Looking for spring wildflowers, colorful budding trees, mossy streams, and waterfalls? The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee is one of the best spots around. The last half of April is typically the peak time, but the timing can vary year to year.
This post shows images of Rainbow Falls, another small waterfall along the way, and colorful budding trees on the way back from the waterfalls.
The 5.4-mile roundtrip hike is considered moderate in difficulty. Between trailhead and falls, Rainbow Falls Trail gains about 1,500′ in elevation. Due to the length, elevation gain, and rocky terrain in sections of the trail, some visitors may rate the hike as difficult.
It takes about 3-5 hours to hike to the waterfall and back. Wear sturdy shoes.
Feature Image Details
To capture scenes like these you need a long exposure. Depending on how fast the water is flowing, the range may be between 1/4 second and several seconds.
About a half-second worked nicely for this image.
The waterfalls are 80 feet high, the tallest in the park. The next view gives a feel for the entire fall.
Along the way, we passed a small waterfall, shown below. I do not see it named on any of the trail maps.
Once again, bright overcast is best for these shots. A polarizer will reduce glare. Judging from the glare on the leaves below, I did not use one.
I may have been fighting a bit of wind. The correct technique in such circumstances is to take one image of the water and blend in a second image of the land at a higher ISO.
We hiked to the waterfall late in the afternoon. On the hike out, I stopped for this image of colorful budding trees.
The image almost looks like autumn, but close inspection shows the leaves are budding to just opening in pretty shades of yellow, green, and red. Backlighting and the late afternoon sun enhances the effect.
That is a blend of two images, one exposed for the sky, the other for the trees. There is a small bit of ghosting on the tiny branches due to the wind. The more images one takes to blend, the worse the ghosting issue. I use as few images as I can. I needed two.
This is second in a series of Great Smoky Mountains images.
Also, check out Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Little Pigeon River – Spring.
Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.
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Mike “Mish” Shedlock