Solar Eclipse: A Week Before

2017 Solar Eclipse: A Week Before

The path of the 2017 Solar Eclipse is starting in Oregon and making its way across the country.  As much as I would love to be in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it is going to be crowded and patience has never been my strong suit.  Luckily the eclipse runs right through the middle of South Carolina going over McClellanville. 

The first full solar eclipse in years is going to happen on a Monday afternoon so of course I decided to take the day off because I’m not missing this possibly once in a lifetime event especially since I live 30 minutes from where there will be totality of the eclipse (full solar eclipse).  I actually put in for the day off in May.

The next important thing is deciding where to take go, I could stay in Myrtle Beach which will have 99.6 percent of the totality.  To many people that is enough but it is not for me. I want the full eclipse so that leaves anywhere from Pawley’s Island to Charleston.  Charleston is going to be crowded and don’t really feel like dealing with that much traffic.  No matter where I go, without doubt I will not be the only person there shooting the eclipse.As much as I would love to go to the point in Pawley’s Island, there isn’t a lot of parking available so I"m going to head to Georgetown where the totality will be the longest and hopefully I can find a place even if it is just a parking lot.  Since its a solar eclipse int he middle of the day, the subject will be high in the sky so I don’t have to worry about people in my shots.

Another very important item, a filter for my camera that is strong enough for the camera to be pointed at the sun for a few hours except that short window during the totality.  Luckily my wonderful friend Tim is sending me his because I waited to long to order one.  I now have to decide if I want to shoot with the Nikon D300s or the Nikon D700.  The D700 is the better camera but its a full frame camera so using a 80-400mm the most zoom I will get it 400mm.  Because the D300s is a crop sensor, the 400mm lens now becomes 560mm. Ordered my special solar eclipse glasses from Tidelands Health so my eyes are taken care of as well.

This week will be spent watching videos, reading everything I can about settings so on the day of the eclipse I am ready and I don’t miss the photos of a lifetime because I don’t know what I am doing. And I will also be practicing. Hopefully Mother Nature will behave and we will have clear skies.



Return to the Smokies Day Four

Return to the Smokies Day Four.

RFLE042017001The day did not start out well.  Tim woke up feeling even worse and Mother Nature decided to be her sadistic self.  It was overcast when I woke up but it wasn’t long before the skies opened up and it started to pour.  I spent the morning editing a few photos and writing the blog posts for the previous three days.  I don’t have a working laptop so I’m using mobile LR and Photoshop on my IPad Pro for editing and also writing the blog posts.  Unfortunately the box for the blog posts is only so big and once you get past that you can’t see your words so all my blogs will have to be finished once I get home and have access to my iMac.  As the day progressed I could feel a cold coming on.  Not surprising considering how much time Tim and I spent together.

RFMBW042017001We decided to grab lunch at A&W and then head to the park since it looked like there might be a break in the weather.  See comment about sadistic Mother Nature.  Best laid plans.  It started to pour as soon as we arrived at the restaurant.  I haven’t been to an A&W since I was a kid and I’ve always loved their root beer.  I even bought an official A&W mug, I ordered the small one (shot size) but she rang up the largest one. Since she needed a manager to void the order, I told her not to worry about it and just took the large one. 

After lunch there were still thick clouds over the mountains that we couldn’t see them so we headed back to the hotel where I did more editing.

The storms finally cleared around 4pm so we headed to Roaring Fork Nature Trail for our final photo outing together.  Part of the road is rough for someone who is deathly afraid of heights.  I was getting very nervous on the narrow one way road which has a steep drop off just past the asphalt and since we took my car and Tim doesn’t know how to drive a manual transmission, I had to drive. Since neither Tim nor I were feeling up to it we opted out of both the Rainbow Falls and Grotto Falls hikes.  They are definitely on the list for the next trip but Tim will be driving next to time so I can feel safe on the inside part of the road.  We stopped and took more photos of the flowing river because neither of us just don’t have enough long exposure river shots from this trip. We also stopped at the old mill.

We stopped at a wood fired pizza place on the way back to the hotel.

Return to the Smokies Day Three

 Return to the Smokies Day Three

SPHD042017001Finally our first full day of sun.  We decided to head back to Cade’s Cove to shoot Sparks Lane and then head into Townsend to get breakfast. Sparks Lane was open to traffic which made get photos of the road fun because we kept having to move to the side to let the cars pass. Its a very popular road.  We met Joseph Rossbach who was doing a seminar with a nice couple from Germany.

