We’ve all seen the iconic images of layered hill sides in the haze of sunset in the Smoky Mountains. That didn’t happen much on this trip. For the most part the weather was clear with cloudless skies. Not conducive to landscape photography, especially in Cades Cove. There were no foggy mornings to take advantage and work into an images, or dramatic storm clouds to add interest behind a stately tree. We did visit two great locations to keep in mind for future visits. The Foothills Parkway runs along the western border just outside the park and has large viewpoint pullouts to safely park a vehicle and look out over the hills in the park. We did this in the morning as the sun comes over the hills and lights the valley below. There were no wide angle views that I liked and stayed mostly with short telephoto views to isolate the tress and compress the hillsides. Another landscape location is the Newfound Gap viewpoint parking lots along the main road through the center of the park. That afternoon, we traveled to Cherokee just outside the southern border of the park. We found elk there, but none of them very photographic. We also timed our return to be at the Newfound Gap overlook before sunrise, there are a couple of stops along the road and as we arrived with time to spare, we stopped to explore the possibilities at each one. The leaves had not budded out on the tress at this elevation, and bare tress were everywhere. I used short and long telephoto lenses to compress the hills, and isolation interesting segments of the scenery.
There are quite a number of old historical structures in the park. These structures date back to the mid-1800s and are well preserved by the park, with many open to walk through. I can see where photography in these areas is difficult as there are always people in these areas. Normally, this type of photography is not my thing, but I find I am trying more things that I previously didn’t bother with photographing. The hand-of-man gallery contains images where there is an element that is manmade; a structure, fence, or road.
I was extremely pleased with the trip, as I was able to learn about different locations in the park, what conditions to consider before selecting a destination for the day, and the driving times to consider getting around the park. I’ll definitely return to Great Smokey Mountains on my own for a longer stay and to spend more time in the different sites.
John Slonina was a very capable guide, selecting the destinations based on the conditions, which in this case were mostly cloudless skies, not the best for landscape photography. He is well organized and was considerate of all the participants needs. He explained our next destination, and what to expect. HE also told stories (photography based) and kept us entertained while we were traveling from one location to another. I’ll definitely consider his other offerings and sign up for a different tour soon.