I'm not sure if I will be able to get to the mountains during peak leaf time this year. I have mandatory obligations for work during that weekend, and the other weekends in October are starting to come into question. That means that I have to take the opportunities as they come to get out and see the leaves. This weekend was not looking overly promising with the cloud cover, but Saturday won out by a small fraction, and I saw that there was the added possibility of fog around the Boone area.
Since I had been to Graveyard Fields last weekend and found a plethora of changing trees, I thought that the time would be right to hit Rough Ridge and Grandfather Mountain. I could easily work that into the schedule starting with the Boone section for some early morning, moody shots in the fog. The sunrise potential for the weather was pretty bleak, so I wasn't really worried about capturing bright colors in the sky. I did want to get out there in time for sunrise, just in case though.
I set out at about 4am destined for Rough Ridge, but was hoping to find something foggy to shoot prior to getting there. I didn't really pay that much attention to the sky on the drive to the mountains because I knew that there would be few, if any clouds. I did notice that there was not a lick of fog anywhere. I checked on the first two overlooks I came to in order to see what was in the valley. It appeared to be clear throughout. I wasn't going to let myself be dissuaded by the weather, and pledged to myself that I would shoot the conditions as they presented themselves.
|Two as One|
I had thought about this composition a time or two before so I already knew that I was going to be using my 16-35mm lens positioned right at the fence. I didn't use any filters as I was perfectly happy with the ground registering as a black silhouette as the trees would be. I wanted to get any color in the clouds that was possible beyond what the naked eye could see. I was also hoping for some stars, which meant that my exposures would have to be pretty close to 30 seconds or less to keep them from streaking too much.
When I got the shot framed and started to set the exposure, I was way off on my shutter speed even though I was shooting at f/8. I ended up boosting the ISO to 1000 in order to achieve a 40 second exposure which would suffice for my needs. I fired the shutter and waited for the outcome. After 40 seconds, the LCD lit up with an image that had the trees, stars, and even peach colored clouds streaking behind the trees. I could see that there were some different tones in the sky that I was looking forward to playing with.
I stayed with this composition for a while hoping for a decent sunrise behind the trees. That sunrise never came, and the increased lighting behind the trees progressively made the image more and more boring. It was my third image of the morning that developed into my keeper from the set.
|Low Clouds Passing|
There wasn't going to be a good way to use a grad here, so I opted to shoot this one as an HDR image. I bracketed four shots, a full stop apart from each other to give me 3 full stops of latitude in the final image. I had no idea how this was going to turn out since there was no preview button for the HDR, I just knew that I had four individual frames that were never going to work on their own.
After I got home and started to process the images, I merged the four shots together and started to process it. The end result was one that I really like! There is a great tonal range throughout the image and it is clean with no sensor noise at all. I'm really starting to appreciate the power of the HDR images.
|Pasture at Dawn|
After I shot that scene, I moved over to where the clouds were set in the sky. Unfortunately, I was unable to get the landscape beneath the clouds to make any sense. After about 15 minutes of trying different compositions, I decided to pack up the camera and move on to Rough Ridge in hopes of getting some Fall color at the higher elevations.
Well, as I was driving along I started to see some fog in the air, which got me excited about Rough Ridge. I still wasn't seeing much in the way of color, but I was up here, so I wanted to continue on and see what I could see. By the time I got to Cone Manor, the fog was gone, and the sky was noticeably void of clouds. My optimism was fading quickly and I was about to just turn home.
Then I came across Price Lake...
I started out with my 24-70mm lens which I added a 3-Stop grad filter to in order to keep the sky under control. I started out using the rocks as a foreground and photographing the distant shore and mountain range. These pictures were fair, but they were lacking punch to the composition. I tried all sorts of compositions to varying levels of satisfaction. The sun was getting brighter and I was thinking that I would just pack it in.
I went back down to the water and started to look for compositions. The rock right at the shoreline was still capturing my attention, and there was a nice reflection of a cloud near it. The water was also still once again. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with this, but I decided to shoot an abstract of the rock and the cloud. I applied just enough polarization to make the composition interesting and shot a single frame.
|Breaching the Surface|
I had my long lens on, and that gave me some powerful options to work with. I started to look for the interest on the distant shore. There were a few places, but nothing screamed out composition to me. Then it hit me...this was going to make for a great panorama. I set the camera up quickly to be perfectly level. I flipped it on its side and worked out the proper exposure over the length of what I was going to capture. I then shot a 10 frame panorama.
|The Water's Edge|
I found myself thinking about the photographer I had spoken with when i first got here. She was packed up and gone by the time I got the camera turned on. She had said that the good light was over, and that I had missed it. I had now been here for about an hour and begged to differ with that. There was a lot of great light here, and many moods to pick from. I was very happy that I stopped when I did, and looking back on my sunrise shots from the pasture, I don't think I really missed anything, and might have gotten some better views along the way.
After I shot that tree, I decided it was time to get to Rough Ridge to see what the leaves were looking like there. It wasn't that far down the road, and when I got there, I could see very little difference in the trees from what I had just seen. With a good many cars in the parking area, and the quality of light diminishing, I decided to call it a day. I turned North once again, and headed back to the highway for home.
I had no idea how many frames I had shot, and really didn't know if any of them would turn out. I had tried things much more different than I was used to this time. I worked out of my comfort zone for many of these pictures. I was just hoping that I would have a handful that were worth keeping. When I got home, I realized that I had shot 98 frames, and of those, I found 12 worth keeping. I can't complain about that at all!