Long Weekend Locations

Pro photographers share some of their favorite regional locations for extended weekend photo adventures

Screw Auger Falls, the Grand Canyon of the East, ME

Summer often elicits a feeling of freedom and wanderlust. With summer vacation in mind, we asked pro photographers from across the United States about the best long weekend photography destinations. They've pointed out when and where to go, and what you'll need to bring, whether you have a full summer recess to fill or a shorter three-day weekend.

Nate Parker
nateparkerphotography.com

Screw Auger Falls, the Grand Canyon of the East, ME
Summer in Maine is a great reward for enduring the winter months. It's so nice that it causes New Englanders a sort of poor short-term memory of sorts with regards to the weather. We have mostly 70º-80°F days that are almost 18 hours of light long, with cool, but not quite cold, nights at around 50º. With the perfect Maine summer weather comes the inevitable crush of summer vacationers, adventurers and photographers, and they usually all come here to Acadia, which is nice and all, but it's that time of year that I love to get away from the whole thing and head to places equally as beautiful, yet significantly less traveled.


NORTHEAST

One of Maine's more interesting, yet little-known hikes is the Gulf Hagas Loop, which is accessed through the Katahdin Iron Works State Park near Brownville, and is about two and a half hours north of Bangor or three and a half hours north of Portland. The attraction is that Gulf Hagas is a precipitously deep gorge with many waterfalls and swimming holes, and an interesting trail loop. The gorge is often referred to as the Grand Canyon of the East and has many spectacular features. My favorite, Screw Auger Falls, is a giant, 15-foot-tall bowl gouged into the face of the granite from the constant rush of water. The trail system shares part of the Appalachian Trail, and a section called the Hermitage is some of the only remaining old-growth forest in New England and has an amazing assortment of gigantic eastern white pine. The Gulf Hagas Trail is accessed by driving through to the Katahdin Iron Works ranger station to sign in for safety. A few miles further on from the ranger station is the parking area, followed by a significant, although shallow, stream crossing of a section of the west branch of the Pleasant River. If you're the very prepared type, consider bringing water shoes or sandals for the crossing, as the pebbly river bottom is unforgiving on those city pedicures. The Gulf Hagas Trail is about eight miles long, and the whole thing will take a significant portion of the day to complete if you choose to make the whole loop, or a shorter trip can be made out and back to the Hermitage area. The gorge itself is three miles long with 140-foot-tall walls, and the river drops 370 feet. Bring a hiking tripod, a light lunch or snacks and plenty of water, and also consider bug spray or a bug head net. Don't plan on photographing here at the end of the day, though, as the trip back to the car inevitably would be in darkness. Also, keep your eyes peeled for interesting flora and fauna, including moose. This is where I saw my first moose! And, lastly, try to keep an awareness of the weather, as sudden, strong summer downpours could possibly occur upstream and cause flash floods in the gorge, which does happen occasionally.


Mt. Katahdin and Baxter State Park, ME

Mt. Katahdin and Baxter State Park, ME
About an hour and a half north of Bangor on I-95, turn left and start to head west at East Millinocket (there will be signs for Baxter). Depending on your energy level and enthusiasm, you can either choose to hike up the mile-high Mount Katahdin, which is the beginning or end (depending on your attitude) of the Appalachian Trail, or take a nice drive around the Tote Road, which is a perimeter park road and affords access to many lakes, rivers and hiking trails. Baxter State Park is a wilderness area of over 200,000 acres and is about as wild as it gets! There's no electricity, no running water and no paved roads. There are moose and black bears, so common sense and safety are of more concern here than some of the more populous destinations. The massive expanse of the park offers many photographic opportunities—from landscapes to whitewater rapids to mountain peaks. If it's moose you want to see, head to Sandy Stream Pond and bring a long lens to fill the frame. Try to show up early and wait pondside. Sooner or later, a wading moose will meander by, foraging plants off the bottom. Mount Katahdin is a fairly vigorous hike that will take most of eight hours or so, if you're stopping to photograph often and taking your time. My favorite access trail to Katahdin is the Chimney Pond Trail, which approaches the mountain along Roaring Brook. Drive in to the Roaring Brook Campground (open from May 15 to October 15) and sign in at the Roaring Brook Campground ranger station with your itinerary in case of emergency. The Chimney Pond Trail is a mild hike up to a beautiful alpine pond in the caldera of the now-dormant volcano that is Katahdin. The final push to the summit from here is much more intense and perpendicular, but you'll be rewarded with amazing views and exhilarating hiking along the Knife Edge before your way back down. Pack light if you're choosing to go up the mountain, and bring just a few lenses for your DSLR, or the whole kit and caboodle if you're doing the mirrorless thing! Be advised: There may be no cell signal or WiFi for many miles in any direction here, which is part of the allure, as well as a potential hazard in the event of an emergency. Therefore, pack accordingly and, remember, safety first. Some essential provisions would include bug spray, water, bug spray, food, bug spray, a tripod and some bug spray—hopefully by the end of June, most of the annoying black flies will have disappeared!


