I’ve lived in North Carolina for 10 years and I have yet to make a trip to the mountains in the fall. Visions of picturesque mountains vibrant with color and crystal blue skies danced in my mind as to what I would see.
Getting there, at least for me is hard. Its hockey season, which means my disposable income is trips for our boys hockey habits. Four hour trips with overnight stays and meals get expensive and finding a free weekend to go the other way for photography has historically not been practical. This year, I got an opportunity to go to the Mountains.
I planned this weekend a couple of months ago along with my friend, Lori, who lives there. The middle of October should be the peak of color. I had the weekend of October 10 free and so we decided that would be the weekend to go.
Mother Nature took a lesson from Murphy and his Laws.
The trees are late changing. Warm temperatures and a wetter year has pushed the peak color back two-to-three weeks. About 1/3 of the leaves above 4,000 feet were changed. Saturday was a complete wash with rain and fairly dark skies. We had planned on Saturday for other activities so that wasn’t so bad, but Sunday, our morning to drive the parkway was fairly well fogged in.
I had actually hoped for foggy conditions, but not mountains in the clouds. I thought that the crystal blue skies and loads of color with fog laying low in the valleys would have been cool. The plan was to drive up to several spots along the Blue Ridge Parkway, ending up at a location called Graveyard Fields where you can access a couple of waterfall’s with an easy hike.
But as we headed out around 9:30 we realized that conditions were not good. A light rain was falling and you could barely see the mountains. With hopes it would pass and burn off, we trudged on. We would drive for a while and see a clearing where some sun was peeking though and find a pull off. But as we grabbed the cameras, the fog and clouds would move in and close off the shooting opportunity. This happened several times.
The original plan was to have a model with us to pose in the landscapes. But given the cold, wet conditions it was best that we didn’t have a model.
We passed a group of four photographers, cameras mounted to their tripods and aimed into the fog, patiently waiting for the fog to clear. Ironically as we returned, they were still there, still pointing at the fog. That’s dedication! At times visibility was less than 50′.
We eventually got to Graveyard Fields and caught a few moments before the fog rolled in. Since we were not going to get any sun, we headed down to the stream that feeds the Lower Falls. We stopped to photograph a nice spider web dripping in water droplets. As we reached the creek, there was a fairly nice scenic with the fog filling the gap between trees as the running brook ran with water. This was a good opportunity to try out slow shutter speeds to blur the water.
Not having a polarizer or a neutral density filter and only being able to get to ISO 100 meant cranking the F-Stop up to F32 or higher, to try and get a 1 second or half second exposure. The problem with that is two fold. Most lenses stink above F11 with regards to sharpness. With that tiny of an aperture, every spot of dust on my sensor stood out. Boy is my sensor icky.
We headed down to the lower falls. Getting down is easy. We shot around there for a bit and decided to head back as I had to return to Raleigh. As we drove back, the sun was finally staring to peek through and we stopped to get more traditional landscapes.
While I didn’t get those post-card photos, I think I prefer the bad conditions as they provided a much more moody landscape to photograph.
Overall I think were happy with the results.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!