Saying Goodbye To Old Friends & Exploring New Frontiers

Note: I shot every image in this post from the same location.

Orionid Meteor-Big Dipper-Venus-Blue Ridge Parkway-North Carolina

An Orionid Meteor, the Big Dipper, and Venus shine above the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, 20 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 1600.

In this recent galactic post, I talked about exploring those “one of these days” places that we all drive by on the way to somewhere else. Well, now I want to talk a little bit about those “somewhere else” places that we’re always on our way to. You know, that location you’ve already shot a gazillion times but keep returning to because it treats you like an old friend.

Big Dipper-Airplane Contrails-Satellite Flare-Blue Ridge Parkway

Airplane contrails, the Big Dipper, and an unidentified satellite shine above the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, 20 seconds, f/4, ISO 800.

I’ve always preached that the more you shoot in one location, the better photos you’ll make. When we start to learn the nuances of weather and light and seasons, we get to know the “soul” of the location and our time becomes much more productive.

But is there such a thing as eating too much soul food? Well, for me there is, and I have to tell you that there are several locations that give me a stomach ache, and some that I’ve never shot at and avoid because I already know they will make me sick. (One particular dead tree standing on a beach in South Carolina comes to mind.)

Back in the late 1980s when I was exploring my home state of North Carolina, I rarely ran across another photographer, and never saw one more than a quarter mile or so from a road. I seemed to have the entire state to myself, and I could make unique photos every time I set up the tripod.

If only I knew how to make a decent photo back then!

Sunrise on the Blue Ridge Parkway-North Carolina

Foggy sunrise on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70 f/2.8mm lens, 2.5 seconds, f/8, ISO 400. This is a blend of two images, one for the foreground and one for the sky.

I don’t have to tell you what it’s like today. Many of those locations are now crowded with photographers. Some of the popular overlooks in the Smokies and on the Blue Ridge Parkway can get so crowded at sunset you couldn’t squeeze in another tripod with a crowbar. And even if you don’t meet another photographer, you can darn well bet that one was there just before you and one will be on your heels.

Foggy view from overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Foggy view from overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D300, Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens, 1/50 second, f/25, ISO 100.

I acknowledge that I’m probably responsible for at least a little bit of this situation. If I could just keep my mouth shut, I probably would still have a lot of North Carolina’s waterfalls to myself, and many of the off-road hotspots. Alas, keeping words from pouring out of my mouth is about as difficult as keeping red wine from pouring in!

Twilight-Big Dipper-Blue Ridge Parkway

Foggy twilight view of the Big Dipper from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, 20 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 1600.

So today I’m shunning most of these popular locations and searching out new and unique ones, getting farther and farther off the road and trail. One day I may start to bump elbows with other photographers at these locations, and then I’ll move on to even more remote spots.

That’s not to say that you won’t see me shooting at some of the popular spots. But if you do, in all likelihood it’ll be because the weather or lighting conditions are ideal, or you’ll see me trying out something unique. Night photography is still somewhat of a new frontier at many spots, although that, too, is starting to change and I’m seeing more and more people at night. (I know, I know, that’s partly my fault, too.)

One of the best photo locations along the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway is an overlook that is only 40 minutes from my house. I couldn’t even guess the number of times I’ve been there for sunrise. It’s such a good spot that I’m using it as the starting location for my Summer Showy Wildflowers and Waterfalls of North Carolina photo tours this year. It’s also where Bill Lea will join a few lucky participants for one of the sunrise shoots at Western North Carolina Foto Fest in September. (I’ll be leading a group of Foto Festers at another location farther north on the parkway.)

Big Dipper-Venus-Satellite-Blue Ridge Parkway-North Carolina

Venus, the Big Dipper, and an unidentified satellite shine in the twilight sky in this view from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, f/4, ISO 800. This is a stack of six 13-second exposures, which was needed to capture all of the satellite streak.

So it’s a good spot and it’s very close to me, but you’re not likely to see me shooting there unless the conditions are perfect. Yes, anything can happen and I never could shoot EVERYTHING a location has to offer, but My shooting time is getting more precious by the click, and I’d like to spend as much of it as I can exploring new and unique locations and trying to make photos that no one else has, including me. Standing elbow to elbow with a group of other photographers tends to lessen those odds.

Foggy view from Blue Ridge Parkway

Foggy view from overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D300, 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens, 1/30 sec, f/32, ISO 100.

Of course, you know what’s going to happen, right? I don’t shoot for myself (nor does Bill) when I lead photo tours and workshops. At the wildflowers and waterfalls photo tours, I’m fully expecting the conditions at this overlook to be better than any photographer has ever seen. I imagine Bigfoot walking out of the woods and standing at the edge of the overlook watching the sunrise, while everyone in my group fills their memory cards.

Oh well, at least the photo tour participants will get some good shots. Tell you what, though. If I see a photo of Bigfoot standing in front of that dang tree at Botany Bay, I’m going to scream!

Big Dipper-Venus-Blue Ridge Parkway-North Carolina

The Big Dipper and Venus shine in the twilight sky in this view from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, 25 seconds, f/4, ISO 2500.

Crepuscular rays and layered mountains

Sunbeams shine on the mountains in this view from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D2X, Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, 1/5 sec, f/22, ISO 100.

