Posted by: kerryl29 | January 3, 2023

Favorite Images of 2022, Part II (The Smokies)

As I noted in the last entry, the photo set from the desert last winter is just the first part of the favorite images presentation for 2022. Part II consists of photography conducted in the Smoky Mountains region of Tennessee/North Carolina from the second half of April.

But first, as s tiny appetizer, here’s my personal favorite image from a truncated Texas wildflower expedition in early April. It was an epically bad wildflower bloom across Texas last year, but there were some gems to be found, and, with some assistance, I unearthed the one below in Austin County.

Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrush, Austin County, Texas

Now, let’s get to the main course.

The Smoky Mountains region may be the single most diverse location for nature photography in North America east of the Mississippi River. (Of course, it may not be. It’s not as though I’ve visited every spot in the eastern half of the continent.) There are countless different types of scenes and subjects to photograph, even when the conditions aren’t particularly favorable for good photography. This is particularly true, in my opinion, during the wildflower bloom, which usually peaks in the second half of April.

Last year, to my regret,. the conditions were less than ideal. And I’m being generous. During the week or so that I was on the ground in the region, all but two days were filled, end-to-end, with blue skies, and even the two days that didn’t fit that description featured clear skies half the time. There was also a fair amount of wind. And, to top things off, due to a late-in-the-season hard freeze that covered two consecutive nights, the bloom was stunted. As I stated, less than ideal.

And yet…for a variety of reasons, which I’ll try to flesh out when I start the day-by-day chronicle of this trip in the coming weeks, I think I came back with my share of memorable images. Perhaps more than my share, in fact.

For now, I’ll just do a bit of an image dump and you can draw your own conclusions.

As far as how the process of selecting these images was undertaken, I will quote from my most recent post, as much of what was stated there is applicable here as well:

Note that there has been no attempt to limit this bipartite collection to a particular number of images, nor will there be an effort to present some sort of rank ordering of preference. Basically, any attempt to do anything so formal felt too much like a chore for me to undertake and, believe me, I have more than enough chores on my agenda already without having to manufacture more. (If you prefer to interpret the resulting chaos as evidence that I’m just being lazy, I won’t put up much of an argument.)

With that said, I will add that I did make some attempt to present the variety of subject matter that is available in and around Great Smoky Mountains National Park during the spring bloom, even in a relatively poor year.

Water is, if not quite omnipresent, frequently seen throughout the park and its surroundings, and the best time to photograph watery scenes in the Smokies is during springtime, when the snow melt at higher elevations feeds all of the many waterways.

Kephart Prong, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Plunging Creek Black & White, Newfound Gap Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Dangling Vine, Little River, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Laurel Creek, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Confluence, Kephart Prong, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
River’s Flow, Middle Prong of the Little River, Tremont, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Oconaluftee River, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Middle Prong of the Little River, Tremont, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Oconaluftee River, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Mossy Rocks, Collins Creek, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Roaring Fork, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Grotto Falls Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Grotto Falls Intimate, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Little River Aerial, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Porter’s Creek, Greenbrier, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

If one tires of “conventional” stream/creek photography–whatever that means, exactly–the opportunity to play with more abstract water scenes, given the preponderance of reflections, is ubiquitous, particularly on the aforementioned blue sky days.

Water Abstract, Oconaluftee River, Smokemont, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Liquid Gold, Little River, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Mind Bender, Little River, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Golden Light, Oconaluftee River, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina

While it was certainly not my principal focus, I saw more wildlife on this trip than on any previous visit to the Smokies. In addition to the bears and elk represented in the images below, I saw deer, wild turkeys and a fox, among other critters.

Black Bear, Whiteoak Sink, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Elk Calf, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina

If you like overlooks, particularly of (but not limited to) layered mountain scenes, the Smokies can’t be beaten.

Morton Overlook at Sunset, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Foggy Sunrise, Oconaluftee Valley Overlook, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Backlit Trees, Morton Overlook, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Sun-Kissed Ridges, Newfound Gap Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Dawn’s Early Light, Newfound Gap Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Pastels, Newfound Gap Overlook, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Sunrise Serenade, Oconaluftee Valley Overlook, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Fire in the Sky, Clingman’s Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Every now and then, if you play your cards right, fog emerges, with all its endemic visual magic.

Foggy Trees, Newfound Gap Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

But, even in a bad year, the most notable thing about the spring bloom is the…bloom, with its wildflowers, flowering trees and emerging growth everywhere you look.

Dogwood Intimate, Little River Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Trail of Phlox, Whiteoak Sink, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Yellow Lady’s Slippers, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Boundary Tree, Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina
Early Growth, Balsam Mountain, Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina
Dogwood Spring, Little River Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Phacelia Forever, Balsam Mountain, Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina
White Trillium, Whiteoak Sink, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Spring Forest, Little River Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Dogwood Forest, Newfound Gap Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Crested Dwarf Iris, Ramsey Cascades Trail, Greenbrier, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Dogwood Intimate, Metcalf Bottoms, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Fresh Growth, Newfound Gap Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Trillium Cluster, Collins Creek Picnic Area, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Dogwood Spring, Little River Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Hopefully that will whet everyone’s appetite, at least a little bit. Till’ next time, I’ll say, again–Happy New Year!

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Responses

  1. Absolutely Incredible Set! Beautiful!

    • Thanks very much!

  2. A grand tour! Happy New Year!!

    • Thanks, Happy New Year!

  3. Lots of old friends in this collection, Kerry — nice to see them again! Whets my appetite for another visit. Easy to see why you love this area and keep returning. Very nicely done. Happy travels and shooting in 2023!

    • Thanks, Steve, Happy New Year!

  4. This is a true feast for the eyes and touches my soul, as well. Best wishes for travels and photography in the new year!

    • Thanks very much, Jane, Happy New Year!

  5. It’s been a while, but some of those images look familiar. Probably not exactly the same spots I photographed, but similar.

    Great collection of shots and an inspiration for composition and treatment. Thank you.

    • Thanks very much!

      There are a lot of places in the Smokies that have a broadly familiar look. There are, for instance, numerous streams filled with mossy rocks and lichen-covered boulders and fringed by rhododendron. But these places start to emit a unique vibe the more frequently you visit. This was my first visit in almost a decade, but I’d been to the area to photograph five times over the prior 8-9 years, and there’s no doubt, the more you see a place, the more its distinctions emerge.

    • The last time I was there was in 2005 (five years before I started my blog) . . . hmm perhaps I should reprocess those photos as they also include the Blue Ridge Parkway.


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