Anniversary Trip to Boone

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Each year, Toni and I head to the mountains for our anniversary.  This year was about to be different though.  With some other commitments happening in the same week, we decided to cancel our normal vacation and stay at home.  She kept the week off from work, and I gave back all but Wednesday so that I could spend the day with my bride.  When Tuesday rolled around, Toni mentioned that she had things under control with school, and wanted to go somewhere for the day.  We quickly decided that we would make a day trip to the mountains, more specifically--Boone, NC.

Boone holds a special meaning to the both of us since we were married at the Crystal Wedding Chapel just outside of Boone.  It was a great day, and we have returned in some form or fashion to the mountains each and every year since.  It was a nice treat to be able to go back to where it all started this year.  Of course, being in the mountains after a snow storm would necessitate bringing the camera.  Fortunately, Toni understood, and agreed to either go with me, or let me go out alone in the morning to get some pictures.  This was going to work!

It was going to work until I really looked at the weather.  Nothing but full cloud clover and rain off and on for the day.  Well, I was going to give it a try since I was there.  At least I really enjoy photographing in the clouds.  The rain...not so much though.  I set out after we ate breakfast shortly before sunrise.  Toni remained in the hotel room and worked on some of her projects and school work.  It was raining, but not too bad.  Even though it was pretty cold, the roads were fine and I had no issues getting to the Parkway.  However, once I turned off of 421, I was shifting into 4WD for the needed traction to make it.

Top of the Morning
I wasn't expecting anything in the way of a sunrise this morning with the clouds so dense, so when I saw the sun poking through, I was elated.  I slid into the first vista I could find.  I have photographed from Grandview a number of times in the past, and have gotten some really good sunrise shots.  However, I typically use a medium focal length to capture the scene.  I didn't have time for any extra setting up this morning, so I left the 70-200mm attached.  I didn't even bother with any filters before I attached the camera to the tripod.  I found the right location and framed a quick shot.  I focused really fast, and dialed in the exposure.  Snap....I got one good frame with the sun between the clouds before it faded above them, washing the color out.

Sunrise Sneak
Not one to be satisfied with a single rendition of a scene, I started to look for other interesting points at the overlook.  I was still shooting with my long lens which opened up a lot of different possibilities for me since I was normally going for a wide angle approach.  I started to pick out valleys that formed leading lines.  I actually found one that worked really well, and I found it as the sky was starting to light up once again.  It was almost like a second sunrise, but fainter.  The sky was very much overcast save for that single sliver of light.  I worked that sliver since it was placed perfectly above my leading line.  I started with a nice vertical orientation to really accentuate the line, but thought that there was just too much other good stuff in the scene to avoid taking a horizontal shot or two, as well.

Morning Silence
There was something magical in the textures of the rolling hills.  The splash of color added some really good visual interest as well.  But, as I have come to learn...the light changes quickly.  It wasn't too long before the sky was all monotone once again, and I was left with very little of interest in the scene.  I was very happy that I had been at the right place at the right time to capture this unexpected sunrise though, and to have had the time to work a few different compositions was a nice cherry on top!

After packing up the camera, I got back in the truck for another edition of slip and slide down the Parkway.  It was just a matter of taking it slow and steady, while looking for another scene to photograph.  As I was looking over to the right, I saw some nice mountains with low clouds moving past them.  This was going to be my next scene, and I was rather excited about the possibilities for this one.  I got everything out of the truck and started to look at what I was working with.  I decided that I needed to swap out the lens for my 24-70mm to allow me some flexibility with the foreground.  I again chose to avoid any filters since the lighting was so even already.

Winter Textures
I started off with a nice wide view of the whole scene.  Normally, I am not a fan of snow that is melting to this extent, but in this case, it really worked.  You could see the rows from working this field, and it added to the textures I was seeing with the soft clouds, and the bare trees.  I really liked the low cloud that was passing by under the distant mountain that added a bit of drama to the scene as well.  I liked a lot of the aspects of this scene, but I wanted something in the foreground to really give it a sense of scale.

Slight Chill in the Air
This was where the 24-70mm lens really shined.  I was able to back away from the fence, and go kind of wide to incorporate the fence.  The melting snow helped to give me some visual differences in the field which kept things from being quite a static.  I was able to line the fence posts up with the slight sweep of the terrain, to help frame the mountain caught in the mist.  The sky was a little ominous as well, which helped with the overall mood of this image.  By this point, it was starting to rain a little, and I was not going to be able to stick around much longer.

Keeper of the Field
In keeping with the desire to have a strong foreground, I moved up to one of the fence posts, and kept the lens rather wide.  The single fence post made for a very prominent visual anchor, and complimented the mountain in the background.  The barbed wire and the snow provided a nice diagonal element as well.  This is probably the strongest composition of the three, but I wasn't able to really fine tune it due to the increasing rain.  It was time to load up and find another location.

