Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Grotto Falls, Laurel Falls, Chestnut Top Trail, Spring Wildflowers

I am going to wrap up my Great Smoky Mountains Spring trip series with a look at a couple more waterfalls and some more wildflowers.

Don’t overlook the details.

Feature Image – Grotto Falls 

Grotto Falls

It’s a matter of choice as to which Grotto Falls image you prefer. I happen to like the detail shot. When approaching scenes like these, try different angles and different focal lengths. I shot the verticle at 31mm.

Once again, bright overcast light is far superior on these woodland shorts.

Laurel Falls

Chestnut Top Trail Wildflowers

Those looking for Spring Wildflowers can find them in masses along this trail

I shot right along the trail that at 17 mm, F16 at ISO 400, for 0.3 seconds. The foreground is razor sharp but the background is a bit soft. I was not into focus stacking yet on that trip but do it routinely in scenes like these now.

I always like to ask,  “What could I have done better?” In this case, the clear answer is to focus stack, that is to focus on different parts of the scene and blend them together in Lightroom or Photoshop.

Please check out my other images of the park.

I am going to visit the Great Smokies again this Autumn.

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Roaring Forks Motor Trail, Noah Bud Ogle Farm, Alfred Reagan Grist Mill

Those interested in the history of the Great Smoky Mountains region can find it on the Roaring Forks Motor Trail.

The narrow, winding, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail invites you to slow down and enjoy the forest and historic buildings of the area. The 5.5-mile-long, one-way, loop road is a favorite side trip for many people who frequently visit the Smokies. It offers rushing mountain streams, glimpses of old-growth forest, and a number of well-preserved log cabins, grist mills, and other historic buildings. Please note that the road is closed in winter.

Before entering the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a stop at the Noah “Bud” Ogle self-guiding nature trail offers a walking tour of an authentic mountain farmstead and surrounding hardwood forest. Highlights include a streamside tubmill and the Ogle’s handcrafted wooden flume plumbing system.

Feature Image – Preserved Cabin 

Interior Image of Noah Bud Ogle Homestead

Alfred Reagan Grist Mill

Those interested in a trip to the Great Smokies should check out these related articles.

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Coming up next: One more post on the Great Smokies, then it’s on to a new location.

I am going to visit the Great Smokies again this Autumn.

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Trilliums Galore

Trilliums are my favorite Spring wildflower. The Great Smoky Mountains has more varieties in one place than I have seen anywhere else. Check them out.

Feature Image Details

Does anyone recognize the Trillium in the feature image? It’s not a Painted Trillium nor does it appear to be a white variety trillium gone pink with age. It is a pink-tipped trillium with a white center. I am unsure of the second image as well.

Any botanists out there?

The small whiteish pink-lined flowers that are predominant in many of the images are Spring Beauties.

I used a Tilt-Shift lens on the feature image and the three images that follow. Even with the tilt function, I did not capture all of the landscapes as sharp as I like.

I would do things differently next time. Instead of using the shift feature I would focus stack the images (focus on different parts of the image and blend them). Unlike the Showy Orchis image in my last post, I do want all parts of most of these images totally sharp from the foreground to background.

Yellow Trilliums?

I am not positive of this identification.

Trillium Sulcatum – Southern Red Trillium

Trillium Sulcatum – Southern Red Trillium

Trillium Erectum 

That closeup detail was taken with my Canon 100-400 MM F 4.5-5.6 L Lens at 400mm from quite some distance away. I estimate at least 10 feet.

In this case, the out of focus background helps show off the flower. Note the difference from the previous image. This flower hands below the leaves.

Trillium Undulatum – Painted Trillium

Trillium Simile – Sweet White Trillium

I used a Canon 24-105MM F4 L Lens for the above two images. I estimate I was three to five feet away from the flowers in these images. Both were taken with a near-normal focal length about 50mm.

Trillium Simile – Sweet White Trillium

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Coming up next: More wildflowers and waterfalls in the Great Smokies. Then it’s on to a new location.

I am going to visit the Great Smokies again this Autumn.

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Tom Branch and Indian Creek Falls, Showy Orchis Flowers

There are three nice waterfalls in the Deep Creek area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This post covers the Tom Branch and Indian Creek Falls. My previous post covered the Juney Whank Falls.

The trail to the falls runs along Deep Creek. Trout fishing is excellent in the creek. There are plenty of wildflowers along the trail. My favorite is the Showy Orchis (orchid).

The NPS says the “roundtrip distance to the waterfalls is 1.6 miles. I rate all of the trails as easy.

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.

Here is a vertical image of the same scene.

Creating good waterfall images is easy. You need:

    1. Bright overcast or shade
    2. Water
  1. A good angle
  2. Tripod
  3. Slow shutter speed

You cannot do anything about 2. You have sufficient water or you don’t. In regards to light, you can go on a cloudy day or time your visit so that the waterfall is in the shade when you get there. Bright overcast light is nearly always the best.

Points three to five are in the photographer’s control. A good angle can be a make-or-break affair. Just don’t do anything too silly.

If you are wondering how I got that those images without getting wet, I didn’t. I got wet.

The water was cold and fishermen were catching some big trout at the base of the falls.

Indian Creek Falls

Of the three waterfalls in the area, Indian Creek was my least favorite. I had to crop the image heavily and edit out a bunch of clutter.

Showy Orchis

I am only inches away from that orchid. I used a Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L Tilt-Shift Lens, tilted a bit to keep all parts of the flower in focus. Because the lens is so wide, you can easily see the background in context.

Some would call this a wide-angle close-up.

Instead of using the shift feature I might have done an image stack and get the background sharp as well. In this case, the soft background makes the flower stand out while adding context.

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Coming up next: Many varieties of Trilliums. Don’t Miss it!

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Juney Whank Falls – Deep Creek Area

There are three nice waterfalls in the Deep Creek area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This post covers the Juney Whank Falls. I will cover the other two waterfalls, Tom Branch, and Indian Creek in my next post.

The NPS says the “roundtrip distance to the waterfalls is 0.8 miles and the hike is generally considered moderate in difficulty. It takes about 1-2 hours to hike to the waterfall and back.”

I would rate the trail as easy.

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.

To make the feature image, I scrambled down to the base of the falls or perhaps a spot on a ledge somewhere. I do not recall which.

Here is a more standard and rather unexciting image by comparison.

Creating good waterfall images is easy. You need:

  1. Bright overcast or shade
  2. Water
  3. A good angle
  4. Tripod
  5. Slow shutter speed

You cannot do anything about 2. You have sufficient water or you don’t. In regards to light, you can go on a cloudy day or time your visit so that the waterfall is in the shade when you get there. Bright overcast light is nearly always the best.

Points three to five are in the photographer’s control. A good angle can be a make-or-break affair. Just don’t do anything too silly.

This is the third in a series of Great Smoky Mountains images.

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Rainbow Falls – Spring

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.

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Little Pigeon River – Spring

Looking for spring wildflowers? 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.

If you miss the wildflowers, the streams are still beautiful. The images on this page were taken on the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River.

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.

One second worked nicely for this image.

But that’s not the only requirement. One needs little to no wind, especially if there are flowers that may be moving. Finally, bright overcast or very weak sunshine though is a necessity. All of the images on this page were taken under such conditions.

Equipment List

Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock