Short Trip — Day 3 (final)

Sunrise — Pounding Mills Overlook © jj raia

The final morning of the trip turned out to be difficult because, like the previous sunset, there were no clouds, so sunrise was a bust. East Fork Overlook was again the choice that morning only because I have yet to witness one there that could be considered spectacular. In fact, it seems every time I go there, it is either totally clouded over, or completely empty of clouds. One of the very first sunrises I witnessed from the Blue Ridge Parkway was from the other go to sunrise spot, Pounding Mills Overlook, along with a herd of other photographers. It turned out to be one of the most memorable not just of that trip in 2013, but probably one of the best I’ve ever witnessed!

But as the sky lightened in the east without the benefit of any of the beautiful color as in 2013, and the color began to appear on the opposite hillside, several frames were taken of varying exposures in hopes combining a few to properly recreate the scene as it was. One frame was to be used for the sky and another for the forest and ridge lines as they flowed toward the horizon. Some additional “painting” was done to accentuate the directionality of the light on the trees.

Dawn Glow — East Fork Overlook, NC © jj raia

So shortly after the sun peaked above the distant ridge line, I turned my attention to the opposite side of the valley to compose something with a singular focal point among the side lit trees. There is always a trade off when it comes to putting a frame around the chaos of a hillside. One slight movement of the camera or the zoom may fix one problem with the composition, while creating an entirely new problem. Taken one minute apart, these two images are an illustration of the conundrum. The first of the two on the left was framed to show how the sunlit autumn trees wrapped around the two snags in a semi-circle, but the orange tree at the bottom middle seems to compete with the snags as a subject. Moving in tighter for the second frame to eliminate that tree appears to have resolved the issue, but at the same time, the idea of the trees framing the snags has been diminished. And that’s the way it remained much of the morning.

I then headed just up the road to Graveyard Fields again hoping there might be some mist low in the bowl shaped valley. No luck there either, and I was faced with the same problem as before, trying to find something to use as a focal point, and simply fell flat, although trying until the sunlight lost it’s edge.

Morning Light — Graveyard Fields, NC © jj raia

Going through some old (2012) images, I found one of Graveyard Fields (directly below) that didn’t even register with me as memorable at the time, yet somehow it was marked with 5-stars which is usually reserved for images slated for printing at some point. Yet it was never printed, and was lost in the labyrinth of computer memory for about eight years. It seems that the photo was taken 4 days earlier in the season and shows much more in the way of leaves than that above, indicating that more time needs to be spent at one particular place to see all the possibilities it has to offer as the season progresses. The similarities between this photo taken in 2012 and the final one below, basically resides in the very subtle center of interest as explained further on.

Backlit Autumn — Graveyard Fields, NC © jj raia

Thinking the entire morning had been a bust, and about to head back to camp to break down the tent, I noticed one section still in shade, of a thick tangle of branches directly below. There were just a few leaves hanging on, and only the most subtle of subject within the frame, but it was enough for me to go back to the car for a step stool to gain the needed height to eliminate some leaves that intruded into the bottom of the frame. This was important in order to have an unobstructed view of the horizontal branch at the bottom which provided a bit of a base for the entire image.

Thicket — Graveyard Fields, NC © jj raia

While it is not the most obvious of subjects, it doesn’t jump off the page, but it reminded me of a similar shot taken this past spring of some wild wisteria and red maple buds that also had a very subtle shape within the wild colors and tangle of branches, flowers and buds (Click Here to see that post). It is the same for the image above, something on the order of a drip painting by Jackson Pollock, where seemingly random lines actually form a cohesive form within the frame. Is it a strong photo? For most folks, it will probably leave them scratching their head. But it is for the viewer to decide. After all, I’ve seen an award winning photograph of the side of a house that left me scratching my head as well.

For a short trip, two sunsets and two sunrises, there were a few decent images to go home with. But I was hoping for a spectacular sky at some point to match some of those I’ve witnessed along this glorious roadway in the past. But it was not meant to be which will keep pushing me to head back there again for another short trip.

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