It seems that I am always chasing clouds when it comes to my landscape photography. Either I need the diffused light while working with intimate subjects or I am wanting the dramatic sky above a grand landscape. What can I say, blue skies are boring for the most part.
I had been watching the weather for several days and keeping track of where the clouds would be. It seemed that my best chance for some dramatic skies would be in the area of Roaring Gap on Thursday. There was a chance of a severe thunder storm early in the morning followed by around 50% cloud cover after that. This is usually when the best skies happen, but the tradeoff is that I tend to risk getting rained on so watching the developing weather is very important to me. The recipe was something like this. From 8-9am there was a good chance of storms, followed by partial clearing (this is the best time to photograph clouds) until around noon when things would finish clearing up. Stone Mountain State Park opened up at 8am, so I figured that I would plan on getting there around 8:30 or so in order to make sure I didn't miss my window.
I checked the weather again when I got up and the forecast was pretty much the same as it had been, only with a little less cloud cover than I was hoping for. There had been some rain recently, and the storm was still forecasted. I went ahead and made the decision to give it a try and hopefully reap the benefits of the passing storm. As I was driving out to the park I noticed that the sky was mostly blank white which was not good for what I was hoping for. I was starting to think about diverting and working on some waterfall photography instead, but that would have been about an hour further down the road and from what I remembered they weren't having the same cloud cover. I pressed on to my destination.
It was almost like an exercise in perfect timing when I arrived at the park. The clouds were starting to get dense and there was a lot of definition in them now. This was what I wanted, but there was no rain at 8:30 which meant that we had either missed it, or it was late. I pulled out my phone to check the hourly so I didn't get caught out in a downpour. Just my luck...no service at all. I couldn't check the weather, and nothing had updated since I left the house an hour and a half ago. I looked up, smelled outside and decided that it appeared that the rain had passed by. Just in case, I had a poncho in my camera bag, so if I did get caught in a storm, I could at least stay dry.
I still put the camera together quickly and started working on compositions. For what I was after, I knew that my wide angle lens would be the glass of choice. My 16-35mm allowed me to emphasize the foreground while including a good bit of the sky above. It is my grand landscape lens and it does remarkably well with almost a 180* field of view. I went ahead and fit my Lee System filter holder on the front and skipped the polarizer (not a great choice with wide angle). I was planning on putting my ND grads to good use today to bring in the exposure of the sky, balancing it with the foreground.
|Island of Resolve|
I spent about an hour on Wolf Rock finding things that interested me, that I could place under the clouds. There were quite a few things there that I had not had the opportunity to shoot before, and several objects that I have photographed several times before. I always enjoy working the trees, but this time I found myself gravitating towards lots of moss and small vegetation which stayed well below the horizon. When the sky is good, that really is all you need above the horizon.
Not wanting to forfeit any other locations, I decided to pack things up and leave Wolf Rock having shot what I felt was the best compositions available. I continued on the trail to Cedar Rock and found another bald which I had worked before. This one has a stellar view of Stone Mountain itself, but unfortunately the sky wasn't cooperating with me for this shot. The sky was much too blown out on top of the mountain, and there was no sunlight on the bald to give it a splash of color. I wasn't happy about it, but I decided to abandon any pictures from this location and continued down the trail to another bald. This one was slightly off trail and I hadn't been here before. The sky was still good here, but there was very little for me to use as foreground interest.
The clouds were clearing and things were starting to change. It was getting closer to noon than I was really comfortable with. Landscapes rarely benefit from direct overhead light. I packed things up and started toward the truck. The hike was mostly downhill at this point which was quite nice. After hiking uphill to start with and jockeying position on some rather steep slopes it was very nice to have an easy time walking again. even though the sun was out, and it was approaching noon, I kept my eyes out for any other potential subjects that I could shoot. It might not be the best of conditions, but I was already here and I had my camera right?
|Stairway to Bliss|
I pulled out the camera, and swapped in my more reserved 24-70mm lens and fitted an intensifying polarizer to the front before mounting it to the tripod. I started to work on several different compositions from close up to further away. I found that in order to keep the stairs behind the bridge in appropriate scale, I preferred getting into the telezoom range of the lens at about 65mm. With this, I was able to frame the bridge between two trees, and even include a third as a foreground element. The bridge led right into the stairs on the other end, and the sun was highlighting just perfectly. Usually, I wouldn't care for the heavy shadows that the sun was causing, but for this particular subject it just worked!
When I got home and showed the picture to Toni she liked it immediately and I knew that I had finally captured one of her bridges that she has wanted me to do for so long now. I was excited to process it, and was very happy to determine that other than a little fine tuning in white balance, there was nothing else that this picture needed. The contrast was perfect, the saturation levels were spot on, and everything just fit, it needed nothing.....except.....well.....
|Stairway to Bliss|
Yeah, I count that as a win! I'm always tickled when I can create a picture that Toni really loves. Its safe to say that will cement a place in the Monochrome Room here in the gallery for all to enjoy.