Smokies Fall Color Report

Ok, I just got back from cruising the Smokies, checking out the color. I started at Clingmans Dome at sunrise. It was a nice sunrise with fog down in the valleys. It wasn’t cold (about 50˚F) and clear skies.

Smokies Sunrise from Clingmans Dome

While up there I played with some multiple exposures, in camera. The Mountain Ash have lost their leaves but their berries are stunning. This is a method that I learned from Mark Johnson on his website Mark Johnson Photography . Mark has some great training videos, video tutorial books and ebooks. This technique is call Multiple-Exposure-Monet and you create little movements between exposures so it looks like little brush strokes. Here are my first attempt.


Mountain Ash Multiple Exposure Monet 1

Mountain Ash Multiple Exposure Monet 2

From Clingmans Dome I drove slowly down 441 toward Sugarlands. The color is starting, but nothing like peak. I would say 5-10 days away at the top. There were a few high ridges with a little more color change that most, west of Chimney’s Picnic area.

From Sugarlands I followed Little River Road, looking for color. Especially looking for color reflected in the streams. Not much color change yet, but soon enough. I did find one spot I liked that was good until about 10 am. It was a pullout just before you get to the Sinks from Sugarlands. The walk (climb) is for the sure footed, but reasonably doable for most people, even with gear. (CAUTION!! wet leaves and wet rocks are dangerous. Be very careful climbing around on the rocks with leaves, wet moss and wet boots). I was able to play with some reflections and one that even reminded me of a Monet, without any specially effects in camera or in computer (ok, I did flip it from being upside down.. Not that you could really tell). I did find out that my back up boots are not waterproof. Sigh, anyone know how to get your Lowa boots resoled? I’ve had mine for about ten years and do not want to break in another pair. But the soles are peeling off the boots (even so, they were still waterproof. Yeah Lowa).

Here are the stream shots.


From here I headed to Cades Cove.. Wrong decision to make at 1115 with all the Leaf Peepers out.. Slow going until I bailed out at Rich Mountain Road. There were a couple of photographers out with big lens just before the Methodist Church. Bear I would guess. Going back in the next couple of days, early.

Along Rich Mountain Road I stopped to experiment with some HDRs and color.


And then to finish things off, I played with another technique from Mark S Johnson’s book on Photoshop Impressionism. This is an in-camera technique (for those of us who shoot Nikon and have multiple exposures). This technique uses multiple exposure but a zoom and twist at the same time. Mark calls this Mutliple Exposure Rotate and Zoom Montage (MERZ for short).  To do this, your zoom lens must have a tripod collar. I used my 70 -200 f2.8 Nikon, but could use my 200-400 f4 also. I found that if I zoom in to my final composition and then hold the zoom ring still while I rotate the camera body to my start position, it works well. Then start the multiple exposure and move the camera back toward the starting position while holding the zoom ring stable. This will result in multiple image in an arc along with the framing zooming in at the same time. I used to do things like this with film, but you never knew what you would get and it was a pain to calculate the exposure. More reports to come as I get back out there. Still trying to nail down some info on the War on Photography. Maybe by Monday.



One response to “Smokies Fall Color Report

  • Jere Judd (@jerejudd)

    Man oh man Bill. You make me want to be in the Smokies. Painful to be here in flatlands where color is not beginning to show. Love this MERZ technique. Especially the first one. Gotta try that one next time I’m out.

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