Grandfather Mountain Nature Photography Weekend
Grandfather Mountain State Park
Avery County, NC
Day 2a - Saturday, June 4th, 2011
(before photo contest submission deadline)
If you are looking to sleep in on a Saturday Morning the camping area at the Grandfather Mountain Nature Photography Weekend is not the place to be! With sunrise scheduled for around 6:25am, the commotion of vehicles leaving the camping area started up at around 5:00am!
Upon waking up to all the noise I decided to join the mass exodus of the camping area and head up for a sunrise on top of Grandfather Mountain. It wasn't the most spectacular sunrise I have ever seen, but still well worth getting up early for!
Just before sunrise at Grandfather Mountain
Sunrise at Grandfather Mountain
The Mile High Swinging Bridge at Sunrise
After sunrise I made a stop at the Nature Center to see what animals were out and about at the Animal Habitats.
After a little breakfast, I decided to do some hiking. Some of my favorite photos have come while I am out hiking and not really looking for anything specific to photograph. I hoped that would be the case this morning.
I decided to hike the 3.1 mile (6.2 mile out and back) profile trail from Hwy 105 to its intersection with the Grandfather Trail.
The first mile of the Profile Trail is an easy hike as it maintains a fairly constant elevation. The first part runs alongside the Watauga River offering many places to stop and photograph. However, a lot of other photographers had the same idea, so I decided to continue on and hopefully away from the crowds.
About a mile in, the trail crosses Shanty Spring Branch were a couple of small cascades awaited me. I knew this was the spot where several past winning contest photos were taken, so I pulled out the tri-pod to see what I could come up with.
Shanty Spring Branch
Up to this point, it was a very easy hike, but the next 2.1 miles of trail gains approximately 1,800 feet of elevation making for a good morning workout! I made a few stops to photograph some interesting things I saw along the trail.
Interesting Growth on this tree
There are not a whole lot of distant views along the trail. There are a couple of viewpoints shown on the map which are nice, but not spectacular. The last quarter mile is totally brutal, the only relief coming from knowing that the hike back would be all downhill!
View from the Profile Trail
View from the Profile Trail
On the hike back down I decided to take a break, switch over to my Macro Lens and try some Macro shots of the Rhododendron blooms. One of the blooms had some bugs crawling around inside so I went in even closer.
I probably took about 50 shots of this bug experimenting with different apertures, shutter speeds, with flash, without flash, using my little LED flashlight, etc. Out of all those shots, certainly at least one or two would come out OK.
Macro Bug Shot
I finished up the hike at around noon, leaving me about 3 hours to go through all my photos and pick the (3) best to burn to CD and submit into the photo contest by the 3:00pm deadline.
Back at the camping area, my laptop battery quickly went dead! So I headed up to the Nature Center where I was lucky enough to find an open AC outlet. Trying to go through about 600 photos on an antique (7 years old) laptop proved to be by far the least enjoyable part of the whole weekend.
Not only is my laptop way to slow to work with the image sizes of today's digital cameras, but the screen really sucks. I was very unimpressed with all my photos, but fortunately they looked much better once I got home and viewed them on a decent monitor!
I almost thought about not submitting any photos for the contest, but in the end I did come up with my three photo submissions. One night sky shot from the previous evening to submit into the Scenic category, and two Macro bug shots for the Animals in Nature Category!
It sure felt good to get that CD submitted and know that the pressure was off for the rest of the weekend!
My full set of photos (edited down to a reasonable number) is located here:
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