Sunrise Spoiled?

Before I experienced this, I was sure that the best thing you can hope for when going out for a morning shoot is a beautiful sunrise and a clear sky.  Now, I’m thinking that a foggy morning is an awfully good alternative.

On our trip to Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the group was out taking advantage of the misty beauty of a morning.  The original stop here was to grab a few shots of an iconic view of one of the roads that cuts through the park.



We got those shots but, as it often happens, the unexpected opportunity appeared.  Just a few steps from that iconic spot, was this road running off into the fog – even better!  And then, in the distance, the sun starts to burn through the fog.  Not a bright sunrise but this hazy-bright spot in the sky.  Eerie and beautiful all at once.

Another lesson in being sure that you look around before you give up on a location.  It’s called working a site and it often gives you results that are not what you planned.  Planning is great and can give you excellent results but keeping your eyes open can give you even more.

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
31mm @ f/11 – 1/15 sec – ISO 100

King of Cades Cove

This is the reason that many people go to Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  It’s the place to go see black bears!  We were lucky enough to see several, including this one who was the cause of many a tourist to go wandering through the meadow.  This is the same spot where I got the coyote who was nearby.

It is always amazing to me that there are so many people who don’t seem to understand what nature is and how dangerous wild animals can be.  There were people who tried to cart little children and even baby strollers out into the field where the coyote and bear were.  One of the Park Rangers was telling us about how often they get questions about when the bears are let out and brought back in for the day.  Some people think nature and Disney World are the same thing.

I’m rather glad that this was not one of the mothers with cubs that are in the park right now.  I saw one with the cubs climbing up and down trees but that was quite a way off.  If there had been a scene like that with clueless people nearby, I can just imagine a mother bear protecting cubs going after some people.  Fortunately, that did not happen on this visit.

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Mama bear waiting for her cub to come down

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/8 – 1/125 sec – ISO 400

Indigo Bunting singing

For those of you who do not know David Akoubian one thing I can tell you for sure about him is that he’s a bird nut!  When we went on his Spring in the Smoky Mountains workshop, I was sure that we would be chasing birds and I was not disappointed.

David has an uncanny ability to spot birds and to identify them by their calls.  There were two species that we came across in Cades Cove that David showed a lot of interest in.  One was the Orchard Oriole that I posted an image of earlier.  The other was the Indigo Bunting that you see here.  The male bunting would fly up to a high branch and sing for the females who were gathering nesting material in the fields below.

They are not very big birds and since the day was quite overcast and they were perched up high, it was hard to get a good shot.  I got a few when he came down to look for something to eat but I like the featured shot above where he is in full song best.

Smoky Mountains-3572Smoky Mountains-3601

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/8 – 1/500 sec – ISO 800

Dan Lawson’s place Cades Cove

Dan Lawson’s Place is the second oldest of the historic cabins that remain standing in Cades Cove.  Built around 1840, this was the home of the cove’s wealthiest resident.  Only the John Oliver cabin (1822), home of the cove’s first European settler, is older than this one.

Cades Cove was first settled during the 1700’s by Cherokee Indians and is named after a Chief Kade. The first European settlers came during the 1800’s eventually reaching a population of 671 around 1850.

In the 1920’s the residents were forced out when the State of Tennessee gave the Park Commission power to seize the cove properties and make them part of the National Park system.

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
22mm @ f/10 – 1/50 sec – ISO 100

Cades Cove Coyote

Wildlife is one of the biggest attractions at Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  You could always tell when something interesting had been spotted by the cars pulled off to the side of the road.  In this case, there were two park residents in opposite corners of the same big clearing.  At one end was a black bear, foraging for its breakfast and at the other, this coyote, doing the same.

On a ridge a good football-field length away, stood a good-sized group of photographers and other gawkers watching the pair.  If the two animals knew of each other’s presence, I couldn’t tell.  The each seemed to be consumed with eating.  The coyote seemed to be hunting some small animals, maybe mice.  You could tell when he saw something when the ears perked up and he would occasionally jump and pounce.

It was a great sight but it was also one of those times when you say – “People are idiots”.  Two separate occurrences of people wandering through the clearing without any regard for the wild animals happened while we were there.  I don’t know if they didn’t realize that they were walking right toward them or if they were actually trying to get as close as possible but there they went.  We didn’t witness any incidents of people getting eaten by wildlife but, I kind of wished we had.

Good thing there are park rangers around when these sighting are made.  Otherwise, the bears would all be way too fat from eating stupid tourists!

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
300mm @ f/8 – 1/200 sec – ISO 400

Local Accommodations at St Augustine

No, this is not the hotel room that we had while in St Augustine but, it is where some residents slept while living here.  This is one of the rooms on display at the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fortress in the United States.  Construction on the fort began in 1672 by the Spanish as part of the city defenses.  It has changed hands from Spain to Great Britain to the USA a total of six times over its history.

Many of the features of this fort remind me of the fortifications that we have visited in Puerto Rico.  I suppose this is not surprising since they were also built by the Spanish colonizers.  The Castillo San Felipe del Morro is older than the Castillo de San Marcos and much larger but there are many similarities including the turrets or watch towers (called garitas) that mark the corners of the fortress.

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
1 South Castillo Drive

Saint Augustine, FL 32084

Nikon D7100
Sirui P-204S Monopod
Tamron 16-300 Di II VC PZD Macro
16mm @ f11 –  1/4 sec – ISO 1000