Category Archives: Smokies

Smokies Scouting Report Oct 9


So yesterday (October 9th) I started out my scouting with sunrise at Clingmans Dome parking lot. There was beautiful color in the sky and as I was winding down, I posted an image on FB.. A couple of minutes later I get a text from Paul Hassell that reads “It’s better over here : )” and an image that I can tell is within 100 yards of my position of the sunrise! Then I look around and there he is, about 80 yards further down the parking lot.. We had a good chat and then I headed back down the mountain.


The color up at Clingmans (other than the sunrise) was very muted and some leaves are already turning brownish. Then as you go further down the mountain, the yellow leaves begin to be more prominent.


It seemed that at about 4800 feet elevation go down I started to see occasional red maples turning along with some yellow leaves. The color is still very spotty but there is one gorgeous hillside that you can see from the parking areas above Chimney’s Picnic area and seem to be turning sooner. Below Chimney’s Picnic area the color is still predominately green, but dogwoods are turning and some maples are starting to think about turning color. I would say that within 10 days, the area above Chimney’s Picnic area will be in full color..



Have fun out there!


Scouting Report Smokies March 28

This day was spent up in Greenbriar area. With numerous spots to pull off and shoot the Little Pigeon River or go up to the confluence of the Little Pigeon River with the Middle Prong, the shooting was great. I walked up the trail, past Porter’s Flats and up Porter Creek trail. After Porter’s Flats, the flowers were much more sparse than down below. There are a preponderance of Yellow Trillium around, with Large Flowered Trillium also. This was the first place I’ve seen Dwarf Crested Iris blooming and also found some Little Brown Jug. Little Brown Jug is fun because the flowers lie on the ground and are actually pollinated by crawling insects such as ants. Sometimes you have to move some leaf debris to see the “Jugs”. I think they got this name because the shape of the flower is similar to a brown jug which you used to get “White Lightning” in before the Mason Jar become the prominent way of dispensing this Mountain delicacy.


Tomorrow I will be posting on different vantage points and lenses for flower/ forest composition.

Spring Flower shooting tips- Multiple Exposure

Spring has come to the Smokies extremely early this year. I am hearing from friends around the country that they are experiencing an early spring also. Some teaching tips for spring wildflowers from today’s shoot.

Consider using multiple exposure to achieve a dreamy look to go along with your images. Flowers images look good when using this technique. Ok, here’s the How to for Multiple Exposure ( Canon people, don’t feel left out, the new Canon EOS- 1D X now does in camera ME). These instructions are for the Nikon D4 but are similar to other Nikon dSLRs.


  • First go to Menu>Shooting Menu and scroll down to Multiple Exposure and press OK or the Right Arrow button on the Multi Selector.
  • Scroll down to Number of shots and choose 2 (in another Blog I will talk about techniques that use more than 2 images).
  • Leave Auto gain on at the bottom ( if you are shooting double exposures at night or a night shot combined with sunset image, turn Auto gain off).
  • Now scroll back to the top where it says Multiple exposure mode and click OK. This will take to the Mode dialogue box where you will choose On (single photo). This indicates that the multiple exposure mode will shut off once the required number of images is taken.


  • Once you are in ME mode and ready to shoot, take your first image at whatever f stop you would normally (say f11 or f16) and focused the way you want the focus point to be. Take your first image.
  • Next, change the f stop to 5.6 or lower. If you are in Aperature mode, the shutter speed will change automatically. If you are shooting in Manual mode, don’t forget to change your shutter speed to center. You don’t have to worry about under exposing either one of the images the way we had to with film. That is what the Auto Gain is all about.
  • After changing the f stop, then rack the focus closer to you (in front of your focus point). This will throw everything out of focus. You can occasionally get interesting images by racking the focus completely behind your normal focus point.
  • Take your second image. Wait for it, wait for it, done. Your Multiple exposure image appears in your Preview Monitor. This allows you to see if you want to change focus points or f Stops to achieve a different look.

Ok, now go out and play. Remember that Thomas Edison said that genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.

The next installment of Flower teaching tips will cover Light Modifiers.

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.