One of the vehicles that we moved out of the way for stopped down the road so they could take photos but the ruined our shots. While we were waiting, I wandered into the mist covered field and took photos of and dew covered spiderwebs.  I wandered down the road because I had seen some deer crossing but they were on the other side of the stream covered lane and I wasn’t going to get my running shoes soaked.  I asked the driver how long he would be because we wanted to take photos and his response was "don’t you guys have photoshop?"  I love inconsiderate people. He eventually did leave.  

GSMLE042017003Instead of heading to Townsend for breakfast, Tim wanted to stop by Sugarlands Visitor Center to pick up a collectible Great Smoky Mountains National Park poster he had seen on our other stops into the center. On the way out of the park, we pulled off to take photos of the river.  I think we’ve been there at least 4 or 5 times.  Since we were closer to Gatlinburg than Townsend, we decided to head to Pigeon Forge for breakfast which was quickly turning into brunch. 

We planned to go to Flapjacks Pancake house which we bothered remembered was on the right side of the road.  We still didn’t see it when we got to Sevierville so we turned around and headed to the IHOP we saw.  Flapjacks in Pigeon Forge was on the opposite side of the road, the one we were both thinking was in Sevierville and we just hadn’t gone far enough.  Oops. 

We then headed back to the park. We headed toward Elkmont campground to hike Jake Creek trail hoping it would have some thick foliage to filter the harsh sunlight. Only problem was the trail was closed at Cucumber Gap Trail so we took a few photos of the small stream near the parking lot and then headed back to the hotel because Tim wasn’t feeling well.

MO04217001Our last photo excursion of the day was heading up to Morton Overlook in Newfound Gap to get the sunset.  Tim was thrilled to see Tony Sweet who’s workshop he attended in the Badlands.  I had a little trouble with my exposure but as you can see, I think the photos out ok.

Another great day in the Smokies.  

Return to the Smokies Day Two

Return to the Smokies Day Two was supposed to be the first full day of sunshine but we are talking about Mother Nature and add the Great Smoky Mountains in and it does not always happen that way. It didn’t rain though and clouds can make for some dramatic photos.

LFLE042017001It was my turn to drive.  Our first stop was Laurel Falls.  We parked in the parking lot, grabbed our gear and started the 2.6 mile round trip hike up the mountain. The good news is it is almost totally up hill to the falls so its downhill back to the parking lot.  The path is paved but not always in the greatest shape in a few spots.  The trail comes to a bridge that cuts the waterfall in half.  We set up our tripods on the rocks and took photos keeping in mind that edge was not very far.  Both Tim and I took photos for tourists and had one of them return the favor and take one photo of us.  The first photo that we are both in facing the camera.  Neither of us like getting our photos taken.

LFLE042017002After we finished taking photos, we decided to hike down the rocky trail to the bottom of the falls.  It was slippery and not easy to navigate but we made it down but not before scraping my calf which I would repeat climbing back up.  We took many photos of the lower falls.  Laurel Falls is popular so there will be quite a bit of editing to do on these photographs since many hikers decided to wear bright neon colors and stand in the way when I’m taking the photo. The nerve of some people.

We planned to head to Roaring Fork Nature Trail for our next destination but instead of heading toward Gatlinburg where the entrance is, we turned onto Newfound Gap.   We could have done the hike to Alum Cave Bluffs but the parking lot was overflowing and neither of us are a big fan of crowds. Chimney Tops was closed so we decided to go to Clingman’s Dome.  We were both a little sore and tired from the hike to Laurel Falls but how hard can a half a mile hike be. Famous last words. 

CDHD042017002We passed a few scenic overlooks that we planned on stopping at on the way back down the mountain.  After I parked my car, we took some photos from the edge of the parking lot and then headed to make the hike to the observation tower.  The hike is relatively short but because of the steep incline, the NPS rates the hike as strenuous and believe me it is but the view from the top is well worth the hike.

The driving trip down the mountain was fun for me as the road has a lot of twists and turns but I don’t think Tim felt the same way.  It probably wasn’t a lot of fun for a passenger.