Down East Maine and Acadia National Park on the Schoodic Peninsula, ME

Down East Maine and Acadia National Park on the Schoodic Peninsula, ME
No trip or vacation to Vacationland (Maine's license plate motto) would be complete without exploring the rocky and bold coast. For many years now, Acadia has been one of the 10 most visited national parks in America, and for good reason, as it's absolutely beautiful. However, in season, it can become frustrating to deal with the crowds. For instance, in July, I've been to the summit of Cadillac Mountain for sunrise and shared the experience with hundreds of people, most of them photographers, with the incessant beep-beep of autofocus confirmation ringing in the hills at 4:00 in the morning! But that same sunrise could be yours alone over on Schoodic. The Schoodic Peninsula is about 45 minutes to an hour north of Mount Desert Island and Bar Harbor; however, it's only four miles across Frenchman Bay as the crow flies. The peninsula is accessed by a seven-mile, one-way park road, which will lead to a number of hiking trails, dramatic coves and the rugged pink granite coastline that makes Acadia so popular. When there's a storm brewing, some of the massive waves can be seen breaking along the shores. There are more than enough coves, overlooks and beaches to explore that will make a seascape photographer feel more than inspired. Both sunrise and sunset will afford dramatic light and horizons to frame, and the sea breeze keeps any malingering flying pests at bay. The best aspect, however, in this photographer's opinion, is that Schoodic is all that Acadia has to offer, just without the burgeoning crowds. Take a loop through the park and photograph sunrise, and then frame some nice coastal shots in morning sidelight. After you're satisfied, head out back to Route 186 and drive north to Prospect Harbor. North of Acadia at Schoodic, there are a smattering of small, quaint and beautiful fishing villages. Starting with Prospect Harbor, then continuing to Winter Harbor at Corea (take a right on Route 195), you'll see small harbors packed with lobster boats and lined with the sometimes crumbling, and other times fascinating, infrastructure of a working fishing village. Photographs abound in these harbors, of the boats and gear, and the people who tend them. Speaking of which, try to make a point to introduce yourself and let them know that you mean no harm, but are just there to photograph what you find beautiful and interesting. Locals will appreciate you for that. There's nothing worse to a neighborhood or village than a photographer who appears to be sneaking around and "taking pictures" versus making photographs.



Cade's Cove, TN

Dave Allen
www.daveallenphotography.com

Cade's Cove, TN
Cade's Cove, located in the Great Smoky Mountains near Townsend, Tennessee, is a fantastic place to shoot both expansive landscapes and a variety of mountain wildlife. Expect to encounter everything from dogwood-lined dirt roads, to large oak trees in fields of golden grasses, to the plentiful wild animals that roam the park freely. Animals frequently sighted in the Cove include black bear, deer, coyotes and wild turkey. Many places in the park are easily accessible by automobile, but be sure to bring some comfortable hiking shoes if you plan to get out and explore many of the more remote locations.


SOUTHEAST

My favorite time to shoot in Cade's Cove is in the morning and evening light during the spring dogwood bloom, and I personally like to see a mixed sky from partly to mostly cloudy offering mixed lighting conditions that work for the wide range of subjects on display here. You'll find wide-angle lenses with a graduated ND filter useful for capturing the large landscape scenes, and you'll want to make sure to bring a long telephoto lens with you to capture the native wildlife in its natural habitat. The low angle of light in the early morning and late evening often provide dramatic lighting for the landscape scenes, and the park's animals are most active at this time of day, as well, making it a target-rich environment that should be high on the list of places to visit for any outdoor photographer.


Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, TN

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, TN
The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains is an easily accessible eight-mile-long loop just outside of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It's a place that you could easily get lost in for a day or longer, and offers endless cascades running through vibrant moss-covered rocks under a canopy of lush foli-age from old-growth forest. As a bonus, you'll also find many historic homesteads in the vicinity, complete with log cabins, grist mills and old barns.

For a great day of shooting along the Roaring Fork, you'll want to see overcast to mostly cloudy skies, which provide ample opportunity for slow shutter speed work on the abundant flowing water scenes the area has to offer, and these conditions will allow for all-day shooting without the locations being spoiled by extreme contrast in the lighting. A sturdy tripod will be essential for shooting here, as many of the scenes you'll encounter are hidden under the forest canopy in heavily shaded areas, and long exposures are common, if not preferable. You'll be able to make great use of an ultrawide-angle lens here, as well as a circular polarizer and ND filters. The circular polarizer will help to keep the glare down and bring out the richly saturated colors, and the ND filters will help achieve various shutter speeds in the different conditions you might encounter. Lastly, some water shoes or an extra pair of boots will come in handy, as you'll almost certainly end up with wet feet while you're searching for the best compositions.


Newfound Gap, NC

Newfound Gap, NC
A perfect weekend shooting in the Great Smoky Mountains wouldn't be complete without spending at least a day shooting the big mountain scenics and endless mountain layers that the national park is famous for. The Newfound Gap and Clingmans Dome area offers epic mountain vistas in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park between Gatlinburg, Tenn., and Cherokee, N.C. Layers of haze-filled mountain ridges stacked one atop the other under epic sunrise and sunset skies is an almost daily occurrence. The views looking east from Newfound Gap and Oconaluftee Overlook are excellent places to start your day at sunrise, and the views of the western sky from Morton Overlook and Clingmans Dome are the classic Smoky Mountain sunset scenes.

The perfect conditions that I like to see in this area are broken skies that are partly to mostly cloudy, making great sunrises and sunsets possible, as well as great dappled sunlight and contrast on the ridges in the afternoons.

When deciding what to bring in the bag, there are a few things that I find to be essential. I always bring a stable tripod, lenses covering focal lengths from ultrawide for the foregrounds to telephoto lenses, such as the 70-200mm, to bring in the distant mountain ridges and layers, and a graduated neutral-density filter to balance the exposure of the bright sunset skies. Another thing I find important to remember when shooting in these higher altitudes is to bring a warm jacket and clothing, as the temperatures can be quite chilly, even on days when it's hot in the valleys below. With the right gear and good conditions, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a landscape photographer's paradise that's sure to produce some great images and even better memories!



Blackwater River State Forest, FL

Carlton Ward Jr.
www.carltonward.com
www.facebook.com/carltonwardphotography
instagram.com/carltonward

Blackwater River State Forest, FL
Sunrise to early morning, ideally in spring, hoping for fog to glow in the dawn light and catch light rays at sunrise. The main subject is expansive vistas of longleaf pine trees, as well as details of the forest ground cover and any wildlife that might come by.

The longleaf pine forests offer a wonderful subject with infinite possibilities for compositions and perspectives. The area is meaningful to me because the habitat has become so rare—there were once 90 million acres across the Southeast and now fewer than three million acres remain. Blackwater River State Forest is at the center of the largest contiguous swath of longleaf left on the planet. The historic landscape is also very biologically diverse, with thousands of species living in the ground cover and densities of species on par with tropical rain forests. The health of the landscape depends on fire. If you're lucky, you may see a section of woods ablaze, offering great photo opportunities even from a distance, as smoke can enhance the mystery and depth of landscapes. It's great to focus on the grand scene, but always be looking for details all around you.


SOUTHEAST

My gear selections include a mid-range telephoto lens like a 70-200mm for composing landscape photos beneath the canopy of trees, a sturdy tripod, a polarizing filter to manage reflections on wet vegetation, a macro lens for details in the ground cover, a long-sleeve shirt and pants to keep any mosquitos off your skin, and a rear-entry backpack, such as the f-stop Loka, so you can access cameras without taking the bag off your waist, as the ground can be wet.


Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, FL

Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, FL
This location is best in spring, summer or fall, midday, for underwater photography. One of the rare times midday light is useful is when photographing underwater. Overhead rays help illuminate water and add sparkle to the scene. Shadows will still be a bit harsh like on land, but fill flash will solve that problem for nearby subjects. The river and spring run are narrow, meaning the water can easily get covered in shadow when the light is low.

