A Winter Trek to Stone Mountain

January 28, 2016

A Lonely Bench
This morning started out like most others, I woke up to go to work.  The only difference was I was waking up at 12:30am so I could be at work at 2am.  Yeah, I wasn't too happy about that at all, but as they say...."Duty Calls."  I completed my special assignment, and was done with my work day by 10:30 which left me with a lot of day when I would normally be cooped up in my office.  What to do? What to do?

Well, I had been out several times lately with my camera without any success.  I was really wanting to get some new images added to my gallery, so I kept thinking of places to go.  While working my strange schedule, I was trying to come up with some ideas of places to go, but nothing really popped out at me.  My goal here of late has been to find some old cars to photograph, but I just wasn't feeling like doing that today.  Instead, I was kind of craving the solitude of a hike in the woods.  After a lot of internal debate, I decided that Stone Mountain would be my destination.  If nothing else, I would have my choice of subjects depending on the conditions.  There was everything from waterfalls, to grand landscapes, to intimate landscapes, with a few rustic subjects mixed in for good measure.

After work, I set course to the West and found myself at Stone Mountain before lunch time.  The conditions were perfect for some intimate landscapes, and I was please to see that there was still a lot of snow on the ground.  I quickly decided that my best bet would be to take the low level trails that would lead to the Stone Mountain Falls.  I wasn't interested in photographing the waterfall, but I knew that there should be plenty of subject matter along that trail.

Winter's Failing Grip
My first stop on the trail was the restored homestead just off of the parking lot.  There are several structures there which are interesting to photograph.  The only downfall is they mostly have some sort of display by the front of them.  This gets in the way of photography, and is something that I try to avoid.  I was about to bypass this setting since I had photographed it so much in the past, but as I was crossing the bridge to the trail, I looked back and the view of the main house caught my eye.  I had never shot this with my 70-200mm lens before, and from this distance, that would be a perfect choice.  There was even a good amount of snow at the base of the scene which I had never captured before.  I decided that I should set up and give it a try.  The compositions seemed to come quickly and effectively with my chosen lens.  I found that 100mm was the sweet spot for the composition, and using a CPL filter helped with the contrast of the scene.  I was very happy with the outcome to say the least!

Wooden Embrace
After I got back on the trail, I started to look for some intimate landscapes to shoot.  One of my favorite subjects was along this trail...a tree along the stream with an exposed root system.  I have photographed this many times before, and was looking forward to trying something a little different today.  Unfortunately, the clouds were starting to break up and the sun was shining through.  This was going to make my exposures very difficult with the contrasting light.  Even so, I found my tree and set the camera up using my 16-35mm lens to exaggerate the root system.  I added a CPL filter, but resisted the urge to engage it fully.  Instead, I opted to leave a little bit of the reflection in the water since there was so little water standing.  The hardest part of this shot was waiting until the sun dipped behind some clouds reducing the contrast of the scene.  When it happened, I was ready after several test shots.  Having only a few seconds to work with the good light, I snapped the shot and found that I had nailed the exposure I wanted, and the composition was spot on.  Even the reflection was just right.  Time to pack up and move on.

Mossy Stone
The lighting was getting worse as I got deeper into the park.  I was committed to this route though, and had to stick it out.  I realized that I might just be on a long walk for the fun of it as there was just too much light working through the trees.  Every once in a while I would come across some shaded areas, but rarely was there anything worthwhile in those areas.  At one stream crossing, there were three stones which I had passed by many times before without a second thought.  Today, however, the snow added a dimension to them that gave them a different character.  The fact that they were in the shadows really helped out as well.  I went ahead and set up to see what I could do with them.  I used my 24-70mm lens with an enhancing CPL filter to capture this one.  I chose to shoot vertical to capture the hint of a curve leading out to the trees in the background.  I actually liked the hint of sunlight on the tree trunks as well which help to bring the eyes into the background.

A Slippery Climb
 As I worked my way back to the parking lot the sun started to dip below the horizon of the mountain.  This effectively put my side of the mountain in the shadows.  This worked out great for lighting as everything became nice and diffused.  One stair case that I had gone up originally, now had a certain picturesque quality about it as I came down.  Once at the base, I brought the camera back out and set it up once again as I had on the last location.  While this composition looks very simple, there was a lot of fine tuning that went into how the camera was set up.  I wanted to get the stairs captured all the way to the top, however, the tree to the right tended to cover the top portion.  There was just enough of a void in the leaves to where I could position the upper steps just so, and keep them in the picture.  It took a good bit of fiddling, but I was able to get get it just the way I wanted it, and grab the shot as I had seen it in my head.

A Place to Rest
I was getting close to the truck, but still had to work my way through the old homestead once again.  This time though, the sky was clearing and the clouds provided some nice interest.  The warm light from the low sun, just over the mountain was painting some nice tones on Stone Mountain.  this was going to be my chance to capture the mountain in ways I had not done previously.  Normally, I try to avoid the benches that are set up along the trail, but today, I decided to embrace them.  Using my 24-70mm lens with a regular CPL filter, I was able to capture a composition that included the bench, the sunlit tree, and the distant mountain.  The blue sky with the strands of clouds above completed the scene.  This is probably one of my favorite images I've shot of this mountain.  There is very little that I would change about this one.

Crossing Over
I decided to take the long way back to the truck which took me back into the trails.  I'm glad that I did because I never would have seen several of the bridges along the trail.  As the snow had been melting, it had developed a pattern that resembled teeth along the wooden planks.  When I got to the bridge, the little voice in my head (that sounds like Toni) told me to stop and take a picture of this.  I have to admit, I wasn't sold on the idea, and it took a long time to get the shot set up the way I wanted it.  But, after I found the right location, and found the right focal length on my 24-70mm lens, I decided that Toni was absolutely right about this one.  There was a lot to like about this scene, and it would not have been the same with either more or less snow.  This was "juuuuusssst right."

In fact, I was having so much fun with this bridge, when I came upon the next one, I automatically started looking at it for a composition.  From a distance, it didn't look all that exciting.  However, once I got up close to it, I found something that made this bridge pop.

Behind the Curtain
The runoff from the rocks in the background had been freezing for the last week or so and had created an icy curtain just on the other side of the bridge.  This was the eye candy that the bridge was going to lead to.  Of course, it still had the neat repeating patterns of snow on the wooden planks, but without the icy curtain, there wasn't much to this bridge.  The last one might have taken a long time to compose, but this one felt like it took about twice as long.  I'm not sure what the difficulty was, but I just couldn't find the right perspective for the longest time.  When I did finally decide what elements to include and how to include them, it fell into place quite nicely.  I'm glad that I put that extra effort into making this photograph work.

At the end of the day, I had shot 63 frames in about 5 hours.  I was optimistically expecting to have about six keepers out of that when I was finished editing.  To my surprise, I ended up with eight photographs that I was happy enough with to keep.  After a week of less than stellar conditions for my camera, I was starting to wonder if I was losing my touch.  It was very nice to be able to get out and really concentrate on creating photographs again, and make them work out as well as they did.  I guess in the long run, getting up at 12:30 this morning wasn't a bad thing after all.

No comments:

Post a Comment