Waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains (Smoky Mountain National Park)

This past fall we spent a few picturesque days in the Great Smoky Mountains hiking and taking pictures before taking off for the Honky Tonks of Nashville. The mountains here – which look more like hills compared with the Rockies in the west – provide amazing foliage during the fall season as the leaves change from green to brown before tumbling from the trees.

Waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains (Smoky Mountain National Park)

However, the crowds pressing to see the leaves really limited my enjoyment. The purpose – IMO – of taking a vacation is to get away but this trip was anything but that. At every corner we seemed to encounter more like minded tourists/photographers. Therefore, even for all of the beauty I would not go back. It was a sight to see but its now checked off my bucket list. Speaking of bucketlist – a month from now my wife and I will be on a plane to South Africa. We will spend a few nights in Cape Town before embarking on a trip to Zimbabwe and Zambia and finally a safari in Northern South Africa. It finally sunk in yesterday afternoon that this date was approaching when I had to get my Hep-A and Hep-B vaccinations. Malaria is also a possibility in the Victoria Falls and Safari portion of this trip so we will be on malaria medicine for 19 days while abroad – I heard a segment of people get some f’d up dreams from that stuff so hoping I don’t have that type of reaction.

Sunset from Clingman’s Dome (Smoky Mountain National Park)

In doing my research before heading out to Great Smoky Mountain National Park the ‘best’ place for sunset seemed to consistently be listed as ‘Clingman’s Dome’ but I was pretty unimpressed – it might be because you are forced to stay in one spot since it isn’t all that big and I like to move around. It could also be because it was FREEZING up there and completely exposed to a harsh wind and I wasn’t dressed nearly as warm as I should have been since on the ‘ground’ level the trees were blocking most of the wind so it felt about twenty degrees warmer. By the time the sun dipped behind the mountain I am pretty sure I hate snot-cicles sticking to my cheeks and I couldn’t feel my fingers. I was also disappointed that I had to zoom in so far in order to crop out a bunch of junk that would have in the foreground of the shot – the terrain in the distance was beautiful but I had to crop in (this was shot at 105mm) so I wasn’t able to fit everything in the frame that I wanted to.

Sunset from Clingman’s Dome (Smoky Mountain National Park)

Sunset from Clingman's Dome (Smoky Mountain National Park)

I am trying to do more manual blending of exposures now using Raya Pro instead of using a software program (I used to use Photomatix) which in hindsight I think ‘overcooks’ the pictures a little much – even when you pull back on the effect by blending in the originals. In this photo I used four shots at different exposures and toned in Lightroom to blend in the sky and the foreground as natural as I could get it. I was really happy with the way the sky turned out as the setting sun was clearly visible and with my ‘naked’ eye I was able to see all the detail in the rolling mountains fading into the distance.

Abrams Falls (Smoky Mountain National Park)

Abrams Falls in Smoky Mountain National Park is only around 20 feet high but it is one of the most picturesque waterfalls in Smoky Mountain National Park. However, what it lacks in height it makes up with volume as it always seem to flow quite strongly – regardless of the time of year. Since it is such a picturesque site nestled in the autumn leaves it is one of the more popular spots in the entire park system.

Abrams Falls (Smoky Mountain National Park)

Abrams Falls (Smoky Mountain National Park)

Unfortunately, because of work, I haven’t been able to stay on top of this blog and my pictures as much as I’ve wanted to lately. In addition, I’m trying to learn how to edit video using the GoPro camera that I got earlier this year so that’s been eating up any free ‘editing’ time I’d normally have. I’m still going to keep up on this as much as possible but may be more ‘semi-regular’ than usual going forward.

Waterfall in the Fall (Great Smoky Mountain National Park)

On an overcast in the Great Smoky Mountains we hiked to Abrams Falls off of Cade’s Cove (which is a beautiful if not frustratingly slow trip because of the one way traffic). It was a nice hike and one that most people should be able to do but we had to hustle because it took us much longer to get there than we had anticipated due to the traffic.

Eventually we did make it out there and we spoke with a few locals who said we picked the wrong weekend if we were hoping for no crowds. Apparently as the fall season comes to the Smokies so too do the tourists.

Waterfall in the Fall (Great Smoky Mountain National Park)

Waterfall in the Fall (Great Smoky Mountain National Park)

For this shot I got down low and angled up towards Abrams Falls. The ‘main falls’ were up above this but they were swarmed with other people so I tried to focus on the fallen, colorful leaves on the rocks in the foreground and catch the smaller falls in the background. I like the way the colors ultimately turned out.

Last View of the Smokies (Great Smoky Mountain National Park)

We went up to Clingman’s Dome in Great Smoky Mountain National Park for sunset pictures on our last night there before heading over to Nashville to close out our trip. A few days before we had actually hiked up to the observation tower for pictures and I wasn’t a huge fan of the view from there for sunset so we decided to just stand at the parking lot and take pictures. Apparently many others had the same idea because there were around 100 other people doing the same thing.

Last View of the Smokies (Great Smoky Mountain National Park)

Last View of the Smokies (Great Smoky Mountain National Park)

This is really a classic view of the Great Smoky Mountains and we were really fortunate to get good light on the last day we were there. Once the sun set behind the mountains the sky lit up a bright orange color and fortunately there were a few small, wispy clouds to add some interest to the sky.

Fall Colors in Smoky Mountain National Park (Great Smoky Mountain National Park)

The fall colors in the Smoky Mountains this season are ‘spectacular’ and some of the best a park ranger who works there has ever seen….unfortunately, we were there a bit early as they were just starting to change two weeks ago when we were there. I’ve learned that the colors come fast and you only get about a two week window.

Fall Color in Smoky Mountain National Park (Great Smoky Mountain National Park)

Fall Color in the Smoky Mountains (Great Smoky Mountain National Park)

I took this in the early morning hours as I drove back from shooting sunrise over a valley in the Great Smoky Mountains. The sun had just peaked over the mountain and only a handful of trees were actually lit up on this side of the mountain. It was as if the early morning sun was spotlighting this particular grouping that displayed vibrant reds, nice yellow tones and some yet to change greens. While I wish we would have been here for ‘peak’ season when the colors are amazing this was more than enough for us – especially given the traffic that comes through here to peep at the color of the leaves.