The spring run is a very short paddle from the campground and boat ramp; the water is crystal-clear and the vegetation along the banks is lush and tropical. The water is shallow, making it an easy and beautiful place to explore Florida's springs. The subject is special to me because Florida has the world's highest density of freshwater springs. The state is well known for the Everglades, but lesser known for the equally unique and wonderful springs, which, like the Everglades, need protection and restoration to survive.

You need a waterproof camera. I carry a Nikon D810 in an AquaTech sport housing with a 14-24mm ƒ/2.8 lens, eight-inch acrylic dome port and zoom gear. This housing setup is great for underwater scenes, as well as split-level views. I can use a Nikon SB-910 flash, also in an AquaTech housing, for easy fill flash with a rapid recycle rate. I also have a pair of Sea&Sea YS-90 strobes mounted on 12-inch Aquatica articulating arms for maximum control and light positioning. The dual-flash setup can be cumbersome if trying to explore narrow underwater caves. I also carry a waterproof Nikon 1 AW1 with an 11-27mm zoom lens. I usually wear a 3mm wet suit, a moderate weight belt, snorkeling fins, mask and snorkel. The water stays 72°F year-round, but can feel quite cold once you've been in it a while. Thin neoprene booties are also helpful if you decide to take off your fins and stand on the limestone bedrock. Keep a dry camera with a wide-range zoom lens in your boat for wildlife or above-water landscape scenes. You could see a family of otters and certainly will see wading birds, such as wood storks and egrets, as you paddle in and out of the spring. I carry a Nikon D7100 and an 18-300mm lens as my backup do-everything kit.


Tampa Bay Mangroves, FL

Tampa Bay Mangroves, FL
This is an area that can be photographed all year. I prefer the spring for the abundance of birdlife and summer for the most powerful light. Late afternoon is my favorite time to shoot because the light comes in low over Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico with a beautiful warmth. There's also a chance to have powerful, dark thunderstorms in the eastern sky, which provide striking contrast to the sunset light from the west. Just be careful because this area is also the cloud-to-ground lightning capital of the world.

I love photographing here because it's so close to home. The mangrove-lined fringe of eastern Tampa Bay is just a six-mile paddle from the boat ramp near downtown. The textures and forms of the red mangrove trees with their characteristic crop roots dangling toward and through the water make for dynamic compositions. This area is special because it shows that, with proper care, nature can survive and even thrive amidst an urban population of more than three million people. Scenic beauty rivaling the Ten Thousand Islands region in the Everglades can be found hiding in plain sight of the city. You just have to get out and explore it.

Here, you want a tripod that you don't mind getting wet. I reserve my carbon-fiber legs for dry land and carry an older aluminum tripod in the saltwater. If you can afford it, the Gitzo Ocean series could be a great carbon-fiber option, offering the best of both worlds. I keep a long telephoto lens handy for birdlife (at least a 70-300mm, preferably a 70-400mm or even a 600mm, if you're serious about birds). Roseate spoonbills, ibis, ospreys, oystercatchers and herons will be there for just about every outing. Focusing on landscapes, I recommend a wide-angle zoom lens. A 17-35mm is a favorite for me. I also keep a 24-70mm handy. Wear clothes you don't mind getting wet. I wear long fishing pants and shirts from Patagonia and Salomon water shoes to keep from getting cut by oyster shells. Old tennis shoes work well, too. Keep a good rain shell in the boat, especially in the summer. Wading among the mangroves is one of my favorite things.



Crystal Lake, CO

Ryan Wright
www.ryanwrightphoto.com

Crystal Lake, CO
One of my favorite subjects to shoot in the mountains is lake reflections, especially during autumn in Colorado, capturing the changing leaves, crisp mornings and typically clear, deep blue skies. Even though I'm not much of a morning person, waking up long before sunrise to get to a location makes the day feel more like an adventure and enhances the experience. What makes days like these great is when you find a glassy lake and great light. I'll typically use a 2-stop graduated neutral-density filter to help hold back the brighter sky and make the exposure all that more even. I use wide-angle lenses, around 17mm, to capture scenes like this. I want the depth of field to be as broad as I can get it, so I adjust my aperture to ƒ/20 or ƒ/22. With longer exposures being necessary, you're going to need a sturdy tripod, as well.


