|King of the Mountain|
The question was, where to go in the mountains. What I was really waning to do was shoot Catawba Falls, but I had a feeling that the clouds were not going to be thick enough for that to work. I kept it as an alternate in the back of my mind, but I was looking to focus more on landscapes. I tossed around the idea of going back to the area of Boone where I always have great luck, but having recently been there, I opted to nix that plan. There was always Doughton Park which I enjoy, but I wasn't really wanting to do anything there since I don't have any new ideas for compositions. There was an overlook that I had been thinking about trying for sunrise at The Lump Overlook, and that wasn't too far from the house at about 1.5 hours away. That was going to be my destination for the morning.
The trip went quick, and the entire way up to the mountains I could see the moon and the stars above. It was not looking good at all, but I was going to be in the mountains and that is always a good thing. When I hit the Parkway I could still see the stars, but oddly enough I was starting to pass through some fog here and there. This kind of got me excited because I could work with fog in the valleys below. I started to look out over the overlooks and wasn't really finding anything that caught my eye. When I got to "The Lump" I drove around the circle and found one other car there. That wouldn't be a problem. I could see the hill that I was thinking about shooting, but for some reason it just really didn't catch my eye at all. I wasn't feeling this location at all, and the lack of interest in the sky was not doing this location any favors at all. I decided to abandon this overlook and go searching for something else.
I got the camera set up quickly with my 24-70mm lens with the Lee filter holder attached. I was expecting some situations to present themselves which would mandate some ND Grads to be used. I started to frame up compositions with the pale color in the sky just in case they got completely washed out when the sun came up. Fairly quickly, I decided that 70mm was just too wide for the color that I was seeing. I moved to my 70-200mm lens and skipped the Lee Filter Holder since I was seeing that the exposures were pretty simple so far.
One of the things that caught my attention was this one lone house atop the major mountain in this view. Usually, houses won't draw much interest from me, but this one was different. It was all alone in this grand landscape as the only visible house for miles and miles. The tract of land that it was on was well cleared, and it was right on top of the mountain. This really stood out to me, so much that I wanted to capture it in some way. I had shot it a few times with the normal lens, but now that I had my telephoto lens on, I was going to be able to get in much closer. What I found was the closer I got, the less impressive it became. Then it came to me...Panorama!
I got the tripod leveled, and did a dry sweep to check plum with the camera. I set the focus and double checked the exposure before starting my six image sweep of the landscape. Each exposure was several seconds long because of the low light so I was really worried that the quality of light would change drastically between the start and the finish of the series. According to my histogram, it all recorded as expected. It was my one and only attempt at a panorama shot, and it actually worked out pretty decent.
While shooting this scene and some other compositions with the distant mountains another Parkway visitor arrived at the overlook and walked over to me. He struck up a conversation and before I knew it I realized that I was talking to another Law Enforcement Officer. He was from the Charlotte area and was looking to retire in the mountains. Small world since that is my goal as well. He was a bit closer to retirement than I am, but not by much. There I was on the side of the Blue Ridge Parkway talking shop and the benefits of a 25 year retirement with a deputy while shooting a foggy scene such as this. It was a bit odd but a nice conversation nonetheless.
|Twists and Textures|
|Cradled in Fog|
This did represent the last image shot from this location. I had shot a lot of frames here and quite honestly wasn't sure if any of them would work as keepers. Sunrises are so hard to really determine since the preview in the camera is set with no contrast and no saturation. It gives me a more accurate histogram, but the cost is I can't really see how the colors are turning out. Regardless, I was pretty sure I had a few that were decent from the experience, and I was satisfied with my morning. It was time to move on to a different location to try some more shots.
I got the camera out and set up with my 24-70mm lens since I wanted to include the broken fence in the foreground. I added a Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer to help bring out the colors in the grass and sky as well. I started to work on compositions, but the trees on either side of the field really made things difficult for me. If I included both banks of trees then the image seemed very compressed and didn't have room to breathe. By flipping the camera and shooting a portrait shot, I was able to include the fence, the distant mountain, and only one of the banks of trees for balance. This was the only composition that I felt worked for this scene. It had a very nice flow and the lighting was fair for it. I really liked the different textures as your eyes moved through the scene.
This was going to be my last set for the day. I had full intentions of sticking around for a while and shooting some different areas, but the lack of clouds had other ideas. My options were to kill a few hours and wait until mid afternoon when the storms were supposed to be rolling in, or head back to the house. I chose the latter since that just made more sense to me. It was a fun few hours on the Parkway and I was very happy that I got to the mountains for a bit. I would have loved to have been out there longer, but I was happy having shot 83 frames in this time. The days images aren't spectacular, but they do represent a little bit of experimentation with techniques which is always worth while.
We have officially reached that part of summer where I am ready for the fall colors to get started. Everything is just so green with all of the rain that we have had this year. I need something to break that up! Soon...very soon.