Posted by: kerryl29 | October 28, 2019

The Story Behind the Image: Oconaluftee River Reflections

On a trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the spring of 2014 I was wandering around the North Carolina section of the park one morning, with little specific on the itinerary.  Mostly I was relatively aimlessly walking around locations I hadn’t visited on any of my previous trips to the park.  I had started the day with a planned sunrise shoot at a spot where the Oconoluftee Valley could be viewed, but had no real plan beyond that.

After stumbling across a church building in the relatively rarely visited Smokemont section (I saw literally no one while I was exploring the area around the church), I was walking back toward my parked vehicle, intent on traveling to some other area to explore, when I found myself astride the Oconoluftee River.

Lufty Baptist Church, Smokemont, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina

It was just about completely clear on this particular morning but the wooded area near the river was still in even light.  But, almost immediately, I noticed some interesting reflections in the water.  They were the kind of reflections that wouldn’t have existed in anything but blue sky conditions when spring growth was in its comparatively early stages and the absence of direct sun on the water made for some captivating patterns.  I pulled out my long lens and carefully framed a narrow area of moving water.  I experimented with different neutral density filters, apertures and shutter speeds.

Oconaluftee River Reflections, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina

While I enjoy making images of this sort, I’ve found, over the years, that I’m not likely to experiment with this sort of thing unless I’m effectively uninhibited by preconceived notions of the landscape.  Thus “wandering around…with little specific on the itinerary” was probably a necessary (though not necessarily sufficient) pre-condition for this image to be made.

There’s something to be said for playfulness in the making of art.  By no means is it a requirement, or, at times, even desirable, depending on intent.  But I’ve found that allowing myself a certain degree of freedom, on occasion, in the field, often leads to a different sort of output than when I’m in a purposeful mood.  That output isn’t inherently better…or worse; just different.  And that alone makes it worth pursuing.



  1. I love the point of view in the approach to the church, as well as your water play. I have been playing with camera motion photography as a way to capture the fall foliage, as well as regular shots.Fun!

    • Thanks, Jane! It can be fun to mess around with something different from time to time.

  2. This is a great reminder that we shouldn’t always be so serious when pursuing our craft. Experimentation, and even unintended accidents, can produce some very worthwhile and creative images.

    • Thanks, Ellen!

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