WEST

Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO
I grew up in the San Luis Valley in Colorado, and one of my favorite spots to photograph is Great Sand Dunes National Park near Alamosa. The ever-changing landscape the wind creates makes each visit unique, and the photo opportunities are numerous in the park. Since the park is on the east side of the valley, sunsets are particularly vivid and are a "must" for any photographer visiting the area. The sand dunes and mountain peaks above often glow at sunset, making for dramatic and beautiful displays of alpenglow as the sun sets. Something to pay attention to is the sky on the western side of the valley. If there are spotty clouds to the west, odds are that your sunset that evening is going to be vibrant and colorful. I used a medium-length lens for this photo, which had a circular polarizer on the end of it, to get the most out of the clouds at the top of the photo. When visiting the beach or sand dunes, protect your tripod legs by covering the feet of the tripod in plastic bags and use rubber bands to seal them shut. This will save you from having to clean your tripod with a toothbrush later, which is about as much fun as it sounds.


Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO

The sand dunes are full of photo opportunities, and whether you're climbing up one of the dunes or exploring lesser-traveled areas of the park, the whole experience is just perfect because of how out of place the sand dunes feel being in the Colorado mountains. It's a strange, surreal and beautiful experience combined with stunning views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the west. You'll never photograph the same subject twice at the park due to the constant wind shaping and shifting the landscape, so each visit provides new photo opportunities.


Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park, WA

Jason Savage
www.jasonsavagephotography.com

Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park, WA
The sea stacks near Hole-in-the-Wall on Rialto Beach provide great subjects and silhouettes to use with the setting sun. The incoming waves also add some great foreground elements, making this a classic Olympic Peninsula shot and one of my favorites. Ideal conditions are partly cloudy evenings just at sunset, preferably at low tide.


WEST

I usually like to have a graduated neutral-density filter to help balance the setting sun and foreground, and also a wide-angle lens in the 16-35mm range to include the sweeping view of the beach and sea stacks. Tall, waterproof boots and rain pants can also be helpful to keep dry while working next to the sea stacks.


Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic National Park, WA

Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic National Park, WA
On a wet day in the rain forest, the brilliant greens and yellows come alive and are much more vibrant to photograph while wet. The Hoh Rain Forest offers endless compositions among its complex mosses, big-leaf maples and old-growth trees. It also offers a great environment where photographers can wander at their leisure and take time studying their compositions. The best conditions are just after it has rained on an overcast day.

A polarizer is one filter I'll always have with me when photographing the rain forest, as this helps remove unwanted glare from foliage and also helps "pop" the vibrant green hues, bringing out the richness of the leaves and mosses. I prefer to wander with a 16-35mm and 70-200mm for most compositions, but will also take along a macro for close, detailed work. Don't forget the rain gear, waterproof boots and rain covers for cameras, as it's usually a safe bet rain is in the forecast!

Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, WA
Ruby Beach offers great low tide foregrounds and some of the most beautiful Washington beach landscapes around. Sunrise can make for vibrant and intense colors reflecting off the wet rocks and tidal pools along the beach, and the different sea stacks nearby make great subjects and silhouettes to work with. Ideal conditions are partly cloudy days during low tide, just at sunrise.

A grad ND filter is useful for balancing sky and foreground at sunrise; a polarizer will help remove unwanted glare from rocks and water. Pack waterproof boots and rain pants for working around the tidal waters and sea stacks.



Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, CA

Joshua Cripps
www.joshuacripps.com

Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, CA
When I think about my favorite locations on the planet to photograph, there's always one that filters to the top of the list: the High Sierra. It's a landscape of simple, essential beauty: mountains, trees, lakes, meadows, streams and little else. In particular, I love Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park for its collection of stately granite peaks, sweeping views and peaceful tranquility away from the hustle and bustle of Yosemite Valley.


WEST

For me, the perfect time to shoot in Tuolumne Meadows is sunset during a summer thunderstorm. Typically, in early July, scorching temperatures and monsoonal moisture collide to create massive thunderclouds. The clouds can reach altitudes of 20,000 feet, will stretch for miles in every direction and, in the space of a few hours, can drench the Sierra crest with buckets of rain and hail. More importantly, when these clouds catch the last rays of the day, they illuminate in light shows that are as dramatic, impressive and stunning as anything I've ever seen. For a grand landscape shooter like myself, the promise of that kind of dramatic light is what keeps me chasing clouds in the High Sierra all summer long.

