside of it. I figured that this would be as good as anything else. I set the camera up, and left the 24-70mm lens attached, but added my filter holder and got out a selection of ND Grads to take advantage of the reflection in the water.
After several exposures I could see a lot of potential in this location, but the composition wasn't working for me. I wasn't quite sure what it was, but decided that I needed the perspective from my 16-35mm lens to make this work. I swapped the lens out, and kept the filter system in place at the front. I was using multiple combinations of filters to balance the exposure of the rock, reflection, and sky in order to get a properly exposed image.
|On Golden Pond|
This is the second time that I was able to stay up on the Blue Ridge Parkway for a sunset where that last composition of the day turned out to be my favorite from the whole Trek. Even more interesting, neither of these sunset images I am talking about were planned. In both cases, they were just the locations that I was close to, and I lucked up reading the sky, and finding a location that worked for the landscape.
Now, I just have to decide which of these new images will make the cut and end up in my Landscapes Room.