|Dawn of Thunder Hill|
Speaking of the weather, it was looking like 75% clouds for sunrise, and then quickly dropping to 45% for the rest of the day. That usually means that there would be few if any clouds in the area (based on previous forecasts with those numbers). The sunrise forecaster said that the likelihood of a colorful sunrise was very slim. To sum things up, the conditions were not really my cup of tea for a Trek...however, I decided to give it a try anyway. I chose to start in Boone and move up to Doughton Park where the weather was looking the most favorable. Since I was going to make a day of it, I might as well start out early and try for a sunrise.
The alarm rang at 3:30, and I slowly got up and got ready. I was on my way by 4:15 without a clear destination in mind. I was going to the mountains to wing it, and that was about the extent of my "planning" for the day. The trip out there was simple, and I arrived a little ahead of schedule to find that there were no clouds in the valley below. The good news was that the clouds were actually kind of thick and I thought that might make for a decent chance at a pretty sunrise. I started to look for my location to get set up. I wasn't really finding anything that was catching my eye, so I decided to head down to the Thunder Hill Overlook. This was one that had several ways to shoot. I could shoot the actual overlook itself, or I could go across the Parkway to shoot the field. A little further down the Parkway was another angle on the field that provided a nice little view of a valley. I figured that I could adjust to whatever the sun provided by setting up here.
When I got there, it was still totally dark. I got out my flashlight and started to look for a composition. With Summer in full swing, the overlook was a little dense in vegetation which made a composition rather difficult. I started to branch out and explore my options away from the overlook. Just a short distance to the side, I found a nice opening in the trees which presented a nice view of the distant mountains. This was going to be my spot! I set the camera up with the 24-70mm lens attached along with the Lee Filter Holder. I started to compose a shot looking out into the distance, but I didn't like what I was seeing. There was no real interest to the picture the way I was seeing it. I stepped back and reviewed my plan. Well, my best option now was to change the composition to include the Blue Ridge Parkway as a leading line. That worked much better!
By the time the sky was looking decent (no colors, but nice formations), my exposure times were down to about 20 seconds which was still enough time to show a little motion. I had a 3-Stop ND Grad on the lens to help me get the proper exposure on the foreground which was vital to the image. I shot about a half dozen frames from this location as the clouds changed their forms. It wasn't long before the sun was up and the clouds were losing their interest. It was time to move to my alternate shooting location across the street.
|Lush Appalachian View|
|Hazy Lazy Morning|
As the morning progressed, the lighting was changing and becoming less favorable. I decided to pack it up and head off to my next stop. While I was loading the truck, I saw another photographer coming from the trail beside the field I had been shooting at. I went over to talk to him briefly, and found out that he was Jim Ruff, a fellow CNPA member. We talked briefly about the less than favorable conditions of the morning. Like me, he was hoping for a colorful sunrise. He was going to get some breakfast, and I was off to see what else I could see along the Parkway.
I had a fleeting thought of going to Roaring Fork Falls, but according the forecast, the clouds were going to be breaking up soon which would not do me any favors at a waterfall. Additionally, I was not wearing my waterfall boots, and knew that this was one that I would normally stand in the water for. It was probably for the best since there hasn't been a lot of rain in the past week or so to build up the watershed for the falls. I ended up driving down to Price Lake to find that there was no fog, and the clouds were getting rather featureless. I decided to head up North to my original destination of Doughton Park.
As I was somewhere North of Jeffress Park, I saw a couple of trees on the side of the road that looked interesting. I turned around and got out. I tried to work the trees for about 30 minutes, but was unable to make an image that I really liked. I was starting to wonder if I was done already. The clouds were looking horrible, and the lighting was not the best. Because of that, I decided to do a little exploring off of the Parkway.
Honestly, I don't know where I went. I found a few decent things to photograph, but the conditions weren't right, and it wasn't worth getting out of the truck. I know that eventually, I ended up back in Boone, and ultimately continued on 421 towards Tennessee. I turned off before leaving the state and ended up back on 105 headed to Boone once again. I had not found a single thing to photograph on my adventure and was getting a little tired and ready to go home. Regardless, I hopped back on the Parkway in Blowing Rock and retraced my tracks from earlier in the day. My destination was Doughton Park, and then Hwy 21 to head home for the day.
As I was driving along the Parkway, I was looking for something to put in front of my camera, but the clouds were just not doing me any favors. Nothing looked good. I thought I would try photographing an old silo that is off of the side of the Parkway once again. I've done this many times and have never gotten a picture I really like from it. The angle I have to shoot from is difficult because there is a fence and gate in place that keeps me from getting close. I didn't really expect to get anything from here, especially since the barn has long since fallen and left the silo all along. As I passed by, I looked to see what the lighting was like on the silo. It was in the shadows, and didn't look all that great. Oh well...
Wait a minute...
Was the gate opened?
That might make it worth a stop.
I turned around and found much to my pleasure that the gate was wide open. The expectation of privacy has now changed, and I was looking forward to getting in there to investigate an old truck I had seen there starting in 2005, but could never get close enough to.
|The Empty Windows|
Well, the driver got out and seemed to be nice enough. I didn't see any weapons, and that made me happy. We started talking for a bit, and he actually understood that I was taking pictures of the property, and wasn't trying to hurt anything. The property was his sister's and had stopped functioning back in the early '70's. It was built in the '40's originally. Having gotten a bit of the history, I was once again fired up to get some pictures done. He even told me about the truck. It was bought by his Father as a parts donor for another truck that they owned. That didn't change the fact that it was a basket case, but it did give me little context behind it.
It was time to get back to the house on the hill though. The lighting was looking pretty good (although a little harsh due to the time of day). As I was making my way to the house, I saw an old plow set up as yard art in front of the house. My initial thought was to go wide on my 24-70mm lens and get in close. The only problem with that was, the house started to look really small in the camera.
The composition was a fun one. There are two pieces of family history here that are slowly being reclaimed by the Earth. One is being overgrown while the other one is just falling in on itself. This is why I do what I do with a camera. Neither subject is in usable condition, and they are both arguably in their last stages of life. Through my camera, I am able to celebrate them and immortalize them at this late stage of life. It is almost like a super power that I possess that allows me to do that.
I continued North towards Doughton Park. I didn't quite make it to the park since I found an overlook that caught my eye. It wasn't for the great scenic quality as the clouds were back in full force completely covering the sky once again. No, this overlook had a field of yellow flowers just to the side of a pretty cool tree. With the lighting very diffused, it was the perfect recipe for a woodland intimate shot of the tree.
|The Color of Summer|
Well, as I was passing Alligator Back, I remembered that Toni had mentioned to me about stopping there. Well, maybe she knew something that I didn't, and it is a special overlook for us, so I decided to stop there before getting on Hwy 21. The clouds were no all that great over the mountains, and I wasn't quite sure if there was a picture to be had there or not. But as I was looking around, I noticed the way the Parkway snaked around right there at the overlook. That might be worth a picture or two!