Monday, May 31, 2010

Noah "Bud" Ogle Cabin and LeConte Creek

Much of the Roaring Fork Motor Trail in the Smoky Mountains National Park is still closed while they repave the road.   The road was in such bad shape it will be a great improvement and well worth the wait when they are done.  We were able to drive to the Bud Ogle cabin, stopped to do some exploring. We have driven past this cabin several times in the past but never took the time to stop.   We were there early enough in the morning that there were very few other people at the cabin or on the Nature Trail, which made the photography much easier.

The cabin and barn are right next to the road and easy to get to.   It is actually two attached cabins built about 5 years apart with a chimney in the middle.   The cabin was built in the last 1880's.  The barn can be seen behind the cabin.   I took several pictures around and inside the cabin, which are available in the Bud Ogle photo album.

There is a short nature trail that starts behind the cabin which loops around to come back behind the barn.  It's a nice little trail that is very flat and easy to walk on.

Spring in the Smokies is a pretty wet time, which is great for growing moss and mushrooms.   We found these growing on a dead tree along the trail.   The sunlight cooperated and shined through the trees to light these up.

LeConte Creek, which is what flows over Rainbow Falls, runs along next to the trail.  There was a thick carpet of bright green moss covering the rocks in the creek and along the banks.   We got there just before the sun got high enough to shine on the creek.   Just a few minutes after this shot the sunlight became too bright to get decent shots.

I have a new pair of hiking sandals and used this opportunity to try them out by standing in the middle of the creek to get this and other photos.   The water was a little cool, but not numbing. 

There is also an old tub mill on the creek.  You can see part of it in the upper left of this photo.

This is a nice short little nature trail that is well worth stopping and hiking it.   There are more photos available in the Bud Ogle photo album.  The wildflower blooms were all gone but I bet it is beautiful around the second weekend of May.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Kingsport Greenbelt

June and I had to run out to Hobby Lobby to buy more supplies for matting photos and took some time to walk the Greenbelt.  We were hoping to find Wood Ducks and Night Herons, but they were no were to be found.  Instead we were treated to baby Mallards, wildflowers, bees, and lots of birds!  

The Greenbelt is a great place for a stroll, run or bike ride.   It's also a fantastic spot for nature photography.   You can park right next to the path and travel a paved flat path for miles and miles.  It's one of the best features of Kingsport.

More photos available in the Greenbelt photo album.

Stay tuned for more shots from the Greenbelt.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dennis Cove in Cherokee National Forest

Several more photos from Dennis Cove available in the Dennis Cove Album

After getting a hint that Pink Lady Slippers were still in bloom near the Dennis Cove Campground we headed up the mountain above Hampton TN to check out the trail from the campground towards Dennis Cove Falls.   We have been hiking in that area for 27+ years and had never hiked this trail.   In fact, we didn't even know the campground was there.  We normally park at the AT trail and hike to Laurel Falls.
There were many Pink Lady Slippers all along the Dennis Cove trail.  The trail follows a pretty little creek that afforded some nice photo opportunities.   We had plans to hike on up to Dennis Cove Falls but were blocked at the first creek crossing.  The water was about waist high, cold, and too fast to wade.  The log that others have used to cross was gone and we decided to give up on those falls and head to Laurel Falls.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Great Free Software For Planning Your Outdoor Photography

One of the keys to taking photos outdoors is sunlight.  Some feel the light is the most important factor.  First find great light, then find something to shoot in the great light.   We can't control the weather and have to live with cloudy days and bright sunny days.  We can plan around the sunlight and even moonlight.   Local weather forecasts often list the local sunrise and sunset times which helps.   Planning a photo outing for a place you've never been to can be difficult because you don't know the direction of the sun or moon.

There is a free piece of software that not only tells you the sunrise, sunset, moonrise and moonset time, but it also shows you what direction they will rise and set on a map, for anywhere in the world, or at least anywhere Google maps knows about.

The software is The Photographer's Ephemeris or TPE.   It's available for Mac's, PC's and Linux computers (free).  They recently launched a version for the iPhone ($8.99).   Start TPE and enter the location you are interested in and TPE will show you a map and

- Time and direction of sunrise and sunset
- Time and direction of moonrise and moonset
- Phase of the moon and % illumination
- Times of civil, nautical and astronomical twilight
- Graphical display on a map
- Save any location you want - no fixed lists
- Automatic time zone detection for any location on earth
- Determines elevation above sea level
- View azimuth and altitude of sun/moon for any time of day/night
- Distance, bearing and elevation angle between any two points
- Find when the sun/moon will appear from behind a hill
- Compensation for atmospheric refraction
- Compensation for elevation above the horizon

I am planning to get up and shoot a small pasture filled with yellow flowers in the morning and needed to know about the time and direction of the sunrise.  I entered and address close to the location (it's a pasture - no street address) then moved the pointer to the location I am interested in.  I was able to zoom out and in to get the resolution I need to plan my shoot.   I can see that standing on the road shoot the field the sun will be over my right shoulder.  Not the best position, but it will work.

I've also thought about hiking up to the top of Devil's Backbone in Warrior's Path State Park and taking sunset or sunrise photos.   The trail takes you up to a high point looking out over the lake, campground, Duck Island and most of the park.  It would be great to capture sunset or sunrise from up there, but to get those photos I will have to hike a pretty steep trail in the dark.   I used TPE to map that location and discovered that right now neither sunrise or sunset will work from there.   The sun will rise back over the golf course and set where the trees will block my view.  No need to bother trying, atleast at this time of year.   I ran the date up and discovered I may be able to get some sunset photos from there in the winter.

TPE is a valuable tool for anyone doing outdoor photography.  You can download the software from their website at

Sunday, May 2, 2010

White Oak Sinks - God's Flower Garden

In the summer of 2009 I saw a photo by Jeffrey Stoner of what looked like a magical place full of wildflowers.  He told me it was White Oak Sinks in the Smokies and gave me directions to this land of wildflowers. I decided that was a definitely a place to put on my list of place to hike and photograph and June and I made the hike on April 30 this year.

The Sinks is a small valley near the top of a ridge.  You can hike to it via a couple different trails, but the sinks area itself does not have any officially maintained trails.  We took the 3.6 mile Turkey Pen Gap trail to get there.  There were plenty of wildflowers along the way, including the usual Dwarf Crested Iris, Flame Azaleas, Trillium and Phlox.

When we reached the White Oak Sinks we hadn't gone far before we found two Yellow Lady Slippers growing off the side trail.   What a fantastic find!  We had never seen the yellow variety before and were very excited. 

That was just the beginning.  We saw a forest floor carpeted with Phlox with different varieties of Trillium, Shooting Stars, Columbine, May Apples, Wild Ginger, Little Brown Jugs, and Dog Hobble.   In addition to the flowers, there's also a bat cave, some old artifacts from earlier residents, and a waterfall that drops into Rainbow Cave.

This place is truly amazing with the number and varieties of wildflowers.  Since they grow there naturally I've decided to call it God's Flower Garden. 

After hiking down we took a drive through Cades Cove to check out the newly paved road.  We saw one bear family in a tree and a beautiful sunset to finish up our day.

I posted 19 photos in my gallery.  They are available in the White Oak Sinks Album in the Landscape Gallery.