More Leaf Peaking on the BRP

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Crimson Skies
Another weekend, another trek to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The Fall colors are slowly creeping into the mountains after a late start.  My goal was to get out and find a lot of color to photograph this morning since this was supposed to be peak weekend according to the forecast not that long ago.  The weather was supposed to be pretty good for my needs as well, so I had high hopes.  I chose to start out around MP 276 and grab the sunrise from EB Jeffress Park, and continue North.  When I got there, I saw that the moon was full, and tucked in behind the clouds in a way that made me forget about sunrise.  I started to chase the moon South until I found a great place to shoot it at Raven Rock.

The problem was, by the time I chased it down, it was too low on the horizon, and had lost the impact I was wanting.  Well, I was now about 10 miles away from where I was thinking about being for sunrise, so I moved on down to Thunder Hill since I know that there are several good options out there for different weather conditions.  It was also pretty close by which was a bonus.

I arrived about 45 minutes before sunrise, and found myself sharing the parking lot with about 3 other cars.  By the time I was done, the parking area was completely full!  I set up the camera with the 24-70mm lens since I was seeing some color already in the sky, and wanted to get a nice large field of view.  I went ahead and screwed on my Lee Filter System so that I could use my 4x6" filters when the time came.  I found my composition, away from the other photographers, and waited for the light to happen.

Fairly quickly, I realized that I was going to need a reverse grad filter to control the sky, which I slid into the filter holder.  It worked great, but with the moisture in the sky, I found that it kept getting covered in dew.  That meant that after about every exposure, I had to pull it off and wipe it down with a lens cloth.  It was like being at the beach on a humid morning!  I continued shooting the sunrise as the sun came up, but before long the colors started to wash out of the sky, and I lost my interest.

Funny thing was, there were now about a dozen or more photographers still going at it while the sky was getting blown out.  Now was the time for my secret for this overlook.  The best view is actually across the street, and up a little hill.  The clouds were right for this one, and I just had to wait for the sun to finish coming up.

Blue Ridge Autumn
Funny thing about this location this morning.  While everyone was still working the sunrise on the other side of the road, I actually joined another photographer at the fence line while I was working on this image.  She wasn't concentrating on the landscape though, she was shooting a portrait for a friend.  She had the big flash umbrellas and everything out there.  I wasn't quite sure what to think about this, but we both were able to work our ideas out without getting in each other's way.  I'm not sure what she got, but I'm quite happy with the alpenglow that I captured as the sun came up behind me.

When I decided to call it a morning, I looked around and there was nobody left at the overlook.  The portrait photographer had left just a few minutes before, leaving me all alone.  This was a much more relaxing environment for me, but the light was all gone at this point.  It was time to move on to the next overlook and find some great scenics.

Well, all that moisture in the air caught up with me.  The clouds were now enveloping the Parkway, and nothing was looking good to me at that point.  In fact, it was very much overcast above, with a haze at ground level.  This lighting is best used for intimate landscapes, deep in the woods.  Well, I was close to EB Jeffress Park, so I continued back up that way.  I stopped for a moment at the historic cabin and fired off a few frames, but the lighting was not near good enough to make this a satisfactory image.  I packed it in, and continued up to the main portion of the park.  I was hoping to take advantage of the clouds and get a quick waterfall image for the morning at the Cascades.

I was very fortunate that I was all alone on the trail since the viewing platforms are quite small.  I made it to the bottom platform which provided the best view of the cascading waterfall.  Once upon a time, I could go off trail and get a more full view, but over the years, they have blocked that access, and it has grown over.  Not wanting to fall down the slope, I opted to stay on the observation deck.  I fitted my 70-200mm lens with a polarizer so that I could isolate portions of the waterfall, instead of trying to get a large view of it.  This worked out great, and I managed to get several intimate views of this waterfall.  In about 20 minutes I was done, and hiking back to the truck.

I continued North, but found very little that caught my eye.  The weather was starting to clear, but the color on the trees was not all that great.  I was hoping for something a little better when I got to Doughton Park since it was a little higher up than the areas I was in today.  When I arrived, there was a music festival going on, and they were directing traffic into the park.  I almost decided against turning in for fear that there would be a lot of people in the park.  I'm glad I opted to go in though....I was just about alone in the actual park area.

Winding Road
I was greeted by some pretty nice color inside of the park.  Some of the trees were so vivid, I was forced to set my camera up in the middle of the road and capture a few views.  I didn't have much time to set up since it seemed that every time I started to set my focus, a car would drive by, forcing me to pick everything up and move from the road.  I finally timed it just right to get this shot which was very happy with since I managed to capture one of the puffy clouds above.

Meadow in Full Color
While everything had not changed in the park, there were some prominent trees which were showing a great deal of color.  I chose to work with these trees for a while.  Using my 70-200mm lens with a color intensifying polarizer, I started to pick out some views that put the trees in the best light.  Occasionally, I had to include things like picnic benches, but at least I was able to make it harmonize with the other elements in the park.  This is always one of my favorite stops on the Parkway, and Toni and I have some very special memories here.

Doughton in the Fall
My favorite image from the park is here.  The lone red tree under the deep blue sky really set the tone that I was wanting for the day.  I didn't get a lot of images that fit this description, but I did get this one, and that makes me happy.  There is just something fun about Fall photography.  I just really need to get better at picking my locations since the color is only there for a short time.  I always seem to miss the peak of the season for one reason or another.  This year is getting going kind of late, but at least I am making it out to the mountains rather regularly to try and capture the color when it appears.

After Doughton, I was running out of usable light.  It was high noon, and the light was too contrasty for my tastes.  I could have stuck around and killed time till later in the evening when the light started to improve again, but there was no guarantee that I would have good conditions.  So, in order to make the most out of my day, I decided to pack it in, and head home...with one more stop.

An Old Chevy
For years now, I have been riding past this old Chevy truck near the house.  I've wanted to photograph it several times, but never really had the right day for it.  The clouds were still pretty decent close to home, and by the time I got there, the light was a little softer than it had been in the mountains.  I decided to give it a try.  It was simple enough to photograph because most of my options were eliminated due to extraneous clutter on either side.  The sun was in exactly the right position for this truck though, so it was worth a few shutter clicks.  I used my 70-200mm lens again to isolate the truck, and added a polarizer to deepen the blue sky and remove the glare from the windshield.  The formula worked out pretty well, and I was rewarded with a couple of pretty good images.

Long Forgotten
I'm not sure which of these compositions I like better.  I like the up close and personal view of the landscape composition, and you can better make out the purple flower growing beneath the hood, but the portrait version has a better balance I think with the blue sky above.  Either way, I'm happy that I took a few minutes to grab a couple of shots of this truck.

By the time I rolled in the garage, I had a total of 132 frames on the camera.  Most of those were me repeating shots waiting for the light conditions to change.  Because so much of the images were repeats, I don't feel bad at all that only eight of them were deemed keepers.  For a half day worth of shooting, that was pretty good.

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