Greenbrier042017002Our last trek for the day was down Greenbrier Road which runs along the Little Pigeon River.  Another great area to capture photos.  Ramsey Cascades Falls is off this road unfortunately it was closed due to a bridge being out.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at Burger Barn for dinner.  All in all this was an amazing and tiring day.  

Return to the Smokies Day One

My Return to the Smokies Day One.

GSM042017001Tim and I decided to take one of our trips together to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  I fell in love with the park when I visited last year.  The first full day in the Smokies was an experience.  In all fairness, everyday in the Smokies is an experience.  

Our original plan before we set out was to go to Cade’s Cove to shoot Sparks Lane first thing in the morning because fog had set in and due to the fact that Cade’s Cove is in a valley, it could make for some great photos.  We then planned to head to the Knoxville Zoo and because of the weather was forecasting rain in the afternoon, we planned on going to a distillery and then maybe the Alcatraz East Crime Museum.

How our day actually went was almost completely different.  Luckily even though it was overcast all day, it never actually rained.  We headed to Cade’s Cove like we planned but things went a little sideways once we entered the park and headed there.  The road to the Cove was closed. We pulled into the parking lot at Metcalf Bottoms.  We walked a little down the road but didn’t see anything and decided to turn around because Cade’s Cove was still 8 miles away.

Deer042017001Like many places in the park, a river flows right by the road and since they’ve had a lot of rain, the river was raging.  It also has a lot of large boulders so it makes for some great long exposure photographs.

The first thing we took photos of was the closed road.  The road runs through the mountains with dense foliage and with the fog it made for some dramatic photos.  We then moved to a bridge over the river which we kept having to move off because its one lane and cars kept coming.  I eventually moved down to the river banks to get some photos.  I finally saw a Park Ranger truck approaching and I flagged him down which is when I found out that there was a tree in the road but more importantly there was another way to get to the Cove which was definitely the scenic route.  It took us through Townsend, TN then back into the park.  We first stopped at the Cades Cove store and picked up a few souvenirs.  We then headed over to Sparks Lane to get some shot.  Our next stop was John Oliver’s Cabin.I took a few photos and then wandered in the woods behind the cabin and took a few photos of a stream while Tim was taking his shots.  Once we got back to the car, Tim decided to take some photos of the mountains.  We didn’t leave the parking lot for like 20 minutes because Tim was waiting for a raptor that was flying overhead to fly into his shot.  It never did.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am NOT a GSMLE042017001patient person.  I was tempted to run him over with the car.  We were finally on our way.  Our next stop was John Cable Grist Mill.  Like the cabin, I wondered into the woods while Tim was shooting the barn behind the Mill.  I saw movement of a large animal.  Unfortunately it wasn’t a bear, it was a few deer.  I turned to head back when I saw three does nearby.  Tim soon joined me and we took quite a few photos.

 We stopped at Cades Cove store to grab a quick bite to eat and then headed over to Tremont Road which has the Mid Prong Little River flowing along side the road where there are many places to pull over to and take photos including waterfalls as you can see on the photo.

We stopped off at Corky’s BBQ for dinner and then headed back to the hotel.  It was a great first day.

The Smokies Day Three

The Smokes Day Three continues from The Smokies Day Two Continues

jcgmhd102016002Unfortunately this was my last day in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and also the day I was heading home.  I woke up at 6:30am.  By 7:15 I was back waiting in line for my 4th trip through the Cades Cove Loop.  I wanted to get the angle on the Grist Mill that I hadn’t been able to get the day before and also shoot the remaining tour.  Because of traffic it took some time to get to the Mill which is a little over halfway around the 11 mile loop.  Unlike the prior day, I parked in the first spot since it was only 8:30 and the store doesn’t open until 9. I got some great long exposure shots.  I saw a lot of deer on this trip around the loop.

deer102016002Unlike the other trips, I decided to drive down Sparks Lane.  Per the Cades Cove Auto Tour "This north-south road connects at each end of the Loop Road.  It has been part of the Cove road system since the 1840s."  It is not paved so my car got dirtier but it was one of the best decisions that I made.  Halfway through, I came across a 10 point buck eating on the side of the road.  As I pulled up next to him, he stopped eating and turned to look at me.  Luckily my camera was on the passenger seat so I was able to grab a couple of shots.  I got out of the car. He got a little spooked but only walked a few feet ahead so I followed him. I stayed about 10 feet away and took quite a few more photos.  It was a great experience.  Unfortunately because of this little side trip I missed a bear crossing the Loop.

