The Southern Side of Hanging Rock

Saturday, February 25, 2017

This is one of those days that I really should have just stayed home and rested.  However, I had a free day to myself and I decided to go out and do some pictures.  Based on the weather forecast, it was looking promising to do some landscapes, but it was going to be iffy depending on how the clouds acted.  I had wanted to go up to Grayson Highlands and spend the day, but looking at the distance, and having to pay to park, I wasn't all that excited about doing that without a much better forecast.  I ultimately decided on Hanging Rock since it was close.

My goal was to hike down on the Southern end of the park along Cook's Wall Trail.  I had never been on this trail and wanted to see Wolf Rock and House Rock.  I started the day early enough and got to the park when it opened.  I decided to park at the lake since that was going to be the general direction I was going to start hiking in.  I also wanted to capture the sunrise over the lake.

The Boat House
Well, the sky really didn't cooperate with me for the sunrise.  There were breaks in the clouds to my right, but the colors just never materialized.  Before the sun fully got into the sky, I had set up my first shot of the boat house.  Ironically, I had thought that they had taken this away because I didn't see it the last time I was at the lake.  Turns out I was just looking in the wrong place for it.  I was extremely happy that I found it, and was excited about seeing the sunrise with the reflections in the water.  I went ahead and set up the shot with nothing more than a polarizer attached.  With the low light that was over the lake, my exposure time was 30 seconds.  That effectively smoothed out the water, and caused the clouds to blur in the sky.

What started out as just a test shot of the boat house turned out to be my best image from this location, and about 30 minutes of shooting.  It had a very serene feel to it, and the exposure worked very well without the need for any ND grads.  I really liked the reflection in the water of the distant trees which were still bare from the Winter.  It wasn't what I had envisioned prior to setting the camera up, but I liked it just the same.

When I decided that there was going to be no color in the sky, I went ahead and packed up my bag and set off on the trail.  I was going to stop by Wolf Rock first and see what I could do there.  I knew that it was an outcrop, and had seen some hiker's pictures of it, but had no idea what to expect.  When I got there, I was impressed and disappointed all at the same time.  The outcroppings were wonderful, but there was so much brush grown up around them that a clean picture could not be shot except for a couple of compositions.  Those compositions would have needed a much different sky to work, and even then I was doubtful about the outcome.  I decided to look for some different subject to shoot around Wolf Rock.

Welcome to the Shadows
I ended up finding a view that was relatively clear at the base of one of the outcrops.  I located a nice little slot between the rock formations just beside of a few trees.  The sweeping pine needle bed worked its way right up to the opening.  It wasn't ideal, but it would have to do.  I set the camera up and tried several different points of view.  My first composition turned into the best out of a half dozen or so attempts.  With that, I decided to go and see what House Rock was all about.

The hike took a little while, but it was clearly marked and enjoyable.  When I got to House Rock, I saw my previous problem with the sky.  The clouds were just not working with me at all.  I found a place to set up on one of the distant outcrops, shooting over House Rock.  I tried several exposures to no avail.  There was just not enough interest in the sky to make it work.  I decided to explore a little bit and see what the sky would do.  I worked my way around to the base of the outcropping and found a little cave which caught my eye.

Into the Fold
Sugar Cone
I really liked the textures I was seeing and decided to work a little bit in the abstract arena to see what I could come up with.  For this, I used my 70-200mm lens and worked on isolating parts of the cave and using the light to my advantage.  This wasn't my favorite subject, but it was nice to try something a little different from my regular shots.  I made about seven or so exposures before deciding that I was just getting a little too far outside of the box.  I started my way back up to the top to see if the sky had changed any.

Distant Undulations
Well, the sky was starting to break up a little bit.  I was able to see some texture to the clouds, and that meant that the camera would see that as well.  I got things set back up again with my 24-70mm lens attached.  I moved up a little closer than I had been previously, and worked out a composition that captured the outcropping as a foreground and the distant peaks as a background.  It was then a matter of waiting for the clouds to move around to achieve the look I was after.  I never got the full illumination from the sun on the elements that I wanted, but the clouds were interesting at least.

I stayed up here for about an hour waiting on the light to change, and it never did.  Reluctantly, I decided to cut my losses and start back to the parking lot.  I kept my eyes out for other subjects to photograph, but never could find anything.  I even tried to work out some compositions with the lake in an attempt to take advantage of the clouds overhead.  It just wasn't working at all.  It was time to leave.

Before setting a course to get home, I decided to go and hunt old cars along Hwy 89.  Surprisingly, I actually found one sitting on what looked like an old service station parking lot.  It was in the shade of a semi trailer, but with the clouds, I was going to be able to take advantage of that.  I pulled off of the road and got the camera set up....just in time for the sun come out.  Well, I was going to have to wait until the light evened out a little before I could get the picture.

I would never have that time though.  A pickup truck came into the parking lot and I was asked what I was doing.  Well, I was trying not to be a smart ass since I was standing there in broad daylight with a camera on a I simply answered "taking pictures".  Well, He didn't like that answer, and wanted to know of what.  I said the truck.....and things went downhill from there.  I apologized and said I would leave his property, but he still wanted to talk with me.  Nothing like trying to leave, but they won't let you.  I managed to get the camera put away, while I'm sure I was being covered by a firearm of some sort from inside of the truck.  I left, and was followed for a while by the truck.  Yeah, that kind of put a damper on finding old cars to photograph.

I decided I would give up and head home...but before I got there, I decided I would try one other truck that I have been wanting to photograph for some time now.  It was well off of the road and I would have to venture onto the property for this one.  That meant I was going to need to ask.  Well, there was nobody home.  The truck was looking nearly perfect in this light, and could have done so much with it.  But alas, the owners were not there, or were not answering the door.  Either way, had I continued, I would have been very much in the wrong, so I decided to save it for another day.  This day was done.

While I came back with some keepers, I wasn't really happy with this set of images.  The lighting just wasn't what I wanted, and I seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time repeatedly.  You win some, you lose some as they say.

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