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Highlands, N.C., is located on a high plateau within the larger Blue Ridge Mountains, a mature range that's named for the distinctly blue haze said to be the product of trees releasing isoprene into the atmosphere. Rich with expansive landscapes, abundant waterfalls and diverse wildlife, Highlands offers a wide variety of opportunities for landscape photographers to capture the beauty of the natural environment within the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Highlands is about a 1 1⁄2-hour drive from Asheville, N.C.
The climate in Highlands is fairly typical of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, with average daytime temperatures ranging from about 70º in the summer to 30º in the winter. Weather can shift rapidly at this location because of the proximity to the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains—being prepared with extra layers of clothing is recommended throughout the year. Because of frequent rainfall and thunderstorms during the summer months, rain and protective camera and personal gear are also suggested.
When shooting in this area of the Southern Appalachians, I like to bring a well-balanced selection of equipment because of the widely ranging variety of subjects available to photograph. To ensure correct exposures under varying conditions, I carry a small selection of filters, including a circular polarizer, 4- and 6-stop ND filters, and a couple of graduated ND filters to help control the light. Generally, I work with two cameras, a full-frame-sensor body and an APS-C-sensor body. For lenses, I like to bring a wide-angle zoom such as a 17-35mm ƒ/2.8, a medium-telephoto zoom like the 70-200mm ƒ/2.8, plus a 1.4x teleconverter for those occasions when I need extra reach, and a standard 50mm ƒ/1.4 lens. My sturdy Really Right Stuff tripod and ballhead are essential for the type of work I do, so I never leave home without them. Getting all of this gear off of the beaten path and into the beautiful surrounding environment requires a comfortable and sturdy pack, as well.
Autumn is my favorite season to visit Highlands, but there are amazing landscape scenes to be enjoyed at all times of the year in the Southern Appalachians. The brightly colored trees during the fall foliage are fantastic in October, adding an extra element to the already incredible scenery. From wildflowers and blooming dogwood trees in spring to snow and ice-covered waterfalls during winter, you're sure to see unfettered natural beauty anytime in this incredibly scenic area.
Contact: Highlands Chamber of Commerce, www.highlandschamber.org.
Capturing the best landscapes involves a lot of time spent in the field waiting for just the right moment. That also means that your gear can be subjected to a variety of inhospitable weather throughout the day, from temperature instability to condensation to outright storms. These conditions are great for imagery and bad for your gear. LensCoat provides a number of solutions sized for all kinds of specialized gear, including the LensCoat RainCoat, which is available in Pro and Standard sizes for covering a DSLR with a telezoom attached. The RainCoat is lightweight, waterproof and breathable, with an arm sleeve for reaching the controls. List Price: $79 (LensCoat RainCoat Standard); $99 (LensCoat RainCoat Pro). Contact: LensCoat, www.lenscoat.com.