A Little Bit of Everything on the BRP

Friday, July 28, 2017

Morning Ripples
Let's just say that this has been a very long week.  I've worked my 40 hours in the first four days thanks to several special assignments.  That meant that I got to take Friday off, and a Friday off means a trip to the mountains.  The weather was supposed to be cloudy with a few passing showers in the morning.  It was going to be a great waterfall day, but there has been only a little rain recently, so I figured that I would try for some landscape shots.  Looking at the sunrise forecast, the mountains were expecting a middle of the road sunrise.  The decision was made to head out to the section of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, and possibly Cone Manor for a sunrise.  From there, I would follow the clouds.

I woke up around 3:30am and checked the weather once again.  The clouds were still a little thicker than I was wanting, but the sunrise forecast was showing even better than the hourly would suggest.  I went ahead and got up and got dressed.  The trip out to the Blue Ridge Parkway was pretty normal, and I wasn't really paying that much attention to the sky since I was expecting there to be nothing but clouds.  While I was driving, I was thinking about the sunrise forecast and thought that if there was going to be a good deal of color in the sky, I would like to really take advantage of it with having water below.  That meant that I was going to head to Price Lake.  I had just enough time to get there before sunrise.

I arrived at about 6am, which gave me just a few minutes to set up and find a composition.  Not having much time, I went to where I knew and I set up using my 24-70mm lens with a 2-Stop ND Grad filter to control the sky.  I found my place that that gave me a decent foreground and guided the eyes to the distant mountains.  The opening photograph here was the first one of the day and represents 20 seconds of exposure.  It did a great job at picking up the slight color that was peeking through the holes in the clouds.  It was almost as if the sunrise forecast knew that there would be a hole in the clouds right at sunrise.

Golden Tapestry
As the sun climbed further into the sky, the colors above changed, and I changed along with them.  I kept recomposing to take advantage of the scene that was unfolding in front of me.  I eventually changed out my ND Grad for a 3-Stop filter to keep the highlights in the sky controlled.  I was moving around about every other shot, and eventually swapped in my 70-200mm lens to try and get the distant mountains with the gold surrounding it.  I was doing a lot of work over the 30 minutes that there was color in the sky.

On Golden Pond
The sky reminded me of when I was learning to shoot sunrises.  I would always add an 81C warming filter to the camera to introduce color when there wasn't much there.  This time, the sky was actually that warm golden color, and all I was doing was darkening from the horizon up to keep the sky and water evenly exposed.  The LCD was really looking like my old Sony when I would shoot Salem Lake though.  It was like a trip down memory lane for me!

Shortly after I shot that last picture, the color in the sky quickly diminished leaving gray clouds, and a bright sun peeking through.  I started to look for some other targets of opportunity and found a tree that looked kind of neat in the sunlight.  I struggled to get a composition and thought that I had a few good ones.  Unfortunately, when I got home and started to look at them on the computer, they lacked any real artistic quality.  I decided to chuck that series in the long run.

I did start walking around the lake trails to see if there were any woodland scenes that I could shoot.  I found a few with some nice ferns, but like the tree before, they just didn't turn out well at all.  I had walked through the amphitheater and saw that the stage was a nice stone element that caught my eye.  The problem was that there was a bunch of junk around it that wasn't really photograph worthy.  Since I still had my 70-200mm lens attached, I decided to take an abstract approach to the stonework.  There were steps to the right, and they were connected to the curve of the stage.  The lines really captured my eye, and that was what excited me about the scene.

I got positioned so that I filled the frame with nothing but steps, and I used some of the weeds and moss to frame the shot.  Admittedly, it was starting to rain at this point,and the shading was rather flat.  I still liked the concept, so I kept shooting slightly different compositions.  I knew that I would be doing some dodging and burning to get the contrast back to the scene in post processing, which I did.  The final product turned out pretty much like what I had envisioned it when I was setting the shot up.  

At this stage though, the rain was coming down pretty good, and that meant it was time to pack it in.  I took the quick walk back to the truck and put everything away under the cover of the lift gate which was very nice in the rain.  I debated about staying at this point.  I wasn't really sure that I had gotten much with the 40 frames that I had shot.  It wasn't looking like the sky was going to get much better, but I did remember the old mantra from Appalachian State: "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes."  OK, I'll go drive around and try to wait that five minutes to see what happens.

Well, I drove for about 45 minutes and nothing really changed.  I decided to give up on landscape photos and go off on the spur roads in search of barns and general farm life scenes.  Well, I found some barns, but nothing really photo worthy, and it was still raining.  It was a nice little road trip through the country at least. Then I saw something that caught my eye.  I saw something old, and I thought that it might be a Mustang.  I put the 4Runner in reverse right in the middle of the road and backed up to see what I had seen.

