The Weatherman Strikes Again

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The weekend was shaping up to be a great one to get some photography in according to the forecast.  Saturday, was supposed to be mostly sunny in the morning with increasing clouds until lunch time with the possibility of a storm in the afternoon.  That would have given me great clouds to work with through the day at Stone Mountain.  Alas, when I woke up Saturday morning, there were no clouds on the radar map, and it was looking like the heavier clouds expected later in the day were a no show either.  I rolled back over and went back to sleep to try and get rid of my headache.

Sunday, was looking more promising through the day on Saturday with 95% cloud coverage all day long, and a chance of a strong storm around lunch time.  Taking into account my luck with the forecasts, I was expecting significantly less cloud cover over Stone Mountain.  It was that storm that I was looking forward to though.  I got up at 5am, and checked to see if Sierra wanted to go with me.  She sat up, looked like a zombie, and shrugged her shoulders at me before laying back down.  I took that as a sign that she wasn't ready to get up yet.

I was on the road by 6am, and at the park by 7am.  The sky was mostly clear...far from the 95% cloud coverage I was expecting, but better than Saturday's sky.  With the clouds being very sparse, I opted to take the time to get up to the tops of some of the trails in hopes that the clouds would develop.  The hike up was nice with a cool breeze in place, and the lighting was decent in the woods on the back side of the mountain.

As I got near Wolf Rock, I noticed a tree just off trail that kind of caught my eye with how the light was hitting it.  I figured I would give it a little bit of attention to see what I could do with it.  I used my 70-200mm telephoto with an intensifying polarizer attached.  I framed up a few compositions, but it was this first one that made the final cut.  It is a little busy overall, but there was still something that grabbed my attention in this picture.  There is a wizard-like feeling to this, a magical quality to the tree.  I just can't explain it, but I'm thinking that Toni might like this one.

From there, it was onto Wolf Rock.  I spent about an hour out there trying to make use of the clouds in the sky.  It wasn't easy, that's for sure.  There was only one section of sky where the clouds were even the smallest bit interesting.  I tried many different compositions, and used both my telephoto lens, as well as my 24-70mm to try and capture something that would work.  I wasn't really feeling that great about any of the ones I shot out on the rock, and when I was going through editing them, I decided that my gut was right.  I trashed every one of the ones I shot from Wolf Rock!

Rolling Off
I decided to cut my losses and I moved on towards Cedar Rock.  I did notice that the clouds were finally starting to come in on this side of the mountain, and that gave me something to work with.  I found my favorite view of Stone Mountain, but the sun was too bright in that direction, and made too much contrast.  I back up and looked at the sky to see what direction I could shoot in.  I found my direction, and then had to find something to put under the sky.  That came in the form of a small patch of grass with a sapling in the middle of it.  It had a view stretching off into the mountains.  It would work for me.  

I went ahead and fitted my 24-70mm lens, and used a polarizer to help with the saturation and contrast.  I got in close to exaggerate the foreground, and shot a few frames before the clouds cast a shadow on that foreground.  The positive here was that the clouds were moving toward the bald that I was wanting to capture.  I went ahead and moved back around the tree line to get set up for the shot that I was expecting to develop shortly.

I went ahead and fitted my 16-35mm lens, and chose to add the Lee Filter holder which mounted a 3-Stop ND Grad filter.  I found the composition that I wanted, and saw that the clouds were approaching Stone Mountain, but weren't quite there yet.  I fired off a few frames as the clouds moved in case I lost the clouds all of a sudden which has happened many times before.  As I was watching above, there was blue sky that was coming in behind the clouds, so I was going to have to time this just right to make it work.

Mountains Cry
I pondered the cloud situation, and thought that if the clouds cleared over the sun, I would get a good bit of foreground lighting, and possibly a little light on the bald in the distance.  That was what I was going to wait for to bring a little drama to the picture.  As the shadows started to dance across the frame, I could see that the water runoff from the top of Stone Mountain was glaring pretty bad, and making very noticeable lines down the rock.  I remember thinking to myself that it looked like the mountain was crying.  Well, the name stuck, and I found the frame that highlighted that very concept to share here with you.  Just minutes later, the clouds cleared, and I was left with nothing but a blue sky above.

