Doughton Park: Well, I tried

Saturday, October 21, 2017

OK, to be honest, I didn't really expect much from this trip.  The weather was not looking great either day with very little cloud cover.  It became more a matter of trying to get that last bit of fall color in the mountains before it was all gone.  If I found the right trees, I could handle a blank sky, and that set the mission for the day.  I got up early and left just before Toni headed to Doughton Park.  My plan was to try and shoot some stars as dawn was breaking, and the best place to do that is Doughton.  When I arrived, the sky was mostly clear as expected, and I started the chilly hike up the Bluff Mountain Trail.  To my surprise, I found not one, but two tents set up right where I wanted to put the tripod.  Well, that wasn't expected at all.

I wasn't going to be able to get the stars as I had wanted to, and that was ok.  The more I looked up, the more haze I saw in the sky and it wasn't quite as clear as I wanted it.  On the other hand, there wasn't any actual clouds either.  That meant that sunrise would be rather dull.  Fortunately, I had another idea and that was possibly going to work out.  

A while Back I shot to the West on a clear morning at sunrise and got some nice Alpenglow from atop this hill.  I was going to give that a try.  I was wanting to use my long lens, but the tents were in the way for that, so I opted for my 24-70mm lens and got in a little closer.  The mountains in the distance didn't suffer too much from the shorter focal length so I was good.  I set up my composition and waited for the light to happen.

Blue Ridge Awakening
My ultimate goal was to get the warm sunlight on the rocks, but I was enjoying watching the shadow of the Earth moving toward the horizon.  When it entered into my frame, I started making exposures.  The light clouds above did a fantastic job of capturing the pink sunlight and gave some nice texture to the sky.  The exposure was even enough that I didn't need any filters either.  There was plenty of detail in the foreground and the distant mountains were very rich in their visual detail as well.

With the haze in the sky, I was wondering if I was going to get my sunlight on the rocks as I had envisioned.  It was a painfully slow process watching the sun come up behind my back.  The further up it got, the less interesting the sky became.  I was getting worried, and it was a race with only one element controlling two aspects of the composition.

Kissed by the Sun
As the sun got closer to the rocks, the blue was returning to the sky, just above the pink.  This could work out if the timing hit just right.  It actually did for a change.  The rocks became red with the low sun, and the blue sky came right into my frame at the top.  I fired off a few frames and saw that the exposure was well inside of the camera's capabilities so I called it quits on that location in favor of moving to another place.  While I had been shooting the occupants of the tents had woken up and were all out enjoying the sunrise.  I didn't want to intrude further.

I worked my way down the hill to a fallen tree that I have shot many times before.  It was still looking really nice, but the sky wasn't really working on any level for a picture.  I continued on to the parking lot and was about to load up the 4Runner when I looked over on the other side of the parking lot.  The Bluff Mountain Trail was really standing out in the low sun, and there was a small tree that looked like a great visual anchor.  I decided to give it a shot or two.

Bluff Mountain Trail
I swapped in my 70-200mm lens because I needed the elevation from the parking lot to get the composition I wanted.  That meant that I needed a lot more reach than my other lens could deliver.  I started framing up compositions and trying them out.  The sky was horrible, and ultimately I decided to omit it from the composition.  I focused on the trail and the tree more than anything else.  The contrast appeared to be great with the low sun, and since the colors were all about the same, the textures were what really made this image.  It also has a certain dreamy quality to it.

With that composition done, I started to work on a panorama, but I really didn't like how it was coming together.  By the time I got home and stitched the seven shots I found very little interest in it.  I ended up trashing it along with nearly 60 frames from the morning.

I drove back the long way through Wilkesboro in hopes of finding a barn or old car to work with, but the light was just too harsh for anything else.  I went ahead and pointed towards home and got home hours before I intended.  Looking through the images from the day, I was less than happy with the final outcome, but I was happy to have been to the mountains and tried once again to find some more fall color.

This fall season had started out so well, but ended so weak.  The temperatures were just too high, and we had gone through a very dry period at the crucial time for the change of colors.  I'm hoping to have another chance to get some fall color here at home in the next week or so, but I'm afraid that the trend started in the mountains will continue here as well.  At least I really like winter photography.  LOL!

Kissed by the Sun  in B&W

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