Other than your camera, tripod and favorite filters, there are two things you'll want to bring when shooting during the High Sierra monsoon. The first is a rain jacket, for both you and your camera. The summer monsoon rains are brief, but absolutely drenching, and many times, the best light occurs just after the rain stops as the storms are breaking up. Having waterproof gear to protect you and your camera ensures you'll be ready to shoot when conditions are at their most dramatic. The second is a huge can of bug spray. July is typically the peak of the high country's mosquito season, and if you don't want to be bled dry by the bugs, then some good, strong repellent will do your body good.


Berkshire Hills, MA

John Burk
johnburk.zenfolio.com

NORTHEAST

Berkshire Hills, MA
The rolling Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts, part of the Appalachian Mountains, offer a wide variety of natural attractions and subjects for photographers. A great time to visit is mid-spring, when waterfalls and mountain streams are alive with high post-winter flow, and abundant woodland wildflowers bloom in the rich limestone soils. Overcast days offer diffuse, shadow-free lighting conditions that are optimal for both subjects, and mist or light rain is an added bonus for forests and flowers. There are many parks and preserves in the region worth exploring, including Mount Greylock State Reservation, Mount Everett and Savoy Mountain State Forest.

The wildflowers bloom in the window between the last snowmelt and full leaf out on the trees. Early season species (generally visible by late April) include bloodroot, round-lobed hepatica and red trillium, while others, such as pink lady's slippers and painted trilliums, peak later in May. Flowering times and tree leaf out start earliest in the lowlands and gradually progress to cooler, high elevations.

A polarizing filter is useful for removing glare on wet rocks and flower petals, and lengthening exposure times for flowing water scenes. A tripod with a removable center post allows for ground-level perspectives of wildflowers. Macro lenses offer close-ups of flowers.

Use umbrellas, lens hoods and other covers to keep your equipment dry. Be alert for condensation, which can occasionally be an issue in humid stream valleys. Many of the waterfalls are accessible by hiking trails of a mile or less, but be prepared for moderate to steep slopes and potentially slippery areas.


Baxter State Park, ME

Baxter State Park, ME
An expansive wilderness centered around Mount Katahdin and the Longfellow Mountains, Baxter State Park offers a unique combination of outstanding scenery and wildlife viewing. In autumn, colorful northern hardwood foliage adorns the mountains and ponds, while wildlife such as moose and white-tailed deer are in their physical prime during the autumn mating season. Mount Katahdin, one of New England's iconic peaks and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, makes for a picturesque backdrop for pond scenes. The foliage generally peaks around the first week of October, though this can vary depending on seasonal climactic conditions. Early morning offers ideal lighting for landscapes and is when animals are most active.

The extensive trail network offers outings ranging from easy pond walks to strenuous mountain and backcountry adventures. The weather is also highly variable, so bring appropriate clothing and be prepared for changing conditions. Telephoto and wide-angle lenses are useful for both wildlife and landscape photography; use the latter to show animals in their natural habitats.

A backpack that can hold a tripod is helpful on the mountain trails, some of which have steep and rocky sections. The park is roughly 20 miles from the nearest towns and has limited visitor services, so make sure to have plenty of gas and other supplies before heading in. Cabins and camping areas are available (contact the headquarters in advance of your visit, as availability may be limited). Though moose are often easy to observe, keep a safe distance as they can behave unpredictably during the breeding season.



Middle Prong of the Little River, Tremont, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN

Jeff Silkstone
www.jsilkstonephotography.com

SOUTHEAST

Middle Prong of the Little River, Tremont, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN
One of my favorite times to photograph fall color is when skies are overcast and slightly gray. I had such an occasion this past fall while visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Middle Prong of the Little River in the Tremont section was full of color from the autumn leaves. The water was flowing fast and the air was crisp. A boulder jutting into the river provided the perfect place for me to take advantage of the fall color in the foreground while shooting up the river. The path to the boulder was steep, and a good pair of sturdy boots was essential as I carefully made my way down the rocky terrain. Once I reached my spot, I took time to enjoy the scene and survey all the photographic opportunities. Upon determining my composition, I used a carbon-fiber tripod with a ballhead to sturdy the camera, allowing me to decrease the shutter speed and create a silky look to the water. I used a remote release to further ensure a sharp image. I attached a circular polarizer on the front of the lens to reduce any glare from the water and wet rocks while also helping to bring out the color in the leaves. In the end, it was a perfect day to capture an image of fall color in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