I guess I was thankful that I had the few minutes of good sky while I did.  I decided to pack it up and head back to the trail.  I initially went down the Blackjack Ridge trail, but decided that there wasn't anything that way that I needed to photograph.  I turned around and went back to Wolf Rock for one last attempt before leaving.  When I got there, there were a handful of people gathered around one of the banks of trees.  I tried to find something to photograph while they were taking a good bit of foreground interest.

Self Doubt
What I found was a little sapling that was just starting to take on a green color.  It was out in the middle of the bald with not much interesting around it.  I decided to get an angle that would showcase the only real bit of interesting sky, and it also got a distant bald on the opposing ridge.  The composition came off as a little sad and isolated to me.  It looked like a small tree that really can't fend for itself left to its own devices.  The view it has is of the lush greens of the distant mountains, knowing it will never join those ranks.  Despite this doubt, the tree continues to grow in a very harsh environment.  I'm hoping that this will be a story of success and strength, but only time will tell what happens to this sapling.

I was still having issues finding compositions, and now there was another family which had arrived on Wolf Rock.  I retreated to the back corner where I found an old tree I've photographed several times.  I decided to do it a little differently this time though.  I had always gone wide with this tree, but was unable to make that happen with the people.  That forced me to use my 70-200mm to keep the background a little more condensed.  I found that this really opened up the possibilities for this little gem.

Solid Resolve
I began to shoot intimates of this old tree.  I omitted the pom poms that I usually capture and chose to focus on the textures of the trunk instead.  I waited for the sun to be a little selective in the lighting so that I could really isolate the tree from the background.  With a little help dodging and burning, I was able to make the tree stand out just like I envisioned it.  However, looking at the scene, I was seeing another composition within this frame, so I decided to flip the camera and recompose it as a portrait shot.

A Heavy Burden
Even though the subject is the same, there is a very different feel between these two images.  I waited for the light to do similar things to isolate it from the background as I did with the other.  For the first time, I really noticed that the tree appeared to be straining from the weight above.  The way that the picture is composed, it looks as if the tree is about to collapse.  This isn't the case as the tree has been here in this form since my first time venturing out onto Wolf Rock around 2006.

As it turns out, the two pictures of this tree might be my favorite captures from the day.  I had really looked for opportunities for grand landscapes, and even panoramas today.  Those just didn't materialize for me, and the intimate pictures seemed to capture the right mood for the day.  I was feeling much better about how the day was progressing at this point, and with all of the families now gone, I was feeling more like photographing those grand vistas once again.

As it turns out, while I was waiting on everybody to leave, the clouds kind of followed suite as well.  I had one more area of interesting clouds above, and chose to take advantage of them.  I switched back to my 24-70mm and added a polarizer before framing the best shot I could to take advantage of the wisps of clouds directly above me.  It would be my last shot of the day.  I hiked back to the parking lot expecting there to be more clouds coming in.  The clouds did not appear, but there were lots of people coming onto the trails.  it was time to get gone for sure.

As I started to exit the park, I could see where the clouds were.  They were all on the other side of the mountain, and there was one bit that was interesting.  Alas, I was not in a position to take advantage of it.  I was now homeward bound.  The trek had yielded just over 100 frames shot, but I knew I would be nowhere near my 10% hit rate.  The lighting was just not that favorable today.  I still enjoyed the day, and it was nice to be all alone in the mountains for a bit.  Looking back at the images, and the titles that I chose, it was probably a much needed trip to get my mind cleared of the stresses of life.  I'm still looking forward to my next trek that has that outstanding lighting that I have so much fun with.

Edit: May 29, 2017

I've decided to go back and try a couple of black and white conversions again.  I wasn't overly happy with how they were coming out yesterday.  I guess I needed a break from things and the ability to come back with a fresh eye.

Solid Resolve
This one that I actually saw in black and white at the time of capture, and shot it accordingly.  I'm still more of a fan of the color version, but the idea held through with the conversion after adding a good deal of contrast to the scene.  I wanted a very dark image with a lot of visual tension to it.  I think I managed to capture that with this one.  It is definitely a "mood piece".

Mountains Cry
With this one, I just did a quick conversion to see how I would like it.  I hadn't messed with it yesterday since I was a fan of the colors.  However, when I saw the conversion, I could see an entirely different mood develop.  I added in a little bit contrast to make the tones pop, and I have a version that I actually like better than the original interpretation.

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