Misty Morning in Shenandoah

The Blue Ridge Mountains that run from Shenandoah National Park for over 500 miles south along the spine of Appalachian Mountains to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in eastern Tennessee offer some of the finest landscape photography on the East Coast. Some geologists speculate that that the undulating and eroded mountains of the Appalachians were once the tallest range in the world, rivaling the Himalayan Mountains of today. At an age of over 466 million years old, these ancient ridges and valleys have been worn down from the gigantic mammoths of the far past to the gentle and rolling landscape of today.

Pastel Ridges from Skyline Drive

Getting high and obtaining a commanding view of ridges and valleys is an easy task with a continuous road running on the crests of the mountains from Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park, and then extending another 469 miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. Early summer and fall are by far my favorite times to be out on the Parkway shooting landscapes. Because of a lack of foreground elements, a telephoto lens is often the best choice for picking out distant ridges and mountain crests. The use of the telephoto allows you to stack up the elements in the composition. Add in a little, or in this case, a lot of fog and you have a recipe for a dramatic atmospheric image. On this morning, I used my 300mm telephoto to pick out the most interesting stack of ridges, fog and color from my perch high off of Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park.  Arriving before dawn, I watched the sun slowly coming up, and as it began to rise and paint the fog below, I lined up the shot and recorded the image.

Exposing the histogram as far to the right as possible without clipping allowed for a lot of information in post processing to work with, but it also left the RAW file rather flat and void of drama. In Lightroom, I slid the Black slider to the right, watching the histogram, until the left side of the histogram was near the far left edge. This increased the drama in the shot considerably. After that and a few tweaks to the White Balance, the image was brought into Photoshop for it’s finishing touches and dust removal. In PS4, I increased the contrast in the mid tones through an S Curve boost and put the final touches on the color of the shot using Selective Color.

Tech Data: Nikon D2X, 300mm F4, 1.6 seconds @ F14, ISO 100