Blue Ridge Weekend: Mount Jefferson

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Friday, September 7, 2018

Blue Ridge Fury

Much like the week long beach trip from June, this weekend in the mountains is going to be too image intensive to do them all in a single entry.  I am going to break them up by day as I did with the beach images.  It will make it easier for me to keep things straight, and will make for more organization with the pictures.  To get started, I decided at the last minute to spend the weekend at the mountains.  The goal was to pretty much go off the grid and be alone with my thoughts for a while.  Since this was last minute, I didn’t have much time to prepare for anything.  I just kind of added to a destination that I had thought about earlier.  I had been looking at the weather for the weekend and had seen that I was going to have heavy clouds on Sunday.  That meant that I was going to be able to do waterfalls, which was my goal.

Maybe a month ago, a friend of mine, Michael Surratt had posted some pictures from Catawba Falls in Old Fort, NC.  Surprisingly, I had never been there before.  I was familiar with the name, but for some reason the pictures didn’t spark any memories of researching this waterfall.  It was a grand one, and it had a lot of isolations I could shoot as well.  Since I was planning on going that way on Sunday, I decided to base in the Boone/Blowing Rock area for the weekend.  That would get me a bit closer to the waterfall, and would put me in an area where I was confident that I could make use of the weather conditions that appeared.

When I got off work on Friday, I came home and loaded up the truck.  Well, my camera gear took up most of the room as my personal effects took up a small duffel bag.  My goal was to get up to the Parkway in time to shoot a sunset.  I wasn’t going to have a lot of time to explore, so I needed to get a destination in mind on the way up there.  I had shot the standard locations plenty of times, but wanted to try something a bit different.  The location that came to mind was the area just South of the Mount Jefferson Overlook.  I have done many photos here using the fence and red gate.  The last time I did, somebody mentioned that this view has great sunset potential.  Well, that was all the prompting that I needed, and that became my destination.

I stopped for gas in Wilkesboro, and then turned up Hwy 16 towards the Parkway.  This would get me reasonably close to the area of Mount Jefferson and hopefully there in time to capture the sunset.  The trip went well and I made it up on the Parkway about an hour or so before sunset.  I pulled off to the side of the road and got the camera set up.  I fiddled with a couple of different compositions and lens combinations before the light show started.

The magic bullet here was my 16-35mm lens with the Lee Filter Holder attached.  I added a Singh-Ray Daryl Benson 3-Stop Reverse ND Grad to help with the exposure difference in the sky and foreground.  As the sun dropped closer to the horizon, I fine tuned my composition so that I could capitalize on the sky as well as the fence and gate.  I even shot an HDR image early on that I ended up tossing out in favor of a single shot that was made maybe 10 minutes later.  This shot is the opening image of the evening, and quite frankly is my absolute favorite from the evening.  It was only 1 of about 40 frames shot though, so there were plenty more other compositions as well.

Blue and Gold

When I was pretty sure that I had the shots that I wanted of the entire scene, I wanted to shoot some isolations of the hills under the sky.  I swapped out my lens to my 70-200mm long lens and started to pick out portions of the sunset that struck my fancy.  The sky was dynamic in places, and this lens was really good at pulling those details out of the sky.  In fact, my shooting position was the same for both of these images.  You can really tell the difference from 16mm to the tight crop of a 182mm.  There has been no post capture cropping of either image.  Regardless, I was still not fully getting the isolation I was really wanting from the scene.  I needed a bit more reach than I was using currently.

Evening Rolls In

I reached into my bag of goodies and pulled out my 2x teleconverter and added it between the camera and lens for a bit more reach.  This shot was done at 335mm from the same position as the other two.  I really liked the abstract qualities in these shots with the rolling hills underneath the dramatic clouds.  The sky was colorful enough that I shot these with the intention of keeping them color as opposed to converting them as I have in the past with these mountain isolations.

The sun was quickly dropping and my light was on the way to being done for the evening.  While the color was fading quickly, there was still a bit of detail in the clouds to the Northeast, and the clouds were really cool looking.  I had to get another shot of this before it went completely dark.  I pulled converter and the long lens off of the camera and added the 16-35mm lens again, but with no filters.  I got down low to the ground as the sky was my main goal to capture.  I just needed to find a bit of foreground interest to set the clouds off.

Infinity Cloud

As luck would have it, the gate that I so adore worked great.  I just moved my position down a bit and got down on my knees so I could see the camera.  I tried a horizontal shot, but it didn’t get the full drama in the sky which was what I was after.  Since there was a rather pronounced swoosh in the sky, I decided to concentrate on that and I flipped the camera on its side.  That did the trick.  I was able to zoom out to 16mm and get the fence and gate in the shot right below the edge of the cloud.  It was dark, so this counts as a long exposure at 10 full seconds at f/16 and ISO 100.  There were no filters used here either, but there was a fair amount of work in Lightroom to get the colors back to where they were to my eyes.  The original image was pretty much all blue because we had started the “Blue Hour,” but that wasn’t what my eyes were seeing.

When I finally worked out that last scene, the light was all but gone.  It was time to pack it up and find a place to lay down for the night.  The though had passed through my head to just sleep in the 4Runner, which was part of the reason that I bought the SUV in the first place.  Realistically, I could have done it without too much problem.  However, the bugs were really bad and I was already eaten up.  With the warm conditions, I was pretty sure I would be sleeping with the windows down which would make me a buffet for the bugs.  Knowing that I would be out here for two nights and had worked a full day already, I wanted a shower.  With that thought, I went into Boone to see what was available.  The list of hotels were rather slim at a price that I was willing to pay.  The cheapest had two rooms left, and both were smoking.  That would defeat the purpose of the shower as I didn’t want to smell like cigarettes for the weekend.  The only other option that I could find was in Blowing Rock which actually worked out.

I got checked in and cleaned up.  It was now time to look at what I was going to shoot tomorrow.  Looking at the weather, the sunrise was not going to be all that great, and it was likely to be rather cloudy.  This meant that I could sleep in a bit and then hit the continental breakfast before going out.  The forecast was for intermittent clouds for most of the day with a chance for storms in the late evening.  That was definitely workable, and I figured that I would be able to do some rural driving in search of rust and barns.  I wasn’t really wanting to spend all day on the Parkway because after a while that would start to get a little monotonous.  The plan Sunday was to head out to Elk River Falls first thing in the morning and follow that up with Catawba Falls before heading home.

I had my plan, now it was time to sleep.

Friday: You are here
Saturday: Come and take a long drive with me
Sunday:  One last stop before leaving the mountains