Posted by: kerryl29 | February 20, 2013

The Sound of Silence

As much as I enjoy making images, I’ve been journeying to the kinds of places I go now to take pictures long before I got serious about photography.  In fact, one of the things I like about image making is that it allows me to capture a moment and relive the  experience whenever I view the corresponding image.

An acquaintance of mine once told me that when he saw my images, he often had the feeling that he was seeing a pristine landscape—as though he was the first person ever to see the setting.  I’ve rarely, if ever, received more meaningful praise, because one of the most appealing aspects of most of the photo shoots I go on is a sense of quiet—at least, in terms of man made sound.  I frequently find myself listening to the sounds of running water, the wind, birds and other wildlife…or nothing at all.

Each of the images accompanying this entry reminds me of a peaceful, bucolic experience.

Cades Cove Morning, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Cades Cove Morning, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

On this morning, I was third in line at the gate to get into Cades Cove at sunrise.  When the rangers opened the gate, I made a beeline for the back side of the loop road, while others stopped at Sparks and Hyatt Lanes.  That gave me the rare opportunity to experience this open meadow with no one else around which made for a very quiet setting…except for some deer moving through the fields and the occasional gobbling of wild turkeys.

Wooly Back Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

Wooly Back Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

I spent almost two hours at this overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway, during which time only three cars passed by.  The rest of the time I heard nothing but the sound of the occasional songbird and the rustling of leaves in the light breeze.

Heart of the Dunes, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

Heart of the Dunes, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

I hiked into the “Heart of the Dunes” at White Sands National Monument about two hours before sunset and returned after the sun had gone down.  I never saw or heard another soul.  In fact, the only sound I ever heard was my own feet in the sand.  When I stood still, the silence was ear-splitting.

Mill Creek Rapids, Cataract Falls State Recreation Area, Indiana

Mill Creek Rapids, Cataract Falls State Recreation Area, Indiana

I didn’t see a single person during the late morning/early afternoon I spent at Cataract Falls State Recreation Area.  I heard the unfettered sound of the rushing rapids of Mill Creek, and nothing else.

Swift Creek Overlook at Sunrise, Red River Gorge, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky

Swift Creek Overlook at Sunrise, Red River Gorge, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky

I could hear—but not see—the distant waters of Swift Creek, far below the narrow rock outcropping that I had all to myself on a morning that found the Red River Gorge choked with fog.

The Fire Wave at Dusk, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

The Fire Wave at Dusk, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

There had been a few other people at the Fire Wave during the hour-plus that I had been at this location, waiting for the light to improve.  Fortunately, by the time it reached its apex, I was all by myself.  I could have heard a pin drop a mile away, but there wasn’t anyone there to drop one.

Red Jack Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Red Jack Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

I was all alone on a morning so quiet I could hear myself think at Red Jack Lake, miles into the Hiawatha National Forest.  It seemed like the epitome of irreverence to make a sound.

Bandon Beach at Sunset, Oregon

Bandon Beach at Sunset, Oregon

Depending on the time of day, you can wander for miles on Bandon Beach and never see another soul.  Not long after making this photograph, I hiked roughly three miles back to Coquille Point, in the gathering gloom, with only the sound of the surf as a companion.

I don’t know if these are among my best images, but they are among my favorites, precisely because of the memories they trigger.  Perhaps that implicitly makes them among my “best”…



  1. Thanks again for your pictures and your words. My wife and I head for Rocky Mountain NP on the 22nd. I’m looking forward to seeing the park in the winter after being there several times in the summer. I know that I can’t get as high as I usually like to go but, I think the hiking/snowshoeing will be much quieter than when we’ve been there before.

    • Thanks very much for the kind words. Best of luck at RMNP; I’ve been there several times, but only in the summer and not in many years.

  2. “It seemed like the epitome of irreverence to make a sound.”, I love that, and I’m going to add it to my page of favorite outdoor quotes, if you don’t mind.

    You have what I consider to be a very unique talent, photographing something as simple as the meadow in the first photo, and doing so in a way that makes it magnificent!

    Fortunately, for those of us who love the quiet and solitude of nature, you only have to get a short distance from any road, and be outside early or late in the day, and 99% of people won’t be there.

    • Thanks very much for the kind words, Jerry. Oh, and feel free to quote me. 🙂 I didn’t know you had a page of outdoor quotes.