Sunrise on the Blue Ridge Parkway-North Carolina

Sunrise viewed from overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D700, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, 30 seconds, f/8, ISO 200.

Sunrise on the Blue Ridge Parkway-North Carolina

Early morning view from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D300, Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens, 1/30 sec, f/22, ISO 100.

Sunrise on the Blue Ridge Parkway-North Carolina

Sunrise on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D700, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, 6 seconds, f/11, ISO 400.

Big Dipper-Foggy Blue Ridge Parkway

The Big Dipper shines above Mount Pisgah in this view from an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The light streaks are from car headlights on a road in Pisgah National Forest. Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, f/2.8, ISO 800. Stack of four 15-second exposures to capture all of the car light streaks.

Foggy sunrise on the Blue Ridge Parkway-North Carolina

Foggy sunrise on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, 1/250 sec, f/8, ISO 400.

Looking Glass Rock on the Blue Ridge Parkway-North Carolina

Looking Glass Rock at sunrise. Nikon D700, Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, 1 second, f/32, ISO 200.

Sunrise on the Blue Ridge Parkway-North Carolina

Venus shines through the clouds in this sunrise view from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D700, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, 8 seconds, f/16, ISO 200.

Venus and Foggy Mountains on the Blue Ridge Parkway-North Carolina

Venus shines in the twilight sky over Foggy Mountains in this view from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, 1/5 second, f/8, ISO 400.

Pink Beds in Fog-Blue Ridge Parkway-North Carolina

Pink Beds in Pisgah National Forest is bathed in early-morning fog. Nikon D300, Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens, 1/50 sec, f/25, ISO 100.

Blue Ridge Parkway-Pink Beds-Pisgah National Forest

Autumn at Pink Beds in Pisgah National Forest. View is from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D2X, Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, 0.8 sec, f/16, ISO 100.

Big Dipper-Venus-Blue Ridge Parkway-North Carolina

The Big Dipper and Venus shine above Mount Pisgah in this view from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, 20 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 800.

Looking Glass Rock on the Blue Ridge Parkway-North Carolina

Foggy view of Looking Glass Rock in Pisgah National Forest. View is from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D800, Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens, 1/50 sec, f/16, ISO 200.

Jupiter-Orion-Pleiades-Blue Ridge Parkway

Jupiter, Orion, and the Pleiades shine in the early-morning sky above the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, 25 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 1600.

Venus and Pink Beds in Fog-Blue Ridge Parkway-North Carolina

Venus shines in the sunrise sky above the Pink Beds in Pisgah National Forest. View is from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D700, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, 2 seconds, f/22, ISO 200.

Sunrise on the Blue Ridge Parkway-North Carolina

Foggy sunrise on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D800, Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens, 1/400 sec, f/16, ISO 400.

Blue Ridge Parkway-Pink Beds-Pisgah National Forest

Foggy view of the Pink Beds in Pisgah National Forest. View is from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D700, Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens.

Sunrise on the Blue Ridge Parkway-North Carolina

Sunrise on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D300, Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens, 1/80 sec, f/16, ISO 100.

Layered Mountains on the Blue Ridge Parkway-North Carolina

Sunbeams and layered Mountains on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D300, Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens, 1/25 sec, f/32, ISO 200.

Sunrise on the Blue Ridge Parkway-North Carolina

Sunrise on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D700, Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, 4 seconds, f/29, ISO 400.

Pink Beds in Fog-Blue Ridge Parkway-North Carolina

Foggy Pink Beds in Pisgah National Forest. View is from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D300, Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens, 1/80 sec, f/25, ISO 100.

Foggy Mountains on the Blue Ridge Parkway-North Carolina

Foggy sunrise on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D800, Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens, 1/250 sec, f/16, ISO 200.

Sunrise on the Blue Ridge Parkway-North Carolina

Sunrise on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D700, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, 2 seconds, f/14, ISO 100.

Blue Ridge Parkway-Pink Beds-Pisgah National Forest

Foggy view of Pink Beds in Pisgah National Forest. View is from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D700, Nikon 70-300mm, f/4.5-5.6 lens, 1/40 sec, f/29, ISO 200.

Pink Beds in Fog-Blue Ridge Parkway-North Carolina

Foggy view of Pink Beds in Pisgah National Forest. View is from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D300, Nikon 70-300mm, f/4.5-5.6 lens, 1/30 sec, f/22, ISO 200

Layered Mountains on the Blue Ridge Parkway-North Carolina

Early morning foggy view from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D300, Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens, 1/10 sec, f/32, ISO 100.

Sunrise on the Blue Ridge Parkway-North Carolina

Foggy sunrise on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, 1/400 sec, f/8, ISO 400.

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2 Responses to “Saying Goodbye To Old Friends & Exploring New Frontiers”

  1. Kevin Cook Says:

    Kevin,

    How encourging to see all these great shots come from one spot. It makes me take a second look. Thanks for this inspiring and informative blog. Kevin Cook

  2. Kevin Adams Says:

    Thanks Kevin! That’s exactly what I was hoping for when I decided to post so many shots with the article. You can do the same thing at most any location. I just decided that since I’vce been to this one so many times already, it was time to build a file of pics from all those other places that I’ve been wanting to try out. Especially since that overlook has become so popular. Kevin

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