Its a good week not to be in Chicago

A great week to be in the Smokies. The rivers are up. The rain is over for now. Last week brought warm moist air to the area. The rivers and falls have a good flow to them. It was great hiking weather, with temperatures in the 60s, it was very comfortable, although the rocks and roots were very slippery. Sturdy waterproof hiking boots with good ankle support are definitely recommended. I hiked up the Porter creek trail in the Greenbrier section of the Park to Fern Branch Falls, where the Flow was pretty god for this small waterfall. The little Pigeon River was as high as I’ve seen it, getting close to the road in some lower spots. navigating the boulder field below the falls was tricky since I could not trust my footing on The rocks. I shot the Falls in the normal fashion and then started with the more creative shots. First I shot the falls for black n white, in which I use a heavy filter orange to shoot. The filter gives me a monochromatic orange view which makes it much easier to  check the contrast and tones in the shot, and the filter eliminates blue light which tends to take the edge off of the highlights, especially in midday. Next was the wide angle composites, using a wide view with 3 1 stop HDR shots. The sky was heavily overcast so this was plenty of range. I also shot a 2 shot vertical composite, but I was pretty close to the falls so the perspective of looking up at that steep an angle may not yield much. I’ll see how it turns out when I process the images. A polarizer was critical for the shots to pop the greens on the moss and the rhoddodendrens as well as reduce the glare on the wet rocks. I should have the image processed later today or tomorrow, I’ll post it once I have it roughed out. After 1 1/2 hours of shooting the falls the clouds dropped down to my elevation so decided to pack it in for the day. Although I could have stayed a lot longer to play with the resulting fog, I still had other things to get done. Even though the leaves are off of the trees there is still plenty to shoot here. I have to remember that this is when I get a lot of my most creative shots. There is always something as long as I am open minded enough to look for it. If I go out expecting nothing then that is usually what I get. But if I go out ready for anything I often get some great shots even when the conditions are nowhere near what I was looking for.

All told it was a very nice hike. About 4 hours on the trail and didn’t see another person the whole time.  A couple of kayakers getting ready to start from the Ramseys turnoff were about the only people I saw the whole time I was there.

This was shot from the back porch yesterday morning. We had 4 of them wandering around the back yard and the empty lots on the side of the house.

Deer in the backyard
Deer in the backyard

I spoke with George up in Chicago yesterday, he reminded me of the joys of snowblowing that I was missing. He wasn’t too happy to hear that I had planned to put on shorts and call him from the back deck. But alas, the cold has arrived here now although we are not expecting the ice or snow that they have gotten. We will be down into the teens tomorrow morning, but it still beats the below zero stuff. I can’t say I miss that.

Best get back to work. Keep on clikin. And don’t forget the polarizer. Its a whole easier to fix it in the camera than it is on the computer.


Warm and Soggy over the next couple days

The forcast calls for highs in the 50s with temperatures above freezing and rain until Friday morning. This covers Newport, Gatlinburg and the higher elevations, so I expect the snow and ice to be completely gone by the weekend. It will turn a liite colder over the weekend (wind chill of 3 deg Saturday morning at Newfound Gap), but should be pleseant for the most part. I have not made it out shooting this week so far. I’ve been caught up in running errands etc. I would like to get down to Douglas lake for some shooting before the rain sets in but I don’t think I’ll make it. I went by there yesterday and the water level is way lower than I’ve seen it before. The new lakefront villas being built right now are about 500-600 yds from the lake. All of the old grain silos are back on dry land again.

I did one of my composite canvas’s printed. It is a 24″x44″ composite along the Little River upstream from Tremont. It is a 3 shot composite photomerge. It looks pretty good although I will have to play with it a little, with the range from light sky to dark water and shadows in the foreground, the sky in the leaves backlight by the sky in the corners are not quite where I want them. I shot this as a 9 shot composite, a 3 shot photomerge with each of the 3 shots being a 3 shot HDR image. So far I have not found that HDR image program that gives me the results I’m looking for. I don’t like Photoshop’s CS3 HDR processor, and I have done a little playing around with the Photomatix trial edition, but I may need a little more practice with it to get the results I looking for. I am also going to try the Lightroom Enfuse plugin this week. If I can get decent results with that then I would be a happy camper. It would help workflow a lot. Here is the shot as is now.

Little River upstream from Tremont
Little River upstream from Tremont

This is the shot after using LR/Enfuse to do the HDR portion. Not to bad for my first attempt. I ran the shots through the HDR process, then imported the results back into lightroom, developed the center shot to where I wanted it, then pasted those develop settings onto the left and right side images so that they would not be out of balance when merged, then merged the images in photoshop, imported the final image back into lightroom and did a little tuning. This looks much better on canvas, I went with a lighter feel and less saturation which makes for an image that really pulls you in. The fun part though is that as you look through the image you can find a lot of interesting little details due to the size of the print. This one is going to start the limited edition series. Unfortunately uploading as a jpg for the web does not do it justice.

