I looked at the weather, and it seemed that the chances of clouds were going to be better around the Boone, and Linville areas, while further North it was looking more like clear conditions. Of course, we all know my track record with the weather forecasts so I really wasn't all that sure of what to expect. The plan when I went to sleep was to get up at 3am and head out to Rough Ridge for a sunrise attempt. Looking at the sunrise forecaster, I didn't have a lot of high hopes for any color, but there were clouds in the forecast and they were showing to have a low ceiling. This meant that I might be able to do some woodland work along the Rough Ridge Trail. Either way, I wanted to get an early start to the day. From there, I was going to go where the conditions dictated.
|Color on the Ridge|
When I arrived on the Parkway, a familiar dynamic started with me. One minute it was clear as a bell, and then all of a sudden visibility would drop to nothing due to fog and clouds. Weather like this makes for some very interesting photography and I was getting excited. I started looking for a good place to set up for sunrise in case a target of opportunity presented itself before I arrived at Rough Ridge. As luck would have it, nothing really fell into place, and I found myself nearing the parking area for Rough Ridge. Well, I was here, and there was only one other car in the parking lot. Let's do this!
I grabbed my gear and started the dark (and rather soggy) hike to the boardwalk where I was planning on shooting the sunrise. The hike went quick enough, and I was really happy that I had brought my waterfall boots in case the weather dictated that I start looking for cascades to shoot. I slogged my way up the trail and found the rocky outcropping just off of the boardwalk to be completely empty which was a nice treat. I went out on the rock and got set up on the smaller section closest to the boardwalk.
While I was shooting the opening series of the new day, a couple came hiking up the trail and joined me on the rock. He was apparently a photographer as well since he pulled out a camera and tripod. He set it up to shoot intervals as the sun came up. While the camera was firing off frames he got a drone ready, which he sent up to view Rough Ridge from the air. It was quite an impressive display, but I just sat there and worked my compositions one at a time.
As the sun came up and the colors started to fade towards the East, I decided to swap out lenses and use my 70-200mm lens to get some isolations of the clouds in the valley below. Since I wasn't shooting into the bright part of the sky, I opted to leave the filters off of the lens and just shoot as the scene appeared. What I found was as the color faded to the East, it started to pick back up to the West, and I had a lot of great color in the sky to play with.
The Viaduct wasn't the only part of the landscape that was looking really nice. The sky to the East was actually starting to erupt in color again and since the sun was partially hidden, the exposure looked very workable without any filters. I trained the camera back around and framed up a shot at 70mm that included part of the boardwalk as well as the sky above.
With all of this back and forth, I was starting to become overwhelmed at the list of potential subjects. As I was finishing up the shot over the Tanawha Trail, I happened to look back to my right and saw something that I can only describe as amazing. While the sky above was starting to settle into the normal hues, there was a large bank of clouds that was on the way across the mountains that was bathed in an orange and pink hue from the sun. I'm not quite sure how that happened, but it was just too cool for words.
I decided that was going to be my next shot. I just had no idea how to capture it. I was still shooting with my long lens and I was able to get a few shots of the clouds, but nothing that I really liked. I decided that I would try a panorama of it. I flipped the camera on its side, and leveled the tripod. I made a quick sweep to confirm that the camera was going to be level the entire trip across the image. I set my focus and exposure and shot a six frame series that I later merged in Lightroom.
|Blue Ridge on Fire|
|A Ginger Sky|
The funny thing was, I thought that I had shot about 45 frames during the sunrise. As it turned out, I had shot 79 frames in about an hour and a half's time. My how time flies when you are having fun!! It was time to move on to other things though. I went ahead and packed up the camera and started moving my way back down the trail to the truck. When I got there, I could see that the clouds were mostly clearing out at this point. It was also that strange time of day after the golden hour when the sky is just white. I wasn't looking to do much in the way of landscapes at this point until the sky got better again.
What I decided on was taking a little drive to a road that I had seen on the map earlier. It was Roseboro Rd, and it was just a little beyond the Viaduct. I had spotted this on the map because it looked like a good secondary road to find some old barns on. When I found it and turned, I found that it was a typical gravel mountain road. Oh well, I needed to spin the 4WD for a few miles this month anyway, I dropped into 4Hi and continued on down the road.
With this waterfall right off of the road, my compositions were limited. I tried some isolations, but the moving vegetation proved too distracting for the isolations to work. By capturing more of the falls, I was able to minimize the motion blur issues to a point. The composition that I settled on was one that actually included the sky peeking through the trees above the waterfall. I was worried about the exposure, but my histogram was telling me that I wasn't blowing out too many pixels by shooting this composition. It actually was a pleasing shot of this odd waterfall stuck on the side of the road.
I didn't have long to work with this waterfall though. Remember how I said there were no clouds in the sky after I finished up at Rough Ridge? Well, the sun was now starting to shine through the trees and it was hitting the waterfall in a splotchy fashion. After maybe 15 minutes, I packed up the camera and continued down the road in search of a barn. I did find one, but the lighting was no good for it, and the setting was a little bland as well. I passed on the chance to do anything with it.
|Keep it Together|
|Split Rail Dreams|
|Time Well Wasted|
I decided to include the fence in my composition as a leading line and a bit of foreground interest. I really wasn't all that excited about how the picture was coming together, but pressed on regardless. When I got home and started to process it, I wanted to include it in my day's collection, but it just wasn't really speaking to me. The barn wasn't standing out at all in the field when I did my normal edit on the image. I started to think about what I could do to really make it pop and decided that by reducing the vibrancy of the image I could dial in the saturation on the red siding and really get it come together as an image. When I was done, I was actually rather impressed with how it came out. While not an award winning picture, it does capture the essence of how I saw the barn at the time of capture. There is enough blue to balance out the red, and the green is rendered almost neutral with this edit keeping the attention in the image where it needs to be.
I started out working some compositions of a section right next to the MST, but wasn't really liking how the lighting was working out. I decided that while I was waiting for the lighting to chance, I would go ahead and shoot the Parkway headed towards the main overlook. I used the Parkway as a nice swooping leading line cradling the fenced field, and ultimately sending your eyes to the mountains range in the distance. To be completely transparent about this image, I have flipped it left to right to allow the eyes to read it better. I don't really count this as image manipulation as it doesn't change the content, only the direction.
|High Country Clouds|
|Dreaming in Color|
I got everything packed away and I started heading North once again looking for 421. As luck would have it though, I passed by one of my favorite locations and the lighting looked really good. Yeah, I had to get turned around to give it a try once again. This is another location I have shot in pretty much all seasons and in all types of lighting. Some I have liked better than others, so there was no reason not to give this a try again today.
At the end of this series of shots I really did call it a day. I went home with a total of 193 new frames shot. I was really thinking I had done more like 130 or so. I really am having a hard time estimating my shutter clicks on these treks. It took me about five hours to cull the images and then edit the remaining 33 images. When it was all said and done, I had found 21 images that I liked enough to keep in my collection. The rest of them went out with yesterday's trash.
Since it is so late already, I will be waiting until tomorrow to figure out which images are going in the gallery, and to start posting to social media. At least the biggest parts of the Trek are done. I have been going strong since 3am this morning. I have put in 20 hours or work, driven over 250 miles, and still have a bit more to do tomorrow. The life of an artist, it is a labor of love.