After I finished the Loop, I headed back to campsite to pack up. I checked out and headed out.  After leaving Cades Cove,I turned down the road that leads to the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont.  The road runs along the Middle Prong Little River.  Just like the night before, I stopped frequently to take photos of different places along the river.  The road turned to gravel so my car got dirtier.  This detour took me about an hour and a half.

Heading home I took the Foothills Parkway where I stopped at a few scenic overlooks to take some photos.  I took over 1600 photos in the day and a half that I was in the park.  It was an amazing trip and I can’t wait to go back to do more exploring.  I arrived home a little after 8pm.


You can find great works of art of Cades Cove for sale on Fine Art America by clicking on to this link:  Cades Cove Art For Sale

The Smokies Day Two Continued

 The Smokes Day Two Continued continues where The Abrams Falls Hike left off

The next stop was the John C Cable Grist Mill.  Today the park operates the cable mill as an historical exhibit. 

Of course everyone was visiting the loop at the same time so I had to park a good distance away.  Took many photos of the mill at several different angles but there was one angle I could not capture because the placement of the sun.

tentBefore I left, I stopped in the store and picked up jars of both apple and pumpkin butter. I am going to enjoy those. My feet hurt too much to stop at the other stops on the loop so I headed back to the campground where I promptly changed into my sneakers.  One of the reasons my feet hurt so much was due to the constant pressing the clutch because traffic was so heavy. I took a few shots of my campsite. 

Around 4pm I headed out to Townsend to get dinner.  On the way I stopped at least 1/2 dozen overlooks where I climbed down to the edge of the river and took both long exposure and HDR photos.  I also was finally able to shoot the Great Smoky Mountain National Park sign.  I stopped and picked up some fudge (peanut butter chocolate and cinnamon apple pie) and then went in search of food.  I stopped at the first place I saw – Pizza Hut where I ordered a personal pepperoni pan pizza.  I had a text conversation with Tim while I waited for the pizza to be ready.

deer102016003After dinner I headed back into the park and stopped at a few more roadside parking areas and took more photos.  I also shot but sides of a small tunnel.  Stupidly, I headed back to the Cades Cove Loop hoping to get the one angle of the grist mill but unfortunately it was closed.  I probably could have gotten the photos but decided to come back in the morning.  The only good thing about this third time through the loop was that I got several shots of some bucks. 

I am now sitting at the picnic table at my campsite writing this blog post by flashlight.  It’s going to be another chilly night.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Photographs for Sale

Abrams Falls Hike

 Abrams Falls Hike continues where The Smokies Day Two left off. 

On the second time through the Cades Cove Loop, I turned off at the Abrams Falls trails.  The Park Ranger warned me that it was a mostly downhill on the hike to the falls and uphill on the hike back.  HIs definition of mostly downhill on the trip to the falls is somewhat different than mine.  I would say it was about even up/down in both directions though it might seem worse hiking back to the parking lot because of tired and sore legs which was true in my case.   The Abram Falls Hike is a 5 mile moderate round trip which takes 3-4 hours.

log-bridgeI almost turned back early into the hike due to my intense fear of heights.  It was not from the trails but when I came across the first log bridge that I needed to cross. As you can see in the photo on the left, it is a wide log with a railing only the railing on this particular bridge was leaning heavily away from the log.  The bridge isn’t particularly high over the mountain stream with rocks but it would hurt if you fall off and fears are not always rational.  Personally I think my fear of heights is incredibly rational. A nice gentlemen who I met on the trail carried my tripod while I carried his walking stick.  I made it across and continued on my way trying not to think that I would have to recross that damn thing.  The trail starts at 1,750 elevation, peaks at 1,900 (twice)  and the falls are between 1,500-1,600.

afle102016001I had to cross 3 or 4 more log bridges but with the railings straight, I did not have any trouble.  I will say that the hike was well worth it.  The falls are gorgeous.  I was quite surprised how much water was flowing since the Ranger I had talked to that morning told me that they had not gotten rain since May.  Myrtle Beach certainly could not say that.  I took both long exposure an HDR photography from multiple locations. 