      And you’re right–even in comparatively busy areas, you can find solitude through careful timing. I had the rim trail at Bryce Canyon National Park–which was plenty crowded–to myself pre-dawn on successive mornings last May. Ditto the Narrows (another notoriously crowded place) at Zion NP by being the first one in the river one morning…and Angel’s Landing as well, come to think of it.

      • The other thing about getting even a short distance away from the crowds is that sometime great photo ops present themselves. The one that comes to mind for me was at Old Faithful in Yellowstone on a late afternoon. I took the obligatory photos from the viewing areas, then set off to photograph a small herd of buffalo off to the west of Old Faithful. I circled the herd to get ahead of them, then hid in wait for them to get close. As I was waiting, I got shots of Old Faithful erupting from behind the herd of buffalo in the late afternoon sun, with no sign of human presence of any kind. ( I really need to get those slides digitized!) Seeing that, I could imagine what it was like for the first humans who stumbled across the area, yet, there were crowds of people at the viewing areas, just outside of the photos that I got.

        • Great story. I keep meaning to write an entry about creatively photographing icons…

      • I’ve been hiking for over 40 years and the Zion Narrows is one of my most favorite hikes. It is a place that is so different than anywhere else that I have been.

        • The Virgin River Narrows was just…phenomenal. Here’s my post from last year about my experience hiking and photographing the Narrows:

  3. wow… stunning, as usual

    • Thanks very much, Lauren.

  4. Speechless….

    • Thanks, Craig.

      Oh, and I see what you did there. 🙂

  5. Amazing captures! Thanks for sharing them! 😀

    • Thanks, Jackie.

  6. Beautiful images, and your words made me homesick for Virginia. I look forward to viewing more of your work. 😉

    • Thanks very much, Cynthia. I appreciate the kind remarks.

  7. What beautiful photos. It’s hard to find peace and quiet these day so those moments should be treasured.

    • Thanks very much!

  8. I love them all and I share your passion for peace, quiet and solitude. It’s been a stressful day and after looking at your photos I already feel more relaxed. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

    • Thanks, Angela. That means a great deal to me.

  9. I can totally understand why these images are among your favourites. They are spectacular!!!

  10. stunning images…yes, I love the quiet spots especially when I have been busy or even when I haven’t and I will find inspiration on what direction to take – or not.

    • Thanks, Jane.

  11. It’s great to have time again to appreciate others’ loves, too–and I’ve missed yours, Kerry. Beautiful images and thoughts. Your Wooly Back Overlook speaks to me most eloquently.

    • Thanks very much!

  12. Kerry,
    Your description of hearing silence while you shoot is the same experience that I enjoy. Great shots you have!

    • Thanks very much, Steve.

  13. What a beautiful post, Kerry. That is exactly why I love being in the garden; it is all about the quiet and nature’s voices. I remember some of these photos; all reflect, I think, your point of the beauty of silence and stillness, even though they are dramatically different from each other.

    • Thanks very much, Lynn. Your garden sounds like a wonderful place to spend time…further cementing the impression given by your pictures of it.

      • You’ve inspired me with this photo essay, Kerry; I’m planning to do a link back to it in my next post this weekend 🙂

        • I’m very much looking forward to seeing what you come up with, Lynn.

  14. All gorgeous but I especially love the dunes shot

    • Thanks, Tina!

  15. Your dunes photograph is unique for the darker shape in the upper left, like a stylized eye but vertical, that somehow appeared out of the sand. Nice going.

    In west Texas we have Monahans Sand Hills, a place I’ve been meaning to go to for years but haven’t yet visited.

    • Thanks, Steve. Yeah, it was quite something when I stumbled upon that “cavity” at White Sands. Never seen anything quite like it.

  16. amazing , love it , what is your cam and lens ? and do you use any polarizing filter ?

    • Thanks very much.

      My current camera is the Nikon D800E, DSLR. My lens kit: the Nikkor 14-24/2.8; Nikkor 24-70/2.8; the Nikkor 80-400/4.5-5.6 VR; the Nikkor 200mm macro; the Sigma 70-200/2.8. When appropriate, I do indeed use a polarizing filter.

  17. Your work is always so stunning Kerry and really places me at the scene.

    • Thanks, Emily. I really appreciate it.

  18. Hello Kerry,

    Oh my. I think your photos took my breath away. I love them so much. Do you have a gallery site of them? hehehehe I followed the link link you placed on Terry’s blog. ❤

    • Hi, thanks for the note. You can view an extensive assortment of my images via the GALLERIES links on my website, which you can access here.

      • Thank you so much.

      • Thanks Kerry. “)

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