I’ve been to 25 National Parks over the years, many of them several times and Denali NP in particular six times. Two popular parks that I have not been to yet are Acadia National Park in Maine, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee/North Carolina. One thing that makes this odd is that they are the two national parks that are closet to my home. In April 2018 I decided to add one of these to the list of visited parks. I booked a short photography tour of Great Smoky Mountains with Slonina Photography tours, run by local photographer John Slonina. I considered this short five-day trip to be an introduction to the park. It was the first trip to a national park which I did not plan independently, and it was my first trip with John.
Our lodging was located in Townsend, TN. There are several lodging choices in this town, and it is located to the northwestern corner of the park near Cades Cove, a popular area of the park for wildlife and historical structure. We made a late afternoon drive through this area on the first day of the trip and saw 14 black bears and cubs. However, due to the unpredictability of wildlife, we had only one sighting during the other four days of our trip. All the wildlife images were made in the Cades Cove area with the exception of the snail which was found on a tree near the river along the road to Tremont. While we occasionally sighted white-tailed deer and turkeys a few times, the opportunities were not great most of the time. That’s nature for you.
Wildflowers were everywhere in the lower elevations, the trees and other vegetation at the higher levels were still bare. Some species, such as the white trillium were past prime and showed a pink coloration. Occasionally, a blossom or two in good condition found their way in front of my lens. Since I was traveling with a group I was conscious not to get too carried away with any particular patch of flowers, although John encouraged me to get the images I wanted and did not rush me. There were several roadside river locations that had a variety of flowers growing, and several images could be made in a short time. Once in a while I had to rely on flash or small LED lights to provide illumination in the darker areas of the forest.
Rivers ran near many of the roads, and small cascades and waterfall were found in many locations. The ideal weather to photograph these water features is overcast, preferably after a rain. The overcast conditions provide an even lighting and the rain wets the rocks and vegetation darkening their color. The last day was the only one that was cloudy and we had saved the road to Tremont for the last morning. John said that we would have visited this area earlier in the trip if the weather had been better.
Additional images from the Great Smoky Mountain trip are coming in the next post.