I briefly rested before heading back.  I must admit I frequently needed to stop and rest on the multiple uphill parts of the hike. Surprising, I did not have any trouble crossing the log bridge but I was determined to finish the hike.  By the time I made it back to the parking lot, my feet were killing me.  I had not worn my hiking boots in a few years due to the soles detaching on one of the boots which I repaired and the fact that I left my thick hiking socks at home.  


Coming soon….The second half of the day which includes the first time to the John C Cable Grist Mill.


The Smokies Day Two

 The Smokies Day Two continues from The Smokies Day One.  This is my only full day in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

cades-cove-map-1It has been 19 years (Yosemite Trip) since the last time I camped out.  I did not have a good night sleep, I kept waking up throughout the night.  I woke up for the last time at 6:30 am.  The temp was a balmy 47 degrees.  You have to love fall in the mountains. It was perfect hiking weather though.

The first item on the agenda was the Cades Cove Loop.  I only had about an hour and a half to go through because I had to be back at the Rangers Stations between 8am-9am to check in since I arrived too late the night before.  The first thing I ddi was make the 1/4 hike to the 3rd stop on the loop – the John Oliver Place.  Fortunately I was the only one there, unfortunately, I was not the only one on the loop.  I was also able to shoot Primitive Baptist Church (Stop 4), Methodist Church (Stop 5) and Missionary Baptist Church (Stop 7).  They all look very similar.  Unfortunately I was not able to shoot the Cable Grist Mill (Stop 11) which would come back and haunt me.  

jochd102016001I finished the loop and headed to the Ranger Station where I checked in.  While I was there, I picked up a few brochures include the Cades Cove Auto Tour booklet.  The map to the left is in the book.  I then headed to the campground store where I picked up a few souvenirs including a tee shirt not realizing it was an XL. I took it back later that afternoon and exchanged it for a medium.  That is what happens when you don’t have your reading glasses with you.  I had misplaced them and didn’t find them until later that day, they had fallen between the passenger seat and the door. Sucks getting old.

There were MANY more people the 2nd time through the loop, traffic was backed up. I hiked up to the John Oliver Cabin once again to take more photos but this time with different light, a much brighter light, than the first time around.  Same with the churches. 

Due to the length of this post, I’m dividing it into at least 2 different blog posts.  The next post will be my hike to Abrams Falls.

The Smokies Day One

The Smokies Day One was quite eventful.  It actually started the day before when Hurricane Matthew hit us.  My original plan was to leave at 4am on Sunday but a category one hurricane can change plans in a hurry.  Due to road closures because of flooding and debris, I was not able to leave until 11am.  I was making great time until right before I arrived at the Marion County line where traffic came to a stand still.  Marion county was hit hard by the storm and though there was not much flooding on Highway 501, there was a lot of debris.  Many trees were knocked down.  I was stuck in heavy traffic for over an hour.  As you can see in the photo on the right, there is a tree blocking the westbound lane so traffic was diverted to the eastbound lane.img_1727

gsm102016001Once I got west of Interstate 95 it was smooth sailing until I exited off Interstate 40. My Tomtom probably needs a software update, it took me on a very narrow backroads when it should have taken me by way of the Foothills Parkway. They are not kidding when they say October is a busy month in Gatlinburg, it reminded me of the 4th of July weekend at home.  Where Great Smoky Mountain National Park is always busy in October, this year was busier than usual because some of the people who had planned to vacation on the coast, had to change their plans due to Hurricane Matthew and they went to the park.

I had booked a site at the Cades Cove Campground site C08 for two nights because that was all they had available.  The sun had set by the time I made it to my campsite.  It was quite an adventure trying to set up in tent by flashlight and car headlights.  Luckily a nice gentlemen from the next site over took pity on me and helped me put up my tent or I probably would still be trying.  I sit here writing this blog post with a pen and legal pad by flashlight sitting in my tent.  I brought my iPad and iPhone but have no way to charge them so I have them both plus my Apple Watch on airplane mode to conserve battery power.  It will be very nice to get away from electronics for the next few days.  I have not gone unplugged in a very long time.  It is much chillier than home, you have to love fall in the mountains.  I plan to sleep in tee shirt, sweats, and a fleece pull over.

Coming Soon…The Smokies Day Two