Shenandoah National Park glowing in the early fall, viewed from the Little Stony Man Summit.
Family time is quality time
As some of you know, I recently spend two weeks in Virginia/Washington D.C visiting my mother and father that's been living there the last 4 years. This trip was not intended to be a photo vacation, but two weeks where I can spend some quality time with my family. However, my mom is very interested in photography herself, and it is really nice to go shooting with her, even tho she's using a Canon (Shh, don't say that Christian!).
The last weekend I was there, my mother and I decided to go for a little trip to the Shenandoah National Park since my father was now back in Norway for some days. You all know that I never travel without my gear, and my fingers had been itching to do some proper shooting again! Since I recently got a grand from the biggest Norwegian bank I had the perfect excuse to buy some more gear while in the states. This little photo trip would be perfect to use both my new Monfrotto backpack and Rokinon 14mm f/2.8, but I'll come back to the details about this in a later post.
So, with the trunk full of camera gear, a reservation at the Skyland Resort, and a eager to enjoy some beautiful fall sceneries and capture this moments, we headed out to Shenandoah!
I'll start explaining to you what the problem about Shenandoah National Park is. It's too beautiful! And by the way, it doesn't make it less beautiful when the fall colours are starting to seriously show themselves! After entering the park, the viewpoints are literally around each corner. As the photographers we are, of course we have to stop at every single viewpoint, just to be sure we don't miss anything! In my eyes, the 45 minutes extra driving is well worth it, even tho I didn't bother unpacking my gear at most of the places, just standing there enjoying the fresh air & great views makes my smile extend a couple miles away from my face! I'm serious. The vistas are fantastic, literally in every direction.
Little Stony Man
Little Stony Man. I just love that name! Such a great name for a summit. Did you know that from Little Stony Man, you can view Big Stony Man? Yeah, you can. Ok, don't laugh.
Arriving the resort we still didn't have any specific plans for the sunset. During the day we wanted to go to some places close by, where we knew what to expect, and then figure out the sunset spot as we go. After some researching and talking with employees at the resort, we decided to take the Little Stony Man Summit.
I wish I could say that reaching this summit required hours of hiking, wrestling some bears and some mountaineering, but that would be a lie. A big fat lie. It's a 1.5 miles roundtrip from the parking area located next to Skyland Drive. Even tho it's a short trip, it is steep with its 243m (800ft) elevation.
As a photographer you know that light is essential in photography. As a person you know that light changes rapidly and often lasts much shorter then you ask for.
Arriving the parking lot my stress level had already started to shoot through the roof, as I knew that we arrived a little later then what I'd prefer. Luckily this wasn't the hour long hike that included fighting with bears and some serious mountaineering as I mentioned earlier.
When we arrived the summit, the light was extraordinary. The mix between fall colours and green trees glowing made my stress level go up and down like a roller-coaster. I didn't know if I should be relaxed because of the serene beauty or stressed because I knew the light would be gone in less then 15 minutes due to heavy clouds covering the horizon. I was fully aware that this image could very well be one of my better. I decided to run around as fast as I could to find the composition I wanted.
Honestly I felt a little bad for my mother. Every now and then I could hear a little whimper from behind as I took a couple steps closer to the edge then she felt comfortable with or when my tripod and myself went climbing down to some ledges to look for a possible image.
When I finally found the framing I wanted, there was no time for mistakes. The sun was not gonna dance for me much longer. However, even tho the sun was soon gonna disappear, the glow just got stronger and stronger. Even the haze caused by the sun looked amazing!
To get the image I wanted, I took one exposure for the foreground and hillside and another for the sky. I also decided to go for a 3 shot focus stack to get the depth and sharpness wanted.
As soon as the sun went to bed underneath the thick clouds, everything turned flat. I walked around and took a couple more shots in different angles, mainly just to take some shots. Also I got to test my new Rokinon 14mm and I don't have words to describe how sharp it is!
Be aware that after the sunset it gets dark extremely quick, and walking back down in pitch dark could be scary. It is very steep, and a lot of rocks that you easily can fall on. Because of the thick woods not even a full moon will help you. It is crucial to bring a flashlight of some kind to light up the area in front of you.
More images from my Shenandoah trip will be uploaded in the closest future