Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Photographer's Paradise - The Smokies Part IV - Babbling Brooks

It's hard to find a trail in the Smokies that doesn't have the sound of rushing water nearby.  Often, the settlers built their cabins near the running water, created sluices to their mills, or 'piped' the water from the stream down a hollowed-out log to their back porch to give the family "running water".  When the snow melts each spring at the top of the mountain, or when the rain comes in near-tropical amounts throughout the summer, the creeks are full and loud.  We were there in May, a rather dry May according to the locals, but the creeks were full enough for some dramatic shots.  I couldn't tell you what path I was on, or what part of the park they were in because they all begin to look alike after a while.   But here are a few of my favorite photos in my 'moving water' collection:
Rhododrendron  is past bloom at the lower elevations
I like to shoot moving water with the camera mounted on a tripod, and I usually shoot it at a shutter speed of 3 seconds.  I put the camera on self-timer, press the button and move carefully away so as not to effect the shot.  Make sure that the stationery parts of the shot (here it's the rocks) are in clear focus, and when the water has motion, also called a cotton candy effect, it will look great.  I know some photographers like to shoot it at 5 or 6 seconds, so try a few different shutter speeds and see what you like.
Horizontal vs. vertical.  You'll be able to tell from your subject which is better.  If you want the entire waterfall, you might choose to turn your camera and catch the whole thing vertically.  In this case, I couldn't fit the whole photo into my shot (I don't have a wide angle lens :( ). I opted to shoot this smaller, wider section so horizontal was a better choice.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Photographer's Paradise - The Smokies Part III - Wheels

Sometimes you don't know why a particular theme pops out at you when you're out photographing.  But while I was in the Smoky Mountains, my normal sense of perception vanished, and I tuned into the sights and sounds around me.  I purposefully began to look for recurrences of patterns.  You may have just seen my blog about roots.  On this particular day, wheels seems to be around every corner.  These weren't the sleek, shiny metal wheels of today.  These were functional, hard working wheels that helped residents of these rugged mountains with farm work or as transportation.  Nothing like the good old wheel.

You may notice a little area behind the wheel where the wood looks a little newer.  We were told that a bear broke into this mill because of the residual corn left in the millstone. They are much more careful not to leave any hint of cornmeal there now.

This barnyard had a sign saying not to go in because snakes liked to nest.  So I kept my distance, but was still able to capture a photo of this old plow. These primitive farming tools helped most of the families in the Smoky Mountains to be self-sufficient, except for sugar, coffee and salt.

The old farm cart wasn't going anywhere because all the wheels weren't in tact.  However, I loved the reflection of the wheel in the puddle.  Also, this photo is an HDR image.  That is High Dynamic Range.  I took 3 photos using my Auto Exposure Bracket setting on my camera.  One photo was one full stop underexposed, one was right on, and one was overexposed.  Then, using software, I combined all three of these images.  What you get with that is the best of all three exposures.  What do you think?

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Photographer's Paradise - The Smokies Part II - Roots

"For a tree to become tall, it must grow tough roots among the rocks."                                                  Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900         

While walking among the tall trees in the woods of the Smoky Mountains, you see how right Nietzsche was.  Here are some examples of the resilience of tree roots in the forests of the Smoky Mountains:


 This tree seems to rest on a bed of boulders, growing outward in search of the earth.  I could have taken this shot in so many places throughout the park - rocks and roots were everywhere.


 The river hasn't thwarted this tree's growth.  It has extended its reach beyond the shore 
and supplies it steadily with needed moisture. I shot this photograph with the camera mounted on a tripod and a slow shutter speed.  It's almost hard to tell the roots are surrounded by water - it looks like it could be ice.


 Thousands of visitors to the park climb this trail each year to reach the waterfall at the top, wearing away the soil that once covered these roots.  The tree still stands straight and tall.  These roots attracted my attention because because of their texture.  Even though they weren't going to be moving, I still used a tripod mounted camera because of the low light in the deep woods.