Posted by: kerryl29 | February 27, 2023

Smokies Spring: Day 1

I arrived in Gallinburg late in the afternoon, following a 600-odd-mile drive from the Chicago area that culminated in an interminable slog through Pigeon Forge. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the traffic in these two Tennessee towns can be, and frequently is, oppressive; it’s probably the best reason to avoid them if possible. This not being possible, I gritted my teeth and bore it. After checking into my lodgings, and coming to grips with the fact that it was a warn, breezy, blue sky day, I was still itching to do something with the camera, so I braved the Gatlinburg traffic and finally escaped the town.

It had become clear that the spring was a bit late to southeast Tennessee in 2022. As I arched around the Sugarlands Vistors Center in the northeast corner of the park and began to drive west on the Little River Road, I noted that most of the trees were in the early budding stages. That is unusual at this low(ish) altitude roughly 2/3 of the way into April. The forthcoming forecast was for unceasingly warn, sunny days and I figured that the budding/bloom situation would change quickly. I had no idea…

As I worked my way in the direction of the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area, roughly halfway between Gatlinburg and Townsend, something in the river caught my eye. Having no particular agenda (other than to get out of the car after a very long day of driving), I turned into one of the many small turnoffs that abut the Little River Road and got out of the car to investigate. Dong so required descending the moderately steep river bank to the right of the road, for roughly 150 feet. As I was still attired in tennis shoes, rather than hiking boots, I had to be a tad bit more deliberate than otherwise would be the case, but in a few moments I found myself at the water’s edge.

What had drawn my attention from the car was a reflection in the river, and of course I had changed my perspective dramatically when I had meandered down to river level. Some reflection was still visible, but it wasn’t the mind-bending splash I had seen from higher up. (Obscuring tree trunks and shrubbery made it impossible to photograph what I had seen from the road.) Not particularly interested in getting back in the car, I decided to see if I could make anything of the scene in front of me. I was in the shade, it was pleasantly warm, and the breeze was greatly mitigated down in this pseudo-canyon. There was no one else around; the only audible noise was the sound of moving water. In short, I was incentivized to spend some time at this spot, so I took a very close look at my immediate surroundings for approximately 30 minutes.

What I was looking at was a scene that included trees (their trunks and exposed roots); rocks, both in and out of the water; tufts of wildflowers and greenery; and reflections of the other side of the river. And, of course, the water itself. I had one heck of a time trying compose this scene in a manner I found meaningful, but I had a lot of fun trying. After retreating back to the car for my gear, I must have looked at three dozen different comps, at least. I finally settled on a broad perspective, but found myself repeatedly adjusting my specific position, as I kept going back and forth regarding how close I should be to the group of blossoms nestled between the tree roots. I liked the idea of letting them dominate the foreground, but doing so badly unsettled the mid-ground and background of the frame.

Ultimately I settled on a mid-ground location for the flowers and finally produced the image you see below. (A larger rendition, with more easily visible details, can be viewed here.)

Little River Evening, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

I eventually made a few other images at this location, which can be seen below.

Little River Reflections, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Reflections, and an accompanying color cast, from the deep blue sky dominated some locations, depending on my perspective, and I decided to lean into them rather than attempting to overcome them.

Little River Cascades, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

I made one stop on the way back to Gatlinburg, as twilight began to take over. This was the last image of a very short day of photography.

Little River Aerial, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

It was a slow photographic start to the trip, admittedly and–spoiler alert–the next day wouldn’t be much more productive, if it was better at all.



  1. Definitely feels good to get out and do something — anything — other than stare at the road after a long drive! Even if the resulting images aren’t keepers, it’s a relief to do something that feels in some way productive.

    • Just getting off one’s duff and moving around is often more than enough for me, even if I don’t get the camera out of the bag.

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