Space (Needle)-The Final Frontier

How many potential photo ops do you see all the time and then drive right by, thinking you’ll check it out one of these days? You know, a dirt road you pass by on the way to a somewhere else, or an overlook on your favorite parkway that requires a short hike and you just haven’t taken the time to stop and check it out.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Evening view from the Space Needle in Gatlinburg, TN. Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 400, f/10. Two exposures blended in Photoshop, one for the cityscape and one for the sky.

I’m sure we all have a long list of these places. So just what is it that keeps us from exploring them and always going for the known? Are we always in such a hurry that we can’t explore the unknown every once in a while?

View from Space Needle in Gatlinburg

Evening view from the Space Needle in Gatlinburg, TN. Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 800, f/8, 0.6 seconds.

I don’t know the answer, but I’ve decided to make an effort in my photography to seek out new life and new civilizations. Oops, the Trekkie in me gets carried away sometimes. I meant to say that I’m making a concerted effort to slow down and check out all those “someday” possibilities.

Space Needle in Gatlinburg

Evening view from the Space Needle in Gatlinburg, TN. Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 100, f/11, 3 seconds.

I’ve been visiting and photographing Great Smoky Mountains National Park for over 25 years, but until last October, I had never paid the small fee to ride the elevator to the top of the Space Needle in Gatlinburg. Considering my penchant for getting high…uh, I mean shooting from a high vantage point, it’s seems like an odd fact. But if you knew how much I loathe the ultra-touristy town of Gatlinburg, you’d understand. There are very few things in this world that I can honestly say that I despise. Enduring the throngs of tourists in Gatlinburg is one of them.

Twilight in Gatlinburg

Evening view from the Space Needle in Gatlinburg, TN. Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 400, f/10, 4 seconds.

 
As photographers, however, we often have to endure a little hardship for our craft. I’ve wanted to get a decent skyline shot of Gatlinburg for a few years now, so I decided it was finally time to visit the Space Needle. Fortunately, at the time I wanted to go up, most of the tourists are stuffing their faces with nasty food that usually has some form of “hillbilly” in the name, so I at least had the viewing deck pretty much to myself.

Space Needle in Gatlinburg

Evening view from the Space Needle in Gatlinburg, TN. Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 100, f/11, 3 seconds.

As I always try to do, I arrived at the observation deck before sunset and stayed until well after twilight. Sunset wasn’t great, with no clouds to make things exciting, but the lack of clouds did allow me to catch a fine view of anticrepuscular rays. Check out this post for more info about this phenomenon.

Twilight view of Gatlinburg, TN

Evening view from the Space Needle in Gatlinburg, TN. Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 400, f/10. Three exposures blended in Photoshop, one for the sky and two for the cityscape to increase the light streaks from the cars.

The western boundary of Gatlinburg is surrounded by high mountains, so you don’t get the best twilight colors in the sky after sunset. Even so, the advantage of shooting the cityscape at twilight is the same as any other location. Twilight is when the lights of the city most closely match the illumination of the sky.

Anticrepuscular rays above Gatlinburg

Anticrepuscular rays shine in the twilight sky above Gatlinburg, TN. Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, f/8, ISO 200, varied shutter speed. This is an HDR blend of 5 different exposures.

Only one other person visited the observation deck after sunset and she spent a fair amount of time taking pictures. I got a kick out of her taking more photos with her phone than she did with the DSLR she had around her neck. (I’ll save my thoughts about smart-phone photography for another day.)

Evening in Gatlinburg

Evening view from the Space Needle in Gatlinburg, TN. Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 400, f/10. Two exposures blended in Photoshop, one for the cityscape and one for the sky.

I’ve always preached that cafés need diners, bars need drinkers, trails need hikers, and swings need swingers. And, therefore, observation decks need observers. So I asked the lady if she would pose for a couple of shots.

I’m somewhat pleased with the results from my first visit to the Space Needle, but I’m looking forward to returning and exploring the options more fully. Maybe next time I’ll leave the D800 in the truck and bring only my cell phone.

Yeah, and maybe next time I won’t have to wade through a bazillion tourists stuffed with tourist food named after hillbillies. Right.

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2 Responses to “Space (Needle)-The Final Frontier”

  1. Skip P Says:

    Oh jeeez, what’s next? Myrtle Beach? Okay, these shots of Gatlinburg really do give the area a nice feel. Well done.

  2. Kevin Adams Says:

    Yeah, Skip, I know. Pretty bad, huh? All the years I spent cussing that dang tower when I’d see it while hiking the trails in the Smokies. Well, if you can’t beat em…

    Tell you what, though. You ain’t catching my butt in Myrtle Beach! I mean, come on, a man’s gotta have a little dignity!

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