HDR using Enfuse in Lightroom, Panorama using photomerge in Photoshop
HDR using Enfuse in Lightroom, Panorama using photomerge in Photoshop

There is still a little snow in the higher elevations

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I know we did. We closed the store so Lois and I actually got to spend a day together. Of course we had lots of company but we had a really good time.

I waited until the snow cleared out on Tuesday, then hiked up to Hen Wallow Falls from the Cosby campground. There was about an inch of snow in that area, but little flow over the falls and very little ice. Not quite that cold yet down lower. Mt Leconte and Mt Guyat got a pretty good coating, but 441 was closed in the morning so I didn’t drive into Gatlinburg. Unfortunately starting hikes further up in the hills is becoming more difficult since many of the seasonal road closures are in effect. Looks like I will have to start doing longer treks with the equipment to get the shots I’m looking for. We have been a little warmer the last couple days so the snow is disappearing at a pretty good rate. We’ll have to see what next week brings.

After a rainy day in Gatlinburg

Today doesn’t look too bad. The sun is out for now although the clouds are building. 441 over Newfound Gap is currently closed. They are getting ice and snow there along with Mt Leconte. The hourly forcast shows the snow as starting to taper off around 4pm and is a 40 to 60% chance from 4p to midnight. Accumlation is expected to be less than an inch, so it is tough to tell when the road will reopen.

There are a few people walking around today. Yesterday was extremely slow, with a drizzle all day long.

I did finally complete moving the studio at home, which with the Art and craft show Saturday has kept me from shooting this week. I’ll be in the shop for the next 2 days, and family in town for the holiday so it will be next week before I’m back out there. Better get long the johns warmed up. Even if I start in the lower elevations in 40 degree weather I can end up in the 20’s in the higher elevations. So its shooting in winter mode from here on out. Keep the batteries warm!

The Art and Craft Guild of the Smokies had a show in Newport on Saturday. A bit on the slow side but it gave me chance to talk with some of the other members see what kind of work they do. They have a pretty broad range, which is nice.

Still working on finding a good HDR program to work with. I haven’t been too happy with the results I’ve gotten in Photoshop. I’m playing around with photomatix to see if I like it, and an article in Outdoor Photography had a reccomendation for another one. I’m pretty picky about it. I’m trying to get one that will let me relatively easily combine the images for as realistic effect as possible. I’m working more with composite images now, so when I combine the HDR with composites I’m looking at anywhere from 9 to 15 images to make a print, sometimes more, so the processing can be extensive, especially when the post HDR processing has to match for each of the composite images to give a natural effect. It is pretty interesting though. I feel like I am just scratching the top of what I can do to move in new directions.

That’s all for now.


More snow today at higher elevations

Mt Leconte received a couple inches according to the NWS page, about 1 inch at Newfound Gap, and an inch is being reported at Cades Cove. 441 over the mountains is currently closed. Clingmans Dome, and the Cataloochee entrace road are also closed at the moment. Seasonal road closings have begun as well. Most of the snow looks like it is currently falling around the West end of the park and the Cherokee/Pisgah Natl forests. We had a lite dusting in the Cherokee foothills. Traces are also reported at Sugarlands and Oconaluftee.

I’m stuck moving the studio from the off the garage into one of the bedrooms so I can’t get out to do some shooting today. My camera is feeling neglected. So are my hiking boots. We had someone in the shop the other day who had hiked up to Ramsey’s Cascade and said the waterfall was partially frozen, and looked gorgeous. I may try to get up there early next week if the weather stays cold.

I have a show tomorrow at the Westend Baptist Church in Newport. It is put on by the Art and Craft Guild of the Smokies, so no shooting tomorrow either.

November 19, 2008

There’s snow in dem der hills!

Actually quite a bit has disappeared. Newfound Gap road was closed a large part of last Saturday, but was open again on Sunday morning. Shamed to say I did not get out. I have been busy this week, and was going to go today, but have decided to move the office closer to the center of the house. Yesterdays report showed 7 inches on the ground on Mt Leconte, and 4 inches at Newfoud Gap. I have heard rumours of snow on Thursday, so we will see.

This is from the last snow in late October.

A late October Icing on Leconte

A nice change of pace but didn’t quite get the fall/winter contrast I was looking for. I couldn’t get up the road until later so I didn’t get a chance to do any hiking that day. Oh well, its early, there should be more to come.