Archive for October, 2008

Great Smoky Mountains

// October 25th, 2008 // No Comments » // Photography Trips

The week of October 18th through the 24th, I was lucky enough to attend the Rocky Mountain School of Photography – Fall Color in the Appalachians at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Rhonda was able to come along and spend the week visiting Gatlinburg and Townsend as well a touring the park and attending a few of our critique sessions.

The week started on Saturday afternoon meeting together for a few hours and getting acquainted. Brenda Tharp taught the class and Eileen Kennan worked on the details of keeping all of us going and answering a large number of individual questions in the field.

This year the fall color was at about 25% and not predicted to get better for another 10 days or so. Because of this, our schedule was adjusted on a daily basis in order to give us possible opportunities for shooting the fall color as well as getting the best areas for fog, sunrises and sunsets.

The first thing I needed to do was to find someone to carpool with because Rhonda needed the car to go to town during the days. Eileen helped out by pairing us with people who were able to drive. I was lucky enough to be driven the whole time by Carolyn Andros and Bridget Ruiz riding shotgun. They were both in the Navy, very competitive, and have done very well in swimming, climbing and other sports. They traveled all over the world, found their husbands in the Navy, and squeeze in time to raise their children,. They have tons of great stories and do photography as a business and hobby.

The next morning we were out at about 6:45 shooting waterfalls on Tremont road just outside Cades Cove. It turned out to be a fairly good way to get into shooting and especially for Brenda and Eileen to be able to understand everyone’s skill levels and helping them get started.

After everyone returned from the field by 10:30 or so we worked on processing our photos and getting 10 of our own photos from our portfolio turned in for critique and also to show Brenda and Eileen what we were capable of doing. After lunch we spent the afternoon going through everyone’s photos. At that point I was concerned I had a lot of catching up with the group in terms of their understanding of photography and quality of photos. Eventually Brenda critiqued my 10 best photos and she did a very good job. The two photos she did not have much to improve on were the two photos which received recognition at my photography clubs competitions. She judged them perfectly in line with what other judges were seeing. It was good to get new ideas on how to improve my images.

That evening we went out to the end of Tremont road and took more photos of waterfalls and reflected light. While climbing down a steep bank, crawling over trees, getting poked by a thorn bush or two we found some great photos. Along the way Brenda caught up with us to see how were were doing. Afterwords she hiked to another area. While walking under a very low broken down tree, her backpack got caught on the tree and she fell backwards onto a very sharp rock. She hit hard. At that point I thought we were in trouble. I was concerned she had broken a bone. After a few minutes of regaining herself, she kept on going. I was surprised and relieved at the same time. I made a note to be a lot more careful while crawling around the banks. Once it starts getting dark, it can be difficult traversing the sides. Once this shoot was finished, we were allowed to go home, eat, and edit our photos for 3 critiques the next day.

The next morning we were up around 6:40 for Sparks Lane in Cades Cove. There we found no wind, an early morning fog, a bit of frost, and some good first light. We spent about 3 hours in the area doing our best to get some good ones.

After Sparks Lane we met in the classroom for our first critiques. It was amazing to watch the photos coming up for review in front of the class. Everyone saw something different even though we took our photos in about 2000 feet of shore line at each area. Along the way I learned some great ideas for future outings.

Later that evening we shot another river in the park near Chimney Tops. I chose one particular area that was a little bright and later on, learned it had too large of a leaf on the falls. Brenda eventually found me and made some great suggestions. She removed the large yellow leaf on my falls and replaced it with a better one. After a few more tries on exposure I got this.

After Chimney Tops we went to an area near Newfound Gap to photograph the sunset. Here we experimented with our neutral density filters and for a short time our polarizers.

The next morning we were up very early to see the sunrise in the parking lot of Clingmans Dome. We arrived to find very thick fog, very cold (Why didn’t I wear my underarmor????? Be prepared! It’s easier to peel off clothes than to freeze.) and winds from 10 to 25 mph. It was extremely challenging to find some great images, but we found a few in the early hours.

We met after lunch to go over critiques. After that we had the option of going out on our own to photograph. I was tired from the early excursions and late evening going over my photos so I decided to stay home, edit my photos and eat dinner with Rhonda. Even though I missed one evening, that turned out to be a good decision. I was very rested and ready to go for the next day.

The following morning we went to Clingmans Dome again to photograph the sunrise. Carolyn was driving Bridget and I as usual. Along the way we noticed the gas gauge was basically on empty. So, us three geniuses were trying to figure out if we should get out of line and go to Gatlinburg to get gas or take a chance and try to make it to the dome. We decided to go to the city. That turned out to be the correct decision. Once we turned towards Gatlinburg at Sugarland crossing, the gas warning light and sound went on. We quickly made it to a gas station across town. The first pump we tried was so slow. We could count the pennys of gas going into the tank. The irony was thick. We were in an extreme hurry to catch up with our classmates. Eventually we switched to a different pump and got half a tank and made our way to the dome. We got there just in time as everyone else was set up and just getting going. This turned out to be the best morning for a firey red sunrise and a light fog over the valley.

Once the sunrise was finished we made our way further south past the turn to Clingmans done. I tried to take some good photos in the brighter morning light, but it did not work out too well for me that morning. I showed Rhonda what I had done and her question was “Why?”. Ok, I left those out. Remember a great photographer only show you their best. (While Rhonda was away I did sneak one in on my painterly tries for critique and Rhonda was right. I should have used another, but I just had to find out.)

That afternoon we had more critiques and later on headed to photograph the churches in Cades Cove. After photographing the Methodist Church we took Hayatt Lane and headed to the Dan Lawson Place. While there Bridget learned how to photograph a deer jumping a fence. Unfortunately, neither of us had our cameras ready. I missed the shot and she at least got the focus working, but did not have time to take the camera off of manual. She did get a dark shot of the deer in mid air over the fence. Next time we’ll be more ready for drive by shootings.

At the Lawson place I took my infamous shot of the corner of a log cabin. Rhonda said don’t turn that in for critique, but I could not help myself. I needed to know. During critique Brenda was kind enough to say, “nice exercise”, but at that moment I learned I made a mistake. It reminded me of a bunch of years ago when a world champion skydiving instructor kindly said I had “issues” in front of my girlfriend at the time, Rhonda, and her to teammates Nicole and Lauris….after saying they had done great…

The next morning we shot Cades Cove in the Cable Mill area. Before getting into the park we had time to take some photos of the stars. Brenda taught us some ways to figure out exposure and a few of us got some great ones.

At the mill I found a few shots of the mill and then for about 40 minutes I worked with Eileen on getting one of a wagon in a barn using a fill flash. My experience with fill flash was zero and she had to try to teach me a lot. We tried hard, but my images did not turn out good enough to show. At least I now have the idea and with a lot more practice I think I will be able to use fill flash properly in the future.

That afternoon we had predictions of rain so we ended up taking the Foothills Parkway that afternoon and doing close up/macro photography. Brenda showed me what it takes to make a great photo after working with me for an hour on one tree.

The next morning we had a session on equipment and a short slide show of our best photos including face photos Eileen took of us during the week.

It was a great learning experience and I’m looking forward to my next workshop. See my photos in thegallery below.

Chad

Fall Creek Cabin

// October 25th, 2008 // No Comments » // North Carolina

Here are some of Chad’s photos from our trip to Fall Creek Cabins near Boone, NC on Sept. 6th.

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