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|
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.
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.
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.
|Time to Mend|
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.
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.
|Blue Ridge Barrier|
|Holding the Line|
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.
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?