I feel like I did a lot of driving at this point.  I wasn't fast though.  I fact, I was rarely out of 2nd gear as the Parkway was getting increasingly worse with the rain falling.  Even though the temperature was above freezing, the rain falling on the ice and slush on the road was starting to glaze a little bit.  There were a few times that the truck got a little squirrely which rarely happens in that truck.  The clouds were getting thicker, and I was not seeing much chance in getting any more pictures.  Thinking back to the hourly forecast, I was looking at the real rain starting in about another hour.  I figured that it was time to get off of the Parkway, and go elsewhere to hunt for some pictures.  This was a great day for finding barns, and that was what I was looking to do at this point.

Through the Ages
I wish I could remember exactly where I found this barn, but I know that it was at the base of a very steep hill.  Fortunately, the roads throughout the county were in great shape and I had no issues at all with them.  I had seen a lot of nice barns that I wanted to photograph, but they were just not really in the right setting.  That is the hard thing with barns...all too often, they are situated right under power lines, or next to houses, or have the brand new farm truck parked next to them.  I had seen a ton of barns in that category today, and I was about to lose hope in finding a good one for pictures.

However, I happened to see this green metal roof in the distance that caught my eye.  Normally, I don't like new roofs, but this one looked different.  As I pulled up close to it, I saw that it was at the base of a slight hill, which had a small cemetery on it.  There wasn't anything really close to it, and the sky above looked pretty good.  All of the major ingredients were there for this picture, so I pulled off of the road and got the camera out.  Once again, I fitted the 24-70mm lens with no filters.

In my haste, I hadn't seen the power lines that were draped over the road next to the barn.  I was going to have to get to a different vantage point to be able to capture it without the lines in the shot.  Fortunately, the driveway was inset into the fenced perimeter about a truck's length.  I was able to get in there, which turned out to be the perfect location to shoot this barn.  As I was setting things up, I noticed that one of the horses in the field had started wondering about me.  He was working his way toward me, which could be a good thing, or a bad thing.  I would have loved to have had the horse in the frame as a foreground element, but if he stopped in a bad location, I would have to either accept the composition, or clone him out.  I don't like cloning, so I fired off a quick shot before the horse got into the frame.  It worked out, and the exposure looked like a winner in the histogram.  However, I stayed around to see what the horse would do.

Through the Ages in B&W
Well, I was rather disappointed to find that the horse was a little shy. He stayed right next to the barn on the right side for most of the time I was there.  This was not a good location for him to be since he wasn't big enough to constitute an element, but was big enough to constitute a distraction.  He did finally move, and walked around to the other side, behind the corral.  This proved to have the same problems, so I was unable to use any of those pictures because the composition was just not quite right.  At least I had the original shot which worked out very well.  In fact, it turned out so well, that it screamed for a monochrome conversion which I think turned out even better than the color version!

A Soft Glow
On the way back out of the valley, I happened to see a really nice scene unfolding to the side of the road.  The clouds were starting to break up a little bit, and despite it being late in the morning, there was a soft glow coming through the clouds.  Fortunately, I found an overlook (well, a small turn out) to park.  I didn't even really consider the composition all that much, and just pulled the camera out.  I started off with the 70-200mm lens and got some shots with that just in case the lighting changed.  After I was satisfied that I had gotten the light, I started to look for some specific compositions.  What I found was not going to work with the current lens, so I swapped in the 16-35mm lens which didn't quite do what I wanted it to do, so I backed down to my standby 24-70mm lens.  this one did exactly what I wanted...

Ghost Stories
I normally try to avoid cutting the tops of trees off, and I will also try very hard to get the base of the tree in the frame as well.  This was not going to be one of those times.  I found that cropping in close to the nearby tree provided just the sense of depth that I needed to the scene.  The sky had just enough interest in the open area, and I was able to get the low clouds skirting the hills.  It was a tight composition, but one that told the full story.  When I was editing it, Toni dropped in and said that the clouds looked like ghosts.  I had to agree with her, and the picture was named in that moment.

With that, it was time to head back to the hotel room to start the rest of the day together with Toni.  We did some more exploring and saw a bunch of really cool sights, but it was more about the exploration than the photography at this point.  It was a great day, and a wonderful sixth anniversary.  It was also pretty productive in the photography department with 10 new images added from 68 frames.


  1. Top of The Day to you!!!! LOL.... I love these pics.. I can see them better now that I am not crazy tired.... I am IN LOVE with "Top of the Morning"!! And that morning was a great morning for me "spiritually"...... I think that pic would look wonderful in a large canvas print in the kitchen!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Yeah, you were a little tired last night when I was getting the pictures done. I wasn't quite sure about "Top of the Morning", but I have sure learned to trust your instincts about my pictures. If you want it as a canvas, we can sure give it a try!