I try to visit the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina at least a couple of times a year. Sometimes my other obligations impinge on that desire and I just can’t make it there as often as I would like. This year is shaping up to be one of those years where I won’t make it more than once.
Fortunately, I was able to head out for a few days in mid-June. The real objective of my trip was to revisit the rhododendron display on Roan Mountain. Last year I visited during the same window and the blooms were at their peak. This year – despite a long, cold winter – the blooms were early and well past their prime by the time I made it to Roan. But, I’ll get to that in a later post.
On my way up to Roan Mountain, I spent two days on the North Carolina side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I normally stay on the Tennessee side but I decided to switch things up and stay on the North Carolina side in Cherokee. The primary reason for the switch was the easier access to the sunrise and sunset locations I would be visiting on this trip: Clingmans Dome, Oconaluftee Overlook, and Mortons Overlook. Both of the overlooks are a mile or less from Newfound Gap which is at the top of the mountains separating North Carolina and Tennessee.
I hadn’t visited the Smokies in the summer for a few years. Although the colors aren’t as dramatic as in the spring or fall, there are a few benefits to photographing in the summertime. The first is that the temperatures are pleasant. Instead of freezing at dawn or at dusk, I can wait for the light to develop while standing in my shirtsleeves. That is a treat! Secondly, there is at least one sunset location that is better in the summer than in the spring or fall. That’s where this shot was taken from – Mortons Overlook.
During the summer, the sun sets between the mountains into the V of the valley. This particular shot was taken well before sunset while the relatively bright light was flooding the valley below. I shot it handheld and exposed for the trees themselves. I like the ethereal feel of the shot and how the trees move from totally in shadow to being on the verge of over-exposed. The lush green of late spring/early summer is apparent in the color of the trees. It’s a simple shot but I like the way it turned out. I hope you do as well.