Sparks Lane, Cade's Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN

Sparks Lane, Cade's Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN
Arriving 40 minutes before the gates opened, we were already behind a number of cars in line. I knew getting there early gave the best opportunity to photograph Sparks Lane in Cade's Cove, a section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. When the gates opened at sunrise, we drove straight to our destination, and luckily, we were one of the first to arrive. In addition to the tranquil beauty of the scene, the reddish-orange color of the leaves of the tree to the left side of the lane caught my attention. Luckily, a fog had settled into the valley providing some drama while muting out any distracting background objects. I could tell the sun was starting to break through the fog, and it wouldn't be long before the fog disappeared entirely. Besides the weather, the only elements I had to deal with were other photographers and cars. I waited patiently in order to get the perfect shot as people moved in and out of the scene and cars passed by. I used a tripod and remote release to steady the shot for sharpness, and a polarizer to reduce glare and bring out the wonderful colors of the leaves. The fog provided the perfect atmosphere for one of Cade's Cove's most photographed places.


Clingmans Dome, Great Smoky Mountains, NC

Jennifer King
www.jenniferkingphoto.com

Clingmans Dome, Great Smoky Mountains, NC
My perfect day in the Great Smoky Mountains is a day filled with weather extremes. A day when one side of the mountain range is covered in fog, yet sun shines on the valley below. A day when the weather changes so rapidly that the excitement keeps me moving from one place to another just to see what drama nature is displaying. There's a bit of chance on a day like this, but the serendipity is exhilarating. Every time I witness smoke rising and billowing through the trees in the Great Smoky Mountains is a magical experience, and ever changing. If the fog is slow, mountain ranges peek out like mystical islands. When the fog moves quickly, it can rise and crest the mountain as it leaves wisps of fog moving through the trees.

My favorite place to capture this drama is from a high elevation like Clingmans Dome. From this viewpoint, I have almost a 360-degree view of mountains and trees. I have found that using a telephoto lens can isolate and intensify the drama in a small section of trees. I carry both a 70-200mm lens and a 400mm lens on days like this. While higher elevations give me a better viewpoint, it also puts me in the wind that helps move this fog through the forest. It's important to layer up, as temperatures can get very cool, even in the summer. A tripod weight can also be very helpful. I have a hook for my backpack that hangs from my tripod to steady it in the wind.

The Great Smoky Mountains are a landscape of extremes. The allure of fog and the chase offer both wonderful photographic opportunities and a sense of being a part of this mystical and timeless landscape.


Craggy Gardens, Blue Ridge Parkway, Great Smoky Mountains, VA

Craggy Gardens, Blue Ridge Parkway, Great Smoky Mountains, VA
What makes the Blue Ridge Mountains so beautiful? Is it the layering of mountain ranges off in the distance, the smoke rising up through the trees or the blue colored mountains and mist that rise from the valley below? Maybe it's a combination of all these elements.

From atop the Craggy Gardens along the Blue Ridge Parkway is a vista where the mountains can be seen for miles. At first light, this vista point offers the best views with all the drama that the Blue Ridge Mountains have to offer. The mist between the mountains slowly rises and separates the landscape into shapes, and can create a graphic photo that's as inviting as it is surreal.

It is a long walk from the parking area to the top of Craggy Gardens. I like to arrive at the parking area about 90 minutes before first light. That gives me enough time to make the upward journey without feeling rushed. Extra clothing is required during all seasons, as mornings are usually very cold and windy. This walk also requires a supply of water and breakfast.

Once first light has passed and the sun begins to rise, the color of the landscape changes. A perfect morning will have a bank of fog that blocks the sun allowing for a dramatic sunrise. Once the sun has risen, I turn around and photograph the highlighted mountains to the west. Then I sit, eat my breakfast and listen to the wind, and watch in awe of the changing light.



Shrine Pass, CO

Doug Tomlinson
dougtomlinsonphotography.com

WEST

Shrine Pass, CO
The colorful wildflowers paint the green meadows on the upper Sawatch Range near Vail Pass, Colorado, during the short summer season. In the far distance, you can view the Mount of the Holy Cross at an elevation of 14,009 feet. Hiking through the high alpine meadow dotted with vibrant wildflowers offers a peaceful and tranquil experience, and great photography. This image was taken with a Nikon D300s using a 24-70mm ƒ/2.8 lens. I used a Gitzo Tripod with a Really Right Stuff ballhead.


