Monthly Archives: November 2013

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Water & Wildlife

In a recent blog post from Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I shared my favorite photos I took around Clingmans Dome.  Even though Clingmans Dome offers sweeping mountain views of the undulating ridges that make up the Appalachian Range, what I remember most about the Smokies was the water and wildlife.

As a photographer, I personally prefer grand landscapes to intimate scenes and macro photography; a quick look at my portfolio and you’ll understand!  In the Smokies, finding the grand sweeping views I love to photograph was much more challenging.  So much so that I really had to push myself to change my photographic style and shoot more smaller scale, intimate scenes.  In the Smokies, water abounds.  Espcially around the Deep Creek area of the Park, that water became an often photographed feature.

Water is not the only thing that seems to be around every curve in the trail.  Critters are everywhere, including the bears!  Strangely enough, in all my hiking in Colorado, I’ve never had a face to face bear encounter.  In the Smokies, I saw four bears in less than two hours!  Two black bears were napping in trees, a giant one walked through a picnic area outside the Cades Cove visitor center, but the coolest experience of all was watching one little bear dig up and forage on underground bees’ nests!  It was absolutely incredible to see bears living in their natural habitat, but now that I’ve moved to Wyoming and entered grizzly habitat, I hope I never see a bear in the wild ever again!

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Deep Creek – Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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Deep Creek Falls – Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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Tennessee Twilight – Little Tennessee River

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Foggy Reflections – Little Tennessee River

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Bear Crossing – Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Categories: Hiking, National Parks, Nature, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Florida Coast – From the Treasure Coast to the Dry Tortugas

Starting last February, for seven months I managed a construction project in Palm Beach County, Florida.  Before leaving Colorado for this assignment, I knew full well that I’m a mountain man at heart but looked at the South Florida project as an opportunity to explore a region I would normally not spend more than a few days time while on vacation.  Knowing this was very much a short term assignment, I made it a point to get out with my camera often.  I was especially spoiled since my apartment in Boca Raton was only a few miles from the beach!  So, quite often, I’d set my sights on the beaches of south Florida for my photography.

Even though I often frequented the the beaches that were within a short drive, mainly Deerfield Beach, Boca Raton, and Delray Beach, I did take pictures of the coast as far north as St. Augustine.  But, my favorite images were taken in Southern Florida.  One memorable trip was when I went backpacking into the Everglades from the Flamingo area to Clubhouse Beach on Florida Bay and was nearly eaten alive by ravenous bugs in the process.  Another favorite place I visited was Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park where I camped for nearly three days and took my favorite image while in Florida.

I did quickly realize beaches are popular at all times of the day!  This posed a challenge for me because I usually prefer “nature” photos that do not show any human presence and purposefully don’t often include people in my images.  Living on one of the most densely populated stretches of coastline in North America, removing all human presence from my images sometimes proved to be an impossibility.  However, I did learn that sometimes what makes an image is by including that human connection.

Photographing the ocean also proved to be quite challenging.  On the Atlantic Coast, shooting sunrise means you are looking directly into the sun, causing scenes with very high contrast that makes controlling the exposure of images very difficult (for example, you have a really pretty sky, but the ground is totally black.  Also, the ocean is a very dynamic beast.  The difference between high tide and low tide can completely change the look and feel of a location.  Waves are ever changing; sometimes calm sometimes wild and crazy, changing from one extreme to another if what feels like a matter of minutes.  I learned an expensive lesson at Blowing Rocks Preserve near Jupiter, Florida when I was hit by an unexpectedly large wave that soaked some of my camera gear and caused several hundred dollars of damage!

Living and frequently shooting the Southern Florida Coast proved to be very challenging and definitely put me outside my comfort zone as a photographer.  But ultimately I learned a lot from my experiences in Florida and was able to take away some of my favorite imagery.  Even though I’m not destined to live the “salt life,” I understand and appreciate why many people do…

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The Splash Zone – Blowing Rocks Preserve – Jupiter, FL

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Witches Brew – Boca Raton, FL

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Moonrise at the Pier – Deerfield Beach, FL

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Sunrise at the Pier – Deerfield Beach, FL

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Mudflats to Infinity – Clubhouse Beach – Everglades National Park

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Twilight Blues – Delray Beach, FL

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Florida Bay Blues – Everglades National Park

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Serenity Now – Boca Raton, FL

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Surf’s Up – Boca Raton, FL

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Gone Fishin’ – Boca Raton, FL

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Starburst Sunset – Clubhouse Beach, Everglades National Park

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Colorful Calm – Delray Beach, FL

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Morning has Broken – Boca Raton, FL

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Serpent’s Tongue – Boca Raton, FL

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The Moat Wall – Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park

Categories: Hiking, National Parks, Nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Clingmans Dome – Great Smoky Mountains National Park

At 6,643′ in elevation, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the highest point in Tennessee, and the third highest point east of the Mississippi River (the other two points are nearby in North Carolina).  In late August, I spent several days in the area around Great Smoky Mountains National Park and spent most of the time visiting the more “touristy” spots in the park.

I must say, after living for the better part of a decade in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, with 54 mountains soaring over 14,000′, I under estimated how challenging hiking in the Smokies would be.  After just a couple day hikes I was sore for several days!

Although many of the hiking trails are challenging, getting to Clingmans Dome is easy; for most of the year, you can drive nearly to the top of it.  In fact, all of the pictures below were taken from the parking lot at the end of the Clingmans Dome Road.

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The “Smokies” got their name not from smoke or air pollution in the area, but the from the mist and fog that regularly forms in the area.  In fact, during my visit, it was foggy every morning!

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Unfortunately, air pollution is a real problem.  Prevailing winds blow in air pollution from hundreds of miles away.  On a clear day, you used to be able to see more than 100 miles; views like that are a rarity anymore.

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The upper elevations of Clingmans Dome are covered in spruce-fir forests.  Being so far south along the Appalachian Chain, these spruce-fir forests only live at the high elevations of the mountains.   When hiking, I was just blown away at how diverse the plant and animal life is; in just a few hundred feet of elevation change, all of the plant life would change!  That level of bio diversity was really neat to see.

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The diversity on the Smoky Mountains is in jeopardy.  Even though the Smokies are protected in a National Park, the forest atop Clingmans Dome is being killed off by invasive insects.

I only had time to spend one sunset at the top of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but was lucky enough to capture a nice sunset.  Even though I liked the images I took away from this location, I would happily return!

Categories: Hiking, National Parks, Nature | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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