Late Spring on Roaring Fork

Late Spring on Roaring Fork

A view of Roaring Fork in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

For those of you not from the South, the title of this post probably needs some translation. There’s no fork in this picture. For that matter there’s no spoon or knife either! No, the fork in the title refers to a stream or in this case a fork in the stream. In the Smokies the other prominent name for a tributary of a river is a prong. So, you have Roaring Fork and the Middle Prong of the Little River and other variations on the theme as names of streams all over the park.

As for the Roaring part of the name you need to be present in the area after a heavy rain to understand it. So much water pours into the stream and through the surrounding rocky bed that the resulting noise is a roar. Hence, the name Roaring Fork was given by the pioneers to this region of the Smokies.

The area is easy to access by the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. I guess that the current road follows a wagon track that was used by the locals to move through the valley. The area is very close to Gatlinburg. In fact, it’s so close that the distinction between the neon and traffic of Gatlinburg stands in stark contrast to the quite tranquility of Roaring Fork. I much prefer Roaring Fork to Gatlinburg. But, that’s a topic for another post altogether…

On the morning that I made this image I had risen early to capture the sunrise up on Clingmans Dome. Seeing that there was still some cloud cover moving through the area, I decided to take my chances down at Roaring Fork. The ideal conditions in which to shoot a stream like this are cloudy or overcast skies, mild temperatures, and a few days following significant rain. Fortunately for me this morning had all three.

The cloudy skies allow for nice, even exposures that don’t have hot spots in the water or on the rocks. Mild temperatures make it more bearable to zip off my convertible pant legs, take off my boots and socks, and wade into the still frigid stream! Heavy rains keep the moss green and put enough flow in the stream to make for interesting images. All three were present in abundance on this beautiful spring morning. I’m sure there were a few people shaking their heads at the crazy middle-aged guy wading in the stream before most of them had finished their morning coffee.

I spent a couple of hours wading up and down the stream looking for spots that would yield interesting images. Out of all the ones I shot, I think I like this one the best. It’s a simple shot of a stream and moss-covered rocks. I like the way the water leads my eye through the image from top to bottom. I managed to keep the shot mostly in focus from foreground to background by using an aperture of f/14. Using that small of an aperture in dim light at ISO 100 caused me to have to expose the image for eight seconds. It’s a bit too long and I lost some detail in the water, but I like how the milky flow contrasts with the brilliant green of the moss. By the way, there is no saturation added and only a very shallow tone curve has been applied to slightly increase contrast. This shot is basically straight out of the camera. Given that I’ve done virtually no image manipulation, I’m very pleased with it. I hope you enjoy it as well.

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