A Study of the South: Great Smoky Mountains

Photographing the Smoky Mountains

In my previous post I said that I would try to post a blog every 2-3 days. Well, as you probably know by now, I failed pretty hard with that! It was impossible to find the time to sit down and write a blog in between all the photographing, driving, hiking and social! I do apologise for this, so I'll rather write posts now reflecting upon the different areas of my travels.

Patience Is Key

After Glow in the Smoky's

After Glow in the Smoky's

It's very rare that I aim to get a "classic shot" that has been taken thousands of times before me. I prefer to explore a place and try to show what I see, without copying what has been done before me. This time it was different. I have always loved those sunrises or sunsets of Smoky Mountains where you get layer upon layer, and ideally some nice light in between them too. There was two reasons I aimed for this classic shot rather than spending time finding something different. 1. I'm working on a project to show the wonders of the Southern States, and I felt that such a shot must be included. 2. I simply love that classic shot and want one for myself. 

Getting this shot seemed to be much harder than I initially had thought. It took me 3 sunrises and two sunsets before I finally got what I wanted. As I wrote in my previous post, A Study of the South: First Impressions, the weather was quite challenging. I had only planned to spend two full days in the Smoky's, but I chose to extend my visit with one day in hope of getting the shot.

When I left towards the southern states, I brought mostly summer clothes. It may have been a lack of planning, or lack of knowledge, but I was not prepared for snow and ice. Fair enough, down by the campsite it was warm and summer, but at Clingmans Dome, the highest point in Smoky Mountains, summer wasn't that visible. Two of my attempts to shoot from here were stopped due to ice and snow and one attempt was failed due to zero visibility. 

At my third last attempt before I had to leave, the sunset turned out quite descent. To start with it seemed rather disappointing. Yet again it was thick fog and heavy clouds, so much that you could not see the view at all. One after one the photographers started leaving, in hope of getting a sunset at a lower altitude. Even tho it was freezing cold, and I was in no way equipped for this cold weather, I chose to wait it out in hope of a small opening. 

Not long after most photographers had left, the opening came. It was still heavy clouds, and not much view of the ridges, but the clouds were moving fast so it was possible to get a couple shots. It was not the classic shot I had hoped for, but I'm actually really pleased anyways since I was able to get something a little different.

Golden clouds surrounding Smoky Mountains

Golden clouds surrounding Smoky Mountains

My weird little mind had made a theory about why it is called the Smoky Mountains. The theory was that long ago Native Americans would send smoke signals to each other from one mountain to another. Well, I guess reality is not as cool as my mind, and it's simply because of the clouds as you can see above.

On my last sunrise, ironically, it finally happened. The conditions were exactly as I had hoped for all along. This was it! I would finally get the shot I had tried for the last days. Seriously, I did. Theres no drama to this story and theres not much more to say. It was a extremely enjoyable sunrise, and a great way to say goodbye to the Great Smoky Mountains.

Classic Smoky Mountains Sunrise viewed from Clingmans Dome

Classic Smoky Mountains Sunrise viewed from Clingmans Dome

Meeting fellow photographers

I'm used to photographing by myself, or alongside a friend. It's very rare I meet other photographers on the locations I usually go. Photographing the Smoky Mountains is quite different than what I'm used to. You're not nearly by yourself when shooting sunrise or sunset from one of the many viewpoints. I must admit it was a positive surprise to engage with so many likeminded people. I was at first sceptic to how it would be, when 30 people wants the best spot, but most people were really nice and there was never any territorial problems!

It was very nice to talk to great people while waiting for the sunrise or sunset, and I was surprised to see how many came driving from far away (Non as far away as Norway tho!). 

I also had the pleasure of meeting my friend Alan from Alan HD Photography in person. It's always fun to get to meet someone you know through social media in real life.

The Great Smoky Mountains is so much more than just these amazing overlooks. It is full of wildlife, rivers, waterfalls and history. I'll share my thoughts about these in the next post.