Summer Stallion
Yep, it was an old Mustang.  Something that I have been trying to get a photograph of for the longest time.  There is nothing quite as iconic as a Mustang, but because of that, they are hard to find sitting derelict in the weeds.  I now had one, but it wasn't without its problems.  First of all, there was a Chevy Lumina just to the rear of it, and there was no way to crop it out and shoot the entire Mustang.  Second of all, there was a large "No Trespassing" sign posted near the front of the Mustang, so there was no way I would be able to get in close to it.  I was limited in my options, and figured that the best course of action was to use my 70-200mm lens for the extra reach.  I added an intensifying polarizer to reduce the glare caused by the rain, and pump up the colors a bit.

Respecting the sign, I shot from the shoulder of the road to stay off of the property.  I framed the shot tight on the car, and opted to crop out the trunk area to avoid the late model Lumina.  This was tolerable in my book because I'm not a fan of the coupes anyway.  Had it been a fastback, I would have been a bit sadder at having to crop it.  My focus was on the front end of the car and the yellow flowers that were growing along the corner of it.  The faded white paint helped to make the Mustang pop against the green.

Not wanting to overstay my welcome, I decided to pack up and get ghost before anyone could come and have words with me.  I was pretty happy with finding this old Mustang, and started to see my day looking up.  I started looking for more old cars and barns as I was getting more and more lost.  It wasn't until I ended up in Jefferson, near our anniversary cabin that I knew where I was.  With the rain starting to clear, and the clouds getting some definition, I decided to head back to the Parkway to see if I could get any grand landscapes with the clouds above.

When I got back on the Parkway, the clouds looked nice directly above me, but everything near the horizon was just a blank slate of gray.  Grand landscapes were not looking like an option today.  I started driving and searching out light to see if I could make something work out.  I did find a fence line with an old red gate.  Of course, I am a sucker for red gates, and this one was in the tall grass.  It made for an interesting setting, and there was a bit of sunlight on it to boot.  I pulled off the side of the road and grabbed the camera.  I started off with my 24-70mm lens and a polarizer.  This gave me a great deal of flexibility in my compositions.  The problem was, I didn't like any of the compositions I was trying.  I wasn't able to include the sky due to no texture in the clouds at all.  That meant that the trees were my backdrop, but the compositions didn't make sense.

Aged Post
What I found was that my only option was to get in tight and get an intimate shot of the post and gate.  I flipped the camera on its side and framed very carefully, paying attention to how much red was showing in the gate.  I used a very narrow depth of field (f/8) to keep the attention on the wood textures.  The gate was there for color, and horizontal lines only.  I didn't need sharp detail on the metal for my concept.  What I ended up with worked rather well, and Toni even says that it is her favorite fence picture.  Well, I guess I did something right with that.

While I was setting that shot up, I kept looking across the road to the field.  The yard was well kept, and there were several trees present throughout the yard.  One of them in particular caught my eyes with the drooping greenery.  I wanted to photograph it, but was having a hard time figuring out how.  The sky was lacking a lot of detail, but was better on that side of the road than what I had been working with.  It was also a far distance from where I was able to shoot.  Everything that I tried caused the tree to get lost in the landscape.  I finally decided to fit my 70-200mm lens to see if I could work a tight composition instead.

Summer Storm
The long lens did the trick.  I was finally able to isolate the tree I wanted, but now I was needing another element to the shot to make it work.  There was another tree to the right that was a comparable size, so I decided to get positioned so that I could have that tree ever so slightly overlapping the primary focus.  While I was doing all of this maneuvering, the clouds were coming back in once again.  By the time I had a composition that made sense, the clouds were rather blah, but there was some texture to them, however slight.  I didn't bother with a polarizer since there was no blue in the sky, and since the sun was shining down on my position pretty strong, I just left the hood on the end of the lens.

When I made the shot, I looked at the LCD which appeared very featureless in the cloud area.  The trees looked good though.  The histogram showed that there was detail in the clouds, so I hoped that I would be able to bring that detail out in the final image.  It wasn't until I got home and started to work the image, that I found there was a good amount of detail in the sky, and with a few adjustments and a bit of dodging and burning, I was able to get a pretty interesting sky from the RAW image.  It is still a simple image, but it is well balanced, and the overall presentation is pretty satisfying in my eyes.

Ironically, even though the sun was shining on my head, those clouds were bringing rain.  That was my clue to pack it up and head home.  I was getting tired of being caught in the showers at this point, and it was getting very close to noon.  It had been a good day, not great, but decent with 62 frames exposed over about 5 hours.  I had gone up there to get landscapes, and I ended up with landscapes, abstracts, rustics, and even an old car.  My mind was open to the possibilities, and I seized the opportunities when they presented themselves to me.


  1. I really think every picture is a masterpiece. I love the fence post and the stairs. The mustang car turned out nice with the yellow flowers and all the green around it. And of course the horse on front of car. Its time for you to find a old barn with horses in the field.��.

    1. You are too kind, thank you very much! Yes, I do need to find some horses for you, hopefully that can happen sooner than later.