Mount Hood and Trillium Lake, OR

Darren White
www.darrenwhitephotography.com

Mount Hood and Trillium Lake, OR
You want to be here early in the morning when the lake is calm so you can get that nice reflection. I prefer to shoot on partly cloudy days so when the sun comes up you can get some really nice color in your shot. While beautiful for a travel magazine showcasing tourism, clear blue skies are rather boring at this location and don't offer much to make a dramatic image. This particular shot was taken as a storm was building. The Lenticular clouds on the left looked like they were going to invade the mountain.
This is the perfect way to start the day because it's in a wilderness setting with a gorgeous mountain view and a beautiful lake. Often you can get some nice fog lifting off the lake or a boat out on the water with some people fishing, as well. Iconic as it is for an Oregon location, the scene is always changing with the weather, and you'll never get the same shot twice. I always bring my tripod and, depending on the weather, I'll try longer and shorter exposures. Gear I always have with me at this location is a good DSLR, a range of lenses from 16mm up to 200mm, circular polarizer filters, 6- and 10-stop ND filters, tripod, and a Graduated ND filter to help balance the exposure of the sky and foreground. You don't need any special boots because you don't need to enter any water.


Oneonta Gorge, Columbia River Gorge Scenic Highway, OR

Oneonta Gorge, Columbia River Gorge Scenic Highway, OR
Get ready to get wet! There's no dry way to this waterfall. You'll start your memorable journey by walking down a set of cement stairs that put you in the creek. You'll head upstream until you get to the logjam. Extreme caution is needed to get over the logjam to the other side. The logs are extremely slick, and one wrong fall could be the end. Once on the other side, you'll begin your journey getting into the water, which flows through a very narrow slot canyon. Water can reach upwards of seven feet deep depending on the time of the year. Most of the time, we carry our bags over our heads as we walk waist to chin deep through the short canyon. The deepest part of the canyon is only about 25 to 30 yards long, and then it begins to get shallow again as you get closer to the falls. From the parking lot to the falls is maybe just under a half mile. Wading through chest-deep water and climbing over a massive logjam are enough to get my heart pumping before hearing the roar of the water coming over the falls. This is a perfect day trip. I love it when it's overcast and in the morning when you won't be bothered by too many people.

Having good, even light makes this a much easier place to shoot. On clear days when the sun is overhead, the light is very harsh and makes for very high-contrast photos. That being said, you can get some nice shots with the sun coming through the mist, so just make the most of what you're given to work with. Gear you'll want for this little trip includes waterproof bags for all your camera gear (I usually double bag everything with Ziploc bags to protect against an accidental drop), chest waders if you don't want to get your clothes wet (most of us in the Northwest just bring a change of clothes because it's not often you come out dry), shoes or boots with excellent traction like Yak Trax may be an option for getting over the log jam safely, tripod, various lenses (I prefer wide-angle in this location), and a cloth to wipe the spray off your lens and camera. If you're new to this kind of thing, you'll want to bring a lot of determination. Your first time doing this hike can be intimidating, but once you reach the waterfall, you'll know it was all worth it.


Oregon Coast, Bandon, Oregon

Oregon Coast, Bandon, Oregon
The Oregon coast is a magical place in and of itself. I was born and raised on the Oregon coast, and it will always be my favorite place in the world. What makes it go from good to perfect is when you get those rare clear skies at night. The Oregon coast is known for its abundance of overcast and cloudy days, so in the summer, when the high pressure keeps the clouds at bay and the stars come out at night, is what really makes this place come alive. Most people don't see this on the Oregon coast because they're in bed. I love staying up late and seeing what the nights will offer. Bandon offers a very large, open beach with lots of sea stacks to include in your images. Special gear needed is a fast wide-angle lens or a good, fast 50mm lens to take advantage of the dark skies and bright stars. A windbreaker or warm jacket is important as the temps usually drop and the wind picks up after the sun goes down. Watch out for the tides. It's good to know if the tide is going out or coming in and what the levels will be. You don't want to get hit by a wave or have your tripod moved during your exposure.

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