An epic sunrise, the right time at the wrong place, 30+ hound dogs, and a little surprise.
I arose at 3:00am ready to take on the world, checked my weather app (high clouds, YAY!) made a pot of coffee, and headed out the door to a location I had not been to. Looking Glass Rock is a stone monolith that juts out of the surrounding mountains creating a unique bubble like appearance to the otherwise tree covered mountains. I arrived early to where I believed I wanted to photograph Looking Glass when the sun arose. I could barely make out the monolith through the darkness as I set up my tripod. The sun was due to come up in 45 minutes, but there was no sign of light. Then all of a sudden the sky lit up and the scene in front of me became illuminated.
I was in the wrong spot. In my excitement I had passed up my turn out and ended up on the opposite side of Looking Glass facing directly into the sunrise. As photographers shooting directly into sunrise is not ideal (with a few exceptions). We much prefer side lit images with well balanced light. Shooting directly into the sun negates a polarizing filter and also creates a dynamic range hard to capture in such low light. To make matters worse, a group of hunters had pulled up near me and were releasing there hounds into the forest. Some 30+ hound dogs were howling and running around me anxious to get on the trace. They ran off into the woods and could be heard for the next hour. Regardless of this interruption to my otherwise calm morning, I still managed to capture a few wonderful images of the incredible sunrise that occurred. Since I had missed my location I decided to stay put and not try to rush to a different spot. I noticed some beautiful scenes beginning to manifest themselves so instead of photographing the giant stone monolith, I began looking around me for more unique compositions.
I switched lenses and began photographing the distant ridges, barely illuminated by the burning sky. The sunrise was incredible and the light lasted long enough to capture a few great sunrise images.
By not running around scrambling for the image I had envisioned, I was able to capture multiple images I would not have otherwise got. This isn't always the case and I advise triple checking your plans before heading out; sometimes little mistakes can have positive results. It was a good brain exercise and kept me on my toes. After the sun had risen to a point that made the location I was at useless, I made my way to where I thought I had been earlier and found that Looking Glass was nicely side lit, revealing some wonderful fall color.
Out of coffee and with a deadline to return home I headed off back towards home. I stumbled across a few hot air balloons enjoying the beautiful morning, as well as photographed the Biltmore Estate rather by accident. I saw an appealing composition and doubled back to take the image. It wasn't until I was peering through the viewfinder with my telephoto lens that I realized the stark white building amongst the forest.
I received a text while shooting from a fellow photographer (check his work out on instagram: @fixedlinemedia ) that there were kayakers preparing for the brutal Green River Race that takes place each year in November. I decided I had enough time to make it over to the Green River Narrows and try and catch some of the action. Little did I know that the hike in was almost as brutal as kayaking the rapids. After getting lost twice and taking a few more images (seen below), I managed to find the descent trail into the gorge.
As I descended into the gorge I was surprised at how steep it was. The roar of the rapids was quickly getting louder, and pretty soon I came to the rivers edge. The rapids here were enormous, and falling in without a life vest would mean certain death. I was careful to pick my way around the enormous boulders to a spot where a few kayakers were standing around discussing their lines. I politely asked if I could photograph them, and they were all psyched up to be getting their photos taken. These guys made kayaking the rapids seem easy and despite my fear of drowning to death I found myself slightly jealous I wasn't the one paddling the current. I don't photograph action sports, or sports in general often, so it was a nice change of pace from the landscapes I had been photographing earlier. Capturing the motion and the power of the water and the kayakers was a real treat, and icing on the cake to a great day.
Check back Friday to see if I made it out of the Green River Gorge to photograph my next location!